Borgen: Outside the Castle - The Week in Radio: appalled by a British Borgen that's an insult to women

"Why?" I howled at 30-second intervals during Borgen: Outside the Castle, this week's wholly pointless spin-off of the Danish television series on Radio 4. Three episodes in and I'm still at a loss.

What were they thinking? In what desperate ideas meeting did some "creative" in preposterous glasses pipe up: "I know! Let's take a near-flawless television series with an exceptional balance of political intrigue and personal drama, and famed for its meaty female roles, and balls it up so royally that fans of the original show, who will be our core audience, will pack their bags and defect to Denmark."

I'll admit that I had approached Borgen: Outside the Castle (even the name is a disaster; they may as well have called it "Borgen: a Long Way from the Fun Stuff") with extreme caution. This is because the TV version has, over the past few years, proved that good drama doesn't necessarily depend on dead bodies, CGI and wall-to-wall humping.

It has shown that out of a tedious-sounding brief based on coalition politics in a small corner of northern Europe can emerge an unfeasibly compelling, richly textured and thoroughly grown-up thriller. It has illustrated how Scandinavia still has the freshest acting and writing talent in the world. So why mess with perfection?

It takes a certain amount of wisdom to take a show that has been lauded from the rooftops and sold to 72 countries and axe it after just three seasons, as the makers of Borgen have just done. It also takes some serious dimwittedness to piggyback said show with a low-rent, English-language radio version that's not fit to shine its shoes.

Borgen: Outside the Castle is in fact only sketchily related to Borgen, Sure, it is set in Denmark and makes reference to characters from the TV show, including Lars Hesselboe, still the incumbent Prime Minister; Birgitte Nyborg, rising through the ranks to supplant Hesselboe; and Michael Laugesen, Labour Party leader and soon-to-be newspaper editor. It also has the same music, which inadvertently underlines the radio version's deficiencies by transporting us straight to the corridors of Christiansborg, where under a week ago, we watched Birgitte secure Denmark's future.

But rather than focusing on those at the centre of power, it examined the Danish civil service where Tim Pigott-Smith's Hans Gammelgaard (the names of the protagonists are good, I'll give them that), private secretary in the Ministry of the Environment, was trying to rush through official approval for the controlled use of GM crops by Danish farmers.

Gammelgaard was also newly widowed – his wife, Eva, died from cancer – though this hadn't stopped him from throwing himself back into work and ignoring both the condolences of his colleagues, who were plotting to remove him from his job, and the attentions of his environmentally crusading grandson Nick who put forward such insightful arguments as: "Organics are a much better option." There was also a hard-drinking journalist who gets scoops by downing three bottles of red wine and murmuring: "I write what I write".

But my irritation at the dialogue was nothing next to the red-faced fury I felt at finding that the writers had honoured the original series, which made a point of placing smart and high-achieving women at the centre of the action, by relegating its female characters to the fringes, casting them as secretaries and anxious mothers.

Borgen: Outside the Castle was an ill-conceived mess, and no substitute for the original, the passing of which I shall be mourning for some time. As for a second season? Nej tak.

Twitter.com/FionaSturges

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
Arts and Entertainment
Blue singer Simon Webbe will be confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing

tv
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition