ㅏ nuclear submarine. A dead body. A fishing trawler and her crew dragged beneath the waves by an unseen, unstoppable force. A reactor shutdown. Suranne Jones as a bereaved police detective battening down her grief to get on with the job. Martin Compston (DCI Arnott from Line of Duty) as – well, we’ll get to that. Paterson Joseph as a naval captain whose first duty is to his crew and his mission, not to a murder investigation. The BBC’s new six-part drama has all the ingredients to be an absolute humdinger of a series, and it is. Claustrophobics beware – the submarine scenes are very, very submarine-y, all tiny bunks, narrow corridors and building pressure in all senses of the word – but anyone who can bring themselves to watch will have hours of solid, old-fashioned entertainment delivered unto them.
We begin with the trawler crew, bantering away until something snags them and starts pulling them – not quickly, quite harrowingly – down into the vasty deep. A mile away and beneath, HMS Vigil hears their distress call. Petty Officer Burke (Compston) argues that they should go to the rescue. Captain Newsome (Joseph) insists they must not give away their position or place themselves at the mercy of whatever did for the boat, and Burke is sent to his bunk to calm down.
The next time we see him, he is the dead body – the victim of an apparent heroin overdose. Suranne Jones is Amy Silva, the DCI called in to investigate. She will be on the ship for three days. It is not an ideal environment for someone still struggling with PTSD flashbacks to the car accident that plunged her and her family into a reservoir and drowned an as-yet-unspecified number of them, but the job is the job. It’s a tribute to the quality and understated authenticity of everything else about the drama that this element doesn’t feel quite as contrived as it might.
From there it’s a deeply satisfying journey through a thickening plot, as Silva’s examination of the body reveals that the overdose was staged and she is actually dealing with a murder. Her investigation requires her to delve into the convoluted relationships, enmities and loyalties of the crew and negotiate the written and unwritten rules that govern a literally and metaphorically closed community. Behind the scenes, we see the antagonism between the captain and his arrogant lieutenant commander Mark Prentice (Adam James), who seem to be united only in the need to keep a lid on things to prevent a scandal – be it the drugs on board the ship or the fact that there is something out there large enough to bring down a trawler, but which they failed to spot.
Above the surface, Silva’s right-hand woman Kirsten Longacre (Game of Thrones’ Rose Leslie) is investigating a possible link between Burke and anti-nuclear activists. One, Jade (Lauren Lyle), is arrested using Burke’s security pass to get into his room at the military base and confesses they were in a relationship. There was no way, 그녀는 말한다, that he was a drug user. Longacre searches his room and finds a hidden flash drive but, as she tries to leave the base, is blocked by high naval heid yins and the police.
Vigil holds (and continues to hold, for I have eagerly looked ahead) the various plot strands in perfect balance, before weaving them together into a seamless organic whole. As you might expect, Compston’s role is far from over, and the whole thing evolves into a meaty conspiracy drama involving the navy and British security services, what it might take to preserve the efficacy of the “Continuous At Sea Deterrent” – better known as Trident – and Britain’s role in shaping the fragile world of geopolitics.
All this is done without losing sight of the story or the humans behind those bigger international affairs. It’s a dense, sharply written (by Tom Edge), absolute treat of a show about a murky, unseen world that doesn’t want to break the surface and show itself, and one that viewers will surely want to dive into.