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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Crime > Police > British TV > Trial & Retribution – Set 4 (Acorn Media DVD)

Trial & Retribution – Set 4 (Acorn Media DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: D     Telefilms:


Paradise Lost: A

Curriculum Vitae: A-

Mirror Image: B



For fans of Trial & Retribution, a new collection of episodes is a welcome event.   Ever since reviewing Set 3 here for FulvueDrive-In, I have become a fan and gone back and watched the two previous sets.  I must say in most aspects Trial & Retribution has improved over the years.


For the uninitiated, each episode of T & R is a feature length film, shown originally over two nights on the telly.  They are produced and penned by Lynda LaPlante of Prime Suspect fame and they have many of the successful earmarks of that highly successful series.  Each film roughly divides into the criminal investigation and judicial processing of a particular case, though over the years the format has loosened a bit.   David Hayman, who plays DCI Walker, can be a bit of an acquired taste, though the years have toned down some of his pyrotechnical outbursts.  He is nicely paired with partner Roisin Connor (Victoria Smufit), whose flawed police personality puts her toe-to-toe with Walker, providing a nice contrast with Walker’s former partner, DCI Pat North (who was also excellent).


All three films in this set, "Paradise Lost," "Curriculum Vitae," and "Mirror Image," highlight the show in its prime.


Paradise Lost” is one of the stronger films in the series; the emphasis here is primarily on story and it is a powerful one.  Race is the central issue.  A black man is targeting white women who are dating black men.  The whodunit aspect of the story takes more of center stage than in other episodes, reflected in the fact that the trial part is given much shorter shrift than usual.  Ironically, the shorter trial segment turns out to be much more dramatic than usually lengthier affairs.   Though there are some interesting developments character-wise, including Roisin’s hard edged approach taking a nasty turn when she targets the wrong man and when she is scapegoated during the trial by the barrister she is dating, story still predominates.  Walker unexpectedly bonds with the wrongly accused suspect, Clinton Jones, adding a welcome extra-dimension to the tough as nails DCS. There is a nice healthy balance here and the acting and writing are exemplary.


Curriculum Vitae” tells the story of a sociopathic nanny, Rachel Burns, who under different pseudonyms was responsible for the deaths of at least two young children.  Sinead Matthews, who plays Burns, is chillingly spot-on, so casual in her manner as to cause the viewer to question what appears to have, and has actually, happened.  Even after it is long obvious she is a child murderer, her slightly off-kilter charm continues to hypnotize.  Suzy MacDonald, the latest victim’s mother, also gives an excellent turn, with Walker and Roisin, as well as DS David Satchell (Dorian Lough), in prime form.   In particular, Roisin’s cold exterior begins to crack ever so slightly in a nicely modulated performance.


Mirror Image” is so boldly borrowed from the headlines it is based on, in this instance the Menendez Brothers case, that the real life case is actually mentioned a few times in passing.  Once again, the casting of the guest roles is quite fine; a great deal of weight is taken off the regular cast as a result.   The working out of the crime in this episode, in which the brothers conspire to kill their abusive parents, is a bit pat.  Occasionally over the years in this series, the element of mystery is missing since that isn’t the primary point and this is a good example.  After the first 45 minutes, the resolution is pretty obvious.  Still, the characters of the two brothers are fascinating to watch in their eerie symbiotic relationship and the young actors (Robert and Jonathan Timmons) who portray them do an outstanding job.


If you are a Trial and Resolution fan, this is a must-see collection.  It compares positively with heavy weights of the genre, including LaPlante’s own Prime Suspect and Wire In The Blood.  Watch this and it is guaranteed you will be heading back for Sets 1 through 3, all reviewed elsewhere on this site.



It will be well worth your time.



-   Don Wentworth


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