Crime Traveller: lame sci-fi meets Agatha Christie

Channel Hopping

The BBC has always loved time travel, ever since the Tardis - that’s Time And Relative Dimensions In Space to you, earthling first wheezed into life and catapulted William Hartnell back to pre-history. A turbo-charged police box that roamed through the space/time continuum was just the ticket for keeping the Dr Who show on the road, with the promise of a new location with every story. The Doctor would just dial in the :o-ordinates for, say, the Planet Oxymoron and off we jolly well went for another adventure.

Perhaps given this long-standing tolerance of far-fetched storylines about time travel, BBC honchos quickly warmed to an unlikely idea for a sitcom about a young chap who pops into an East End pub and - gor_ blimey, love a duck emerges to find himself in London, circa 1941. Add the ever-popular Nicholas Lyndhurst and you’ve got a hit called Goodnight Sweetheart (BBCl, Mondays), now in its third series.

Gary Sparrow (Lyndhurst) is trying to juggle a wife and mistress separated in time by 50 years. His 40s girl is a chirpy Cockney

Goodnight Sweetheart, it’s a wonder that anyone had the nerve to suggest this storyline aloud, let alone mention it to grown-ups in charge of a production budget.

That said, Crime Travel/er will no doubt be a hit, and the main reason is the presence of Michael French, who is better known as lovable EastEnders wide-boy, David Wicks. Like Nick Berry who went on to set housewives' pulses racing in Heartbeat, French left the Square at the peak of his popularity. The question now must be, why?

Crime Travel/er is a basic cop show with a particularly dull line in sub- Agatha Christie mysteries investigated by Jeff Slade (French), the inevitable maverick cop who is forever getting lippy with his superiors. When a suspect dies during a bungled car chase, featuring all the usual chase cliches including car-knocks-over- flower-stall, he says: ’l would like to turn back the clock and ask him, but I can’t.’

Or can he? It just so happens that the station’s forensics expert, Chloe (Holly Turner) is the daughter of an eminent scientist who was researching time travel. And, it also just so happens

barmaid with an Desp'te the traCk that she has insatiable appetite record Of Dr Who and built a time machine for untipped gaspers - in her bedroom to and nylons when Goodn'ght sweetheart daddys specifications.

Gary brings her back a Wonderbra she is the toast of Stepney Green. His upwardly mobile 905 wife, meanwhile, wonders why he has to work a 70-hour week and is always too tired for what Gary quaintly refers to as ’a bunk-up'.

Goodnight Sweetheart is really two sitcoms which are played off each other to make jokes about changing times. As a result the 405 bits work rather better, while the contemporary sequences fall back on standard suburban sitcom routines.

What this comedy is not interested in, however, is the mechanics of time travel, unlike Crime Traveller (BBCl, Saturdays) which is filled with nonsensical pseudo-science. Despite the track record of Dr Who and

it's a wonder that anyone had the nerve to suggest this story- line aloud, let alone mention it to grown- ups in charge of a production budget.

So you see, Jeff, you can go back and question that suspect after all. Crime solved, PDQ. The only difficulty is explaining these new-found powers of deduction to his boss, played by another old soap lag, Sue Johnstone, formerly of Brookside Close.

French brings zero charisma to this daft caper, which ties itself in knots trying to explain the black holes in its own invented theory of time and motion. Whenever the writer hits a narrative snag, he chucks in some terminology like ’bi-dimensional transmuter’ in the hope we won’t notice. As another veteran of time and space travel would probably say, ’lt's illogical, Captain.’ Actually, it’s much worse than that, Jim. (Eddie Gibb)

Have Your Cake And

Eat It 880, mid March

Sam Dawson (Miles Anderson) is a theme park designer who embarks on a rollercoaster affair with a junior colleague, a wholesome and energetic blonde who looks rather like a younger version of his wife, Charlotte (Sinead Cusack). He professes to love both, but definitely prefers sleeping with Allie (Holly Aird). The point is emphasised when Sam jumps into bed for some athletic sex with her, and images of rollercoasters flash up on screen. A white-knuckle ride indeed.

There’s another reason why Sam is a theme park designer rather than, say, a cost accountant. He is hired to design a new rollercoaster in Spain, which gives ample opportunity for Allie and him to play away from home, as sun, sea and sangria work their inevitable magic. But when Charlotte learns of her husband’s affair, the central question is posed can you have your cake and eat it?

The idea for this four-parter came to writer Rob Heyland, whose previous credits include Between The Lines, when he and his wife hosted their annual get-together with friends. 'So many of the pe0ple invited as couples turned up alone, complaining that the other partner had run off,’ he says. ’lt gave me a shock to realise that my

Have Your Cake: high infi

relationship is fairly unique in this day and age.’

The Dawsons are set up as a standard suburban TV couple with kids, nannie and large estate car to pack them all in to. There is an undeniable element of Age saga in all this, but what makes Have Your Cake. . . a little more interesting than the usual middle class angst story is the way the characters act rationally, rather than simply surrendering to their emotions. There is a chance that this drama could actually shed some light on the age-old question of whether fidelity is a prerequisite for a sound relationship. (Eddie Gibb)

Jane Eyre Scottish, 9 March, 9pm

’50, mama, what do you think of Thornfield? A touch gloomy?’ asks society beauty, Blanche Ingram. ’Quite, but great potential.’ sniffs her mother. They are talking about the stately home belonging to Mr Rochester in Charlotte Bronté's study of true love, but the same could be said of this two-hour television adaptation. The most striking thing about the first half is just how unrelentingly grim everything looks.

To be fair. the absence of visual distractions serves to concentrate the viewer on the verbal complexity of the exchanges between this ill-matched couple, which is at the heart of the drama. Jane Eyre (Samantha Morton) is a young. cerebral governess and Edward Rochester. played by the extravagantly sideburned Ciaran Hinds, is an emotional stallion of a man. Their relationship, based on wariness and intellectual sparring,

inevitably turns to passion. This being a Victorian novel, equally inevitably there are obstacles in the way of married bliss.

‘The fact that Jane stands up to Rochester intrigues him,’ says Hinds, who was last seen as the scheming Knight Templar, Sir Brian. in Ivanhoe. 'Although he sees her sparkle, he won’t let Jane know this and almost immediately his heart is touched by her. Playing Mr Rochester is almost like being in Beauty And The Beast.’

If this adaptation of Jane Eyre starts gloomy, its potential is the strength of Bronté's story which traces a classic arc of tragedy and is allowed to unfold on screen without too much fuss or theatrics. It is simple and down-beat, but ultimately that is its strength. In particular Kay Mellor, whose screen credits include the gritty prostitute drama Band Of Gold, has done a good job of retaining the female perspective of the book, which could have been so easily lost in translation. (Eddie Gibb)

7-20 Mar 1997 TIIEUSTOT