TV Highlights: Dallas, Doctor Who and The Bletchley Circle

ATV Today reviews some of the TV Highlights from the week-gone-by; the return of Doctor Who and Dallas and ITV’s new drama The Bletchley Circle starring Anna Maxwell Martin and Rachael Stirling.

Dallas, Channel Five

It’s a risky business bringing back an old favourite either as continuation of the original (Crossroads, Doctor Who) or as a remake (Battlestar Galactica, Knight Rider). For every success there’s far more corpses of failed attempts so bringing back legendary 1980s soap Dallas was a pretty big gamble but one that has paid off in America at least.

On Wednesday evening UK viewers got their first glimpse of the revived and retooled Dallas as Channel Five presented the premier of the new season. Once again the Ewing family is destroying itself over oil, money, Southfork Ranch and bitter family feuds that stem back decades; some things never change! There maybe a new generation of Ewings running around the ranch and plotting against each other but to be honest its Bobby (Patrick Duffy), Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) and the old schemer himself J.R (Larry Hagman) which are the real attraction and the others are more of distraction.

The producers of the new Dallas have kept most of what made the original a success including the theme tune and the iconic title sequences though only names appear in them now not the actors themselves. The new Dallas has been a big hit in America where a second season has been commissioned and there’s no reason why it can’t be a hit here in the UK as well. In these times of austerity, double-dip recession and a Con-Dem coalition what we really need is a shameless bit of escapist fun to take our minds of all the crap and Dallas offers just that.

Now how long before Dynasty is revived as well?

The second episode of Dallas airs on Wednesday evening on Channel Five at 9pm.

Doctor Who, BBC One

It’s been a very long wait since the last installment of the BBC sci-fi series. In fact Christmas was the last occasion the Time Lord graced our scenes in an episode which left me very cold indeed. I thought last year’s special was far superior and this year’s offered much but delivered little. But I’m not here to review that episode I’m here to review the season opener; Asylum of the Daleks.

The Daleks haven’t been used to open a season of Doctor Who since way back in 1988 (Remembrance of the Daleks) when the metal monsters made their first trip up a flight of stairs on-screen. Asylum of the Daleks even featured the Special Weapons Dalek first introduced in that 1988 adventure. Sadly the SWD did nothing more than appear in the background covered in dust and cobwebs as did many of the different style of Daleks featured over the years.

Asylum of the Daleks was a mad-hat story in-keeping with Steven Moffat’s promise of cinematic episodes this year. I’m not so sure it made the Daleks scary again as promised but it certainly used the creatures in a new and different way and adding a bit more to their mythology. The humanised Daleks were a little iffy if you ask me; an eye stalk coming out of someone’s head looks more than a little dodgy!

By far the best part of the episode was the surprise appearance of Jenna Louise Coleman, the show’s new companion, as Oswin. The fact her appearance was kept a secret is a real surprise given how the press love to spoil everything months in advance but made a nice treat for fans and quite how Coleman will be worked back into the show is anyone’s guess!

All in all a good season opener with plenty of action and adventure but also emotion with the shock twist of Oswin’s fate and Rory (Arthur Darvill) and Amy (Karen Gillan) giving their marriage another go.

The next episode, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, airs tonight (Saturday) on BBC One at 7.35pm.

The Bletchley Circle, ITV1

During the Second World War women were called on to take many different roles in order to do “their bit” for the war effort and, as well documented, some worked at Bletchley helping to break the German codes. The new ITV drama focuses on four women who worked at Bletchley during the war but afterwards find themselves in mundane roles until a serial killer strikes London. Susan (Anna Maxwell Martin) believes there is a pattern to the killings which, if cracked, will help find the killer and turns to her old chums to help. Although reluctant at first another killing prompts her friends to listen to Susan and they set about trying to solve the gruesome murders.

ITV looks to have a brilliant slate of dramas over the next few weeks and The Bletchley Circle is one of several which deserves to be a hit. The drama is a neat twist on the detective genre and its period setting coupled with a very strong female cast helps to set it above other entries within the genre. At times it doesn’t feel like a detective drama at all and that is perhaps wherein lies it success; it doesn’t feel like another Vera or Miss Marple because part of the drama is just as much as about the women finding a place for themselves in post-war society as it is about solving crime.

The Bletchley Circle also stars Rachael Stirling, Julie Graham and Sophie Rundle.

The second episode airs on Thursday evening at 9pm on ITV1.

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