BBC Video // 2006 // 356 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 4th, 2012
The judge who is a law unto himself.
I'm not entirely sure what that tagline means (their words), but I'm fairly certain it refers to stout and awesome Judge John Deed. Played by Martin Shaw (George Gently), John Deed is a strong, outspoken judge who has no qualms about mixing it up if a scenario disagrees with him. If that means storming into the dining room of a Home Office official and threatening him with bodily harm, so be it.
Four episodes, two discs, and 356 minutes of badassery from the bench...
* "Hard Gating"
A prisoner is killed, partially cannibalized, and Deed is unsure of the case's simplicity. Is the perpetrator a straight murderer, or is there some dark underlying secret? (Hint: Look towards the latter.)
* "My Daughter, Right or Wrong"
An animal activist group sets off a firebomb and a scientist loses his life in the attack. The case gets thorny when John's daughter, Charlie, takes the defense chair and runs with the case.
* "Lost Youth"
Emotions run wild in two cases before John: 1) a young teenaged boy accused of a mugging is sentenced to prison with tragic results, and 2) a distraught couple lobbies ferociously against a DNR for their sick child.
* "Silent Killer"
Attention, Erin Brokovich! A woman suffering from a rare neural disorder is convinced a cell phone tower is the cause of her ailment. Meanwhile, Deed is faced with another victim of external circumstances: a former solider and his family poisoned by depleted uranium used by the British Army.
Another solid series from the BBC, but certainly different from the usual procedurals that tend to make their way across the pond. As opposed to stuff like Midsomer Murders and George Gently, Judge John Deed tends to be confined by the protagonist's limited investigative ability and an abundance of wigs. Secrets are revealed and shadowy truths come forth, but the whodunit resolutions feel more passive; the dirt coming to the forefront thanks to testimony and Deed's inquisition.
I'd be tempted to dispense with that criticism (light criticism by the way, because the show doesn't really suffer from this narrative set-up) if Judge John Deed were a straight courtroom drama, but it angles for a bit of crime-solving. The good news? The show offers a little bit of everything for viewers. The bad news? It seems to have its feet in too many genres.
Regardless, it's all about Martin Shaw, who's a rock. John Deed is a bit more introspective and sentimental than the stone-cold George Gently, yet he's still a great character, executed perfectly by a great actor. As far as his judicial temperament, this is the best I was able to surmise: he's an activist judge crusading for relatively conservative principles like pro-life causes and a distaste for state-run bureaucracies like the Home Office and the NHS. The man is a conundrum wrapped up in a riddle.
Decent tech specs: standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, 2.0 stereo, but no extras.
Not Guilty, if I may be so bold your honor.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 356 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated