sat 22/06/2024

Shetland, BBC One | reviews, news & interviews

Shetland, BBC One

Shetland, BBC One

Scottish islands murder mystery fails to set pulses racing

Murder most humdrum: Douglas Henshall as DI Jimmy Perez

Apparently on a clear day in the Shetlands, you can see Norway and Iceland. And from about halfway through the first instalment of this Caledonian murder mystery, you could see all the way to the final reel and take a well-educated guess about who did it.

I was reading an opinion somewhere the other day that ITV's Broadchurch was an inferior rip-off of such fashionable Scandinavian fare as The Killing or The Bridge. Can't see it myself. Shetland, on the other hand, was riddled with Nordicisms and fit the bill perfectly. Shetland (the place) was even a Norwegian province back in the Middle Ages, and acquired a language called Shetlandic.

Shetland (the programme), with its raw and wind-blasted local accents, could comfortably have accommodated some of those subtitles that give Danish dramas their distinctively exotic tang. It starred Douglas Henshall as the unfeasibly named DI Jimmy Perez - no, not a Zapata-moustache-twirling tequila drinker with a penchant for bullfighting, but a gloomy single Shetlander trying to make the best of a somewhat solitary life with his daughter Cassie (Erin Armstrong) who, we suddenly learned rather late in the piece, was in fact the daughter of fellow islander Duncan Hunter (Mark Bonnar). Were the boat-loving Perez to have stumbled across the fugitive Sarah Lund surviving on raw fish and puffin meat on an outlying uninhabited island, living in a tent made from old pullovers, it would have been (somewhat doleful) love at first sight (various closely related Shetlanders find another body, below).

Shetland was adapted from Ann Cleeves' novel Red Bones, which I haven't read, but I'd guess it makes a better job than this of knitting landscape, plot and character together. Henshall, who rarely disappoints, earned his spurs again here, persuasively imbuing Perez - in the circumstances, it's hard to type the name with a straight face - with copper-ish firmness mixed with a rather beguiling empathy. However, as the piece developed, something which it seemed to do only reluctantly and with no particular enthusiasm for being dramatic or mysterious, it looked increasingly like a National Geographic documentary with a few stray characters dumped into shot to give some idea of the scale of cliffs and moorlands.

The story was about the historic enmity between two Shetland families, the Wilsons and the Haldanes. The Haldanes got rich by building a trawler-fleet empire in the years after World War Two, while the Wilsons were reduced to gazing up at the Haldanes' fancy house on the hill while getting drunk and grinding their teeth with rage.

Naturally there had to be a murder - two, actually - but they were just excuses to go ferreting about in murky goings-in back in the war, when Shetland fishermen had run a secret shuttle service to Norway called the Shetland Bus carrying spies, supplies and money. The Haldanes suddenly got loaded, remember. Anyway, everybody was more or less incestuously involved with everybody else, and assorted people had various motives for bumping off the victims. Doug sorted them out in the end, obviously. Lovely scenery. Bit of a waste of time otherwise.

It looked like a National Geographic documentary with a few stray characters lobbed in to give some idea of the scale of cliffs and moorlands


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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It was a bit like 'Waiting for Godot' but not so much fun.

Local accents? Local to Glasgow maybe.

I have to say I enjoyed the 2 part drama. Okay it wasn't the most complicated plot in the world, and you didn't need to be a rocket scientist to figure out parts of it. It could have been more tightly handled plot wise. Some of the plot points were a bit heavy handed. But I still found the characters interesting and engaging enough to watch the whole thing. There is not much on British TV to make me tune in for 2 hours, but I enjoyed watching this. And its been a while since I could say that about program.

Methinks Up Helly Aa takes place in late January when sunset is around 1610. It seemed awfie light throughout all the scenes until about 10 minutes before the burning. Also I would have thought that Shetland would have been quite cold at this time of year, but the dress and the lack of "steaming breath" gave the impression that we weren't in January. I watched it all, but only because I was expecting something - that didn't happen. Can't wait for Silent Witness to come back!!

The series was shot over two weeks or so last July, and they apparently used a filter to dampen down the brilliant greens and blues of the Shetland summer landscape. That wasn't the only distortion. The crews in the Shetland bus operation were exclusively Norwegian, not Shetlanders as implied, although they did have a lot of local help ashore in Shetland.

yes an incredible waste of time by the end of it

I got totally lost in the Shetland landscape and characters, and was so engaged I hardly noticed any flaws in seasonal shots or minor disparities in local dialect.

I absolutely love everything about Shetland. The characters are likeable and we get to see some of the spectacular and rugged landscape on Shetland. It’s better than most of the crap that appears on our screens! I just hope there are many more series in the pipeline.

I really like this show. I just recently came across it. I like the scenery, the people and the stories. The people in these type of shows are so much more real than the ones in the US where everyone is perfectly groomed 24/7.

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