Stiff upper crust

Regular email correspondent and fellow Charles Darwin groupie, the normally perceptive Peter McGrath, couldn't be more wrong:

The best thing she did was die, and as she expired wetly (literally and dramatically) I found myself cheering and shouting at the screen for someone to bury her fast and cheap… [S]he was the only fly in an otherwise wonderful ointment. Her work permit should be revoked immediately and she sent back to make more trash TV for gullible American youth to quote in their essays.

The she in question is none other than Agent Dana Scully from out of the BBC's magnificent new adaptation of Bleak House, which finished last week.

Peter and I are otherwise in total agreement as to the general wonderfulness of the series, and, in particular, the acting ability of Agent Scully's bastard daughter (born out of Dedlock), the alliteratively named Anna Maxwell Martin. But in describing Agent Scully's acting technique as running the whole range of emotions from A to… well… A minus, Peter misses the point: Agent Scully's character is supposed to be a stiff-upper-lip, not-in-front-of-the-middle-classes, show-no-emotion, poker-up-her-backside (oo-er, missus!), Victorian aristo. She has no friends, nobody to confide in, and knows that she will be ruined when—as surely it must be—her dark secret is revealed. In an attempt to avoid scandal, she becomes detatched, and bottles up her emotions until A and A minus are all that are left for her to work with. A uniquely British solution, if I might say so, and one not entirely dissimilar to the scandal-avoiding tactics successfully employed for over 20 years by a certain Charles Robert Darwin, who was, quite frankly, terrified of the public reaction, were he ever to publish his (r)evolutionary theory on the secret of life.

But, when Agent Scully's secret was eventually revealed in a slightly-too-pacey climax, her aloof, detatched persona immediately crumbled, and she finally got the chance to act her socks off by going TOTALLY MENTAL. I'm not kidding, she looked for all the world like one of those demented, paranormal creatures we are so used to seeing her chasing late at night through atmospherically lit, North American pine forests.

"Look at her eyes, she's totally lost it now," I observed to an equally spellbound Jen, as the distraught Agent Scully looked about to bite the working-class girl who was trying to help her. And then, the next thing we knew, she was dead—killed by some unspecified, melodramatic, Dickensian ailment. I suspect she had simply lost the will to live (whatever the hell that means), the poor, tragic creature. And in the rain as well: the indignity of it all.

Agent Scully, if you're reading this, please ignore Peter so-called McGrath: you can do both totally repressed and TOTALLY MENTAL extremely well. In my book, that's a full A to Z of emotions. I confidently predict a BAFTA nomination for you—although I expect the award will go to your talented daughter.

Postscript: See also Vindicated!

Richard Carter

A fat, bearded chap with a Charles Darwin fixation.

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