With the supernatural series Being Human having recently come to an end after five series, BBC Three might be expected to want a replacement. And on the strength of the opening episode of In the Flesh (BBC Three), it could have come up with a worthy successor.
My heart sank when I heard it was about zombies – again. Surely we weren’t going to have to endure a low-budget version of the US comic book drama The Walking Dead? Is there nothing else to captivate TV writers other than vampires, werewolves and the undead? But In the Flesh has more on its bones than flesh-eating monsters and, instead, uses themes of fear, small-mindedness, forgiveness and intolerance to gets its message across. It’s a clever idea, well worked by newcomer Dominic Mitchell, who was discovered on Northern Voices, a BBC writers' scheme.
So far, we haven’t been told why the country is recovering from an outbreak of wandering zombies. Rather, it seems more concerned with how life is starting to return to normal after their bloody rampage. Already that has made for a more interesting plot-line, and one which Mitchell has been careful not to over-explain. The tight, surprisingly plausible script has only relinquished the necessary details.
When we first encountered the wan-faced Kieren (played by Luke Newberry) in a remote high-security complex, he was being dosed-up on medication and prepared for rehabilitation into normal society. Giving him a pair of coloured contact lenses to conceal his jet black give-away peepers was a nice touch. Slowly, a queue of the former undead stretched out awaiting similar treatment in a scene that worked terrifically well.
I like the idea, too, that Mitchell hasn't called them zombies. Instead, they suffer from PDS (Partially Deceased Syndrome), a neat line in medical nonsense. Their nickname is “the rotters”, a charmingly archaic term which also indicates how much they are hated. Particularly in Roarton, Kieren’s home village.
Roarton’s paramilitary Human Volunteer Force wasn’t about to give up the fight, blaming “Southerners” for the decision to allow PDS sufferers back in their midst. HVF leader Bill Macy (the excellent Steve Evets) and the Vicar (Kenneth Cranham) led the way with a frightening intensity. The scene in Roarton’s British Legion bar and in the church captured the ease with which hatred and fear can be so easily channelled.
It was here that In the Flesh showed most of its potential as it pitted the bigoted paramilitaries against the families of the returning sufferers with Kieren’s sister, Jem (Harriet Cains), torn between family loyalties and her HVF membership. Hopefully Mitchell will further explore the idea of discrimination and integration suggested by the opening episode. Above all, the series depends on the character of the scarred and fearful Kieren and so far, Newberry has carried this responsibility with aplomb.
Anyone else watch it? I thought it was great, and a lot darker than I thought it would be. Great take on the whole zombie/supernatural narrative