Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Super Channel's Secret State Worth Searching Out

I was going to take a pass on Super Channel's latest British import  Secret State because the preview DVDs arrived late.
But my curiosity got the better of me, I liked what I saw and I now think you should try ferreting it out because it's that good.
The second episode is on Tuesday July 9 at 10 p.m. but I'm thinking Episode One must be out there somewhere on Super Channel.
It's a four-part mystery that pulls out all the whistles and bells in its linkage of various conspiracy theories all boiled into one definite threat to the British state.
And the cast is a virtual who's who of British TV stars: Gabriel Byrne as downtrodden deputy British prime minister Tom Dawkins, Charles Dance as the always present Chief Whip  John Hodder, Stephen Dillane as the influential head of gigantic energy company Petro Fex, Sylvestra Le Touzel and Rupert Graves as the combative ministers jockeying to replace the prime minister.
The opening scenes are of Dawkins strolling through the devastation of Scarrow Park, a British backwater where something terrible has happened --the buildings are razed, the inhabitants all dead and somehow Petro Fex is involved.
Turns out a blast at the Petro Fex chemical plant has killed many people and left the Prime Minister scrambling to gain compensation for the victims.
Dawkins must meet with the survivors who boo him and demand vengeance.
Shot brilliantly, the whole plot unravels with dark thoughts and many hints that today's modern government is listening into virtually every conversation made by politicians and their sources.
I can't give away too much plot except to say something very bad happens to the prime minister. Instantly Dawkins is seen as a possible replacement. His is a dour, haggard look on life and Byrne plays the character perfectly, all rumpled countenance --in fact he looks remarkably like former  British PM Gordon Brown.
The plot is brilliantly complex --something is always about to happen to once again take us by surprise.
We find out what is happening along with Dawkins and we then see how this affects him as a man.
In fact the publicity handouts say it is a remake of the fondly remembered A Very British Coup starring the late great Ray McAnally.
But so much has changed in 20 years and the opportunities for state spying have truly multiplied. Add in such themes as destruction of the ecosystem, foreign wars from Afghanistan to Iraq,  plus banking scandals and the influence of America on every aspect of modern democracies and you have a completely different set up.
Of course MI5 is monitoring Dawkins every conversation even when he's out on a park bench interviewing a crusading journalist played persuasively by Gina McKee.
Shot mostly in and around Manchester Secret State will have you hopping to keep up with its convoluted plotting. But it's so well done the journey over four hours is surely worth while.

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