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DVD Review: Edge of Darkness – The Original BBC Miniseries

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Winner of six BAFTA Awards and a perennially popular BBC miniseries, Edge of Darkness is a terse thriller with ambitious political ideas. Starring Bob Peck in his iconic television role, the six-part series was written by Troy Kennedy Martin and directed by Martin Campbell, who is also helming the likely unnecessary forthcoming film remake starring Mel Gibson.

Produced in 1985, Edge of Darkness is certainly a product of its time, but that’s hardly a criticism, with its palpable paranoia about an impending nuclear state personified in the character of Ronald Craven (Peck), a police detective who sees his activist daughter, Emma (Joanne Whalley), brutally murdered by a shotgun blast before his eyes. Police assume it was an ex-con with a vendetta against Ronnie who shot the wrong person, but he’s not satisfied with that conclusion, and delves deeply into the secret life he never knew about his daughter.

A member of the anti-nuclear political organization GAIA, Emma was apparently instrumental in subterfuge against a company charged with storing nuclear waste. Now dead, she frequently appears to Ronnie in apparent hallucinations.

As Ronnie searches for the truth, he finds a potential ally in Darius Jedburgh (Joe Don Baker), a CIA agent who has information related to Emma and GAIA’s activities. Jedburgh’s good ’ol boy personality contrasts strongly with Craven’s, who is becoming increasingly withdrawn and determined to find the truth.

The series stands strong on the virtue of Peck’s performance, a wonderfully understated and nuanced turn that communicates the slightest touches of madness overtaking Craven. Often stone-faced, but hardly emotionless, Peck does a lot with just a little frequently. Baker too is perfectly cast, lending his typically jovial character to a series that's otherwise quite serious.

Martin’s scripts lead to what feels like an inevitable conclusion, with a strong reaction against the proposed nuclear proliferation of the era, but it’s only at the very end where his message seems a little heavy-handed. There’s no doubt he took this stuff deadly seriously.

Accompanying the series is a wonderful guitar-based score by Eric Clapton and Michael Kamen that won the BAFTA Award, and can be accessed as an isolated track on all episodes.

Along with the six episodes, there’s a healthy selection of bonus features on the two-disc set, including an alternate ending, a making-of featurette, broadcast reviews of the program and highlights from several awards shows, including the BAFTAs.

Long unavailable on DVD in the United States, Edge of Darkness is finally making its debut as a bit of cross-promotion for the new film. Although more people in the U.S. will undoubtedly see Gibson return to the big screen after a significant hiatus, the original miniseries will hopefully find a few more new fans.

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About Dusty Somers

Dusty Somers is a Seattle-based editor and writer. He is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and Seattle Theater Writers.
  • Rwth Hunt

    As far as it goes, this review is OK. It does miss out on mention of Jack Watson, playing the granite faced Godbolt the Union Official who is playing a double game, and the double act Pendleton and Harcourt played by Charles Kay and Ian McNeice, joyously baiting the IIF and Fusion bosses Bennett and Carl ? in a Government Select committee. There is also Clemmie, Zoe Wanamaker (daughter of Sam) friend of Jedbergh’s and bodyguard to Craven.
    A chill and nasty plot with a satisfying climax to the Nuclear Conference at the Gleaneagles Hotel.
    There is the recurrent song “The Year of the Preacher” complemented by the endless running of trains at dead of night with pots of nuclear waste that can’t somehow be got rid of.

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