Deadwater Fell episode 1 sees David Tennant on our screens as the doctor again. Jodie Whitaker fans needn’t worry too much, though. The Yorkshire-born actress hasn’t been forced to hand her sonic screwdriver back to her Scottish predecessor, though, because this time he’s Doctor Kendrick. At least he is in Channel 4’s newest crime drama Deadwater Fell, anyway.
Dr Tom Kendrick is a man with a seemingly perfect life. He’s successful, well off, happy and surrounded by charming friends, a loving wife and three cute daughters. He even lives in an idyllic – albeit fictional – Scottish coastal village with a name like a sixty quid bottle of whiskey, Kirkdarroch.
All is well until one night a fire ravages the Kendrick family home, leaving Tom the only survivor. A fire which later turns out to have been started deliberately by someone…
…but who? Well, that’s the central question here.
Like the Time Lord, let’s travel back in time quickly. Before the fire, Tom and his primary school teacher wife Kate (Anna Madeley, Patrick Melrose) spent their days looking after their trio of daughters, attending barn dances, having picnics on the beach and enjoying the company of their best pals Jess and Steve Campbell (Cush Jumbo, Vera and Matthew McNulty, Cleaning Up). All very lovely. At least on the surface, that is.
Grantchester’s Daisy Coulam is on writing duties here and while the source material is entirely original, there is a rather famous/infamous case which influenced Deadwater Fell… The death of Kathleen Peterson. If you recognise the name, it may be because you’re familiar with the successful and widely seen Netflix documentary series based on the case, The Staircase.
Soon, we learn via flashback that Kate battled with depression. The door to the kids’ bedrooms were padlocked from the outside and she was seen in a hardware shop buying locks before the fire, which is more than a little suspicious. Yet given The Staircase is the primary inspiration for Deadwater Fell, it can’t be long until everyone starts believing that husband Tom is responsible.
The finger of blame only points very briefly at Tom here in this opening episode – when the headteacher of Kate’s school drunkenly suggests that he was behind the fire. We’ve a sneaking suspicion that he may well be in the frame slightly more next week, however.
Will David Tennant’s Tom turn out to be the bad guy…? A man capable of killing his whole family? With the obvious pleasure taken in his roles as the antagonist in Jessica Jones and an actual demon in Good Omens, there’s every chance. Plus let’s not forget about Des – an upcoming three-part ITV series starring Tennant as notorious serial killer Dennis Nilsen. The 48-year-old certainly has a bad turn up his sleeve.
This is a crime drama on the surface, but at its heart it’s a story about people. Of course, we’re looking forward to finding out who killed 75% of the Kendricks – but the real enjoyment looks like it’ll come from learning about the characters of Kirkdarroch.
This opening episode took its time, which is no bad thing. The plot never meanders, yet there’s obvious depth to the very realistic characters and their relatable motivations.
With only four episodes of Deadwater Fell in total, don’t expect it to remain a slow burner. Things will no doubt spark to life next Friday night.
Did you catch Deadwater Fell episode 1? If so, what did you make of it? Let us know in the comments below!