Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 9/10
Cast: Tamzin Outhwaite, Dennis Waterman, Denis Lawson, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Anthony Calf, Barnaby Kay, Nicola Stephenson, Sophie Thompson, Benjamin Whitrow, Stephen Boswell, Adele Anderson, Jarred Christmas, Robin Berry.
The River Fleet, a stretch of water so steeped in London’s history, so pivotal to the narration of the capital of England’s chronicle and past account that so many legends, myths and stories have grown up around it, even more so since it was routed underneath the city of London itself. The river became essentially a place where the dregs, the sewage and the hopefully hidden are secreted and forgotten; such is the history of London Underground.
It is a river so immersed into London’s history, so soaked in the life of many a Londoner’s blood that even Ben Jonson, one of Britain’s foremost men of letters, wrote a satirical epic on its nature, the rather disturbing On The Famous Voyage.
When two bodies are found in the Fleet 20 years apart with a connection running between the two, the UCOS team are drafted in to investigate the death of a conceptual artist and what they find themselves in leads directly to the belly of London, the murky world of the occult and the world of art and cinematography being joined at the hip in a macabre marriage that very few people would have come across before. The use of art, occult and rituals was one that was ripe for New Tricks and perhaps was one that surprisingly had not been used before. The worlds of conceptual art and occult both require a viewpoint, an understanding which most will just look at and shake their head at and yet seem ready made for each other.
The presence of Nicola Stephenson as artist Emily Fraser and a tremendous turn by Adele Anderson as Cecily Watkins bought a sense of realism to an episode that writer Julie Simpson had ground out and made into a fascinating and educational hour. Nicola Stephenson never really seems to be on television enough, for such a talented actor, her skill on camera should have been more widely appreciated and in a programme where the four leading characters have all been household names for decades, Nicola Stephenson seems to have been left behind.
To have a drama series that delves, even slightly in to the history of London, the immersion of into the past of, whether you love it or loathe it, one of the most historically bountifully cities in the world, is something that doesn’t come all all too often. With the superb Whitechapel having been shamefully cancelled and Ripper Street being shunted off sideways into the realm of pay on demand television, New Tricks at least sheds some light into the streets, backstreets and forgotten places in which the visible Thames stalks its busy banks, the Fleet remains underground.
Ian D. Hall