TV review: Her Majesty's Prison – Aylesbury, ITV

Black Mirror, Channel 4

Through some glitch in the system, Paul McGann's commentary was missing from the version of Her Majesty's Prison – Aylesbury that I watched and it says something about the construction of the film that I barely noticed.

"Welcome to hell" – a cheery greeting caught in passing from one inmate – provided most of the information you needed to know and it was easy enough to work out what was going on once you were 10 minutes in. We were in for a short stretch at one of Britain's tougher jails and we were getting our induction alongside Caspean, who had four years ahead of him. It didn't look as if Caspean was planning to get his head down and do his time quietly either: "When something kicks off, I love it... just makes your day more exciting, innit?"

Apparently, new arrivals at Aylesbury tend to be a little jittery, as it has a reputation as a repository for particularly hard cases. That reputation won't have been diminished by the opening montage of CCTV footage, recording several of the fights that have broken out on the prison landings, or by the scuffling rucks captured by the camera crew here, as warders attempted to prevent their charges from adding fresh crimes to the ones they've already been convicted of. They're used to sudden outbreaks of violence. "Saying hello to each other," grinned one breathless female warder, after helping to separate two men apparently intent on removing each other's eyeballs.

Caspean got bored very quickly, it seems, because not long after we'd seen him having his induction interview he was filmed happily smashing the window out of one of the cells. Along with two other Northern prisoners – disgruntled at being sent to what they clearly considered to be a foreign jail – he'd taken a prisoner hostage and was demanding relocation. "If you don't get the governor, I'll rape him. I'll rape him, you know" was the opening bid in the negotiations, and a fair indication of what passes for constructive dialogue in Aylesbury, at least from the prisoners' side. "I needed summat to do," Caspean explained, after he and his associates had been winkled out and sent to the segregation wing.

What we should do with Caspean remained something of a mystery. He blithely admitted himself that he was a danger to society ("I've always wanted to kill people") but simultaneously expressed an ambition to be good father to his son (who arrived when Caspean was just 14). A faintly rueful prison psychologist seemed to hint that for the moment containment was probably the best option on offer, and Aylesbury looked as if it had worked out reasonably efficient ways to do that. Whether it could change Caspean for the better, rather than simply restrict the danger he poses only to his fellow criminals, is a matter for a different kind of unheard commentary.

I also only saw a working cut of "White Bear", the second of Charlie Booker's Black Mirror series, so it's possible that some problems of timing have been fixed for transmission. It's not easy to see how though, because this had the feel of a taut and unsettling half hour that had been obliged, by scheduling consistency, to fill out an hour, so that several sequences dragged conspicuously. It proved an intriguing companion piece to Her Majesty's Prison – Aylesbury, though, offering a dystopian take on crime and retribution that questioned our instinctive need to hurt and punish, and possibly also the way that the distress of other human beings can be packaged as a kind of entertainment. I won't give too much away, since so many people now catch up later, but the twist in our perception of the leading character, a young woman who wakes to find herself in a nightmare, was a good and provocative one. It's just a pity that the drama hung around so long after we'd got the point.

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
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.

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'