Review: There's nothing sub standard about Suranne Jones and co in new BBC drama Vigil

According to Sebastian the crab in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, “the human world it’s a mess, life under the sea is better than anything they got up there”.

Friday, 3rd September 2021, 6:00 pm

Well, new drama Vigil (BBC1, Sun/Mon, 9pm) might have tested the cheery crustacean’s maritime theory to the limit.

Confined to a Royal Navy submarine, DCI Amy Silva (Suranne Jones) tried to solve the suspicious death of chippy bearded seaman Craig Burke (Martin Compston), while red herrings flop about all over the place, just waiting for Silva to slip up.

Meanwhile, back ashore, DC Kirsten Longacre (Game of Thrones' Rose Leslie) investigates Burke’s past and his links to a peace camp at the gates to the nuclear submarine fleet’s base.

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Rose Leslie and Suranne Jones star in the new BBC thriller series Vigil

All the while, pompous Navy types try to block our intrepid duo with red tape and operating procedures, and when that doesn’t work, mysterious men in balaclavas are on hand with the rough stuff.

It’s basically a locked room mystery – how do you kill someone on board a sub and get away with it, when there’s almost literally nowhere to hide?

Silva is tough, good at her job, but not rude or unpleasant. Longacre’s tenacious and has a way with a headbutt, while the sub’s captain Neil Newsome (Paterson Joseph) has a troubled calm.

Some of it is a bit hokey, especially the special effects when we go outside the sub, while mysterious meetings on deserted country lanes go about as well as you’d expect.

DCI Amy Silva (Suranne Jones) confronts Vigil's captain, Commander Neil Newsome (Paterson Joseph) in the new thriller from the BBC, Vigil

However, it’s tightly-plotted and motives and suspects abound, while the claustrophobic setting keeps the tension high.

Like Sebastian says, “darling it’s better, down where it’s wetter”, and by the end of episode two, you’ll be fully on board.

This month sees the 20th anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers in New York, and the BBC marked the occasion with two astonishing documentaries.

Surviving 9/11 (BBC2, Mon, 9pm) was, at times, distressing, but with a minimum of fuss and tricks, it allowed the survivors to tell their tale and in doing so it carried a quiet emotion and power. 9/11: Inside the President’s War Room (BBC1, Tues, 8.30pm), meanwhile, was a troubling insight into how the first steps to war were taken in the heat of anger and fear.