Judge Gordon Sullivan puts the gloves on for this review, just in case he has to touch evil.
The spellbinding British Crime Drama seen on Mystery!
Robson Green is a very talented actor, but he doesn't seem to have much acumen at getting involved in well-named shows. His two most renowned roles involved work on Wire in the Blood, and Touching Evil. Wire in the Blood at least had poetic pedigree going for it (being based on a line from T.S. Eliot), even if it's relationship to hero Tony Hill was obscure. Touching Evil, though, is an even more useless title that doesn't tell us anything about Dave Creegan, its protagonist. Despite the poor choice of title, Touching Evil: The Complete Collection is a solid police procedural with strong performances.
Facts of the Case
Detective Inspector Dave Creegan (Robson Green, Wire in the Blood) has just returned to duty after surviving a gunshot wound to the head. He's being brought on to a elite unit, Organized and Serial Crimes. His bosses hope that his dedication to the job and unorthodox detective techniques will help nab some of Britain's most dangerous criminals.
Acorn Media has provided all eight episodes from the show's three series on five discs:
Robson Green as DI Creegan is the main draw for Touching Evil. Although the story of the renegade cop whose life has been completely eroded by his dedication to the job is nothing new, Creegan is a breed apart. Although he's obviously given pretty much everything to his job, he seems surprisingly even-keeled about his loss: he's a man driven by a desire to put criminals away. He's also given an interesting back story because of his gunshot to the head and his inability to work as a team member. It also helps that he's acted by the talented Green. Those fans (like me) who only know him as Dr. Tony Hill on Wire in the Blood will be amazed at his performance here. Tony Hill was borderline autistic in places and didn't seem capable of any kind of confrontation. Creegan, on the other hand, thrives on confrontation, and Green inhabits the character with ease.
Luckily, Touching Evil isn't merely a vehicle for Green. The rest of the cast—from regulars to special guests—have been chosen with care. Nicola Walker plays Creegan's regular partner DI Taylor, and she does an excellent job communicating the difficulties of being a female officer in a male-dominated profession and unit. The guests are also a highlight. Ian McDiarmid shows up as a cold, calculating murder suspect, and the portrayal makes his appearance as Senator Palpatine seem like a joke. Andy Sirkis also gives a fascinating portrait of a falsely accused man in a later episode.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The performances by the cast make Touching Evil enjoyable to watch, but a couple of things keep it from classic status.
The first big problem is that the actual cases the Organized and Serial Crimes unit take on are pretty pedestrian. "War Relief," "What Price a Child," and "Innocent" are the only episodes with genuinely new or compelling criminal plots. Perhaps I've been jaded by the intervening decade's worth of criminal shows, but the other stories on Touching Evil seemed rather tepid: garden-variety serial killers and sociopaths. This isn't a deal-breaker, but I do wish the writers had found more "special" crimes for the Organized and Serial Crimes squad.
Also, although I love the fact that the show focuses as much on the interactions of the squad as it does on the crimes themselves, Touching Evil jumps right in with the heavy emotional stuff from the first episode. Generally, it's nice to get a sense of the characters, develop their interactions, before throwing them into crazy situations. Not so with Touching Evil. The first episode goes straight for the jugular, and by the second episode (where we learn about Creegan's injuries and their aftermath) the show is packing a pretty hefty emotional punch. That's not a bad thing usually, but considering that this show is only eight episodes long, some viewers are going to have trouble shouldering the immediate emotional weight, while other are going to be unwilling to invest that much in a show that is fundamentally pretty short. Were this a long-running serial drama with a dozen series under its belt—or even three series with five or six episodes a series—this point would be moot, but I'm guessing fans of police procedurals aren't going to be put off by the high demand and relatively low return of the show's short running time.
The show also only gets a so-so DVD presentation. It's nice to have them all collected here in one place, but the audiovisual presentation isn't that great. Much of that has to do with the source material, which improves as the show ages, but detail isn't particularly strong, colors are a little muted, and darker scenes can often look blocky and noisy. This improves pretty dramatically by the third series, but it's still only broadcast quality. The stereo audio is slightly better, with no hiss or distortion, and subtitles are included—always a plus with British imports. The only extra (available on all three series) is a biography of star Robson Green. For a show that seems to have achieved wide acclaim, it's a shame they couldn't dig up more.
Touching Evil is an easy show to recommend to fans of British mystery shows. Although it isn't in the top tier like Cracker or Wire in the Blood, Touching Evil offers decent mysteries, compelling drama, and a cast any show should envy. This box set allows fans to own the show's entire run in one place, but the technical aspects are somewhat lacking, as are the extras. In general I would recommend a rental to all but the most rabid fans of Robson Green or the show itself.
Touching Evil might not be the most touching mystery show ever, but
it's certainly not guilty.
Give us your feedback!
Scales of Justice
Studio: Acorn Media
Review content copyright © 2010 Gordon Sullivan; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.