Remember Me, BBC One
If there are two genres we love here in Britain, it’s crime and period drama. We can’t get enough of them, the former proving particularly prolific recently. Usually rooted in gritty realism, our crime dramas of late (think Broadchurch, The Fall, and Happy Valley) have been disturbing, unrelenting – and utterly addicting. But despite their compelling qualities, it’s nice once in a while to move away from realism and into the realm of the supernatural.
Cue Remember Me, a three part ghost story penned by Gwyneth Hughes, that provides Michael Palin with his first straight television role in more than twenty years. Set against a backdrop not unlike that of Happy Valley, Remember Me is refreshing in its shunning of realism and wholehearted embracing of the ghostly genre. Palin plays Tom Parfitt, on the face of it a perfectly unassuming pensioner. Underneath his jovial temperament, however, lurks something altogether more sinister. There’s also something lurking in his house – specifically the surprisingly sizeable attic room – that makes him determined to leave, feigning a fall in order to be granted a place in a nearby old people’s home. It’s here that he meets Hannah Ward (Jodie Comer), a young carer, who is drawn unknowingly into Parfitt’s troubles.
Hughes makes use of a number of ghost story tropes in this first episode: dripping taps, a black and white photograph ripped down the middle, an old mill, and plenty of howling wind. That’s not to say that the story is as obvious as the devices used. In fact, after this first episode, it’s anyone’s guess where this plot will take its characters, who remain equally in the dark (in more ways than one). We’re left with a number of components: Jack himself, the attic of doom, a mysterious veiled woman who makes a habit of infiltrating dreams, and a chest full of sheet music – specifically of the traditional folk song, Scarborough Fair. The song itself provides an effective motif throughout the episode, from the haunting, childlike rendition during the opening credits, to the single line played on the out-of-tune piano later on. Ruth Barrett’s score is sparse, but extremely effective, as are the sound effects that raise the tension level several notches – all loud creaks and ominous thuds.
Whilst the ghostly happenings (present from the get-go) are not exactly subtle to begin with, they perhaps become slightly over the top at the climax of the episode. However, well-pitched and sympathetic performances from Palin, a dishevelled Julia Sawalha (as Hannah’s mother), and especially Comer herself, ensure that Remember Me remains intriguing and chilling to the end.