The Body Farm – Dr Eve Lockhart and other TV characters gone solo


Tara Fitzgerald as Dr Eve Lockhart The Body Farm

Tara Fitzgerald as Dr Eve Lockhart

The Body Farm, the new forensic crime series from BBC Drama Production, currently airing on BBC One, also has as one of its co-executive producers Waking The Dead actor Trevor Eve and his company Projector Productions. It is written by Declan Croghan who also wrote for Waking The Dead. And one of the belated characters of that series was Dr Eve Lockhart, played by Tara Fitzgerald. Tara Fitzgerald stars in The Body Farm as well – but it is not just producers writers and actors that have moved onto The Body Farm, but the Tara Fitzgerald character too.

This time pathologist Dr Eve Lockhart leads a team of forensic scientists in a private sector facility. In Silent Witness Emilia Fox as Dr Nikki Alexander resides in the public sector – will this make any difference to the forensic science work? To the crime detection? And most importantly the TV drama?! Only two episodes in and too early to say. I am under Tara Fitzgerald’s spell but other viewers may not be so patient with the show.

Doctor Bones Brennan and Special Agent Booth

Doctor Bones Brennan and Special Agent Booth

As Waking The Dead was a British version of the USA Cold Case, The Body Farm is the British equivalent of Bones – or is that Silent Witness? – is Tara Fitzgerald or Emilia Fox the British Emily Deschanel?!

This set me to wondering how often does a TV character from one show end up as the lead character in another TV show?

In the 1970’s The Six Million Dollar Man’s Bionic Man Steve Austin played by Lee Majors had a female love interest who also amazingly succumbed to a life-threatening accident needing bionic surgery to make her whole again – or better than whole again.

This was Jaime Sommers played by Lindsay Wagner and she became both The Bionic Woman the character and The Bionic Woman the TV series – just three years in duration and it felt longer but remember time was speeded up! – and which incidentally was reprised with Michelle Ryan in the role and which due to a strike by The Writers Guild of America this remake was remaindered – alas a super-woman Michelle Ryan is what TV dreams are made of. Okay my TV dreams!

Doctor Who and Sarah Jane Smith

Doctor Who and Sarah Jane Smith

On our side of the Atlantic our long running sci-fi adventure Doctor Who belatedly saw one of the Doctor’s earlier side-kicks Sarah Jane Smith, played by Elisabeth Sladen, have her own Sarah Jane Adventures – I think too there were other Doctor Who spin-offs, one involving the robot dog K-9 but let’s not go there!

In the 1980’s and early 1990’s we had the Boston-based bar-room comedy Cheers and one of its relatively peripheral if constant characters Dr Frasier Crane found his way to Seattle as a Radio Psychiatrist with Frasier, a show whose success far eclipsed that of the seminal Cheers.

Detective Robert Goren

Vincent D’Onofrio as Detective Robert Goren

Later in the 1990’s there was Buffy The Vampire Slayer whose character Angel, played by David Boreanaz, span off to Angel – his eponymous show – though span-back, as Angel was a prequel to a time prior to him knowing Buffy.

(And David Boreanaz incidentally is a Bones stalwart as Special Agent Seeley Booth alongside Dr. Temperance ‘Bones’ Brennan showing that in TV there are but Three Degrees of Separation). Though if The Body Farm is our Bones, then the USA get David Boreanaz, we Brits get Keith Allen!

Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson The Closer

Kyra Sedgwick as Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson

Can you think of any more recent examples?

Dr Eve Lockhart’s new deal also set me to thinking about other shows where one of the characters could cut loose from its script and start up a new life and show of its own.

Detective Robert Goren of Law and Order: Criminal Intent – gone solo from the management constraints of Captain James Deakins with his own Private Detective Agency? Perhaps a US North meets South seeing him teamed up with The Closer ex-cop Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson herself tired of having her proverbial hands handcuffed by boss Assistant Chief Will Pope.

Jack Bauer in ‘9 to 5’ – life after 24 – can he settle down to civilian pace and domestic tranquillity?!

Or Sue Sylvester from Glee? She already has a show within a show with ‘As Sue Sees It’ – does it have legs as a series in its own right?

Any current TV characters you would like to see go it alone?

Spooks Returns – when Harry met Elena…

Spooks Series 10 Web LogoSpooks returned for its tenth and final series last night. Showing on BBC 1, ITV had scheduled its Autumn heavy-weight contender, Downton Abbey, alongside it. But in the age of Personal Video Recorders such ratings-showdowns matter not to us the humble viewer. Well leaving aside that Big Brother was also airing on Channel 5 and Heston’s Mission Impossible on More 4!

The viewing figures reveal that it was the World War 1 costume drama and not the post Cold War spy drama that proved the most popular of the two, with twice as many Brits tuning into it.

Spooks is the British equivalent of the US 24 – or James Bond in a post-cold-war, post-9/11, al-Qaeda world.

Spooks - Max Witt

Max Witt – not long for this world

Except there is no Jack – Spooks is about the team not the individualist action hero of Jack Bauer, Jason Bourne or the prototype JB, James Bond.

The leading men always perish – Tom Quinn (Matthew McFadden), Adam Carter (Rupert Penry-Jones), Lucas North (Richard Armitage) – far more realistically I would think than the US world view where heroes always prosper, villains always get their comeuppance, eventually!

Having said that James Bond was unrealistically invulnerable – but with Spooks we have grown up. Though perhaps our Jack Bauer equivalent is Harry Pearce, played by Peter Firth, the MI5 Section head? And as Spooks is about to meet its mortal end destined for a Telly heaven of re-runs on UK Gold or Dave – though just how many re-runs before that TV heaven becomes Celluloid Purgatory then Telly Hell?! – can we assume for Harry Pearce the assassin’s bullet finally catches up with him?

Spooks - Erin Watts

New Chief Spook Erin Watts

I wrote leading men but Spooks has given us leading women too, Ros Myers (Hermione Norris), Zoe Reynolds (Keeley Hawes), and does so again in series 10.

This time with Erin Watts the successor/rival of Harry Pearce – Erin Watts is played by Lara Pulver – who you may recall from True Blood and alongside fellow ex-spook Richard Armitage in the BBC’s Robin Hood. She is the new acting head of Section and was its MI5 Chief while Harry was on enforced sick-leave during his ’employment tribunal’ (he comments that for one dark moment during it he had considered taking up gardening!).

Erin Watts as Lara Croft when Lara Croft has to resist going it alone and act as a team-player – if its leader.

Spooks - Harry Pearce

Harry Pearce

In the opening episode it is all about Harry – and has the veteran of his team and the service it is in his Cold War past that skeletons start to do more than rattle. Harry is still supported by his wax-and-wane love interest Ruth Evershed, played by Nicola Walker, and in this episode it is not just former enemies that resurface – Ruth finds herself face-to-face with a former asset of Harry, Elena Gavrik, played by Alice Krige, – a former asset and so much more. I think you can probably guess how much more?!

A former spy and colleague of Harry, Max Witt, is found murdered and had also been trying to set up a meeting between them. Harry and his team must find out why. Alongside this the UK is now to set upon a political and diplomatic course to make a friend of a former foe, Russia, and is this what Max was trying to warn Harry about?

SpooksLike 24, technology of the bleeding-edge variety is never too far out of view – this episode sees them all sporting iPads if naturally kitted out with highly encrypted spyware – authorized spy-ware! I recall in a previous series, as a rival to fingerprint and iris recognition, blood-vessel recognition – or was that an episode of Hustle?!  In this episode the body recognition software is about how we walk-the-walk rather than talk-the-talk. We all apparently walk in a unique way – our height and weight and its distribution – such that no matter how we disguise our face our gait gives us away. I do not know whether this technology is science fact or fiction. I rather like the thought that it is but the product of the Spooks’ script-writers’ imagination and the various intelligence services of other governments watching Spooks are then sent scrambling to investigate its veracity and or plausibility!

Spooks Elena Gavrik

There’s something about Elena…

I hope that Spooks is not being decommissioned due to Harry Pearce meeting his demise – that is back to James Bond logic – the service is greater than any one man or woman – a show about spies has endless plot-lines and machinations.

Previous threats to our green-and-pleasant-land and democratic-life and everything-we-hold-dear have included inevitably al-Qaeda home-grown and abroad, the re-emerging Chinese Economic and Military Super Power, and post Cold War Russia and its many ex-Soviet Satellite States be they of a European or Asian leaning persuasion.

In this series as noted the UK are making – or having to make – a choice to go it alone or find new allies in a post special-relationship world where the USA have become more isolationist – so an alliance with an old-enemy (an old Country has many old enemies!) Russia is posited. No European Union of spies entertained by the Spooks script-writers then?!

We are always living in interesting times. Currently we have the Arab Spring and WikiLeaks and information spun and information overload and global financial melt-down and possible end of free-market-capitalism with ever more wealth going to ever fewer people – though as the Fiona Bruce hosted The Queen’s Palaces currently showing on BBC 1 reminds us 95% of the wealth with 5% of the people was ever thus – with high finance and big global corporations in bed with governments and media – (News International an evil empire right there!), the terrible appropriation of confusing party political interest and ambition with national security – a new Orwellian night-mare…where is a spook to begin!

Truth is giving fiction a good pasting these days – you could not make it up as the saying goes. Fiction has to work that much harder to avoid looking like a dry documentary if suffused with poetry!

Spooks has been one of the best shows at giving reality a good run for its proverbial money – I will be sad watching its demise.

In the meantime, will Harry save us? Ruth? Erin? All spooks as one save us? And, of course, save us from what?

Who Do You Think You Are? – Emilia Fox

Who Do You Think You Are? - Emilia Fox

Emilia Fox

Who Does Emilia Fox Think She Is? – so asks the fifth episode of the eighth series of the BBC celebrity genealogy program Who Do You Think You Are?

Emilia Fox is best known to British television viewers for her role of hard-working brooding forensic pathologist Dr Nikki Alexander in Silent Witness filling the equally hard-working brooding footsteps of her predecessor Sam Ryan, played by Amanda Burton. The long-running Silent Witness being the UK equivalent of the USA CSI franchise. Emilia Fox can also be seen currently on commercial telly, alongside Philip Glenister, as the perhaps unlikely replacement for Gordon Ramsay as the face of Gordon’s Gin.

Emilia Fox comes from a very actor-filled family – James Fox is her uncle. Both her father, Edward, and her mother, Joanna David, are actors too, as are cousins Lydia and Lawrence. And cousin Lawrence married actor Billie Piper – to deepen further this Thespian gene-pool!

The program starts with research of her grandfather Robin Fox, a theatre agent.

Who Do You Think You Are? - Hilda and Lily Hanbury

Hilda and Lily Hanbury

She herself had not been aware that her grandmother Hilda Hanbury had also been an actor. It transpires her grandmother had a younger sister Lily also an actor – she then discovers many of their cousins were actors too.

Further that these cousins were connected by marriage to the greatest acting family of its time the Terry’s – Ellen Terry  being the Judi Dench of the Victorian era.

For sister Lily tragedy was waiting. Having migrated to USA with star-struck hopes of becoming a famous stage actor she quickly found herself doing bit parts and overshadowed by her older sister. She died prematurely following the still-born death of her son. Even more poignant as at the time of making this program Emilia Fox was herself pregnant.

As a researcher of my own family tree, one of its great pleasures is discovering old family photos. Emilia Fox was to have a far grander experience of this discovering that her great great grandfather Samson Fox had both a bust in the Royal College of Music and a grand painting in Armley Mills Industrial Museum.

Who Do You Think You Are? Samson Fox

Samson Fox

The story of Samson Fox was not just great British social history but a great personal tale of rags to riches and near ruinous return to rags – but happily not quite.

Samson Fox came from Bradford, the son of a mill manager. Like the Biblical Samson he also sported a great mane of hair and beard. He joined a Leeds textile mill when just eight years old as an apprentice engineer and ascended quickly through the ranks to manager then founder of the Leeds Forge Company. His Victorian Dragons Den breakthrough invention and business idea was the corrugated flue which transformed flues from a fragile unreliable boiler component to a robust component in shipping, locomotives and other industrial functions. He had the patent and it was globally deployed.

Who Do You Think You Are? - Corrugated Flue

Corrugated Flue

With his great wealth came great philanthropy if not great leisure – he was a workaholic and had built a  laboratory into the basement of his home Grove House. The Royal College of Music that splendid building located in Kensington London – he bequeathed it to the nation! A gift to the King of the time Edward Prince of Wales. It was noted that such a gift should routinely result in a later knighthood but he never became Sir Samson Fox and the program then set out to fathom why this was.

Samson Fox was not a man to rest on his laurels. Despite his great wealth and at an age where many would have retired to a life of hard earned leisure and contentment he had moved on to another project, Water Gas.

This was an industrial technology able to provide a new energy source to both domestic and commercial buildings more efficiently and effectively than the then current coal gas. His problem was the network infrastructure to supply to homes and factories was courtesy of the very companies who provided the Coal Gas.

There also had been a fatal accident to two of his employees working with Water Gas in his factory. He needed access to this network infrastructure to save this business but the status quo coal gas companies grouped together to lobby the government in an early example of regulatory capture to prevent him entering this energy arena – they succeeded.

And their success was his downfall – much of the funding for the project came from the public invested in it through shares based on his hitherto successful business reputation. Doubts set in then panic and then its stock price crashed with huge losses for investors and Samson himself. He died with this energy source never utilized though did still oversee another great public project, the Royal Hall in Harrogate.

More sad still because his idea was vindicated in the 1920’s – Water Gas was found to be safe and reliable and became a core component of industrial use up until the 1960’s. A happy ending if one he never lived to see.

Perhaps he should be granted a posthumous knighthood from the current Queen?

Another fascinating and informative social history of Britain as well as inspiring and emotionally engaging human drama.

Who Do You Think You Are? - Emilia Fox Royal College Music Archives

The Royal College of Music archives

Suranne Jones – The Doctor’s Wife

Suranne Jones

Suranne Jones

The latest episode of Doctor Who finds him betrothed?

What an episode it is and what a performance by Suranne Jones – such a pity it had to be a terminal one.

The Doctor’s Wife was written by English author Neil Gaiman of Coraline and The Sandman fame among many others. And the script was as mind-bending as the scientific conundrums that littered it. The time-shifting in this latest series would leave even Quentin Tarantino breathless.

Michael Sheen is the voice of The House. (Though not his first such voice – he was the White Rabbit’s voice in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland). But what a CV he now has – previously, to sample but a few, Brian Clough, Tony Blair and Kenneth Williams – and now the Voice of the House – can he possibly top this?!

And the Doctor sheds a tear – I won’t plot-spoil if you have not yet seen it – and if not then you should watch for free on the BBC iPlayer in High Definition while you still can.

Suranne Jones’ performance as Idris the Doctor’s Wife (or Soul Mate? Same thing – or should be!) was delivered with relish – much verbal gymnastics and memorable lines – though the line about the Fish Fingers is in the same category as a previous episode in this series Knock Knock Who’s There one!

As herself

Not her first foray into the Doctor Who universe though – you may remember her as the Mona Lisa in the Sarah Jane Adventure ‘Mona Lisa’s Revenge’?

More known though for charismatic cops such as DC Laurie Franklin in the BBC’s Five Days and another DC, Rachel Bailey, in the recently commenced ITV series ‘Scott and Bailey’, where Scott is played by Lesley Sharp – which sounds in the spirit of Murder In Suburbia – and I digress!

Here she gets to play the TARDIS – sorry could not avoid that spoiler! – where her multi-dimensional space-time-mind confounds not just we the viewers but the Doctor himself.

As noted such a pity it was to be a terminal appearance – okay I can see I plot-spoiled from the very beginning of this post! – but she arrived and exited with a bang.

But does this mean the Doctor is left without a TARDIS? That is one plot-line at least I won’t spoil for you!

Doctor Who – Twelfth Doctor – Femme Fatale?

The 32nd run of Doctor Who began April 23rd with the 771st episode (count them!) The Impossible Astronaut followed by this Day of The Moon episode.  And it was as riveting as most recent series have been with Matt Smith at the helm and Karen Gillan his charismatic companion. This episode was also a fitting and touching memorial to Elisabeth Sladen who died April 19th and who was former Doctor companion Sarah Jane Smith and then latterly star of the spin-off Sarah Jane Adventures.

The Eleventh Doctor

Doctor Who like much of the superhero genre appeals to young and old alike.  For the young there are the special powers and effects, monsters and other villains, costumes and other fantastical elements.  I have nieces that love the new Andrew Davies and Julie Gardner rejuvenation of it, Eccleston, Tennant and now Smith, as much as I did when I was their age in the early 1970’s with Pertwee and Baker at the helm.  And for the old there are the angsty existential themes of mortality and immortality, love and hate, peace and war of which to grapple with. Though in truth if we are young at heart we enjoy as much the special effects and monsters as these weightier themes!

Doctor Who is a bleak story and character.  He is timeless yet all his friends exist in time – they all die, he lives on, ultimately alone. Quite a secular tale too – aliens are eminently plausible but heavenly beings are mere poppycock. Matt Smith captures this existential situation very well.

Matt Smith is the Eleventh Doctor. The Doctor is a space-time traveller. Virginia Woolf’s Orlando did the same upon its Big Bang nearly a century ago in 1928. Orlando went one better than the Doctor though – the Doctor has not yet transformed his male physical anatomy into female form, Orlando did.

The Twelfth Doctor?

I had hoped that the Eleventh Doctor could have made this gender transformation.

Billie Piper would have been a candidate but alas has companion Rose to the Tenth Doctor David Tennant this would be a violation of a televisual scripture if not a temporal rule!

But come on – we Brits belatedly had a female Prime Minister yet still no female Doctor!

For the Twelfth Doctor I am hopeful.  Keeley Hawes would make a fabulous Time Lord. Sarah Parish I could also see the part as a brooding soul lost in time-space. Michelle Ryan had a super-hero role cut short as The Bionic Woman so perhaps the Doctor role would be a perfect reprieve for her. Though I now recall her as The Lady Christina de Souza in the ‘Planet of the Dead’ episode.  But cast aside the televisual scripture! – actors can be recast anew a thousand times at the hands of the casters and broadcasters!

Time for the Doctor to get in touch with his feminine side.


Caroline Flint – a Labour leader in waiting?

On Question Time

Another good panel on Question Time last Thursday on BBC 1 – Jeremy Hunt and Jo Swinson fielded well for the Coalition, Professor Lord Winston and actor Simon Callow provided insights from their own particular fields but it was Caroline Flint for Labour who impressed me most.

She made her arguments clearly, forcefully and passionately.

Her points about the radical NHS reforms not being in either of the coalition parties manifestos and that the spending cuts being as much an ideological choice as a fiscal need resonated well with me.

Her views against the Alternative Vote I found less convincing and not just because I am in favour of it!  Lord Winston was also against it and made a more thoughtful and persuasive case.

Overall though Caroline Flint presented well the Labour cause and with some free-flowing passion amongst often complex and difficult ideas which I would like to see more of from Ed Milliband.

I still have reservations though about her and Labour – in particular due to the financial crisis.  She rightly reminded the panel and audience that it was the bailing out of the banks that ballooned the national debt but overlooked that this happened on Labour’s watch. It was Labour keen to be bedfellows with the Haute L’argent of the City along with its light-touch regulation of the banking sector that contributed to that particular financial melt-down.

Likewise under them the gap between the rich and the poor in our society grew – the distribution of the national wealth became ever less equitable.  This again lies with their taxation policy – trying to out-Tory the Conservative Party.

They did in the 1990’s need to ditch aspects of Old Labour to become electable but having achieved this they then seemed more about schmoozing the wealthy than improving the lot of the rest-of-us.

The financial crisis was not just a sector event but totemic of a crisis in capitalism itself – it is tottering on its heels with no signs of recovery just more voodoo economics.  And New Labour sadly still seem as wedded to the Crony Capitalist ethos as the coalition parties.

There is popular opposition to the banking model yet I feel the Coalition and Labour only respond to this because of their populist instincts, not because they really get it. Sound bites and rhetoric but not really matched with actions to address for example moral hazard and too big to fail.

No mainstream party seems to be embracing social democratic values – perhaps the Labour Party needs a coup from within – and I am not sure if Caroline is the person to do it.

That person might be the quiet unassuming former Chancellor Alistair Darling – but that’s another post!