Monday, 16 January 2012


On the brink of sanity. Ronald Craven (Bob Peck) remembers his late daughter in EDGE OF DARKNESS. Images: BBC.

Rightly regarded as one of the seminal drama presentations of the BBC, launched from it's original transmission in November 1985, Troy Kennedy Martin’s eco/political thriller/ mystery character drama EDGE OF DARKNESS (now showing on the UK’s VIRGIN TV ON DEMAND viewing service) continues to live up to it's superb reputation as a true and flawless masterpiece of television, not just within the circles of television production of the UK but anywhere in the world, with a superbly structured and emotionally resonant six part script, crisp dialogue and memorably carved characters, alongside a fine cast of actors- most notably from a bitterly determined and weary, haunted eyed Bob Peck as Detective Ronald Craven, a very young and responsible Joanne Whalley as his daughter Emma- unexpectedly and savagely murdered in front of her father in what at first appears to be a terrifying revenge attack from one of his past criminal enemies- and the bulky and powerful presence of Joe Don Baker, taking a major pay cut to work on what he knew would be a powerful production, as Darius Jedburgh, a gung-ho, loose cannon CIA agent and friend of Craven’s who, in a memorable love/hate partnership of cynicism and professionalism, investigate the true reason for Emma’s death, on a journey sending them deep into the corrupting heart of UK and American politics- a “special relationship” of business power never more complex and life-threatening- and to the core of a dangerous “hot cell” within a damaged nuclear storage facility…

The new eco warriors: Craven with CIA rogue Darius Jedburgh (Joe Don Baker).

Alongside this top level acting trio bringing to life an outstanding and worthy tale (which even has hints of sci-fi in its mix) of our very worst fears for planet Earth’s future, there’s also a fine cadre of supporting players portraying friend and foe, including Zoe Wanamaker, John Woodvine, Charles Kay and Ian McNeice – a true cream dream of the Thespian crop.

Having taken Kennedy nearly five years to write, originally titled Magnox (after a type of now obsolete nuclear reactor), EDGE OF DARKNESS’s role as a modern morality play remains as relevant and prophesying as ever, perhaps even more so, and going beyond its original Margaret Thatcher era with its still scary and disturbing social and geo-political messages. But, at its heart, it’s a personal and powerful study of grief, isolation and the almost loss of sanity experienced by Craven with the murder of his daughter (the author would use real-life experiences from the then recent death of his mother, his divorce from his wife and separation from his daughter as focal points in the script-writing process). In all areas of this fine-tuned storytelling, the series is backed up with evocative, sometimes nightmarish cinematography from top notch talent Andrew Wearing and gritty, sometimes fiercely assured direction from then rising star Martin Campbell, at home in both character, atmosphere and action environs, and who’d soon after completing the series go on to become a most wanted movie director of modern blockbusters like JAMES BOND (helming two of its best films: GOLDENEYE and CASINO ROYALE) and the Antonio Banderas starring ZORRO adventures. It would also be fair to say that everyone involved in this production would go onto bigger and equally ambitious productions on the strength of EDGE’s quality, especially series music composer, Michael Kamen (sadly passed in 2003), who provided the memorable and bittersweet main theme alongside legendary guitarist Eric Clapton.

Craven with daughter Emma (Joanne Whalley), a young woman with dark secrets...

So good that once it was shown on BBC 2- to later award-winning acclaim and strong audiences- the BBC immediately put it on it's premiere, bigger audience BBC 1 channel as well (so as to capitalise on its deserved success), the eventually made and revised modern US movie version of EDGE, starring Mel Gibson, appearing in 2010, and once more directed by Campbell, failed to capture the originality, drama and success of its original initiator, and proved to be a well made but overall disappointment: no doubt suffering from a major case of having too many behind-the-scenes cooks spoiling the creative broth. The loss of planned lead co-star Robert De Niro probably didn't help, either. So, just get all that out of your mindset as you immerse yourself in the dark and tragic canvas that is the original BBC drama: a fine and moving testament to the acting legacy of the late Bob Peck, who died in 1999 at the far too young age of 54.

Craven discovers the terrible truth about the Northmoor facility...

And at night, as you peek out of your windows from an interrupted sleep, watch out for those un-marked freight trains and their cargo's as they travel slowly along the railway lines to their unknown destinations. After watching EDGE, I guarantee you'll never look at them in the same way again!

EDGE OF DARKNESS is available on DVD from 2ENTERTAIN.

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