tue 18/06/2024

Vigil, Series 2, BBC One review - DCI Silva swaps a submarine for deadly drones | reviews, news & interviews

Vigil, Series 2, BBC One review - DCI Silva swaps a submarine for deadly drones

Vigil, Series 2, BBC One review - DCI Silva swaps a submarine for deadly drones

It's borrowed from real life but doesn't feel lifelike

Welcome to Wudyan: DCI Amy Silva (Suranne Jones) flies in

In its first series in 2021, Vigil delivered a claustrophobic though frequently absurd tale of murder and Russian spies aboard a British nuclear submarine. This time around it’s the RAF under the spotlight, though its name has mysteriously been changed to the British Air Force.

Is this a sly attempt to erase the monarchy, or perhaps a legal tactic to avoid problems with depicting the real air force? Specifically, we’re dealing here with the drone operations of the BAF (as nobody refers to it), both in Scotland and at its Al Shawka base in the little-known Middle Eastern country of Wudyan. Wudyan? Looks like it was filmed in Morocco, anyway. The set-up is that the Brits are trying to sell the Wudyanis a highly capable new drone system, but a shadowy resistance group is trying to throw a spanner in the works.

Vigil, Series 2, BBC OneIn charge of the sales drive is Air Vice Marshal Marcus Grainger, played by Dougray Scott (pictured left) with a lordly air of sneery superiority. He’s like Dick Dastardly in uniform. An opening sequence depicting the demonstration of the drone system to the military bigwigs of Wunday – have I got that right? – is easily the best bit of the three episodes so far available on BBC iPlayer.

At the Dundair Weapons Range in Scotland, we see synchronised drones clobbering a variety of targets with guns, bombs and rockets. Everyone is delighted and a multi-billion pound deal is seemingly all sewn up, when suddenly one drone goes rogue and starts shooting up the military personnel supervising the proceedings. Only a speedy intervention by Grainger prevents his prestigious guests from being massacred too.

How could this outrage have happened, and who perpetrated it? Immediately on the case is DCI Amy Silva (Suranne Jones), having recovered from being stuck in a torpedo tube rapidly filling with water in the previous series. She doesn’t know anything about drone warfare but soon finds herself embroiled in the complexities of “latency”, spoofing GPS locations and more. Curiously, no military police are anywhere to be seen, while DCI Silva seems able to stroll into all sorts of top-secret situations unimpeded by issues of identity or security.

At one point, after she’s flown out to Dynawu or whatever they call it, she even pops in to watch an ongoing drone mission which is about to blow up a terrorist suspect, with a likely overspill of collateral damage. They probably wouldn’t even let the Prime Minister see stuff like this.“This is how warfare works,” growls Grainger importantly. “This is how we keep people safe.”

Vigil, Series 2, BBC OneThe story delivers its fair share of false trails, violent encounters and cliffhanger moments, but never feels plausible enough to be really gripping. Its impact is dissipated somewhat by its determination to shoehorn in a fairly predictable checklist of issues. LGBT+ concerns are prominent, for instance, not least (but not only) in Silva’s ongoing relationship with her police buddy Kirsten Longacre (Rose Leslie, whose skills are scarcely tested here). The hypocrisy of Western nations doing lucrative deals with despotic but oil-rich Middle Eastern states is also flagged conspicuously. As Grainger says, “one misstep and you’ll find you can’t fill your car with petrol.”

For their part, the Wudyanis protest that the arrogant Brits treat them with contempt even while they want their money. The fate of Army veteran Ross Sutherland (David Elliott, pictured above), suffering from PTSD after serving in Afghanistan and cynically manipulated by shadowy forces, throws another kind of light on the political-military complex.

It’s all material taken from real life, but it doesn’t feel lifelike. The fact that Vigil can’t decide if it’s a cop-buddy show or a spy drama doesn’t help either. Frustrating.


Poor, and implausible. They escape their captors, get to a phone, and ring the girlfriend in Scotland ?? Squadron leader at the side of her could have called down god knows what on the hostage takers, but no, rings girlfriend in Glasgow. Finished it there, for me.


You're right, it's utterly ludicrous.

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 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a 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?


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