Wooo! Arrrh! Woooo! …and other ghostly noises. It’s a new spooky drama on BBC1. So far, so standard but the whole series of The Living and The Dead is already available on iPlayer. The first episode doesn’t actually air on the old-fashioned telly box until Tuesday 28 June. This is the first original drama the BBC has premiered in this way, and a nod to how the ability to binge watch is super important these days.Even without use of my mystical crystal ball and Ouija board, I can see the future!
Meet Nathan and Charlotte, played by Colin Morgan (who you may recognise from BBC teatime favourite Merlin and the splendid British sci-fi Humans that someone called Sarah Hamstera liked quite a lot and reviewed on this very blog last year), and Charlotte Spencer who showed off her considerable acting chops in Glue, an edge-of-your-seat rural drama which was on Channel 4 in 2014.
Charlotte and Nathan are a happy young couple who inherit Somerset farm and decide to take on the challenge of running it. The series is set in 1894 and it’s clear from episode 1 alone how important the themes of change and modernisation will be. The village residents are no fans of industrialisation as they watch the steam-powered plough take away their livelihoods and I expect further miffed farm workers to come. There’s also talk of railways! Too much change for these simple country folk.
Into this mix come the unusual couple, both professionals. He’s a psychologist and she’s a photographer. They’re Victorian hipsters; young, fashionable and in love with all the latest gadgets. Which also marks them as out of touch with common people.
This series is written by Ashley Pharoah, of Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes fame. So I’ll cut him some slack on the necessary horror clichés – guilt over dead kid, sinister female teen, second wife out of step with the locals, recordings of creepy voices from the past. With that groundwork laid he must have some tricks up his sleeve.
I’m so glad they addressed the issue of adolescent female sexuality head-on in a rational way. It’s such an overused horror trope – the fear of independent young women in charge of their own passion and desire. Society just can’t deal with it, in the 1890s or today. Nathan’s not afraid though. He’s a man of science and wants to help the vicar’s daughter despite Harriet’s obvious growing obsession with him.
So far it’s eerie rather than scary. The is-she or isn’t-she possessed Harriet is the least interesting part of the story so far, which is a shame as this seems to be the basis for all the frightening things yet to come.
An incredible hook at the end of episode 1 gives the show a whole new dimension, so despite finding the story a bit lacking, I will watch episode 2. Well played Mr Pharoah!
A quick note on the pictures of Colin Morgan alone on all the reviews and print adverts I’ve seen so far. Are they trying to set him up like he’s meant to be the next housewives’ top totty like Aiden Turner in Poldark. Yes I’m sure they both look lovely with their ruffled hair in bucolic surroundings but it’s tacky and sexist and sidelines Charlotte Spencer! I don’t want to see it.
The whole flipping series is available now on iPlayer – take your time or watch the lot. Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed it.