BBC1, Saturday, 7.20pm
Room At The Top
BBC4, Wednesday and Thursday, 9pm
Gary: Tank Commander
BBC1, Monday, 10.35pm
Steven Moffat, the heid writer of Doctor Who, who told me at the time of Karen Gillan’s arrival that she would be his secret weapon thanks to her ability to be “incredibly feisty and sexy one minute and look like a 12-year-old the next”, marked himself down for script duties for his fellow Scot’s big farewell, The Angels Take Manhattan, and the whole show decamped to New York for a lush location shoot exploiting mean streets and even meaner statuary.
Funny to think of the Irn Bru-barneted lassie from Inversnecky ever being a secret anything. Her first appearance as Amy, in a non-regulation issue police uniform probably bought from a shop called Harmony, caused a wee uproar. There were complaints that a kissogram girl wasn’t suitable for family viewing, since Doctor Who along with The Master (Simon Cowell, not the Doctor’s Moriarty) had given the tradition a reboot. And there were further complaints when she tried to do more than kiss her boss, on the eve of her wedding as well. She went ahead and married Rory and even though they had a daughter who was older than them and even though this is the Timelord’s sort-of wife (come on, keep up), the Doctor’s relationship with Amy has been the one that’s mattered these past three years.
The Angels Take Manhattan – not to be confused with last winter’s We’ll Take Manhattan, wherein Gillan dipped a leg in grown-up drama playing Jean Shrimpton – began in 1938, with wide-brimmed gangsters everywhere, and Moffat had great fun mashing up hardboiled Chandleresque dialogue with Who-speak. We flipped back to China of 221BC and forward to the present, which was vital if we were going to stay just ahead of the most static of the Doctor’s foes, the Weeping Angels. Most static and most terrifying? Perhaps.
The end, when it came, was a heartbreaker. To stop the psycho-statues, Amy and Rory had to fashion a “paradox” – in this case a euphemism or Who-phemism for dying before their time. Ryan, the wimp, wasn’t sure. Amy snapped: “If you love me then trust me and push.” They tumbled from the skyscraper in a final desperate embrace, only to reappear in a graveyard, only to exit again. A double departure, then, in tribute to Amy’s two legs. Stronger than Nick, she’s been stronger than the Doctor, too, I reckon (the Timelord had to be chastised for being a “sentimental idiot”). Yes, she’s worn the trousers in the Tardis. Not literally, of course. That would have been tragic.
By a quirk of the space-time continuum, Gillan’s successor as assistant, Jenna-Louise Coleman, popped up in Room At The Top, which has orbited the schedules for 18 months from its original date while a rights issue was resolved. It was the angry-young-man saga written by John Braine in 1953, turned into a film a few years later, a TV series in the 1970s, and with striking resonances now for its depictions of class antagonism and social mobility.
Matthew McNulty was Joe Lampton, the chippy striver determined to get horizontal with every woman in a pretentious Yorkshire town during his vertical ascent of the accountancy game. He tried and failed with the local am-dram recruiter but had more luck with the troupers’ grande dame, the older, married Alice (the always brilliant Maxine Peake in the Simone Signoret role), and the innocent snob, Susan (Coleman), and had both on the go at the same time until the latter got in the family way, as they used to call it, and the former killed herself.
I’m not sure Coleman can do innocent, which should make her Doctor Who debut worth watching. There’s no way my parents would have let me stay up to watch the original film if it had been as filthy as this. But that wasn’t the best thing about Room At The Top. No, that was its lack of Victorians, never mind bloody Edwardians.
Although I finally came out as a Burnistoun fan last week, I’m still not ready to come out for Gary: Tank Commander, back for a third series. I love Greg McHugh in the students comedy Fresh Meat and am in Pot Noodle delirium awaiting its return, but his mincing squaddie show has few jokes beyond the obvious and, often, no actual tanks. «