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Set in 2008 and against the hugely atmospheric background of Whitechapel, London, a modern police force are fighting an old adversary. A series of bloody, tragic and impossible crimes would suggest someone is carrying out copycat Jack the Ripper murders. The murders are investigated by our three unlikely heroes: Chandler, a fast-tracked, media savvy DI on his first big murder case; Miles, nearing retirement, a front-line, hard-bitten DS, and Buchan, the eccentrically brilliant Jack the Ripper tour guide. Written by
What makes television different from theater or film? There's far more cliché and plot holes in television dramas. Whitechapel is no exception. Taking the premise and plot by itself its an awful idea: someone's re enacting famous crimes. Exactly re enacting them which should make it easy to solve. The Krays shot up a pub or boozer in the vernacular so it would be sensible to avoid the boozer on the anniversary that the same pub was shot to pieces. Machine guns replacing shotguns.
The first episode is the most documented and notorious of all: Jack the Ripper. A homicidal maniac that decapitated women and yet has a legendary cache due to the incompetence of the police to catch his bloody trail.
As expected the program follows the exact path, dates and places of the killings. The places, and they still can't catch the killer! But this is an enjoyable drama because its parts are greater than its whole.
Rupert Penry-Jones and Phil Davis as the two contrasting police officers are the heart of this drama. It maybe a cliché that good cop and cop that bends the rules will butt heads but find a real respect and loyalty to each other; but without this central teamwork the dram would fall to pieces.
Rupert Penry-Jones is the university graduate who has been fast tracked in to promotion and thinks the rule book is always right and the law can be trusted. Phil Daniels is the hard living police sergeant who, again the hackneyed, knows the streets he patrols. He has a chip on his shoulder about his Superior officer Rupert having been to university.
What makes this drama better than it really should be is Penry-Jones arrogant certainties breaking down in realization that a degree and faith in the law doesn't solve everything and that there are people more ruthless than he even as a police officer realized. Phil Daniels snearing contempt is tempered as his sympathy for Rupert's confusion and sense of helplessness and a growing respect for him.
Penry-Jones gives his best performance consisting of subtle but intense emotion and realism.
Steve Pemberton gives a performance similar to a couple of characters from the League of Gentlemen but with the over the top exaggerations toned down- slightly. He plays a wildly enthusiastic tour guide of London's criminal past. Ever happy to show off his in-depth knowledge of brutal killings, dates and places, Phil Daniels sergeant is understandably irritated by the amateur detective's fascination with the savage of Jack the Ripper. But its the same enthusiasm that provides the knowledge they need to hunt the killer.
If people find this program offensive, especially the Jack the Ripper episodes then they have a point. To appreciate this drama you may need to suspend reality, which is one of the purposes of television and appreciate the performances and the production
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