Darkness drops on Whitechapel
UK series continues to push limits with grisly deeds and cracked crims, writes Guy Davis
SINCE its premiere season, which saw the gruesome Jack the Ripper murders recreated in 21st century London, the UK crime drama Whitechapel has portrayed some truly nasty crimes.
Which begs the question, ‘is Whitechapel the neighbourhood actually a nice place to live?’
‘‘It is nice, actually,’’ Whitechapel Rupert Penry-Jones chuckles.
‘‘It’s become a very trendy part of London. It wasn’t always but now it’s where the young, cool people tend to go. I love it there – it’s got real atmosphere.’’
Well, if the fourth season of Whitechapel is any indication, the area not only attracts the young and the cool but the crazy and the bloodthirsty.
The season is split into three twoepisode investigations by Penry-Jones’ DI Joseph Chandler, Phil Davis’ DS Ray Miles and a team including unofficial consultant Edward Buchan (Steve Pemberton), a true-crime enthusiast.
One of the cases features a witch hunt where victims are crushed under boulders and burned at the stake. Then there’s mysterious deaths in the sewers that may be the result of feral pigs.
‘‘And there’s one where someone is
star skinning people,’’ Penry-Jones says.
‘‘This is possibly the most grisly season yet.’’
But the actor, whose other notable small-screen roles include appearances in Spooks and Silk, rather likes it that way.
‘‘To be honest, the scarier and more gruesome the better, as far I am concerned,’’ he says.
‘‘I’ve spent so much of my career staring at computer screens, standing around in a courtroom or doing things that are rather ordinary, it’s rather nice to complement it with something like Whitechapel that’s so freaky and out there.’’
Still, Penry-Jones realises life in Whitechapel can seem a little too freaky on occasion.
‘‘The writers gave themselves a hard task naming the show Whitechapel because they had no intention of it being an ongoing series – it was just going to be about that one Jack the Ripper case,’’ he says.
‘‘But when it became a serial-killer show, having a new serial killer in Whitechapel every week ran the risk of being quite ridiculous. So there had to be a reason for all this, which is why you have Buchan in the first of these new episodes talking about ‘the root of all evil’, and that perhaps there’s something in Whitechapel that is behind all these terrible things.’’
Such dreadful crimes require a determined, diligent crime fighter, and Penry-Jones’ Chandler fits the bill. He’s a model investigator but his people skills could use a little polishing.
‘‘Well, every police investigator these days has to have some quirk,’’ the actor laughs.
‘‘But there is something very sad about Chandler – he’s always on the outside looking in. I think Miles is the only friend he has.
‘‘You do get some insight into what it was like for him growing up during this season, however, and you start to see what may have made him the man he is.’’
Whitechapel: Saturdays, 8.30pm, ABC1.
Phil Davis, Steve Pemberton and Rupert Penry-Jones