It’s rather luxurious, this new trend of giving five hours on five consecutive evenings to one drama. It allows the writing to have all the roomy expansiveness of character and mood that we appreciate in a longer serial, while also giving that sense of absorption that we enjoy in a feature-length one-off or a two-nighter. But five nights; five! That is a hefty commitment.
If you’re in it for the long haul – and as I wrote that I thought: how unfortunate that we have to be “in it for the long haul” at all, as though it’s a big old baggage weighing us down for the week rather than an entertaining drama – then Collision is going to be rewarding and excellent. It already is excellent. We’re there; we’ve been introduced to all the necessary people involved in the multiple vehicle motorway pile-up; we’ve kept up through all the plot establishments here, there and everywhere; we’ve met the desperately watery-eyed Detective Inspector John Tolin (Douglas Henshall) who is trying to piece together the crash through photographs and diagrams pinned up on his board. And we’ve seen the collision itself. We’re in.
But in many ways we are not quite. And that’s the point. It’s just the opening episode and we’ve had to keep up with lots of darting around between several characters and also between time frames. We’ve had a bit of the now, some of the before, some of the during, and we’re going to get much more of each over the week.
For much of the hour I was mainly hearing my head blurt dumb things to itself in an attempt to remember who was where and why: “that young pretty couple”, “twitchy PA with files”, “he hasn’t met her family yet”, “other young couple”, “service station diner girl”, “his name’s Sidney”. That sort of useless thing – because it was all moving really briskly!
Not so briskly that the details were overlooked, though. It may not be a big issue in the grander scheme, but the Essex service station diner girl Jane (Lucy Griffiths) is not a convincing character yet in any sense. My ‘posh girl’ radar went off as soon as she came on screen crying far too poshly at her boyfriend’s lame proposal, and then appearing all chatty and well-spoken in a later scene looking and sounding, basically, like Hermione Granger working in a burger bar.
It may well be that she, the character, really isn’t who she says she is, rather than the casting and acting just being poor, and, indeed, we have only been shallowly introduced so far to this bunch of dodgy-dealing, secret-keeping, relationship-bumbling people – oh, normal people, then! – so they have every right to surprise us as the episodes go on. Today was about sketching out, and getting the actual collision itself happening.
If anything has been established right away it’s that the point of this drama is to explore all these characters who were getting on with their lives – some happily, some not so – and suddenly became literally piled up on one another, via their colliding vehicles.
We’re also pretty sure there’s more to that DI Tolin than he’s let on so far. The story opened on him, nobody else, and he was glancing wistfully at his own family photographs. Those huge blue eyes are only a blink away from rather a lot of tears.
We’ve actually established a teensy bit of humour as well, which stood out a mile in all the grit and tension. The two police officers lurking on the hard shoulder monitoring vehicle speeds had a very funny moment in which one of them got a bit over-zealous calling out the speeds and the other turned to him and quipped “It’s just fuckin’ annoyin'”, calling to mind that great relationship in Hot Fuzz between Angel and Butterman. Of all the general moods and tones at play over the next few nights, though, I can’t see the humour winning out somehow.