Justice in Wonderland

Sunday, March 5, 2000 by

Before commencing on a review of Justice in Wonderland (weak title, by the way) – a disclaimer.

The story behind the Hamilton/Fayed trial, and the peripheral stories behind the participants are a matter of public record, and bear no repetition here. Similarly, the case has provoked innumerable reams of copy and comment and therefore will bear no further from me.

So we’ll look at this as but a TV programme. And it was a bit of a curio. How do we critically analyse a reconstruction? Do we note the effectiveness of its doppelgangering? The dialogue? The plot? And if so, should we utilize the same criteria when scrutinising – say – a Crimewatchreconstruction (“I thought the murder in that one was fundamentally ill-conceived”)? Without any such guidance, let me settle on this: The likenesses were soundly impressive and succeeded in evoking the essence of the person being imitated without jarring like a David Threlfall Prince Charles (cf: Diana: Her True Story). The dialogue and plot were mock-baroque, but of course above reproach, however the script-editing could have performed a few nips and tucks at times, to remove the tendency towards ramble which provoked one’s attention to do likewise.

But this was quite good stuff. Happily it didn’t smack particularly of salaciousness or heavy editorialising from the programme-makers. Each “character” remained as true and as dignified to themselves as one could expect, the actors studiously avoiding caricature (although Belinda Lang did evoke something of the grotesque as Christine Hamilton). Few dramatic liabilities appeared to have been taken, and aside from the appearance of Edwina Curry on the other end of a crash-zoom like Alexis Colby-Carrington, the programme was nicely cohesive and believable in its own right. Importantly, the necessary editing was treated honestly with blackouts singling each snip.

Was the bottom-line of Justice in Wonderland to entertain or inform? I’d venture it’s the former, but in doing so BBC2 outlined the details of the trial with clarity and rather engagingly. Whilst this was not the most absorbing television spectacle (it will always remain once-removed from the morbid car-crashlike spectacle of the real thing) it was solid enjoyable telly.

Not quite thought provoking, certainly not stomach-churning.


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