Douglas Henshall and Brian Cox in Shetland on BBC Scotland on Sundays.

Tom Morton

“Getting off with a primal-screaming lay nun in Whalsay while driving an Audi…”

Shetland, Series 6, Episode 2

No-one minds the writers and producers of TV drama messing around a bit with geography. Or for that matter, facts in general. In the case of Shetland, where the star of the show is the island scenery, you can sympathise with their various fast-and-loose playing with locations: placing Sumburgh and Hillswick approximately a mile and a half apart, instead of 60-odd; using the inter-island flying wheelbarrow to illustrate the proper Air Ambulance; Greenock or Gourock or Largs masquerading as Lerwick; pretending there is a forensic department on Shetland run by a 90-year old whisky guzzling GP; or even coming up with the notion that Shetland-based detectives would investigate a murder at all (they wouldn’t. That would be handled by a Major Crime Unit from the mainland).
By far the biggest task undertaken by real Shetland cops is checking the MOT status of passing vehicles, helping Customs and Excuse catch red diesel abusers, and picking up drunks either in cars or in too-wobbly charge of a fish supper of a Friday night).
However, I was bamboozled by Sandy’s chasing of Linda the junkie and her dodgy drug dealing partner towards the end of this episode. He followed them (in a four-wheel-drive pickup ) in his dodgy hatchback until they drove onto a beach. He – amazingly – did not get stuck and then have to be rescued by a crofter with a tractor. Mysteriously, the tracks of the pickup led straight into the sea. Cut to Sandy looking even more confused than normal.
A nation ponders: Linda and her man have been:
* Lifted off the beach by a landing craft, as they are not drug dealers but undercover Special Boat Squadron operatives engaged in some kind of Naval exercise aimed at preventing a possible Norwegian invasion (stolen subplot from the appalling Vigil)
* Eaten by a giant orca. Or a Blue Whale. Clearly, it would have to be extremely large to swallow a pickup truck (Mitsubishi, Nissan, Ford Ranger or Toyota? Only the HiLux really delivers) but you know, this is TV drama and facts, like the mouths of cetaceans, can be stretched. Like our imaginations, or gullibility.
* Airlifted away by Colombian drug lords in a Chinook Helicopter. Or an alien spaceship.
* They are not drug dealers at all but salmon farmers hiding illegal organophosphate chemicals for the treatment of sea lice, and they have been whisked off the beach by a workboat. Even now they are perched on cages out in the voe, playing guitar and violin to passing seals, because as well as lice-treatment-specialists they’re in a traditional folk band contracted by the Norwegian-owned salmon farm to scare the selkies away with very bad fiddling.
Sandy goes to sleep. When he wakes up, it is dawn and….it’s all a dream! We are actually in an episode of Vigil and that guy who died so horribly in the decompression chamber was him from Line of Duty, being killed by Russians for selling them secrets they had 20 years ago about outdated British submarines.
No, wrong again. All is revealed. By the time Sandy arrived last night an abnormal tide had swept in and covered the causeway to the island of Bloodynorawick. Now the tide has gone out and he can…get across to the baddies’ wee but’n’ben.
Except what we’re shown is the world-famous tombolo (two-sided beach) at St Ninian’s Isle. The thing about that tombolo is that it remains passable (just) even at high tide, except in very unusual conditions. It doesn’t just disappear. And Sandy, The Only Native Shetlander In The Cop Shop, would have known all that…Also, St Ninian’s isle doesn’t have any houses on it…h, never mind. It doesn’t matter, apparently, and I’m losing the will to live. So is Sandy, upset at Donna Killer Killick’s return to the isles. He gets run down by the pickup truck driven by the SBS operatives/drug dealers/salmon farmworkers. Who make their escape, driving into the vast mouth of a mutated dolphin. Probably. Sandy’s dead! But probably not.
The rest of this episode has:  Peerie Jimenez finding a possible love interest in a nurse who thinks he thinks Jaws is the perfect movie (could a giant shark have eaten that pickup truck…no, that was just a dream) and a lay nun who believes in primal screaming and was clearly having it off with the dead lawyer fellow in a nunnery on Whalsay, a place which is absolutely hoaching with monks and nuns. There is Peerie’s doiting dad Duncan popping up to serve whisky, apparently the only thing Mark Bonnar will be doing this series; Logan Roy (maybe that’s the wrong name, I’m not sure) who may have murdered civilians in Iraq, his creepy nerdy son, a creepier businessman called Niven, a creepy Lawyer’s wife, more young women with identical eyebrows, a dodgy sailor called Mick, a sister called Angela (not a nun) who’s in Golspie, and who was married to Logan Roy, who  therefore may have got Mick (her brother) to kill the offshore drone pilot person in the decompression chamber with poisoned haddock or nerve gas or something. Are you following this? Look, a giant orca! A Russian submarine! There’s a cook called Carrie or Cassie or Cammie, I couldn’t make out what exactly. Or is that in Vigil? Who’s got the nerve agent? Corrupted drone files, sorted out by Tosh’s nice nerd boyfriend, Donnie. Handily one file isn’t ruined and reveals that Kate Kilmuir, sister of….never mind… was in the car that tried to run the lawyer of the road. But she was just being friendly, so that’s all right. Cops have checked, her MOT was current.
Peerie Jimenez is confused. Logan – ah, it’s Creggan, not Roy – looks pityingly at him: “you’re drowning, aren’t you?”
Either that or he’s about to be eaten by an orca. Or an enormous red herring.-

One comment

  1. ‘..from the appalling Vigil’ I so agree! What hype for such a stupid, stupid, rubbishy serial! And Compson did himself no favours by being a (minor) part of it and using his name to try to flog it!

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