Best of all, though, is the fact that there are such good characters and such good acting. A standout is Pal Sverre Hagen, who is excellent as the very unusual Leif. The comic relief from the disaster-prone Teo, also very well acted, really made me laugh.
They should have done this as a black comedy drama. Wait a minute - perhaps they did...
The atmosphere and the initial premise were done well, but it all went on too long (they could have cut a couple of the middle episodes without much adverse effect).
The last episode was crazy, with plenty of daft stuff, e.g. your foster son is clearly desperate and determined to go out into a dangerous situation. You forbid this strongly - but do nothing whatever to enforce your ruling. Next morning he's gone. Oh dear, what a surprise! Apparently people can be revived after numerous minutes trapped under water and after being shot so badly that blood is pumping out of their mouth.
The boys' acting was ho hum. The blond one merely sulked angrily all the way through. Yawn. The other one was better and sometimes managed to suggest a younger teenager, mainly when he was with other teenagers, but a lot of the time he seemed much too calm, self-possessed and just plain adult.
And what about the power station? Automation must have been extraordinarily well advanced in the 1960s, since this plant is able to operate with one gatekeeper and two scientists.
I couldn't understand what Morse did at the climax, but never mind.
The Joan Thursday subplot is soapy, drags on and and is seemingly not very relevant, but at times it is more interesting than the mystery in hand.
To make matters worse there is the casual manner of speech and the lack of any attempt to pronounce German names in anything like the correct pronunciation.
Example: a young female student with her hair hanging down to her shoulders any old how, with the demeanour of a student of the 21st century, comes to Viggo Mortensen's office door, looks inside and introduces herself in a very nonchalant manner, "I'm Anne..." Even in the Germany of today this would inappropriate, let alone in pre-war days.
What was the writer thinking? What was the director thinking?
Now we are in an unconvincing version of the 1940s. Others have commented on the awful dialogue (which presumably is meant to be a clever conceit?), the stereotypical characters and the plot, which on past form, won't be satisfactorily resolved. Poliakoff seems to be particularly weak on finishing them.
In this serial, which I'm writing about after two episodes, there are, so far, some interesting elements and characters, despite the stereotyping, and I'll have to wait and see what the dénouement is like.
Jim Sturgess is not good in this. Why does he have a fake accent resembling Alan Whicker? He's supposed to be a superbrain, but comes over as a bit of a dope.
Unfortunately, this BBC version is not very well done. The main problem is that it is too slow and does not flow.
Stephen Graham has a difficult part as Inspector Heat, whose doings and motivations are often obscure. Why he further encumbers this with a heavy Scouse accent is one of the mysteries of the series (I know he's from Liverpool, but he's good at accents).
As for Vicky McClure, what is her accent? It's unrelated to the speech of the rest of her screen family and also seems anachronistic to me (too many glottal stops and -d- for -t- in places). Is it that she is just using her own accent (and does she perhaps do so in every part she gets)?
It's supposed to be 1974 - but which season(s)? The power cuts were all in the early, wintry parts of the year, yet here several months go by and quite early on there is a scene in a summer corn field. Nevertheless the power cuts go on. No one seems at all bothered by them, perhaps partly because hardly any one is there. The film takes place in a depopulated England where there are also only about four cars. The production budget must have been minuscule. (Note to producers: If you have a tiny budget, please restrict any Cold War thrillers to those taking place entirely in interrogation rooms and nuclear bunkers.)
On a minor note: why show clear establishing shots of Deal in Kent and then pretend it's located next door to Sizewell in Suffolk?
However, we have to face the fact that this film is a cheap flag waver. The first third drags as we go through some unconvincing stories about the home lives of the sailors, mostly done in the "chirpy working class" mode that the British entertainment industry favoured at the time. The main story is far-fetched and the Danish village is made of the cheapest painted cardboard.
During the war it was obviously important not to scare the families on the home front too much, with the result that there is little real sense of danger on the sub and hardly any casualties. In contrast, think of "Das Boot" with everyone bathed in sweat, cooped up in claustrophobic conditions, breathing foul air and scared out of their wits. It's not like that here. Despite the food and fuel running out and depth charges going off all around, everyone is pretty much calmness personified.
On a positive note, the Germans are real ones and speak correct German, which was good going for a wartime film.
However, it's corny. The "five friends" (Die fünf Freunde) are put together so as to tick boxes (1. upright 2. sensitive 3. naive 4. frivolous 5. Jewish) and the box-ticking continues in many parts of the production. (It's ironical that Die fünf Freunde is the name of Enid Blyton's Famous Five in the German translations of her children's books.)
I say "soapy", because there are so many ridiculous coincidences in the story - everyone is close together, despite the vastness of the territory, and keeps meeting up.
On a minor note: why does the Jewish guy spend the early sequences going around in Berlin dressed virtually as a Rabbi (and with anachronistic designer stubble)? Was he trying to attract the attention of the authorities?
Others have noted much more serious historical faults, and I won't go into those here.
They spent a lot of money on this and it apparently went through many re-writes. Couldn't they have done better?
Unfortunately it is also slow and boring. The main character, Mathias, is a conventional dry stick with a permanently glum face, supported by willing, but very ordinary, sidekicks. Where are Sara and Saga - or their equivalents? Where are the exciting plot lines? Where is the slightest touch of humour?
There are also goofs, particularly in the examination of crime scenes. For example, why put on overshoes if you are going to tramp around in them outdoors before entering the building where the corpse is?
Back to the drawing-board, BBC.
One was the dialogue, which did not always catch the correct tone. It was sometimes too familiar and lacked diplomatic etiquette. On one occasion, an ambassador just leaves a fairly amicable meeting with Sir Edward Grey (the best acting performance) without any word of farewell - he simply walks out.
Another problem was a lot of hammy acting on the German side (even though I accept that the real-life Kaiser was indeed hammy). The German actors were also hampered by having to speak English. I think subtitles would have been not only more authentic, but also better for the tone of the piece. To make matters worse, the Germans had to clomp about in heavy boots on uncarpeted floors. Since there was an awful lot of roaming around while talking (unusual in real-life meetings), this made a distracting clatter. Perhaps the sound recording department was at fault here.
In general, budget problems undermined the production. The only signs of Germany were stock establishing shots of the Reichstag and Brandenburg Gate. Otherwise, Germany was represented by very obviously British buildings. One of the "German" cars prominently displayed its AA membership badge. The scenes of tiny groups of soldiers on the German borders were laughable and should have been left out.
Despite these flaws, I stuck with it, as I am interested in the history of the period. It became much better in the third and final part as war neared and the scenes in the cabinet room were tense and poignant.
However, this episode was embarrassing. Sherlock turned into something very like Dr Who as played by Matt Smith - except even more manic and flippant. When was Sherlock Holmes ever a joker? However you update him, this can't be right.
What's worse, it was sentimental. It was mawkish in the manner of the Waltons. I won't go further into Sherlock's cringe-worthy best man speech, as I don't want to give spoilers.
Jumping the shark? They've vaulted the blue whale.
I'm not an expert on legal procedures through the ages, but I strongly suspect that the court scenes were anachronistic, too. Others can probably give better information on this.
Also, I noticed very little chemistry between the Darcys, despite what some have claimed.
I also can't say much about the ruining of the plot. The book is a good one and written in an unusual style for Agatha Christie. It has a surprise ending - which is mangled right out of existence here.
The acting is so so. Tom Hughes, who has the main part, mainly sleepwalks through it. In real life he is not only an actor but a model, and that aspect is very much to the fore here.
Read the book, and perhaps see the 1972 version with Hywel Bennett and Hayley Mills. It's much better than this one.
The premise is trashy and the details are clichéd. In the opening episode, Keith Allen reprises his old OTT Sheriff of Nottingham role, the comic baddie. If only he'd had moustaches, he would have been able to twirl them.
The BBC still has the wrong bosses. Give another tranche the customary payoff.
It might just have worked if it hadn't been so creakily wooden, if the fake bomb sites hadn't had obvious cardboard bits, if the CGI had been a bit more convincing and if they hadn't resorted to gratuitous gore - but I suppose they had to put that in as part of their homage to Silent Witness.
It might yet find its feet, but it's a poor testimony to the creativity of British TV. Scandinavia and the USA are bursting with good ideas. What went wrong in the UK?
(Questionable aspects of the show are the extremely clichéd you're-off- the-case boss, played by Anton Lesser, and the friendly and helpful Constable Strange, who it's hard to imagine becoming the you're-off-the-case-matey boss of Morse's later years. Also, would a music lover like Morse slam down the lid of his record player while it was playing an expensive LP? However, these are minor quibbles.)
It's great. Watch it.
However, it has its charms. There are lots of clever touches and some good jokes. (For some reason I laughed for ages at 'more Titian'.) If you are watching a recording, pause it so that you can read the book titles when they appear.
This episode also has excellent guest stars, all of whom play up exactly as they should.
All in all, it's nonsense, but lots of fun and worth watching.
There are just one or two wonky features: the equation of the established church with the pharisees is a bit clichéd and simplistic, and the stuff about new archaeological discoveries and Jesus being the son of a Roman soldier is a load of piffle, but I suppose the writer wanted a dramatic excuse for the changes in the script of the traditional passion play.
All in all, it's excellent and I heartily recommend it.