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Produced at the height of the nuclear paranoia and economic gloom that
Britain of Margaret Thatcher and the USA of Ronald Reagan, Troy Kennedy
landmark drama broke new ground and handled uncomfortable subjects with
sometimes unsettling depth and accuracy.
The late Bob Peck, in one of television's greatest performances, is Ronald Craven, a Yorkshire detective whose daughter Emma (Joanne Whalley) is gunned down outside their house in what is initially assumed to be a revenge attack related to Craven's former, and shadowy, intelligence past in Northern Ireland. The plot unwinds from here and slowly reveals a grand, all-encompassing conspiracy extending to the very highest levels as Craven investigates the circumstances of, and the motives behind, his daughter's death.
Peck plays Craven with a subtle emotional intensity rarely seen on television, the deadpan delivery of a man in the depths of grief contrasted by the emotions which his eyes always betray. A supporting cast of renegade CIA agents (Joe Don Baker giving the performance he was born for as brash Texan Darias Jedburgh), amiable but slightly sinister civil servants who never quite make it clear who they're working for (Charles Kay and Ian McNeice as Pendleton and Harcourt), environmental activists, trade-unionists, police and self-serving politicians make for a plot that twists and turns unpredictably as Craven's grief-powered explorations lead him ever deeper into the shadows, until the final, devastating, unexpected dénouement in the last episode that almost leaves more questions in the mind of the viewer than it answers.
This is British television drama at its best. Making it in the first place was a brave decision for the BBC, and it hasn't been bettered since. The plot sometimes seems slow at times, but there's always something relevant happening on screen. I do not recommend starting watching half-way through, as you will end up with an incomplete understanding of both the message of the story and the convoluted plot. Take the phone off the hook for five hours and enjoy. It is superb in all aspects from writing to casting to production, and exercises the mind in a way that few dramas do.
Incidentally - the original DVD release received poor reviews, but the 2003 re-release on a BBC DVD is excellent and includes some worthwhile extras as well as the complete uncut series.
UK TV Drama has never again scaled the heights set by Edge of Darkness and
Dennis Potter's "The Singing Detective" in the mid-1980s. Those two series
have narratives, dialogue, style and acting that few filmmakers can match.
Troy Kennedy Martin came up with a complex, magnificent script, that balanced the bleak with the entertaining. All of the major characters come across as believable, and often enigmatic.
The plot evolves ingeniously from being a local murder case to a universal ecological parable throughout the 6 episodes. It defies categorisation, combining lyricism with tense action sequences. The "Northmoor" episode is as tense an hour of TV as there's ever been. Joe Don Baker gives a virtuoso performance as the truly larger-than-life maverick CIA agent, Darius Jedburgh whose motives are ambiguous to say the least. Charles Kay and Ian McNeice are wonderfully entertaining as Pendelton and Harcourt. Even Tim McInnerny's character with just a few minutes screen time is superbly written and played. It is, however, Bob Peck who should receive the most acclaim for what is to my mind one of the most complex, emotional and well-judged performances ever as Yorkshire policeman, Ronnie Craven. Craven gets caught up in a sinister and fascinating chain of events involving the death of his environmentalist daughter, played very well by Joanne Whalley-Kilmer. Bob Peck's early death was saddening- he deserved another role of this magnitude. Other factors that add to the genius of EoD are the atmospheric Eric Clapton/Michael Kamen score, the gritty direction, photography and the sheer attention to detail in every department.
It's truly a shame that few people today working on TV drama are willing at least to try to experiment and create television as artistic and exciting as "Edge of Darkness." It should go without saying that anyone who's not seen it should buy the video- you won't regret it. Rating:- ****** (out of *****)
Edge of Darkness is in a class by itself as far as filmmaking is concerned.
This troubling, disturbing, haunting film is a classic, and a must-see for people who enjoy riveting stories, great performances, and who have more than a few questions about how governments discreetly solve their problems.
Bob Peck gives a tour-de-force performance that encompasses so many different emotions. He represents the average British citizen who finds himself caught up in events he cannot control, nor completely understand. Joe Don Baker is appropriately over the top as Jedburgh, and the rest of the cast sparkles with an adroit script and keen, sharp direction.
Bob Peck, perhaps best known to American audiences as game warden Robert Muldoon in JURASSIC PARK, portrays a police inspector obsessed with solving his daughter's murder. His investigation leads him not only into his own past but into subversive anti-government groups, international intelligence conspiracies, and globalist elitism. This brilliant program, produced in 1986, goes beyond the Cold War and successfully predicts the darker side of globalism, the rise of New Age, pagan belief systems, and the government paranoia which keeps "The X-Files" in business. Another plus is Joanne Whalley-Kilmer as the murdered girl, who keeps appearing and conversing with her father. This cleverly serves not only an expository device, externalizing for the viewer the motivations and rationales behind one man's solitary mission, but also reminds us how unbalanced Peck's character truly is. This is an intelligent, thought-provoking program that only improves upon further viewings.
While you could make a good argument that TV doesn't have much to offer
as a medium, this mini series stands as a blazing example to the
I doubt if this story would of worked as a movie. The suspense is slowly built per episode. Nothing blatant. Lots inferred. Brilliant writing. Superb acting. Haunting. Funny. Disturbing. The story is probably as relevant now (2005) as it was back in '85.
The music score alone makes it worth adding to your DVD collection. Michael Karmen and Eric Clapton work magic on the score. (A poor copy following in Lethal Weapon 3).
When it's over your heart won't sing; you probably won't have a smile on your face. Maybe a tear on the cheek? However, you'll be glad you watched it and rave about it later.
It's a moving, gripping piece of work.
I am unsurprised to find this miniseries rated 9.2. It remains one of the
most powerful, heart and gut wrenching thrillers of all time. Some other
reviewers have commented that Edge of Darkness represents the true
of television as a dramatic medium. It's length (as a miniseries) probably
presaged the future of high quality per hour viewing that has become a
staple output of English 'Crime/Thriller' miniseries(nobody does crime
better) or perhaps the Sopranos - however -all comparisons aside, the
power of the story is remarkable.
If a key to a story is to have sympathy and empathy for its characters, Bob Peck's portrayal of the descent into despair and insanity of Inspector Ronald Craven is a powerhouse. We experience the absolute depths of his personal horror at the loss of his child in curious circumstances and as he delves deeper, we are drawn into his pain and shock at the secret life of his child.
Edge of darkness has so many things going for it , it's hard to know where to start - honest, egdy performances, crisp writing and dialogue, layers of intrigue, the eerie and beautiful soundtrack of Michael Kamen and Eric Clapton - (sigh) - its smart, scary and challenging.
If you are a student of film/tv, see it. If you are jaded with current shows, go back and watch it and see the possibilities. It is an example of the art form at its most effective, making us part of the story and carrying us into its emotion.
This is television nothing like US commercial TV. (And I include in that category not only network, but the tragically disappointing cable outlets.) Certainly, US public TV generally shied away from EOD - even, I'm afraid, NYC's flagship station. It was just too hot in the Age of Reagan. Also, I'm afraid, after Maggie Thatcher's gutting of the BBC, it will be rare there as well. What EOD offers is the complexity, the density, the reality of life - much like reading a novel, say, by John Le Carré at his best. And the acting! My God, those Brits - as Jedburgh says, they deserve the Falklands! One note that I can't resist: when we finally first see the cooling pool of Northmoor's plutonium holding - and remember that plutonium was named after the Greek God of the Underworld - Michael Kamen's music gives us a contrabass passage from Walton's "Belshazzar's Feast." And in that British cantata, the chorus sings "Thy sons shall be made eunuchs in the palace of the King of Babylon....By the waters of Babylon, we sat down, yea we wept...." And we sense what will be spelled out for us: the limitless depths of Grogan's international nuclear despotism. Like a fine novel, EOD deserves attentive and multiple viewings.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I can only sum up Edge of Darkness with the following statement. Quite
simply it is the best thing that the BBC ever made.
Bob Peck is magnificent as Craven. The ways in which he conveys the character's grief and slow descent into insanity while slipping in some dark humour meant that he fully deserved the BAFTA award he won. Also magnificent is Joe Don Baker as the hugely entertaining and eccentric Jedburgh. Episode 5 "Northmoor" which focuses on these two characters has to be seen to be believed.
Both main characters are ably supported by a range of established British actors with union leader Godbolt, Craven's superior Ross and of course the Civil Servant double-act of Pendleton and Harcourt all very intriguing with each adding their part to the mystery.
The use of film, Martin Campbell's direction, the opening sequences of each episode, Mat Irvine's visual effects, Eric Clapton's terrific score and most importantly Troy Kennedy Martin's fantastic script create a tense atmosphere and all combine to ensure that Edge of Darkness was and is one of the classiest and best thrillers ever produced. The plot twists and turns constantly but stay with it until the end. If you watch Episode 1 on the DVD you will be compelled to stick with it for a highly worthwhile 5 hours and at the end you might just wonder why the BBC have never put the licence fee to such good use since.
unbelievably sophisticated, strikingly intense story of a british policeman
trying to solve a mystery behind his daughter's death. the path he follows
goes right down the dark woods - revealing an uglier world where personal
grief becomes irrelevant to all sides and individual suffering is disposable
- like nuclear waste. rarely have the deep human tragedy and impending
political scheme been intervened in such a raw, yet subtle manner.
although regarded as a temporal masterpiece, in 14 years the edge of darkness has not lost its credibility and sharpness. one thing you might find funny though is the way computers look and work (oh yeah...). furthermore, in vhs copy one looses the endings of almost all the individual episodes - that is - all the different versions of the theme. beware, that's a big loss!
I had seen the original Edge of Darkness back in the middle eighties (around '86 or '87) when I was about 13 or 14. I didn't remember a lot about it but I knew that it was pretty special. I saw the trailer for the Mel Gibson version a few months back and decided to revisit the original for the first time in like 20 years. I just got finished watching a little while ago. My God. I'm speechless. One of the greatest pieces of television ever. What begins as a father trying to find justice and closure for his murdered daughter segues into a surprising and haunting look at the soul of humanity and its future place on this planet. Harlan Ellison would call this a dangerous vision and it is indeed that. One of the most remarkable television series I have ever seen and even with Martin Campbell directing the remake, I just don't see the film having the same gravitas as the original. You know to start commenting on this masterpiece, I feel I have to start with not its primary character, but its secondary one, here played by Joe Don Baker. Outside of the Walking Tall films, I didn't think much of Joe Don Baker. Boy was I wrong. His Darius Jedburgh is one of the most complex and unique heroes/anti heroes to ever grace the small screen. You're a bit repulsed by him at first, but then you fall in love with his character. His wit, cleverness and intelligence is remarkable and all from Baker doing what he needs to do. He is one of the good guys. "Man will always win against nature" he cynically says and that is rebuked near the end of the series by the last friend he will ever have in Bob Peck's Ronald Craven who says, "I think you're wrong. If there is a battle between the planet and mankind, the planet will win." Peck's Craven is what ultimately leads us to Jedburgh. Craven's the central character, a hard nosed yet honorable police detective who happens to be widowed and whose only daughter, Emma, is gunned down right in front of him. That begins a quest for Craven to uncover the truth behind Emma's death which leads what screenwriter Troy Kennedy Martin may have envisioned, a battle between the forces of light and darkness for custody of the planet. Peck's performance is cool, reserved, a slow burn but in his eyes, in his eyes is a man losing all hope, all control. Those eyes of his are full of emptiness and pain. The most beautiful thing in his ugly, cynical world has been taken away from him. And what he thinks is a revenge killing against him gone wrong, becomes an investigation into a dark, dangerous world where the future of all of us hangs in the balance. Each layer that Craven uncovers to what at first appears to be simple street crime reveals a labyrithian conspiracy that exists which only a few are aware of and which is edging Craven closer and closer to madness. Peck's Craven rarely breaks down, he's in control of a chaotic situation, but when he lets his character rage at the world, you see a man broken, trapped and drowning. His emotions, his gravity of character takes us truly to the edge of darkness. "I am not on YOUR SIDE," he screams towards the end, letting loose all that he has lost, his daughter, his sanity, his life, his world. The true nature of the world has been revealed to him and he is no better for it. This was and is groundbreaking material. I don't want to spoil the intriguing hard science fiction plot with a pinch of the mystical simply because that would be the series undoing. And this is hard science fiction firmly rooted in real science and real speculation. Just grab on to something or someone and take a ride where darkness envelopes all who enter and where nothing is really what it seems.
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