TV review: The Village gives viewers – finally – a proper, grown-up period drama

The Weekend's Viewing: The Village, Sun, BBC1 / Doctor Who, Sat, BBC1

Before its first airing, The Village had been billed as Britain's answer to Heimat, the monumental German drama that spans across a century of rural life in 30 episodes.

All that hype and lofty comparison usually leads to only one thing: disappointment. Except that it didn't. Instead, it was a moving and mature period drama with a pitch-perfect star cast who play the Middleton family (Maxine Peake, the long-suffering mother, John Simm, the brutish father and Juliet Stevenson, who is the matriarch of the nearby manor). For starters, it was a welcome relief from those McCostume dramas (mentioning no names) that offer little more than a game of “dress-up” with a host of posh frocks and a repertoire of above/below stairs shenanigans. This disposed of gimmickry and formula, except for one clunky device – the voiceover of an elderly man whose wartime boyhood was being re-enacted. Thankfully, his voice melted away and we settled into a drama that – to make another lofty comparison – combined the same unsettling mix of nostalgia, fear and casual cruelty inflicted by adults on to children that was captured in Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon.

In its form, it followed the classic shape of the “heimatfilm” in which rural life plays out the bigger, fractious events of the nation. The microcosm here was a Peak District village gearing up for the First World War. “All the world was in our village,” reflected the elderly Bert Middleton, looking back at his 12-year-old self, who was our young protagonist. Peter Moffat's taut, emotionally restrained script succeeded in bringing out the inner landscapes of each family member, who all seemed, in one way or another, to be locked into their own private pain: Peake's mother negotiated the wrath of her husband with the sacrificial love of her sons; teenager Joe was torn between the desire to escape the fury of his father with the urge to protect his little brother; and Bert himself was caught in the first hormonal flush of adolescence. Bert's role was primarily as child observer and innocent voyeur, a little like the boy from Dennis Potter's A Singing Detective, who watches the seamy goings-on of the adult world from a treetop in the Forest of Dean. If fault had to be found, it lay with Simm's emotionally stony father, who seems too narrowly locked in to a blinding state of bitterness as his farming fortunes dwindle into ignominy.

The story was ostensibly small and specific, revolving around the interior life of this family, and this village, but then it opened up, cinematically, to the world beyond with panoramic shots of the English countryside – vast acres of fields, hills and sky. These suddenly striking images gave it an epic quality. With a hundred years to span and 41 more episodes to go (if Moffat's ambition is to be realised) viewers can – finally – enjoy a proper, grown-up period drama.

Time travelling forward to the 21st century, Doctor Who offered a pertinent fantasy of a wi-fi-drenched society in which computer programmes uploaded people, rather than the other way around. Taking our growing addiction to the internet to its final, outlandish conclusion, this sharply entertaining episode saw the feisty, flirtatious Clara Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman) become trapped in the digital ether.

The plague of the internet virus had here morphed into a far more lethal variant that left people imprisoned in digital clouds, disembodied in their new existence. A great analogy, and some good lines along the way too: “Imagine that – human souls trapped like flies on the worldwide web, crying out for help,” said the Doctor. Clara's response couldn't have been smarter: “Isn't that basically Twitter?” Coleman's fizzing chemistry and witty repartee with Matt Smith's Doctor will, no doubt, make her the perfect new companion in this seventh series.

twitter.com/ArifaAkbar

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
    Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

    The dark side of Mexico

    A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

    Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border