First time my wife and I came upon Ken Stott's performance as Edinburgh Detective Inspector John Rebus was on BBC-America, and I have to admit we weren't quite sure we accepted it. We'd only just previously caught up on the first Rebus tele-movies via BBC-Am, and the shift in series lead from the sleekly young John Hannah to the considerably more care-worn Stott was more than a little jarring. To fans of the Ian Rankin crime novels on which the series is based, Stott's assuming of the role may have been more in tune with the original books. But to newcomers who'd come to the character from the telly, it was definitely what one producer laughingly calls a "Doctor Who moment."
Picking up the recently released Set Two box of Stott-headlined Rebuses (Acorn Media), though, we both found we had much less difficulty getting into Teevee Rebus Version 2.0. Set by themselves, the DVD collection of four mysteries ("The Black Book," "A Question of Blood," "Strip Jack," "Let It Bleed") quickly and efficiently establishes Stott's compelling take on the character. First time we see him (in "Book"), he's been kicked out of his girlfriend's apartment; stressed by her unwillingness to return his calls, he blows up on a visiting Detective Inspector who has unknowingly taken Rebus' parking space and angrily kicks in a car headlight. From that moment on, Stott had us both.
The four mysteries in Set Two all follow the same basic pattern: our hard-luck hero, assisted by the loyal but plain-speaking Detective Sergeant Siobhan Clarke (Clair Price), investigates an appalling death which puts him into contact with a prominent Edinburgh figure (member of Parliament, charity-minded entrepreneur, "untouchable" gangster, high-powered venture capitalist). Blunt Rebus immediately gets their backs up (he's clearly no Columbo when it comes to wooing suspects), but he presses ahead, anyway – even after he's been told to back off by his superior (and former lover) Gill Templer (Jennifer Black).