Prime Suspect – tape 2003

After her appearance in French & Saunders a few days ago, Helen Mirren is back in the real thing, Prime Suspect. This story is called The Scent of Darkness. It’s one of the later stories, and not written by creator Lynda La Plante, the writing chores here being performed by Guy Hibbert. He wrote the screenplay to the rather excellent A United Kingdom and also the similarly excellent Helen Mirren drone strike drama Eye in the Sky.

Right at the top of the show, Mirren’s Jane Tennison is arguing with a committee of male officers about a WPC who has been overlooked for promotion to detective. “She can’t work in a team” she’s told “because she can’t take a joke.”

Two parents are calling round their daughter’s friends to see where she is, because they expected her home a couple of hours ago.

I see Tennison’s romantic life is going as smoothly as usual. She’s outside a theatre, looking around, as the audience leave when her date rushes up, full of apologies. Then she admits that she too just arrived, having been held up at work. At least there’s some balance there.

Then a woman’s body is found by railway tracks, wrapped in a refuse sack.

David Ryall is a familiar face as the forensic examiner Oscar Bream.

Also returning, Richard Hawley as DI Haskons.

There’s details of the way the woman was bound and held that suggests the same methods as for a previous case – that of George Marlow, the murderer in the very first Prime Suspect story. Is it a copycat killer? Or was Marlow actually innocent?

We see Marlow in prison – it’s a shame they’ve had to recast the role, as instant recognition would have been quite effective. He’s not a popular man in prison, although at least one of the other prisoners says he’s an innocent man.

Then a second body is found, the young girl whose parents were searching earlier.

In another connection with a recent tape, Tennison’s partner is watching Lee Evans to relax after work.

If you’re following on your Prime Suspect Bingo Card, you can tick off ‘obstructive officer on the team’ – Christopher Fulford is the senior officer on the investigation team under Tennison, and he’s clearly unhappy with her being there.

Things aren’t helped by the team having read a book about the Marlow case, and finding reasons to suspect that Marlow wasn’t the real killer, and that the actual killer has returned to the country and is killing again.

Tennison returns to the lock-up garage which Marlow had used to imprison his victims. It’s now being used by furniture makers.

The new possible suspect in the Marlow case is a Greek man, Andreas Markos, the son of the man who owned and rented out the lock-up garage. He’s already been questioned by Tennison’s team, without her knowledge, when her right hand man Haskons goes to see him.

Then Tennison is taken off the case. Fulford takes over, concentrating on the killer being the same one as in the Marlow case. But when Haskons brings up evidence that someone in a policeman’s uniform driving a silver saloon car was seen close to where the young girl went missing, and that the first victim was the widow of a policeman who disappeared after leaving the police social club, he’s not as interested in that.

Things get more complicated when Tennison discovers that her partner (who is a criminal psychologist) has been in touch with the man who wrote the book asserting Marlow’s innocence, and he had just pointed out to her some evidence in the case report that might link all the murders – there’s a specific scent that was noticeable on the two victims here, but a similar scent was also reported with the Marlow victims.

Then she finds her own personal file in his filing cabinet.

It’s all getting a bit conspiracy theory.

Wow, Tennison smokes like a chimney.

The programme is split into two halves, by News at Ten. It leads with a survey of policemen in Britain where 4 out of 5 say they don’t want policemen to be routinely armed.

The recording switches to the end of London Tonight. There’s a story about the Derek Bentley case, the basis of the film Let Him Have It.

Then, Prime Suspect continues. Tennison goes to meet Mark Whitehouse, the man who wrote the book about the Marlow case claiming he’s innocent. He was going to meet her partner. He tells her that he got involved with the case when he met Marlow’s girlfriend, who couldn’t confirm his alibi at the trial, but who, when she was in a hospice, dying, changed her story.

Another woman goes missing, ramping up the tension.

There’s an electrifying scene where Tennison meets Marlow’s mother, now suffering from Dementia, and she asks her about Marlow’s childhood, using the perfume as a cue. There’s clearly some old trauma there. It’s all very Dennis Potter.

Tennison meets Marlow in prison. He’s still professing innocence, and gets very upset when told she has spoken to his mother.

She’s hauled over the coals for this by her superiors, who suspend her.

Meanwhile, one of the major clues in the case, a white van, is located, and ruled out of the investigation, which rather blows the direct connection to Marlow. The officer who finds this out is a young Marc Warren.

The investigation narrows to some policemen. But then we learn that the third victim is being held by one of the guards looking after Marlow. Suddenly, Marlow is some kind of Hannibal Lecter character, manipulating other people to kill for him? Seems an unlikely turn.

Tennison makes a connection between Marlow, his girlfriend, and the guard, and with that information they are able to catch him before he kills his third victim. He’d starting killing on his own, not at Marlow’s request, which is a little more plausible.

She even gets to throw some wine in the faces of the officers who’ve been hounding her, so I guess that’s a happy ending.

I do like Prime Suspect but I do also long for women in police dramas who are respected for their ability to do the job and not continually being undermined by whining manbabies.

After this, recording continues for a bit with an episode of Sport in Question with Ian St John and Jimmy Greaves. It appears to be Question Time but about sport.

The tape ends during this programme.

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2 comments

  1. Sport in Question was indeed a sporting version of Question Time, and interestingly (well, I say that) started as a regional programme on Central before being networked. It was very much the last hurrah of Saint and Greavsie as a double act, and Giles Smith’s book of his TV sport columns from the nineties doesn’t think much of it, saying Greavsie was so out of touch there should have constantly been an announcement saying “We apologise for the delay to your argument, this is due to a derailment at Greaves Junction”.

    BT Sport sometimes show a particular clip from it, though, from the episode where their presenter and commentator Darren Fletcher was in the audience, as a member of the public, and asked Brian Clough a question which caused Clough to call Fletcher a smartarse.

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