Bill Potts, the Doctor will see you now. It feels like an aeon since we’ve been able to enjoy the whole “new companion” shtick: What’s a Tardis? Are you an alien? This time not “Doctor who?” but “Doctor what?” and, crucially for all novice adventurers with loosened bowels, is there a toilet in the Tardis?
Cunningly titled The Pilot, Steven Moffat’s series-ten opener is geared up as a fresh start, a jumping-on point for Bill and new viewers, requiring little or no foreknowledge of Doctor Who lore. Pearl Mackie is quirky and instantly winning as campus canteen worker Bill, whose thirst for knowledge means she steals into the Doctor’s lectures. For his final series, Peter Capaldi’s majestic Time Lord has taken rooms at St Luke’s University, Bristol, with his police box resting invitingly in the corner of his study.
Snappily directed by Lawrence Gough, The Pilot has eerie moments, a menacing puddle, love in the midst of a war zone, comic asides from Matt Lucas as the Doctor’s dippy batman, Nardole – and blasts of Beethoven and Joy Division on the soundtrack.
It’ll be no surprise if David Walliams camps it up, Amanda Holden sheds a tear, Alesha Dixon does that fruity laugh of hers or Ant and Dec muck about like naughty schoolboys in the stage wings. But what may startle you is that Simon Cowell is the first judge to press the golden buzzer this year.
As always there have been murmurings on social media and allegations about how the show is fixed and the filming of acts is manipulated to “build a narrative”, but it’s still great entertainment. What’s not to like about the procession of singing robots, dogs doing yoga, hula-hooping magicians and juggling OAPs?
But after so many series, let’s hope Britain’s Got Talent can still come up with something so unusual that it takes our breath away.
A Jewish diamond dealer is shot dead in his car on a lonely French country road. The local police chief thinks it’s an open-and-shut case: he’s been murdered by the local weirdo, a Danish religious fanatic with a ruined face who keeps his coquettish sister locked in her bedroom.
But the thoughtful, quiet Inspector Maigret is having none of it. He cuts through his colleague’s bluster and does what he does best, listens, intently, to the suspect – an obtuse, emotionally and physically damaged man with secrets.
It’s a welcome, albeit brief, return (just two new stories, this week and later in the year) for Rowan Atkinson as Georges Simenon’s wise, clever and empathetic detective. Maigret is a man who looks into the shadows, who finds his way in the darkness and thus sees what others don’t. He could be insufferable, but he’s not.
Nick Huntley is brought in for questioning by AC-12, but denies any involvement in Steve’s attack. However, the interrogation leads him to question how honest his wife has been with him. New anomalies emerge in the forensic evidence which cast further suspicion on Roz – who responds by dismantling the detectives’ case with inside information of her own.
On the eve of the Second World War in Germany, a young orphan is taken in by foster parents who help her discover the joy of reading at the same time as the rest of the locals are burning books in the town square. While so many stories from this era have rightly explored anti-Semitism, this adaptation of Markus Zusak’s acclaimed novel instead puts the emphasis on the plight of ordinary Germans who didn’t buy into Nazi propaganda.
First World War vet Hans (Geoffrey Rush) and his grumbling yet good-hearted spouse (Emily Watson) do their best for new arrival Liesel (Sophie Nélisse), but their decision to hide a Jew (Ben Schnetzer) in the basement puts them all at risk. Director Brian Percival (best known for TV’sDownton Abbey) might have milked greater tension from this scenario, but his well-acted, thoughtful drama carefully builds a convincing picture of the rising tide of prejudice.
It could have been more dramatically powerful, but as it is, The Book Thief encapsulates this troubled historical period in a way that will intrigue and inform younger viewers.
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