Judge William Lee thought he was going to see whales.
DCI Bain is on the case.
Fans of British police dramas have plenty to sink their teeth into with A Mind to Kill: Series 1, the first set of a television series that ran five seasons from 1994 to 2002. The stories are set in Wales, but the production does nothing to encourage tourism to that part of the United Kingdom by depicting life as bleak in these rural and industrial communities.
The show draws comparison with Cracker because of its dark mood and unsettling crimes. The murder investigations lead to dark places such as prostitution, child abuse and pornography but the scripts don't dwell on the lurid details of those scenarios. Series writer David Joss Buckley sticks to a consistent pattern for each feature-length episode. The characters of the community are sketchily introduced before a victim meets his or her end. Detective Chief Inspector Noel Bain (Philip Madoc, Doctor Who: The Key To Time) is called away from a domestic concern to investigate. Usually, it becomes apparent by about mid-episode who among the uncooperative locals is the killer. The climax pits Bain in a physical confrontation with the killer who is then undone in an ironically fitting manner.
The six episodes of the first series, each running approximately 100 minutes, are paired up across three discs:
• "Black Silence"
• "White Rocks"
• "Rest Not Secure"
• "Son of His Works"
• "Rachel Hardcastle"
Philip Madoc plays the no-nonsense DCI Noel Bain. He's a brooding and direct professional but he's also a widower with a teenaged daughter. Just as Bain is so focused on his work, we only get glimpses of his home life in each episode. The strained relationship between him and his daughter develops across episodes but it remains a background element. When Bain is on the job, he is completely in his element spotting the overlooked evidence at a crime scene, reprimanding underlings and juggling departmental politics. Madoc makes Bain believable with an attitude that says this guy has seen it all.
Each episode is riveting because the grisly details of the murders really grab your attention. The sordid secrets that Bain uncovers and the suspects he must deal with will be enough to sustain most viewers' interest. I certainly wasn't bored by any of the episodes but I didn't give a second thought to any of the stories once they were done. The scripts skirt around some dark subject matter but they don't delve into those unsavory places deep enough to make you consider them as anything more than fictional scenarios. For better or worse, depending on your own perspective, these stories don't linger in your head the way a truly dark psychological drama like Cracker does. Nevertheless, as an easily digestible police drama, A Mind to Kill: Series 1 contains six enjoyable crime stories that deliver the thrills even if you might forget them soon after.
The picture quality is a mixed bag from episode to episode. For the most part, the image is reasonably sharp. Close-ups exhibit fine detail on faces. It's harder to discern details in exterior wide angles but it's plain to see that Episode 4 is soft throughout. The highlights are slightly pronounced, especially in outdoor daylight scenes, and colors can look a little washed-out—this is especially problematic in Episode 1. Grain is noticeable in the darker parts of frame and very prominent in scenes employing a lot of shadows. Instances of dust and similar physical blemishes as well as digital pops show up frequently. The mono audio works fine. The English dialogue is heard clearly over the tense music that is better suited to a horror movie than a police drama.
The extras, a bunch of text screens, are included on the first disc of the set. You can read the filmographies of the key cast members plus a few notes about the production from the director. One piece of information revealed is that the show, produced for Welsh television, was filmed in two languages with actors performed their scenes in English and Welsh. No Welsh footage is included and though it's unlikely that I would have watched the series in Welsh, it might have been interesting to see a few scenes in the alternative language.
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