George Gently Series 6The innocence of the 1960s setting belies the show's depth of writing.

Duration: 387 mins.
Distributor: Acorn Media UK

Inspector George Gently ostensibly sits at the milder end of the detective genre. As Series Six begins, Gently (Martin Shaw) and his sidekick, D.S. John Bacchus (Lee Ingleby) are both recovering from a shooting in Durham Cathedral. While Gently is ready for action again, Bacchus tenders his resignation, but Gently forces him to work a month's notice, giving him time to change his mind.

Set in the late 'sixties, this drama captures a time of changing attitudes. The four episodes touch on the changing face of the police amid dwindling trust from the public after a man is found dead in custody; the fledgling permissive society developing in a holiday camp; secrecy in the world of clinical military trials; and the emotional charge of a community under threat from pit closures. It is a fine setting for exploring a time of immense cultural change.

There is inevitably an element of formula in the characterisation: Gently is the charismatic moral guardian and protector, with some history on slow-release; Bacchus is the inevitable brash sidekick – volatile and immature, yet learning and with the potential for a spin-off series of his own. Chalk-and-cheese with him among his peers is the conscientious WPC Rachel Coles (Lisa McGrillis), who gets all the paperwork in order. Bacchus spars with her and puts her down, but you expect the relationship to turn (especially when she reveals that she likes The Who).

There is some superb writing here. The episodes have laugh-out-loud moments and amusing banter, but the holiday camp episode particularly draws out aching emotions as it develops. Some excellent acting helps, as characters unpeel their layers during the piece, revealing what they really think and feel. Across the series, Gently absorbs a lot of emotional pressure as he patiently steers Bacchus away from his retaliatory tendencies.

This series neither makes you wonder which of a dozen possible suspects has committed the murder; neither is it so formulaic that the most innocent character is the real culprit. Instead there tend to be a couple of prime suspects or motives per episode and the drama unfolds to reveal the full story in good time. This is a warm, absorbing and satisfying series that makes you care about its characters, with plenty of range in its settings.

3.5 Tocks
Derek Walker

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