In the new Channel 4 mystery drama Deadwater Fell, Tennant stars as the morally ambiguous Dr. Tom Kendrick. A local GP, Kendrick endures a murderous tragedy in a small town in Scotland, and suspicions gradually level against him.
But despite a curious premise, Tennant is one of the few draws to the drama.
Tragedy strikes this small, happy Scottish community (Cush Jumbo, left; Matthew McNaulty, right)
It’s never a good sign when children sing at the start: something bad is bound to happen. We flash forward to a burned-down house, a car upturning on an empty road, and a forensic pathologist tweezing out some small, significant items in a white-grey autopsy room. These bleak indicators make the build-up a bit more bearable, which, as expected, mostly consists of moving through this isolated town and examining its supposedly friendly residents.
Everything seems perfect: townsfolk cheer on a cycling race that passes through, schoolchildren paint with their hands, and families attend a weird fair involving large fires, stacks of hay, and country dancing (giving off some serious Wicker Man vibes). Aside from a brief, sweary encounter with an ex — politely broken apart — everyone gets along just fine. It’s a community begging to be devastated.
The tragedy finally happens: the Kendrick household is set alight. We won’t spoil the details, but the scene violently wheezes and squeezes through a frighteningly claustrophobic space. The brutal impact ripples across the town, producing some strong and familiar moments — including one upsetting scene showing a minute’s silence in a school assembly.
Daisy Coulam peels back the residents' angelic appearances (David Tennant, left; Anna Madeley, right)
But like her idyllic introductions at the start of the episode, series writer Daisy Coulam (Grantchester) pursues many bog-standard mystery-drama clichés; one of the characters even lays the blame of the fire on someone outside their repulsively sweet community (‘it must be a stranger’). And, as expected, Coulam peels back the residents' angelic appearances to reveal intolerance, mental health issues, and (of course) adultery. So, nothing new.
Deadwater Fell checks off all the genre boxes, but crafts very few surprises. The characters hide enough secrets and the performances show enough depth to invite a curiosity to watch more, but it’s easy to imagine where this story will steer. Hopefully, Coulam has some more fires up her sleeve.
Deadwater Fell airs on Friday 10 January at 9pm on Channel 4
|What||Deadwater Fell, Channel 4, episode 1 review|
10 Jan 20 – 31 Jan 20, ON CHANNEL 4
|Website||Click here for more information|