New Tricks: English Defence. Television Review. B.B.C.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * *

Cast: Tamzin Outhwaite, Dennis Waterman, Denis Lawson, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Anthony Calf, Julie Graham, Ian Hogg, Nicholas Woodeson, Mariah Gale, Finlay Robertson, Leanne Best, Anthony Barclay, Fox Jackson-Keen, Gertrude Thoma.

Chess, it’s nearly as bad as croquet for being a particularly vicious sport when the tempers flare and the too serious take their mind to murder. However all is not as black and white as it seems as several chequered paths start to treat the UCOS team like pawns in their own game in the latest episode of New Tricks, English Defence.

When a young teenage lad decides to fall into the repeated pattern of peer pressure and throw a brick onto a car travelling on the motorway from a bridge it starts a chain of events in which chess, dying fathers, a heinous crime from 14 years before hand and the world of international language interpretation join together to build a very satisfying and well put together story.

New Tricks may steer into territory that might seem unconventional at times, after all not every detective drama will lead a story where champagne forgery and pub fruit machines go hand in hand but it can never be labelled unadventurous nor unwilling to spark interest in other past-times. However like chess, the team has to be thinking several steps ahead and whilst Gerry Standing, played with great vigour in this episode by Dennis Waterman, takes a shine to the game, the case at hand leaves Steve McAndrew unmoved by Gerry’s latest crowning glory.

The series has been one that has been quiet for Denis Lawson’s character Steve McAndrew. The emergence of Julie Graham as his fiery ex-wife has bought about a change in his demeanour as resolutions between him and his son seem to be on an even keel. However in this particular episode, viewers are afforded a glimpse into the dysfunctional relationship that has moulded him into the man he is as he is seen caring for his dying bitter father. It is a scene that will resonate with many viewers who have a similar and twisted connection with their parents and Denis Lawson carries that grief and inbuilt tension off perfectly.

English Defence is an enjoyable remainder that games are meant to be fun, not to be used in a way that leads to death and death’s kiss goodnight.  

Ian D. Hall