My earliest memories of Adam Dalgleish stem from Friday evenings watching Roy Marsden bring P.D. James’ detective to life and the haunting theme music composed for the ITV production, which I can hear in my head to this day. Whilst the subject matter of these programmes was less than savoury (they are murder mysteries, after all), it is with some nostalgia and, dare I say it, fondness that I regard them as they were amongst the first TV series that I shared with my mum, watching them together by the open fire. As an aside, also included in the lofty heights of “Things I watched with my mum” were Dallas and Dynasty but don’t hold that against me. I was sceptical about how good this Channel 5 series would be and how Bertie Carvel’s depiction would compare with the already established and, to my mind, accomplished interpretation by Marsden.
Having seen the screenshot of Carvel as Dalgleish, I have to admit to thinking that there was an element of Jack Nicholson to it, perhaps because of the angle from which the shot has been taken or the lines that frame Carvel’s mouth, giving him a look of an emerging smirk. about to manifest itself. Not having seen Carvel in anything else or, at least, not being aware of it, I had no preconceived idea of how he would approach the role of James’ calm, methodical detective and if comparisons with Nicholson were to be continued, there was a danger that his presence on screen may not be understated but perhaps a little over the top. Luckily, that is where the comparison ended as Carvel’s performance is nothing like Nicholson nor does he resemble him in any way throughout the drama.
Simply put, I loved it. I thought it was really, really good. And I know this because I devoured it.
The three stories that make up the six episodes are Shroud for a Nightingale, The Black Tower and A Taste for Death. Flashbacks of all three flitted through my mind while I watched them, snippets of the story and names of the characters triggering memories which I couldn’t wholly grasp, which was a good thing as the truth, when it is inevitably uncovered, was still something of a surprise. I think that I had read two of the books as well as having watched the series, so knowing from which source I remembered most was patchy. But, as to the new series? In some ways, it was like revisiting an old friend in a new place and Carvel’s performance does nothing to take away from my memories of Marsden but does place him firmly in my head as Dalgleish.
Carvel, like Marsden, has poise in the way that he conducts himself that adds a gravitas to the role. He also, like Marsden, speaks softly but with conviction so there is no doubt that his Dalgleish is competent and that he will uncover the truth. They both manage to convey the strong moral compass that guides Dalgleish as a man and a detective and Carvel’s depiction displays Dalgleish’s intuition when reading people – he is drawn to the good people even if he remains uncertain of the badness of others.
In summary, I think that Carvel is a worthy successor. There may even be a chance that, in my mind, he will eclipse his predecessor. No matter. In whatever way I view Dalgleish in his incarnations, there is no doubt that I am looking forward to the next series with bated breath.