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

Arts and Entertainment
The crowd enjoy Latitude Festival 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
'I do think a woman's place is eventually in the home, but I see no harm in her having some fun before she gets there.'

Is this the end of the Dowager Countess?tv
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Martin of Coldplay performs live for fans at Enmore Theatre on June 19, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith from The Office ten years on

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams prepares to enter the House of Black and White as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones season five

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

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.

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn