sat 29/04/2017

The Replacement, BBC One | reviews, news & interviews

The Replacement, BBC One

The Replacement, BBC One

Unsisterly goings-on in the exciting world of architecture

Two's a crowd: Vicky McClure as Paula (left), Morven Christie as Ellen

Can women have it all? (Stop me if you’ve already heard this one). This is the premise of Joe Ahearne’s new three-part drama, set in the offices of a successful firm of architects in Glasgow. But he’s a bloke, what would he know about it? Anyway, just as Ellen (Morven Christie) had joyously celebrated being appointed an associate, she found she was pregnant and would have to recruit somebody to cover for her in her absence.

The pregnancy seemed to be as much of a surprise to Ellen as it was to everybody else, and she was only too well aware that her timing was not perfect. Nonetheless, her workmates managed to stop themselves from saying “What! How could you?” and were effusive in their well-wishes and assurances that Ellen and the firm are totally and utterly inseparable, forever. “Your position here is unassailable,” declared the firm’s top dog David. “We love you!” (the associates, below).

David is played by Dougray Scott, normally the actorly equivalent of sheets of freezing rain falling on the dark side of Ben Nevis, but here he’s unpleasantly huggy and positively glutinous with insincerity. Nor would one feel inclined to rely too heavily on the other senior partner, Kay (Neve McIntosh), whose outward display of breezy positivity and brisk professional efficiency looked to me as if it could suddenly turn into a metaphorical door slamming in your face.

No wonder Ellen felt edgy. However, she perked up a bit after she felt she’d hired the perfect (temporary) replacement, Paula. After all, they had much in common, since Paula is just returning to work after taking 10 years out to raise her daughter. Though on reflection, surely it might have occurred to Ellen that Paula might be considerably off the pace after an entire decade out of the architectural loop. Besides, she’s played with extreme wiliness by Vicky McClure, and if Ellen had ever watched Line of Duty she would have sent her packing without a moment’s hesitation.

However, Paula took to her new duties like a puppy chasing ducks in the park. The woman was unstoppable. The big project she has taken over from Ellen is the flashy new Brathness Library, but within seconds, or so it seemed, she already knew more about it than Ellen did. She’d schmoozed the client, visited the site, thought up ideas for new sightlines and got a bit picky about the floor tiles. She was even having meetings with Ellen’s associates without telling Ellen! When Ellen tried to get her point across, Paula was apt to reply with some patronising twaddle about the joys of motherhood (“us mothers have to look out for each other because nobody else will!”)

As Ellen grew increasingly fractious and paranoid, you could see the way this was heading (think The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, or even Rosemary’s Baby). The more everyone told her to calm down and she had nothing to worry about except a few stray hormones, the worse it got. Her partner Ian (Richard Rankin, pictured left) is supposed to be a psychiatrist, but he can’t seem to take his wife’s concerns seriously, and he’s now beginning to think she’s becoming unhinged. It didn’t help when Ellen heard him saying so to his mother over the phone.

But a dark twist in the final reel suddenly put a shocking spin on the proceedings. Not only was Ellen fearing for her sanity, but she was almost flattened by a falling corpse. It's only schlock, but I quite liked it.

@SweetingAdam

A dark twist in the final reel suddenly put a shocking spin on the proceedings

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters