After the mauling that The Guardian gave BBC1’s new cop show/ sci-fi drama you’d be forgiven for thinking the BBC were presenting a badly-written festive pantomime like A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong . This was the tone of the preview published at 11am yesterday. The actual 4 star review landed a few hours later calling it gutsy and ambitious. Same newspaper, very different opinion. Great work guys – don’t make up your mind about something, teach the controversy.
So safe to say this end-of-the-world drama written by Neil Cross of Luther fame is polarising opinions. Twitter seemed suitably impressed and a lot of people were very happy to realise the series was all set ready to binge on iPlayer. We put the second episode on straight away but now I’m not sure how much more of it I want to see.
As you’d expect from the School of Luther, everything was instantly horrific. Detective Elaine Renko (Agnes Deyn) was stabbed multiple times and her house set on fire by a teenager who turns out to be her son. After her recovery she’s teamed up with Detective Robert Hicks (Jim Sturgess), a corrupt copper who may well have killed his last partner and is now shagging the widow (the lovely Aisling Bea sporting an accent that makes you do a double take). Renko is out to get Hicks, investigation his shady dealings, and he’s already suspicious. All this unpleasantness is set up just in time for the end of the world. Great.
What would you do if the world was going to end in five years’ time? It’s an interesting pub conversation, but it’s ultimately a pretty daft thing to incorporate into a second-rate cop show. Hick’s is just daft all by himself. His accent is very much of the “Oi oi! Be lucky!” Cock-er-ney stereotype that would even give Eastenders casting directors pause. He’s a geezer out of his depth, happier delivering awkward office banter about his underling’s shirt and outrageously robbing houses to give his girlfriend huge wads of cash. As you do.
Thankfully Deyn as Renko is much more watchable, with her long doleful face and her tragic visits to her son in his asylum (I’m expecting Bruce Willis to turn up and sort everything out any time now) . In her spare time she seems to be presenting a true crime blog from the attic of her hotel, as she gathers evidence on her new partner, but as Mr H pointed out if she continues to speaks into the earpiece of the mobile phone the sound quality will be shit. And the script doesn’t do either of them any favours. As MI5 draw near Hicks says to Renko “I need to talk to my wife, tell her to get somewhere safe. You should do the same”. You what? Maybe Mrs Hicks is a bit thick and needs telling twice.
There’s Scandi aspirations here, if not in tone certainly in modernist locations and brutalist concrete buildings. And having the sun play a pivotal role is a great excuse for shiny lens flair at all and every opportunity.
Despite the partners actually coming to blows in a very nasty fight on the banks of the Thames in episode one (its suddenness in the series has to be a tv first) the miserable detectives are still on speaking terms, with Renko accidentally doing Hicks and his family a favour by going to the press. But it’s all debunked as a hoax so life continues about as normally as possible in this messed-up version of reality.
So at the end of two episodes we’re left with a lot of questions. Does a show that’s about 4% sci-fi need to be reported to Trading Standards? What moisturiser do these detectives use to heal severe facial bruises so quickly, and where can I buy it? Do all British detective sci-fi dramas have to be based on a David Bowie song? And have we already run out of toe-tappers?And most pressing of all, how on earth is this weird set-up going to pan out? Will our miserable mismatched duo do such good police work that they somehow stop the sun’s evil scheme and save the world from a fiery apocalypse? Of course, as much as I liked Luther I could still see it was ridiculous over-the-top storytelling too, but at least there was a shred of hope for the future. In Hard Sun there’s no hope for any happy endings.
Hard Sun is on BBC1 on Saturday nights at 9pm, but all episodes are available now on iPlayer if you want to watch the sun explode as soon as possible.