Have you noticed how everyday life these days is governed by cards and abbreviations: credit cards, debit cards, Nectar cards, loyalty cards, Oyster cards, sim cards, IT, GPS, CCTV, where would we be without them? Wandering round in aimless but contented circles, probably. Anyway, the ever burgeoning data mountain has resulted in the ever proliferating crime of identity theft, and this is the highly topical subject of Identity, ITV1's new six-part drama.
Neatly, though doubtless unintentionally, Identity seems to have pinched some of the characteristics of Prime Suspect, with an attractive female detective (Keeley Hawes) running the show, and holding regular conferences to inform her team – and, far more importantly, the viewers – just exactly what is going on. I love those little "so, we now know that Timpkins can't possibly have been in the flat at the time of the murder" chats that have become such a key part of police procedurals. And that's effectively what Identity is, a standard detective drama, with racy, up-to-the-minute subject matter to kid us into thinking that we are watching something highly original. We're not. Ed Whitmore's script ticks just about every police-procedural box.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with unoriginality if it's done well, and on the whole this is, even if the lovely Hawes doesn't quite convince as a detective superintendent. I'm all for challenging gender-based preconceptions, but the long tradition on British TV of DSIs being bald and/or grey, jowly and/or pock-marked men in their forties and fifties owes more than a little to verisimilitude.
Still, we mustn't mark DSI Martha Lawson down for being younger and prettier than, I dare say, 99 per cent of real DSIs, and in any case, she doesn't really seem to be the brains of the outfit, cracking last night's first case – that of a 24-year-old intent on punishing unfaithful husbands and wives for his late father's bit on the side by not only stealing their identities but framing them for murder and other horrible things, with the invaluable help of, tick, a moody maverick (Aidan Gillen), and, tick, a desk-bound computer expert (Holly Aird).
Along the way our credibility was strained, once or twice. If a dangerous, fiendishly clever multiple killer had been tracked down to a secondary school library, would his apprehension really be left to a couple of unarmed detectives, striding in purposefully on the off-chance of nabbing him in the aisles? I like to think not. But on the plus side, Whitmore writes decent plots, good dialogue, and obligingly even throws in the odd bit of humour. "Facial mapping?" suggested DSI Lawson, wondering just how they might nail the identity thief. "Er, sorry, need a face for that," replied Aird's IT whizz, Tessa. Moreover, if Identity makes us just a little bit more paranoid about our names and bank account details being taken in vain, that's probably for the best.
The topic of identity surfaced again in Storyville: Leaving the Cult, although this was a case of it being suppressed rather than stolen. The documentary followed, over several years, three boys who had run away from their suffocating lives, in Colorado City, Arizona, with the Fundamental Church of Latter-Day Saints. The FLDS is a sect of the Mormon faith that still practises polygamy, and whose bizarre way of life is fictionally chronicled by the HBO drama series Big Love.
Mind you, as an insight into the grim realities of life with the FLDS, this compelling Storyville film was worth any number of seasons of Big Love. The cult routinely exiles boys who wish no longer to be part of a religion that encourages men to take up to 50 wives, some of whom are comfortably young enough to be their granddaughters, and expects women to bear children as often as they can, evidently without the slightest concern for their health.
The exiles are known as the "Sons of Perdition", and it was heartrending to see how much, even having had the courage to leave, they remain in thrall to obviously crackpot FLDS ideas. Actually, if the film failed in any way, it was that no real attempt was made to explain why anyone wouldn't want to leave the FLDS, which is led by the so-called prophet, Warren Jeffs.
We heard Jeffs solemnly intoning some of the cult's odd beliefs, and it was truly hard to understand how anybody could listen to him and not consider him anything other than delusional. Yet he is worshipped, and I suppose that's what cults are. He is also, incidentally, in Utah State Penitentiary, serving a minimum of 10 years for being an accomplice to rape. Depressingly, though, his followers do not consider his halo dislodged. Prison, indeed, has only emphasised his messianic status.
Religious fundamentalism produces, of course, greater perils than those faced by the followers of Warren Jeffs. 7/7: Saved by a Miracle looked at some of the stories of those who survived the London bombings five years ago this week, but it was a tawdry affair, cheapening the dignified testimonies of the survivors and bereaved by continuing to film them when they started crying, but most of all with an overwrought narration. "Trapped in bombed, mangled Tube trains, helpless among the carnage of a shattered bus, this is the darkness that cloaked the morning of 7th July." It's not easy to make the narrative of that awful day sound like a bad novel, but this programme managed it.Reuse content