Will Ge­orge go gen­tly?

As he tack­les his fi­nal case, Martin Shaw and his co-stars re­veal the con­clu­sion was nail­bit­ing but emo­tional

Daily Mail Weekend Magazine - - NEWS - Vicki Power

Talk about a drawnout end­ing. The first episode of the twopart fi­nale of In­spec­tor Ge­orge Gen­tly was shown in May this year, and it’s taken the best part of six months for BBC1 to show the last episode. Ru­mour has it that it was a po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion – the fact that the fi­nale fea­tures a pos­si­bly dodgy Labour MP might have given rise to ac­cu­sa­tions of bias so close to last June’s elec­tion.

Luck­ily the two were stand­alone episodes, so we weren’t stuck with a cliffhanger, but it means the ac­tion – and Gen­tly’s vin­tage Rover P5 – will have to be revved up anew this week for our fi­nal trip to the frac­tious Durham precinct where Martin Shaw’s sleuth Gen­tly tack­les his last-ever case. For those need­ing a re­fresher, it’s 1970 and Gen­tly is still at odds with his side­kick DCI John Bac­chus – played by Lee In­gleby since the show be­gan in 2007 – af­ter their pre­vi­ous in­ves­ti­ga­tion un­cov­ered shoddy polic­ing by Bac­chus years ago that had re­sulted in a mis­car­riage of jus­tice.

This time, as Bac­chus and DS Rachel Coles ( Lisa McGril­lis) in­ves­ti­gate the mur­der of a fac­tory worker who crossed a picket line, Gen­tly’s plans for re­tire­ment are briefly put on hold when he’s handed a cold mur­der case that brings him into con­tact with for­mer Labour Cab­i­net min­is­ter Michael Cle­ments ( Richard Har­ring­ton, best known for his role in Welsh crime drama Hin­ter­land). It’s clear that as much as sleuthing fu­els Gen­tly’s fire, he knows he’s in­creas­ingly out of step in a world in which po­lice cen­tral­i­sa­tion and pa­per­work are tak­ing the place of old-fash­ioned, hand­son de­tec­tive work.

Feel­ing left be­hind in a rapidly chang­ing world is some­thing ac­tor Martin Shaw says he knows only too well. When we meet on the set of Gen­tly, mocked up at a train­ing col­lege in Durham, the 72-yearold ac­tor and na­tional trea­sure, star of The Pro­fes­sion­als and Judge John Deed, is in a jovial mood and pok­ing fun at his own seem­ing in­abil­ity to mas­ter mod­ern tech­nol­ogy.

As a self- con­fessed techno­phobe, Martin ex­plains that he ab­stains from Face­book and Twit­ter, and often has to en­list the help of his three adult chil­dren, Luke, So­phie and Joe, with gad­gets. ‘With my phone I’m al­ways go­ing, “S***!”’ says Martin, In­spec­tor Gen­tly and DCI Rachel Coles in­ves­ti­gate a mur­der mim­ing press­ing but­tons and noth­ing hap­pen­ing. ‘And my kids say, “Dad, give it to me” and they’ll do it in a sec­ond. ‘I say to them, “Ah, I did do that, but I’m putting out an en­ergy field that doesn’t work with mod­ern equip­ment,”’ con­tin­ues Martin, with just a hint of a smile. ‘And they say, “En­ergy field?! You’re such a hip­pie, Dad.” And they’re right. I want to go out­side to a phone box and put money in it, and I don’t want a com­puter.’

And un­like Gen­tly, Martin is not re­signed to re­tire­ment – he’s cur­rently tour­ing in the Gore Vi­dal play The Best Man and still longs for a role in his favourite TV show. ‘Game Of Thrones is my guilty plea­sure. I don’t just want to watch it, I want to be in it, but in one of the warmer film­ing lo­ca­tions.’

Also on set to­day is Lee In­gleby, whose ca­reer has flour­ished of late, with roles in The A Word, Our Zoo and this year’s Line of Duty. His char­ac­ter, Bac­chus, has been like a son to wid­owed, child­less Gen­tly, but his oc­ca­sion­ally lax morals have dis­ap­pointed the up­tight old boy. Off­screen, the ac­tors get on fa­mously. ‘Martin and I re­ally en­joy play­ing those scenes at the heart of it – two peo­ple in a fa­ther­son, love- hate re­la­tion­ship,’ ex­plains Lee, 41, who speaks of his in­stant chem­istry with his costar. ‘We have a lot of fun on set, he’s open to sug­ges­tions in the scene – it’s like a ten­nis match.’

When the fi­nal scenes were shot, ev­ery­one was emo­tional. ‘Af­ter Lee and I wrapped our last scene, we stayed be­hind and watched one of Martin’s fi­nal shots,’ says Lisa McGril­lis. ‘They called, “Cut!” and we all had a lit­tle tear in our eye and a glass of bub­bles in our hand. Martin made a lovely, re­ally mov­ing speech. He said he’d been work­ing in film and TV for 50 years, and Ge­orge Gen­tly stands out as one of his favourite jobs. It was very touch­ing.’

But the ques­tion re­mains as to whether Gen­tly will head off to tend to his dahlias or, like Morse and Poirot be­fore him, meet an un­timely end on­screen. With a wry smile, Martin says only that it ‘ends ap­pro­pri­ately’ and that he would not be re­turn­ing to the role. Af­ter a decade, 25 episodes and half a year’s wait, Ge­orge Gen­tly, one way or an­other, will hand in his war­rant card for good.

In­spec­tor Ge­orge Gen­tly, Mon­day, 8.30pm, BBC1.

Ge­orge Gen­tly has been on our screens since 2007

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