The Oldie - - CONTENTS - Roger Lewis


Nicola Walker’s lynx eyes and mo­bile lower jaw give me the horn, so I was ea­ger to see the se­cond se­ries of Un­for­got­ten. As in the first se­ries, a body had come to light – semi-de­com­posed in a suit­case, at the bot­tom of a river – and a seem­ingly ran­dom group of peo­ple, when in­ves­ti­gated by Nicola, the DCI, were found to have shared a murky past.

We had the lot: child abuse at a school,

IRA bombers, mad nurses, lawyers with a taste for sado­masochis­tic sex, Is­lamic pros­ti­tutes, bent cop­pers, gays in Brighton try­ing to adopt a mop­pet, black­mail­ing smack­heads, and Wendy Craig as an old lady with a north­ern ac­cent. There were even a few vis­its to the ex­te­rior of a house in Eal­ing where the Con­ser­va­tive Party had held wine­and-cheese or­gies.

The fi­nal twist owed much to Pa­tri­cia High­smith and left thou­sands of loose ends. How pre­cisely had the sus­pects – who, it tran­spired, had come across each other orig­i­nally when they were pa­tients in a lu­natic asy­lum – planned and car­ried out each other’s re­venge killing? Nor did we find out any­thing fur­ther about who placed that body in the suit­case. In­deed, I was left so puz­zled, I won­dered if ITV had in­ad­ver­tently for­got­ten to broad­cast an en­tire episode. Such er­rors do oc­cur. At the Old Pic­ture House in St An­drews, when I was there in the 1970s, the reels of Wuther­ing

Heights were shown in the wrong order and, in­stead of dy­ing melo­dra­mat­i­cally, Lau­rence Olivier and Merle Oberon ended their story danc­ing away at a ball.

At least ev­ery­one got off – Nicola and her team couldn’t be both­ered to press charges. It would in­deed prob­a­bly help the con­stab­u­lary no end if vic­tims of sex abuse qui­etly killed off their tor­men­tors.

The same les­son was pro­pounded in Ap­ple Tree Yard. Emily Wat­son’s char­ac­ter was very bru­tally raped and, in the af­ter­math, she egged her lover on to visit the brute in ques­tion and jump up and down on his head un­til life was ex­tinct. There was a court case – Emily got off. The pro­gramme al­lowed Emily to give us a lot of her trademark painted­doll face, with its down­turned mouth. She gazed at her­self in mir­rors, as if per­fecting and check­ing the ex­pres­sion.

The idea was that she was a wo­man sci­en­tist in early mid­dle age whose drives and juices were still able to fully flow when Ben Chap­lin walked into a room. They did it in cup­boards, down dark al­leys, un­der res­tau­rant ta­bles and, had the lo­ca­tion been avail­able, no doubt be­hind the Speaker’s Chair in the House of Com­mons. Then came ret­ri­bu­tion. A creepy jeal­ous col­league, Sel­way, grabbed Emily at a party – and the rape scene in the univer­sity of­fice was very coldly and har­row­ingly staged.

In­stead of re­port­ing the in­ci­dent to the au­thor­i­ties, Emily threw her torn clothes in a wheelie bin. She pre­ferred to suf­fer in si­lence, no doubt so that she could give her­self plenty of mo­ti­va­tion when turn­ing her mouth down at the cor­ners. She also for some rea­son wouldn’t con­fide in her nice hus­band, per­haps be­cause he was of­ten away at aca­demic con­fer­ences in Es­to­nia, where he was con­duct­ing en­er­getic af­fairs of his own. Her hus­band was played by Mark Bon­nar, who was also a sup­port­ing player in Un­for­got­ten. An­other mem­ber of that cast, Adeel Akhtar, was like­wise in Ap­ple Tree Yard, this time as Emily’s so­lic­i­tor. Has the num­ber of avail­able ac­tors on the books of Eq­uity shrunk?

In my party-go­ing days, if I wasn’t im­per­son­at­ing Shel­ley Win­ters swim­ming un­der­wa­ter in The Po­sei­don Adventure, I was giv­ing my ver­sion of Karen Matthews at her press con­fer­ence, wail­ing and sob­bing about want­ing her Shan­non back. The Moor­side was a drama­ti­sa­tion of that cu­ri­ous case, when in 2008 a mother ab­ducted one of her own chil­dren, in the hope of grab­bing some money – a crime in­spired by the do­na­tions sent to the fam­ily of Madeleine Mccann. Sheri­dan Smith, as the spir­ited and com­mu­nity-minded neigh­bour, was so tough and en­ter­pris­ing;

what a great prime min­is­ter such a per­son would make.

The tone of the drama, how­ever, was doc­u­men­tary grit­ti­ness, whereas to me the story was sheer black com­edy. Also, it would be a mis­take to think that th­ese peo­ple were hope­less at rais­ing their nu­mer­ous off­spring, were bone idle and ca­su­ally cruel, be­cause they were poor and work­ing class. Wealthy, posh folk be­have in ex­actly the same fash­ion. The dif­fer­ence is that ser­vants come along af­ter­wards with the bucket.

Lots of loose ends: Nicola Walker and San­jeev Bhaskar in Un­for­got­ten

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