………..Jack isn’t actually back, but his spirit is lurking amidst the smoky, dark streets of Whitechapel in BBC’s new drama Ripper Street. BBC One’s latest accomplishment starring Spooks’s Matthew Macfayden and Soldier Soldier’s Jerome Flynn, depicts London’s criminal underworld on the dishevelled streets of Victorian Whitechapel at the closure of police enquiry into the Jack the Ripper murders.
Jack may not be the forerunner of this story, but his presence is never far from thought. Photos of the killings for example are always in close proximity of the main cast members, creeping into almost every shot, reminding us of his eerie presence. On first viewing the show appears to be another regurgitation of Victorian crime fighting, the crisp boxing sequences in the first episode and intricate use of folksy music throughout, almost duplicates Guy Ritchie’s gritty filmic portrayal of Victorian London, existing within his Sherlock Holmes franchise. Beyond this reminiscence to Ritchie’s style however, Ripper Street uses an overly portrayed historical moment in time and reflexes it into something familiar yet new.
The show, which is made up of 8 episodes, centres around Inspector Edmund Reed (Macfayden) and his investigative and forensic team (including sidekick Flynn) fighting Ripper copycat killers and street gangsters in an attempt to compensate for Reed’s (self-considered) failure to uncover the Ripper’s identity. Although parts of the show assimilate something close to the blood spattering explorations of current crime television fiction such as the U.S hit show Dexter, the programme divulges an honesty and historical authenticity towards forensics and scientific criminology, where Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rosenberg) disturbingly, yet entertainingly, rips and opens bodies, smokes in front of the deceased, smells and tastes bodies and drinks amphetamine in order to uncover causes of death.
Whilst the show cringingly includes the typical typesets and depictions of Victorian London such as the usual killing of prostitutes and ‘gangs of new york’ style fighting scenes, the mysteriousness of Reed’s past alongside the suspense of finding out the ‘who dunnit’ at the end of each episode, and the array of talent being displayed from the cast, actually offers a charming, mystifying and at times humorous and interesting narrative, which leaves you anticipating the next episode. Jack may not be back, but the threat of his return alongside other dark mysteries and killings, will surely leave you thrilled and craving for more…..definitely worth a watch.
by Lisa Holden