TV COLUMN: London Spy, Capital, Doctor Who

James Waller-Davies
James Waller-Davies

Columnist James Waller-Davies gives his views on some of the recent events on television.

All good things come to an end. And so do, thankfully, a number of quite awful things too.

I can’t have been the only one who stuck with London Spy (BBC1) for the full five episodes waiting patiently for something to actually happen and justify the presence of the assembled cast.

For a drama with so much potential, it has do go down as one of the most pretentious, self-gratifying, self-indulgent wastes of airtime of the year. It had all the flair of ‘realism week’ at drama school.

It was such a waste of talent. Ben Whishaw, Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling and Adrian Lester should be enough to make a go of just about anything. By the end, I was left to wonder if my five hours would been better spent locked in the trunk with the murdered Alex.

If London Spy was way too much of a bad thing, then Capital (BBC2) was far too little. Adapted from a 600-page novel, you could never get past the feeling that Capital, great though it was, was a little too thinly drawn.

Dickensian in style, Capital’s dramatisation would have benefitted from the sort of elongated treatment the BBC used to give London’s greatest novelist. Too many of the characters’ loose ends were tied up too quickly – all were plausible, but with such great characterisation, we could have hoped for genuinely believable.

It’s been a pretty good year for BBC drama, but these final two big-hitters of the year failed to deliver.

Poor old Doctor Who (BBC1). Lost his TARDIS, lost his Clara and finally lost his way in Saturday evening schedules. The BBC have been waging its very own ‘time war’ with this incarnation of the nation’s favourite Time Lord and the audience numbers have plummeted.

Peter Capaldi must be wondering why he bother to get in the TARDIS. Back in the November he accused the BBC of using Doctor Who as “a pawn in a Saturday night warfare”. Executive producer, Steven Moffat, was more diplomatic and called the scheduling simply “not smart”.

There will be the usual Christmas outing for the Doctor, but you have to wonder if the BBC will continue with the reboot if it’s going to invest so much in it, only to stick it on when no one wants to watch it.

Just for the record, the final episode of this series – found languishing down at number 22 on the iPlayer Top-40 – was actually pretty good. Though I can’t have been the only one to think that the better fun is to be had in the second TARDIS which sped off with Clara and Ashildr. A potential off-shoot of the re-boot?