Children’s Ward Series 1

DAVID ROLINSON


These days, teatime ITV means repeats of Midsomer Murders or reality formats so recycled that their pitches were delivered in a green caddy. But Children’s Ward is a reminder that this slot used to house children’s programmes, including three great drama series that started in 1989: Press Gang (on 6 January), Children’s Ward (on 15 March, after a 1988 one-off) and Byker (Byker!) Grove (on 8 November). Given that the 1990 Broadcasting Act entrenched deregulation, it’s tempting to see these shows clinging to pre-1990 public service values, and aiming to give children the same range of programming that was available to adults.

What would ITV do now to have shows in the same week written by Paul Abbott, Kay Mellor and Steven Moffat? That happened for the first few weeks of Children’s Ward’s run (Press Gang Mondays, Children’s Ward Wednesdays). Welcoming an Ofcom review of children’s programming, Mark Wright at Television Today argued that, despite there being numerous digital channels for children, there aren’t many “original, home grown shows that nurture not only young and upcoming talent, but bring new audiences” to television rather than encouraging kids to “sod off to the Internet”.1 As Wright notes, many of Children’s Ward’s alumni are now “among the premier drama writers in the country”: Abbott, Mellor and (from later seasons) Russell T. Davies, Matt Jones, and Sally Wainwright.

Sherlock: A Study in Pink (2010) and Holmes on TV

DAVID ROLINSON

Writer: Steven Moffat; Director: Paul McGuigan

The most impressive thing about A Study in Pink, the brilliant first episode of new series Sherlock, is that, for all the modern-day rebooting and visual invention, its spirit and detail are so faithful to the source work by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. As in his Doctor Who work, writer Steven Moffat brings a fan’s eye to the strengths and weaknesses of his beloved source material, developing the series format with fellow executive producers Sue Vertue and fellow Holmes and Who expert (and writer of episode 3) Mark Gatiss. A Study in Pink captures the essence of Holmes’s 19th century debut – reworking A Study in Scarlet (1887) and elements of Holmes’s second story, The Sign of Four (1890) – in a package that, with the impressive pace and technique of director Paul McGuigan, makes for one of the 21st century’s sharpest 90 minutes of popular drama to date.

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour (2010)

DAVID ROLINSON

Writer: Steven Moffat; Director: Adam Smith

For me, Doctor Who literally is a fairy tale. It’s not really science fiction. It’s not set in space, it’s set under your bed. – Steven Moffat1

If you look at the stories I’ve written so far I suppose I might be slightly more at the fairy-tale and Tim Burton end of Doctor Who, whereas Russell is probably more at the blockbuster and Superman end of the show. – Steven Moffat2

Here are a few thoughts on the ideas at work in The Eleventh Hour, the first episode of the 2010 season of Doctor Who. It’s not a straight ‘review’, because there are enough of those on the internet already. But it’s also not the type of researched essay you expect from this site, because I’m interested in the episode’s ambiguities and the thoughts circulating in my head after seeing it, and don’t want to re-watch the episode to death or wait until the end of the season when some of those ideas will have been resolved. This piece will discuss the ideas relating to the ‘storybook quality’ that new lead writer Steven Moffat has talked about3, think about how style and imagery support characterisation and theme, and work out why my mind has made associations with the classic Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger film A Matter of Life and Death (1946). This piece contains spoilers, and, unlike other essays on this site, you will need to have seen the episode to know what I’m talking about.