When Whitechapel first came out it was described as, ‘Like Life on Mars, but without the time-travel.’ That line enough sells it to me. Unfortunately, when Whitechapel first aired, I was 15 and probably still watched Hollyoaks. Fortunately a lot has since changed and, when looking for a new series to watch this summer having accidentally paid for not one but two months of Netflix (it happens!), Whitechapel stood out.
In all honesty I was mainly drawn to it by lead actor, Rupert Penry-Jones, whose character, it turns out, is the polar opposite of BBC Silk’s Clive Reader, his most recent role. Whitechapel follows DI Joseph Chandler (Penry-Jones), fast-tracked into a team unenthused by his concern for discipline and entirely unready for the crimes they’re about to investigate. The first two series, in particular, focus on a number of murders which replicate historical crimes, most notably those of Jack the Ripper and the Kray Twins. This historical perspective is what makes Whitechapel so interesting, and also different to other cop-dramas. What’s more, my venture into the third series (recently on Netflix) has already shown great attention to detail in the characterisation of Chandler, in particular his OCD, as well as his partner in crime (detecting it, that is), DS Ray Miles.
Like BBC’s Sherlock, it takes something which should be set hundreds of years earlier and gives it a twist. Like Sherlock, it works.