All good things come to an end. But if you’re really lucky you can relive them through a box set of the entire series. Such is the case with George Gently: The Complete Collection from Acorn Media. It gathers together the entirety of the “Inspector George Gently” series, all eight seasons, onto three Blu-ray discs so you can watch what is arguably one of the best police procedural dramas to have ever hit television.
Set in Northern England, Durham, from the early 1960s to the early 1970s, the series did a marvellous job of capturing the rapid changes England experienced during the time period. This meant it dealt with social issues ranging from civil rights, the anti-war movement, gay-rights, and the women’s movement in ways reflective of the times.
The show managed to address these issues without imposing any of our modern sensibilities on characters’ reactions to circumstances or situations. Even more impressive is how they worked an issue into the plot lines seamlessly, without ever once being preachy or interfering with the story.
Of course a series is only as good as the actors playing the leads. In this instance for the first five seasons the show was gifted with two men perfectly suited to their roles; Martin Shaw in the title role of Chief Inspector George Gently and Lee Ingleby as Sergeant/Inspector John Bacchus. Ingleby as the young, cocky, subordinate was the perfect foil for Shaw’s experienced and somewhat cynical Gently.
While there was a kind of father and son thing happening between the two, as Gently would try to smooth away Bacchus’ rough edges and broaden his view of the world somewhat, they also exhibited the camaraderie one would expect from their circumstances. Interestingly enough, of the two men, the character of Gently was more open minded and liberal than Bacchus. This led to some interesting confrontations between the two men when dealing with issues like birth control, homosexuality and women’s rights.
Speaking of women, the show added a third lead character for the last three seasons, Woman’s Police Constable (WPC)/Sergeant Rachel Coles played by Lisa McGrillis. While she was obviously brought in so the show could address the burgeoning women’s rights movement of the early 1970s, she was far more than just a token. Over the course of the three seasons she was involved with the show McGrillis did a wonderful job of developing the character of Coles.
Her working relationship with Bacchus was always going to be a little strained, especially when Gently started to give her more responsibility, but the two did manage to find a way to work together and, eventually, even respect each other’s abilities. While there was definitely a paternalistic aspect to Gently’s relationship with Coles, he was first and foremost her boss. He treated her like he would any other detective working for him – praise when she did well and criticism when she screwed up.
Over the course of the season the guest stars were a virtual who’s who of British television and movies. Richard Armitage (last seen as Thorin in The Hobbit movies) as a motorcycle gang leader, Warren Clarke (of Dalziel & Pascoe) and Kevin Whately (of Morse and Lewis fame) are only three of the many who showed up over the years. However, no matter who appeared in the show their contributions were seamlessly blended into the leads’ performances.
It’s not often a really great police procedural comes around, but George Gently was one of the best. George Gently: The Complete Collection does justice to the series by presenting it in pristine Blu-ray format – great sound and visuals help to capture the era the show is set in. The set also contains a booklet of interviews and pictures and special features on the discs , including two about the making of the show. This is a great set for both fan and newcomer to the series alike.