Saturday, June 04, 2011


I've just had the dubious pleasure of watching the televised version of Peter Robinson's novel "Aftermath", dubious in many ways. This is probably the hardest Inspector Banks novel to read, being the horrifying story of a male psychopath who sexually and physically tortured then killed four young girls, as well as the story of his wife who was caged, abused and raped by her parents as a child and grew up to be a worse psychopath than her husband ("he thought that he was using me but in fact I was using him").

Of all the Banks novels, ITV chose to dramatise this one, so I knew that watching the two part series would not be an easy matter. In the end, I think that the production company managed to tone down the horror of the story. It's difficult for me to judge because so many items were changed, it's almost as if the television programme exists sui genesis with no connection to the novel.

Obviously,  the story had to be edited, for there is no way that such a complicated narrative could be compressed into less than two hours. But leaving aside the edit, there were so many changes, some of them seemingly unnecessary.... For example, DCI Banks is frequently described as being short (just meeting the minimum height requirement for a policeman) with black curly hair, whereas one of his team, DC Winsome Jackman, is a black Jamaican woman over 6 feet tall. Thus Jackson should tower over Banks. Instead, Banks is played by Stephen Tomkinson whose height is 6' 2" and who towers over the actress playing Jackman. Banks is supposed to be a kindly policeman; he comes over as irascible and far from sympathetic.

For no apparent reason, the psychopathic Terence Payne is renamed Marcus Payne; on television he had an affair with neighbour Maggie Forrest (played with an Irish accent instead of a Canadian one), something which barely matters in the tv show and never existed in the book. Lucy Payne's solicitor is renamed at random. Annie Cabbot is only a DS when she and Banks meet for the first time in the Superintendent's office: true, when they first met in a book, she was a DS, but then she was serving in CID and not Complaints. In the book 'Aftermath', Cabbot is a DI (in Complaints); she and Banks are good friends and not meeting for the first time. Similarly Banks has been demoted: normally he is a DCI, but in the book he is promoted to 'acting Superintendent'; in the television series he is 'acting chief inspector'.

The entire Leanne Wray plot is treated in a completely different manner in the tv show than in the book, for possibly dramatic reasons. The character of (presumably) her father is greatly extended (and invented), and the pregnant 17 year old girl is a total figment of the scriptwriter's imagination, another invention which makes no difference whatsoever to the story but serves only to annoy me.

I don't know whether anyone would be tempted into reading the book after reading the dramatisation, but if they did, they would be left wondering whether they were reading the same story.

Why, why, WHY?

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