Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)

Saturday, April 22, 2000 by

As Jeannie and Jeff drove off along the long and winding road, and Marty and Wyvern returned to the ether, we were left with the sense that Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) has come a long way since its first episode six weeks ago.

Tonight’s adventure was as assured a piece of television as you’re likely to see this year; eschewing narrative TV convention – in that the characters mustn’t step outside the strictures of the central premise – and then, with great confidence, wiping the slate clean (I’ll come back to this shortly). The script was Charlie Higson’s most whimsical, but also the darkest we’ve seen. Tea shops and village pubs, police brutality and human sacrifice; one felt the wash of obviously sourced material (chiefly, The Wicker Man and The Prisoner) coalescing with a now definitiveR&H(D) house-style. The sequence of Marty quaffing pints with abandon whilst Jeff desperately tried to escape The Village was underscored with brassy filmic music that gradually rose, gripping in the mix as Marty drank and drank and Jeff passed the same road sign over and over. This compelling scene is the epitome of the new Randall and Hopkirk.

At last it didn’t feel as though Higson was just playing with the format. In the early episodes, with ironic references to painted backdrops and incongruous name-checking of the cast and crew from the original R&H(D), it felt very much as though this Vic and Bob vehicle was a show about resurrecting an old TV programme. Our basic reference points were still Kenneth Cope and Mike Pratt, to whom our 2000 edition continually tipped a wink. But as the episodes rolled by, we’ve seen new elements added to the mix (chiefly Marty’s experiences in the afterlife) and it feels now as though the whole concept is purely Higson’s. And never more so than tonight as he built an episode around inverting all he’d established: Marty essentially living and visible to others, Jeff now out of place, Wyvern interacting not with Marty but with Jeannie, Jeannie encountering Marty – this was heady stuff, but beautifully played and on an epic scale.

And thus, as it must be, all of the damage wrought had to be undone by the end of the episode. But here Higson didn’t just reset the programme – he wiped it. It was almost unbearable as Marty watched his partner and fiancée return to their real lives, with all memory of him gone. And as Wyvern gently led him away we were reminded that our late crime-fighting hero was still fighting hard not to die in resolve.

Here we left Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) with a real sense of an end-of-series last rites.

Of course we know, as we’ve always known, that all can simply be undone; “and Randall and Hopkirk will return next year” (or whenever). This is good news. Over six enjoyable episodes it’s only really now that Messrs. Higson, Reeves and Mortimer have finally laid to rest the ghosts of the past, and it could be argued that they leave R&H(D) stronger than when they found it. Its continuation is a must. With rumours of writers Mark Gatiss and Gareth Roberts on board for series two it’s good to know life will continue for Jeff Hopkirk and his partner, the ghost.


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