Broadchurch: 1.01 - Review

Last night, ITV debuted Broadchurch, a new crime thriller from Kudos. This marks the second recent new series from the Spooks producers, after Channel 4's interesting-but-flawed Utopia, clearly they want to mount a big comeback. And a straightforward dead-child murder mystery, headed by beloved Doctor Who vet David Tennant, should give them a good chance.

But is it any good? Can Broadchurch overcome the ITV stigma? Minor spoilers, you can catch the episode on ITV Player first if you want.


Grim Death And Heavy Mist - Paging Lund!

Broadchurch tells of a dead child found in the Dorset village of the same name, where the locals are unaccustomed to such nasty business. Fortunately for them (and is it just a coincidence?), experienced murder-cop DI Alec Hardy (Tennant) has recently transferred there to escape an unspecified dark scandal in his past. So he teams up with rattled local policewoman DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman), and they set about interrogating the population. And, this being only the first episode in an atmospheric six part thriller, that's about as far as we get.

The afore-mentioned Utopia was often guilty of sacrificing story momentum for atmosphere, using flashy visual effects which weren't entirely needed to tell their story, a relatively straightforward scavenger hunt. Broadchurch also has stylistic tics, including a tendency towards slow motion shots of countryside, but they work with the script to create a sense of creeping dread. The end result resembles a rural British version of The Killing.

Visually, at least. Broadchurch isn't quite as subtle as that sublime Danish show. The script is solid enough in building tension - a few dialogue moments a tad too on the nose, but it does successfully introduce a wide cast of characters (well, potential suspects really), many of them played by people you'll vaguely recognise from other shows, including Arthur Darvill (recently departed Doctor Who companion Rory).

David Tennant Finally Uses Real Accent!

David Tennant as grim, driven policeman is an interesting role for him, and he's certainly got the intense stare. He also relishes his intense speech at the climax of the episode, although doesn't sound quite as comfortable delivering terse cop dialogue during previous scenes. Hopefully he'll grow into it as the series goes along. Olivia Colman, meanwhile, is great, but that won't be a huge surprise to anyone.

It's hard to judge Broadchurch strongly either way based on this opening episode, as it's very meat and potatoes crime stuff, doing a lot of necessary set-up. I'm hoping we see more nuance developing as the show goes along; the evil shallow journalists will grow especially tiring if they don't show some depth. Also hoping the murderer doesn't turn out to be Arthur Darvill's priest in a ripped-from-the-headlines child abuse twist. But for now, this episode gets the job done, with some strong performances and a lot of atmosphere. It might be too on-the-nose for some, but Broadchurch has potential in the field of crime.

Broadchurch airs MOnday at 9PM on ITV. Check it out on ITV Player. Is that field forensics guy a former CBBC presenter, or am I going mad?

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