Troubled Blood BBC1 Trailer Thoughts

Louise Freeman posted a link yesterday to the trailer thas been released for the Bronte Studio’s adaptation of Troubled Blood for BBC1, a series of four shows that will be released on 11 December, a prime time to promote the series before peak Christmas shopping.

It’s very brief but the clips provided are intriguing, both for what they show and do not show.

After the jump, five first-thoughts on this adaptation in light of the clip!

(1) Anna Phipps and Kim Sullivan

 

The trailer begins with a shot of two women speaking to Strike near a harbor in the daytime about a missing person case. I assume it is the adaptation version of the night-time encounter between Strike and Anna Phipps and Kim Sullivan during which Phipps asks for Strike’s help in resolving the mystery of her mother’s disappearance in 1974.

The differences extend well beyond the lighting. Phipps is not drunk for one thing and her partner, a black woman with bleached hair, looks nothing like the original’s Kim Sullivan, who was an incarnation of Margot Bamborough’s ghost, her spitting image as Brian Tucker might have said. The black woman looks quite a bit like Allison Bailey, hair coloring aside.

Make of that what you will, especially in light of the possibility that it may be another couple, not Phipps-Sullivan.

(2) Uncle Ted or Dinesh Gupta or Gregory Talbot?

 

In the next scene, an older white man says to Strike outside his house some encouraging words about his getting the person responsible for Margot’s disappearance forty years ago. “You’ll figure this out, woncha? You’ve got this, lad.” My first thought, probably because of the clothes and backdrop, as well as his proximity to Strike, was that it was Uncle Ted Nancarrow. The problem is that this scene, if it is in Cornwall, doesn’t happen in the book.

My next thought was that it might be Dinesh Gupta, the first person Strike interviewed about the case and someone who was very excited and interested about the case being reopened. The dialogue fits in this regard; the problem, of course, is that the actor looks nothing like Mohandas Gandhi.

Finally, it occurred to me that it could be Gregory Talbot, son of the disgraced policeman who famously blew the case because of his astrological and cartomancy driven investigation. That fits the dialogue, again, but the actor seems a much older and taller man than the Talbot of the book, who is only described as being “a good six inches shorter than Strike.” Fostering children is a young person’s game by law, so it seems unlikely that the white bearded man in this exchange is Talbot, Jr.

So, we’re back to Uncle Ted?

(3) HazMat Suits and a Well

 

We’re shown a flashed picture of Strike and Robin standing outside a cordoned-off area in which men in Hazardous Materials suits are exploring what looks to be a well. Robin a voice-over has just said, as she does nowhere in the text, “I don’t care if it was half an hour or fifty years ago; the man who did thishas to pay for what he did to her.” Then the well-scene.

There is a well in Troubled Blood, if its excavation takes place well outside the reader’s view. The discovery of Louise Tucker’s remains may be moved forward in the story with Robin’s declaration of determination being a consequence to her interview with Louise’s father, Strike’s exchange with Dennis Creed, and the subsequent discovery of the body in the well.

That reshuffling of the story plot points, however, requiring as it does Creed’s appearance in the first installment and the exhumation of Louise soon after, means the story turns into a search to connect Creed with the Bamborough disappearance, guilty as he has confessed to be for the Tucker murder. As he is already in Broadmoor, why would Robin vow to find Louise’s killer and make him pay?

All that to say, it’s curious, this well scene, and suggestive that it will be used in quite a different fashion than it is in the novel being adapted. Maybe the man talking to Strike is Louise’s father, Brian, another switch from the text version and it’s secret encounter with Robin, him, and his grand-daughter, Lauren, at the Star Cafe?

 

The trailer features Strike in a prison being brought somewhere for an interview (or so I want to believe from the bars and hallway). This Creed, if it is him, isn’t wearing glasses and doesn’t appear obese, but it seems to be the man. The voiceover during this section is a man saying in an ominous voice, “Don’t go near.” I want to think this is Brian Tucker speaking.

That all makes sense in terms of the book, unless this trailer is meant to be from just the first part of this four part series. If it is, then the Creed interview has been shifted from the last chapters to the first.

(4) The Absence of Stars and Cards

 

So much of Troubled Blood turns on DI Bill Talbot’s astrological and tarot card spread imagery and symbolism, you’d think that would be visible somewhere even in a short trailer for a four part series. We’re shown, for example, a bulletin board at the clip’s end in which Creed’s victims’s cases are obviously being given a close study. If this is from Strike’s office, though, you’d think there would be something on it reflecting all the research he did on Talbot’s glyphs, spreads, associations, and musings. The absence makes me think the montage is Brian Tucker’s life work and obsession.

 

The only image we do get of the occult arts is a hand and arm spreading oversized cards across a table-top, perhaps in a coffee-shop, practitioner unknown. The size of the cards and the absence of conventional card play in Troubled Blood makes me hopeful that they didn’t edit out the Dark Arts aspect of Troubled Blood.

(5) The Film Inside the Trailer

 

Oonaugh Kennedy’s voice and face, both in the present day and 1974, are highlighted during the part of the trailer in which there seems to be film from the Christmas party at the doctor’s office the year before Margot disappeared. Two men are seen entering in the home-movie and they have the look of cartoon mafiosos; I’m guessing these are the Riccis. A woman is shown in this clip, as well, one I want to believe is Margot Bamborough, but, coming as close as it does to the Ricci entrance, may be Gloria Conti. Anyone else think the woman looks like Robin Ellacott as played by Holliday Grainger?

 

 

There is no 1974 film, of course, in the book, so this might be just the Bronte Studio’s method of showing events in flashback, a patina of age to distinguish it from 2014 events. If it is an actual film, I’m struggling to figure out how it could have been kept from Talbot and the police back in the day when they certainly would have recognized the Riccis and pressed Gloria for information about why she left the party with them. We get another shot of a Ricci, I think, one with Robin at St Peter’s Nursing Home, where the detective goes undercover to talk with Leo and meets Luca.

 

This would make the “Don’t go near” ominous voice belong to Shanker, with him speaking about the Ricci clan’s reputation for violence.

Again, that’s all within the text and is only unusual if this scene, as with all the others, is from the first piece of the adaptation series. That seems even more unlikely as we’re given a shot of tsunami-like rainfall near the end of the trailer.

 

The Bronte Studio adaptations of Rowling’s work, not surprisingly given her ownership of and involvement in the company and its productions, are much more faithful to and sometimes give clues about how to read her work than anything out of Warner Brothers. That being said, any interpretation of the trailer for the series is built on the weakest of foundations. Let me know, though, what you saw in your viewing of the clips and what it may mean for the four-part adaptation. Are you encouraged or discouraged about its fidelity to the original?

Comments

  1. Bonni Crawford says

    Thanks for the rapid write-up John! I’m basically certain that the man in (2) above is Uncle Ted. I saw some first-look pics on Twitter yesterday, one of which seems to show Burke hugging him:
    https://twitter.com/CormStrikeFan/status/1596843717310062592?s=20&t=307ExS7FTam4XllpIGOytQ

    The CormStrikeFan account that tweeted those pics asserts that they show “Strike talking to Uncle Ted (Ian Redford) outside the house in Port Navas/St Mawes”. I don’t know how good their information is, but they seem certain.

  2. Hi John, I believe many of the actors have been confirmed by sources like the actor’s CVs, IMBD, or other announcements online.

    Sophie Ward is confirmed as Anna, which is the woman speaking to Strike in the beginning. And that is Kim next to her- can you remind me where in the book it says she looks like Margot? I don’t remember that being said.

    Along the same lines, that is Uncle Ted played by Ian Redford. Bill from StrikeFans and a few others spent many days on set and spoke with the actors and crew so we can confirm a lot of this first hand and by other sources. You can hear all about their time on set later this week on a bonus episode of The Strike & Ellacott Files or check out the posts from earlier this year directly on StrikeFans. 🙂

  3. Suekmoorhen says

    Hi John,

    I concur with Lindsay’s comments above about Kim, Anna and Uncle Ted. I was one of the fans who was privileged to watch the filming in Cornwall along with Bill from StrikeFans and witnessed those scenes first hand so can definitely confirm Lindsay is correct 👍

  4. Can you remind me where in the book it says she looks like Margot? I don’t remember that being said.

    The description of Kim Sullivan is that she is a tall blonde woman who is a doctor, specifically a psychologist, which is also the profile of Margot Bamborough. Rowling does not connect the dots but, as a student of psychology herself, it is clear that she means for the reader to do so. Anna married the physical and psychological image of her missing mother, in brief, to fill that hole in her life, that of a loving woman care-taker and nurturer.

    You are free to draw a different conclusion, of course, as you have. The Black Hermione casting choice made here by Bronte Studios is a point, because it was surely made with Rowling’s approval, in a contrary interpretation’s favor.

  5. Louise Freeman says

    Re-ordering story elements is par for the course in the Strike adaptations. As I recall, the digging in the dell and the subsequent being chased away by dogs happened at the end of the first episode of LW. So, it is entirely possible the Creed interview and the discovery of Louise Tucker’s remains will be earlier in the process. Though, if it is, I will certainly miss the “Margot was murdered by a better killer than you ever were” line. Tom Burke would be great at delivering that one.
    I also remember from those watching the filming that the Skegness Inn was decorated for Christmas, suggesting either tracking down Douthwaithe happens earlier or that the whole storyline occurs in less than the course of a year.

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