CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night's TV

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night's TV

She may solve murders, but she can’t get her talking car to work: CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV



Killer Storm: The Fastnet Disaster


Urbane, sardonic and archly condescending… my family Renault is none of those. It’s a bitter disappointment to a former Knight Rider fan.

Today’s talking cars fail in every way to match the Knight Industries Two Thousand, or KITT for short, which co-starred with David Hasselhoff in the 1980s sci-fi crime show.

Knight Rider was turbo-charged V8 cheese, but despite its ludicrous plots and the Hoff’s even more ludicrous hair, one aspect seemed credible: computer technology would soon create cars that delivered 30 wisecracks to the gallon.

Instead, the best manufacturers can achieve is a hatchback that continually drones, ‘In half a mile, turn left,’ until you work out how to switch off the satnav.

Nicola Walker, as DI Strandhed in Annika (Alibi), was struggling with her voice-activated Toyota as this detective series returned for a second run. Her boss insisted the vehicle was so sophisticated, it could conduct therapy sessions for PTSD. Annika couldn’t even get the driver’s door to unlock on command.

Nicola Walker, as DI Strandhed in Annika, is pictured as she returns for a second series on Alibi

But the show itself isn’t a disappointment — quite the opposite, as you’ll know if you watched the first season when it aired on BBC1 earlier this year.

It has a two-tone style, flipping from bleak noir to bone-dry humour without skipping a beat. When a body was dragged from the water, cameras lingered on the corpse — then cut to Annika’s cynical sidekick and ex-lover, Michael (Jamie Sives).

‘Right now,’ he announced, ‘all we know is that the victim lived in Partick and that he nearly completed his coffee loyalty card.’

‘There’s a lesson,’ shrugged our hard-bitten heroine. ‘Have no regrets.’

The all-star cast have grown into their characters, which gives their banter a confident rhythm. Walker is incapable of delivering a substandard performance, from The Split to Unforgotten, and Sives has just completed another excellent Scottish crime drama with a streak of black comedy, Guilt.

But we also get former Harry Potter actress Katie Leung and Wolf’s Ukweli Roach, as the squad’s action heroes — though both have subplots that suggest they might be replaced soon.

I’m still not convinced that Glasgow or anywhere else has a Marine Homicide Unit. If one did exist, surely a lochside cabin or a North Sea oil rig would make a better headquarters than a city centre police building — although Annika’s interview suite does have a picture window overlooking the Clyde. It’s a good deal more panoramic than Line Of Duty.

Annika flips from bleak noir to bone-dry humour without skipping a beat. Pictured: Sven Henriksen as Magnus Strandhed

The terrifying reality of death at sea made for a compelling documentary in Killer Storm: The Fastnet Disaster (Ch5). The ‘weatherbomb’ of August 1979 is rarely remembered, unlike the Great Storm of 1987, but it claimed 21 lives during the climactic yacht race of Cowes Week.

Former PM Ted Heath was one of the competitors, in his 44ft yacht Morning Cloud, but it was the smaller boats that really took a battering in Force 10 winds off the Irish coast.

Keen sailor Michael Buerk and sports presenter Fred Dinenage, who was covering the race for ITV’s World Of Sport, were among those telling the tale. The real drama, though, came from yachtsmen who survived — including one, just 17 at the time, whose father was washed overboard.

News footage, amateur video and still photographs gave a far better sense of the storm’s power than the reconstructions, shot in a water tank. Film of the rescue operation was particularly scary, with RAF Sea King helicopters winching down crew members into the vast swells.

With glorious airman’s understatement, one pilot recalled scrambling in storm conditions. Not until they were airborne was he told that their mission was to save dozens of people. ‘That took us by surprise,’ he remarked.

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