David Tennant back on the BBC – Spies of Warsaw Review
B Van Heusen
Former Doctor Who actor David Tennant made his much anticipated return to the BBC tonight in the pre-World War II spy drama Spies of Warsaw. This stylishly made, expensive looking show deserved better than a Thursday night airing in the TV wilderness that is BBC4. This new adaptation of Alan Furst’s book was penned by Ian La Frenais and Dick Clement – the men who brought us such hits as Porridge and Auf Widersehen Pet. The duo might seem like an unlikely choice to write a straight laced spy drama given that their usual fare is best described as dramedy but in Spies of Warsaw they proved that they can write good dialogue for more serious minded performers than Ronnie Barker and Jimmy Nail.
Visually the show was similar to The Hour although the exterior scenes were obviously in Europe rather than London. David Tennant was very good as war-hero turned spy Colonel Jean-Francois Mercier even if he seemed a bit too quintessentially British to be a Frenchman. That being said, while there were hints of 007, he resisted the temptation to go all James Bond on us. At an hour and a half, the first episode was probably about 20 minutes longer than it needed to be and you got the impression they had padded out material that would have made a good 2 hour film to make two 90 minute episodes. Nevertheless, with an all star cast, slick direction and a suspensful script it was TV that was well worth watching.