fri 01/12/2023

Shetland, Series 8, BBC One review - same place but a different programme | reviews, news & interviews

Shetland, Series 8, BBC One review - same place but a different programme

Shetland, Series 8, BBC One review - same place but a different programme

DI Ruth Calder faces an uphill struggle to replace DI Jimmy Perez

Alison O’Donnell as Tosh, Ashley Jensen as DI Ruth Calder

The question they’re all asking is, can Shetland survive the loss of Douglas Henshall as DI Jimmy Perez? After all, it was Henshall’s shrewd and quietly anguished performance which gave the show much of its allure. And now there’s no Mark Bonnar either, who could always be relied on to add a soupçon of angst.

Instead, it’s Ashley Jensen (Agatha Raisin, After Life etc) who’s front and centre in the new, revamped Shetland. She plays DI Ruth Calder of the Metropolitan Police, investigating the murder of a London gangster, Philip Remis. She’s looking for a runaway witness to the crime, Ellen Quinn (Maisie Norma Seaton), who has fled north to her native Shetland. By an amazing coincidence, it turns out that DI Calder just happens to have been born in Shetland too. Extraordinary!

The show has long since used up Ann Cleeves’ original Shetland novels, and we can feel screenwriter Paul Logue working hard to find ways to knit the new characters into a Shetland-esque backdrop. He has created a forbidding family dynasty, the Bains, to which Ellen belongs, even if she seems to have been doing her best to escape from them, and this entails a cold and frosty role for Phyllis Logan as matriarch Grace Bain (pictured above). Ruth Calder’s back story gets a thorough airing too, not least her distant but evidently not entirely extinguished love affair with Cal Innes (Jamie Sives). She also finds herself uneasily re-establishing contact with her clergyman brother Alan (Steven Miller), with whom she seems to have not a lot in common.

Alongside Sandy Wilson (played by real-life Shetlander Steven Robertson), the main survivor from previous series is Alison O’Donnell’s Alison “Tosh” McIntosh, currently an “acting Detective Inspector”. Always a likeable but somewhat insubstantial presence, Tosh seems more like a district nurse than a police officer. Now she finds herself in the slightly awkward situation of having to play host to the big city cop as she tramps around the landscape looking for the runaway Ellen.

Also on Ellen’s trail are a pair of hitmen, sent up from the metropolis by a so far unseen crime lord called Cassidy. Ellen stole a pile of money from the dead guy, and Cassidy wants it back. However, this propels us into the land of farce as the armed thugs Howell (Don Gilét, pictured below), who looks like he’s wandered in from the set of Top Boy, and Nowak (Arnas Fedaravičius) drive around the bleak and baleful Shetland landscapes waving their guns about like characters from a low-rent Tarantino knock-off. As an artsdesk reader aptly commented about Series 6 of Shetland, “the TV stories have read like London crime stories transported to Shetland, with gangsters, drugs and people-smuggling.” Which is exactly what we have here.

Already the bodies are piling up, with the luckless Ellen and a local shopkeeper now surplus to requirements, while Nowak has proved to be a danger to himself as well as to everybody else. But there’s more going on than meets the eye, since there’s a parallel toll of murdered sheep which the local constabulary haven’t yet got to grips with. This is evidently some sort of ritual, with the dead animals all marked with a mysterious symbol. Imagine Tosh’s amazement when she finds this same symbol tattooed on the leg of the deceased Ellen. No "lamb to the slaughter" jokes, folks. You can’t help feeling that while this is Shetland, it isn’t Shetland.


This new series of Shetland bears no resemblance to previous series, for one reason only. Ruth Calder will never reach the popularity of Jimmy Perez. The plot so far is abysmal, and the language, i.e the continuous use of the FWord in the first episode is totally unacceptable, and unnecessary. If it were not for '"Tosh" the programme would be unwatchable. It's rubbish. Come back Douglas Henshall

Yes we all agree with you, the programme will not work without Jimmy perez. We need Douglas Henshall back to save this show.

I second your comment. There is no need to compete with other shows for using the once censored [expletive deleted.] It's vulgar; period. One would not hear that coming out of Jimmy Perez' mouth; or the rest of the unit. Tha tincludeds any other characters. He anchored the show, and made it interesting to watch. Trying to reignite the show without him is futile. It's akin to the producers of the legendary US show Columbo trying to replace Peter Falk. Thankfully; that never happened. Shetland would have been better served hanging up the detective shields, and going out on top. Now? What were they thinking.

By the way; what purpose was served by gunning down the harmless; grandmotherly shopkeeper? 

I've only recently discovered Shetland and binge watched series 1-7 and despite some repetitive bits I have enjoyed it with Douglas Henshaw and Mark Bonner who carried the series admirably together with their families. I've never really taken to Tosh who strikes me more as a generic HR person rather than a police officer. Her escape and survival from the caravan explosion was a step too far for me. Missed opportunity to close off or completely refresh the cast. High profile guest stars is a great idea which adds considerably to the plots. Using other Scottish locations is another positive characteristic Which adds contrast and variety. 
have watched first episode of Series 8 but it sadly lacks gravitas  
I'll watch a few more to give it a chance but it's hardly even Cagney and Lacey.


The original team, Jimmy, Tosh, Sandy and Billy were a marriage made in Heaven on a par with all the greats: Dad's Army, Allo Allo, Summer Wine, to name but a few.  The chemistry between the main players is just fabulous and, of course, Douglas Henshall, although unlike Anne Cleeves original character, who was of Spanish descent, was absolutely wonderful in the role.  I was so upset when watching the last episode of series 7.  The tears flowed uncontrollably and I felt as if something very special had gone from my life.

i haven't dared watch the new series.  It would spoil all those lovely memories.

I'm not sure how Shetland can be anything other than a letdown without Jimmy.  It would probably have been better to end the series all together on a high but I'm hoping I'm wrong.


It's the BBC. 1.Take something very popular, milk it ad nauseum, and shoehorn in 'out-of-place characters' to show diversity. 2. Wait for popularity to wane, finish story. Save money!  

Totally agree, Ray! The new series is pretty dismal. Ticking all.the wrong boxes 

I agree the original characters and the stories were so well acted out it was my favourite programme.

Unfortunately the new series seems just a re hash of city stories and bad acting. The stories of the characters seems unbelievable ,lack originality and the Tosh character seems to be fading into the background.

I have tried to watch two of the new series so perhaps it will get better but I'm not sure I'll watch anymore as not enjoyable.

Lacks the quality of the old series sadly.

Scenery looks amazing still I guess that's one thing you can't get wrong.

Never really liked Henshaw as an actor, although Shetland is probably the best thing I've seen him in, Two episodes into the new series setting up the new lead detective and I quite like it! Obviously starting with a bang I'm sure it will slide into a more relaxed series like when Henshaw was in it, we'll see.

I just started to watch episode 1 of series 8. I turned it off half way through. I can't see any reason for throwing the fword all through. It doesn't fit into my life and disgusts me. I won't bother with the rest of this episode and certainly won't be watching any further. 

Gee, rampant sexism, anyone? Tosh is 'insubstantial' as a character? By what/whose measure? I've always seen her as a complex young woman, particularly after parenthood presents her with the difficulties and inequities that come almost inevitably with the territory. The show may not be as it was, but to hang critique almost solely on the absence of two men (yes, fine actors), and then to rant about the perceived shortcomings of the women now dominant in the narrative (also played by fine actors) is lazy, simplistic, knee-jerk sexism. 

Seriously poor script and storyline. Nothing to do with Jimmy Perez not returning for Series 8 as the actors are doing their best to inject some life into dreary lines. Had to turn off ep. 3 tonight as it was slow and tedious. It like watching paint dry. The Haribo advert with the two police officers in the car has more about it than this dull offering. After enjoying 7 Series,  I'm done. 

For me, the show started to go downhill when the storyline was stretched over six episodes. This, however, has to be the worst: the police interview someone and you're waiting for them to ask the key question - and they don't bother; it jumps fro one red herring to another; the tired old big city gangsters plotline. Blah...

I really enjoyed the first episode of Shetland series 8. Acting by original cast and new actors high quality as was the story. Complex plot kept me thinking and guessing and this first episode seemed to setup the plot and mystery for the remainder of this series. Scenery as stunningly beautiful as always. Can't wait for second episode.

I loved Shetland but this new series 8 is terrible.  It's nothing to do with sexism as one person said it is about quality.  The new character played by Ashley Jenner is just continuing her role fom Agatha Raisen and is very supurfelous to the show.    It has lost its grit and direction and seems very lost. There was no need to introduce the F word as good programmes do not need to resort to that.  I can't remember it being used in great poular crime dramas like Morse,Lewis, Touch of Frost, Midsomer Murders etc.  BBC save the money and ditch this car crash.

I loved Shetland with Jimmy Perez and I love the new series just as much! 
The new opening sequence and music are lovely - a refreshing update on the old.
It's great to see Tosh's character developing and Ruth Calder promises to be equally as interesting a character as Jimmy Perez was.
I'm enjoying the storyline too and look forward each week to the next episode.
Sometimes a change like this is hard. I watched and loved watching Jimmy through seven series and was sad when it all ended. People move on. Jimmy is no doubt happy in his retirement and I couldn't be happier with the new series.
Thank you BBC and all involved, for not letting viewers down and for making the transition a positive one.

Pleased at Shetland returning to our screens I have waited three episodes before comment. As others have said the Perez disappearance was always going to be difficult to replace. 
A new team has understood the islands visual impact on this unique series but not the challenge of replacing the main character. Is budget the problem? Watching the juxtaposition of the two principal characters, too frequently shown side by side Tosh wins hands down, not only by familiarity but because the income is played as dour, almost surley with her Shetland roots stretching credulaty as a plot. If the producers cannot afford a suitable replacement then not trying seems a preferred step with the familiar faces carrying the show together with the star, Shetland. I must admit I am now hoping that with a proliferation of gunfire that one bullet is saved for the Calder character. What a relief and then Series 9 can proceed with a more comforting and familiar format.

it wasn't broke so stop trying to fix it!


British programming is all I watch on my television, Acorn, BritBox and some PBS, by and large I enjoy every minute of a great variety of the shows.  American TV series have become too violent, boring car chases through city streets and unecessary use of curse words is past being called acceptable. SO, here comes the "but" I do have a bit of a problem understanding the various differences of the languages spoken in these series, i.e. Irish, Scottish, Welsh and even English. SO, where is the closed caption in series #8, episode #1 of Shetland? I'm hoping it will show up in the next episode otherwise, sometimes, I'm lost as to what the characters are saying. I respeck the languages and the actors, this is not meant as unkind criticism...

it's just that not only am I an American but a Texan so I do understand "differences in pronunciation". Any help with this missing item will be appreciated.


I too am an american who watches tv shows from other countries. i loved shetland and most of the other crime dramas. I just watched the first episode of season 8 on britbox and i was appalled at the use of profanity coming from phyllis logan. she is a wonderful actress and does not need to use the f bomb to deliver a scene. as usual, when replacing a male actor for some reason they always replace him with a female. did they pick ashley jensen because she has a scottish accent or because of her role as agatha raison. she is a good actress but not for this roll. and would someone please explain to me why they would create a character that hates shetland. that is the last thing i want to see in this show.  if you writers are thinking that this is as interesting as the original shetland they are sadly mistaken. the original show was less violent and more like comfort food  and that is why it was a success. 

I think we all knew it would be very different without Jimmy, but I never expected the new series to lack the warmth and depth that the new series clearly lacks. I cannot warm to Ashley Jensen in the role she plays, her character is unpleasant and in no way likeable, whlie poor is Sandy pushed to the side. thank goodness the original series is still available to watch on catchup

I loved Shetland for 7 seasons. Not any more. This was awful. So many ridiculous plot devices. The hit men happen to find Ellen at a store in all of Shetland? A richoteing bullet? Ellen escapes Tosh and Calder from a house with nothing but wide open spaces around and they can't find her? And on and on. About 7 or eight really outrageous events that make no sense. What an insult to the great show that was once Shetland. One and done for me.


Add comment


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