‘Marchlands’ press launch

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This morning we visited ITV’s head office in London for the launch of their new five-part supernatural drama series Marchlands, where we were shown the first two episodes, followed by a press-conference with the cast and writer Stephen Greenhorn (Doctor Who‘s ‘The Lazarus Experiment’ and ‘The Doctor’s Daughter’).

What’s it about?

Marchlands follows three separate families who live in the same house at three different time periods (1968, 1987 and 2010). The three strands interconnect: the families are linked by the ghost of a little girl, Alice, who drowned in the local lake in a tragic accident in 1967.”

Who’s in it?

Headed by the female trio of Alex Kingston (ER, Doctor Who), Jodie Whittaker (Cranford) and Shelley Conn (Mistresses), the cast also includes Denis Lawson (Holby City), Tessa Peake-Jones (Only Fools & Horses), Dean Andrews (Ashes To Ashes), Elliot Cowan (Lost In Austen) and Anne Reid (Dinnerladies).

What’s it like?

Despite jumping back and forth between three different decades, Marchlands meanders along at a surprisingly slow pace. We’re not saying this is a bad thing – in fact, it’s quite refreshing for a prime-time drama to take its time in establishing characters and setting – but those expecting ghostly goings-on and regular jump-scares from the start might be put off by the low-key domestic dramas that dominate the opening episode. It’s worth sticking with for Episode 2, however, where the spookiness is ramped up a level and the three seemingly-separate families’ stories begin to intertwine.

The cast are uniformly strong, with Alex Kingston and Dean Andrews sharing likeable chemistry as the parents of the 1987 family and Only Fools… star Tessa Peake-Jones showing a surprisingly sinister side to those only familiar with her as Del Boy’s wife Raquel. Meanwhile the production showcases the idyllic country village life wonderfully – although it’s a tad heavy-handed with the colour grading to remind us which decade we’re in – and Greenhorn’s script, adapted from a US pilot that was never aired, skilfully avoids the pitfalls of multi-strand storytelling by balancing them with equal attention.

To be honest, unless the story takes some unexpected turns and develops into a much denser story in the remaining three episodes, we can’t help thinking that Marchlands would have worked better as a pacier two-parter. That said, with their limited drama budget, ITV1 should be commended for taking a gamble on something that’s not another police procedural.

When does it start?

Marchlands begins at 9pm on Thursday 3rd February on ITV1.

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