BBC crime drama Shetland returned to our screens last night for season 8 with a new lead detective, DI Ruth Calder (Ashley Jensen), following Douglas Henshall's exit after more than 10 years on the show.


The first episode opened with Ruth in London, where she was investigating a targeted gangland shooting, before following her to Shetland, where she was born and raised, in pursuit of a key witness.

Speaking about how they wanted to approach the first season of the show without Henshall, Alison O'Donnell (who plays Tosh), told exclusively: "When we decided to reimagine the show, it would have been a mistake to try and imitate anything that had gone before.

"So what the writers have done really beautifully is they have brought us back to Shetland HQ as we know and love it. It's all very cosy, there's some dead sheep, nothing too intense.

"We're setting up the lovely relationships, Tosh is in charge, and Sandy and Billy are there, they're having scones, and then this woman arrives from London with this incredibly high-stakes case and she just fractures that, which I found really exciting.

More like this

"They've been really brave with it and brought in something totally different to really shake everybody up. And as actors, it was so exciting for us because it allows us to try different things. Risk brings out a different side in all of us.

Read more:

"And from the minute they have that introduction, Tosh realises, 'I need to be on my toes with this woman.' And they go through so many different ups and downs together. It's not going to be straightforward."

Tosh standing by a stone wall on a grassy cliff
Alison O'Donnell as Tosh in Shetland ITV Studios/Mark Mainz

O'Donnell went on to describe the relationship between Tosh and Ruth as "very restless", adding: 'It never really settles down, and I think it's quite an unusual dynamic for TV. I'm not sure I can think of lots of examples of a relationship like that. They don't immediately become best friends and equally, they're not enemies. They have a common goal.

"And they’re both incredibly driven, they're both experienced, but they're coming from different backgrounds. They've had different journeys to get to where they are, this level of seniority. But they don't have time to get to know each other. They're straight in at the deep end.

"Sometimes they knock against each other and sometimes they really hit a rhythm. It just depends what they're faced with that day, what point they're at in the case."

In the first episode, the pair were trying to track down Ellen Quinn, who was witness to a murder. But she was later found dead, with the stakes rising once again.

"There's so much jeopardy there," said O'Donnell. "They're up against it in terms of time, so there isn't the luxury of settling in. They just have to be really, really light on their feet. Both of them to try and keep abreast of what's happening in the case, keep abreast of what each other's thinking, so it never relents.

"It keeps us on our toes from the word go, right the way through to the end."

Shetland season 8 airs on Wednesdays on BBC One and iPlayer. Ann Cleeves's Shetland novels are available to buy now.

Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guideto find out what's on.


Try Radio Times magazine today and get 10 issues for only £10 – subscribe now and celebrate the 60th anniversary of Doctor Who with a special issue of Radio Times. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to The Radio Times Podcast.