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.

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
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.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum