Those of you with a "David Tennant" Google alert set up have probably already picked up the news that next month Tennant begins filming a murder mystery series called Broadchurch. What you may or may not have noticed is that this series brings together a handful of people who share a Doctor Who background. Besides Tennant himself, who generally seems to lead lists of people's favorite Doctor these days, the series also stars Arthur Darvill (Rory) and Olivia Colman (who, while not a Doctor Who regular, did appear in the episode "The Eleventh Hour"—which was also Arthur Darvill’s first episode). To wrap things up in a neat Whovian bow, the eight-episode series is written by Chris Chibnall who has numerous writing and producing credits on both Doctor Who and Torchwood.
The story of Broadchurch takes place in a small coastal England town that is shaken by the murder of a young boy, found dead on the beach. Tennant plays the out-of-town detective sent in to investigate the case. Colman is a local cop with whom he butts heads, and Darvill plays the town priest. Chibnall’s comments suggest that it will be a largely character-driven piece that focuses on the conflict and confusion that comes from the scrutiny that the murder places on a small community (that is, no doubt, full of secrets).
We detect a couple of interesting sets of similarities here, both of which give us reason to be hopeful about this series. First, the show parallels (at least in its surface details) a series that would probably only be familiar to you if you have a region free DVD player and an obsessive love of David Tennant. The series was called Blackpool (also the name of a coastal British town) and it also stared David Tennant as the out-of-town detective sent in to investigate the case of the murdered boy. The show was made before the new Doctor Who began, but all three of its main actors went on to occupy the Whoniverse.
In addition to Tennant becoming the time lord himself, Sarah Parish played the Empress of the Racnoss in “The Runaway Bride,” David Morrissey played a man who thought he was the Doctor in “Next Doctor" (both of these episodes were Christmas specials, by the way). That's likely where the parallels end since Blackpool was also a kind of musical series (picture actors lip syncing along to traditional versions of songs like Viva Las Vegas and These Boots Were Made for Walkin’). It's certainly not bad news if Broadchurch is trying to recapture some of the magic of Blackpool. It was a solid little series that showed off Tennant’s acting chops (and let him speak in his actual, oh-so-much-cooler Scottish accent).
The other parallel (and we admit, we may be reaching here) comes from the 1990’s American series Twin Peaks. It is also the story of an out-of-town detective who comes to a small town to investigate a body found on the beach (a girl this time). This series was frankly brilliant (for a season and a half) and played for dark, ominous (often surreal) atmosphere and tons of quirk. We could do a lot worse than a British Twin Peaks. Whatever the series actually ends up looking like, there’s good reason to be optimistic about this one. Now we just have to hope it makes it to BBC America (unlikely, since it’s an ITV1 show), so we have a chance to actually watch it.
Will you watch Broadchurch?