Thursday, 14 February 2013

Foyle's War series 8, ITV, starring Michael Kitchen, Honeysuckle Weeks PREVIEW

Foyle's War series 8, Samantha and Foyle
Caught out – Sam and Foyle break into a flat containing stolen uranium. Pics: ITV
Rating: ★★★½ 

ITV: Sunday, 24 March, 8pm 

Story: The war is over, but retired former Detective Chief Superintendent Foyle is recruited, somewhat reluctantly, to help MI5 investigate a spy ring in London.

Honeysuckle Weeks as Samantha in Foyle's War
Is Sam a spy?
Christopher Foyle has had more comebacks than Frank Sinatra. The Comeback Copper has retired three times now, and ITV even tried to force him to retire by cancelling his wartime crime series in 2007, but here he is again being pressed back into service for his country.

Foyle's War has now gone cold. The Second World War is over and the new battle is against Soviet subversion and the threat of nuclear war. There's a prologue in this first of three mysteries – called The Eternity Ring – which begins in New Mexico in 1945 before switching to London a year later. At the Soviet Embassy someone is stealing documents.

Finally, we encounter Foyle – who retired, of course, at the end of series 7 – having just arrived at dockside in Liverpool after sailing from the USA. He is unexpectedly whisked off to meet some frightfully serious chaps from MI5.

Foyle investigates a Russian defector
They want him to investigate the Russian who defected with the documents and the possible passing of secrets to the Commies. Why Foyle? Because his former driver, Samantha, has been photographed with a suspected Russian agent.

And so the popular author and screenwriter Anthony Horowitz pitches the pair into another twisting, murky escapade. Sam is now married to a prospective Labour Parliamentary candidate, Adam, while also working as an assistant to a leading physicist. Hence her proximity to some valuable nuclear secrets.

Michael Kitchen as Foyle in Foyle's War
No time to retire for Foyle
In a two-hour drama Horowitz is able to develop some subplots along with the main mystery. So we find Honeysuckle worrying she might not be able to have children, and meet Frank, an old colleague of Foyle's and former constable, who returns from the war to find himself getting a shabby reception at home and from an embittered recruiting police officer.

Foyle and Sam and the missing uranium
The one character we never find out too much about is Foyle himself. He is as non-confrontational and modest as ever, as he untangles the mystery of some missing uranium – which partly contaminates him and Sam – and finally realises who is really double-crossing whom.

It's a handsome production, which has a sepia quality that really evokes ration-blighted post-war London at times. Horowitz cleverly reboots the series by taking his much loved hero out of his comfort zone in Hastings and the police and pitching into a world where the stakes have national importance.

While it's hard to be surprised by tales of intelligence agency duplicity having seen a hundred adaptations of Le CarrĂ© and Deighton and Ludlum, this new series will still please fans of the phlegmatic, unassuming detective. And period crime series are a ratings safe bet these days (with Marple, Poirot, Father Brown, Miss Fisher, Mrs Biggs, Spies of Warsaw, Vegas, The Lady Vanishes coming soon, Ripper Street, Mr Whicher – OK, that's enough).

Like an old soldier, Foyle will not die any time soon – particularly, if ITV's efficient and stylish productions keep nabbing his customary ratings of around 7million.