Troy Kennedy Martin is dead

by Chris Bertram on September 17, 2009

I see (via Tim Dunlop) that Troy Kennedy Martin is dead. There’s a lot to remember him for, but, like Tim, the work that will always stay with me is Edge of Darkness, one of the top six drama serials ever on TV. [fn1] Tim has a good clip and a link to a few more. The mid-1980s in Britain were a scary time, with Thatcher and the Tory party utterly and arrogantly dominant, the miners facing a brutally determined state, mass unemployment, nuclear standoff, vicious cuts in public spending, hmm, a bit like what we’re all in for soon. Bob Peck was terrific, but the real iconic figure was Joe Don Baker as Darius Jedburgh. Superb.

[1] The others being Heimat, Heimat 2, The Singing Detective, The Wire, and Our Friends in the North



belle le triste 09.17.09 at 3:41 pm




Phil Wilson 09.17.09 at 4:53 pm

Don’t forget his Italian ‘blow the bloodly doors off!’ Job. I agree with your list of top six drama serials ever on TV (suggesting ‘Band of Brothers’ as number 7 and, if you’ll forgive me, Heroes season 1 up until the last episode at least somewhere in my top 20). I loved EOD – everything about it was pitch perfect for the time and it is still with me as a cultural reference point. I wonder what we’ll get out of the current mix of terror threat/ spending cuts/ new labour getting old.


nick s 09.17.09 at 5:06 pm

As you may know, Mel Gibson is taking the lead in the film adaptation of Edge of Darkness due out in January. This follows the Hollywood remake of The Italian Job, also scripted by Troy Kennedy Martin.


ejh 09.17.09 at 6:47 pm

The doors line, although much-cited, isn’t actually the best in The Italian Job:, that being “yes, I used a machine gun”.

Edge of Darkness was an absolute sensation at the time – I can still remember it being reshown on BBC1 within days of its BBC2 run because everybody was talking about it.

(I think The Sopranos might make that all-time list.)


mollymooly 09.17.09 at 6:57 pm

Zweite Heimat? Yuck. All that crappy music. Angst, schmangst. Get a job, hippie!


jdkbrown 09.17.09 at 7:43 pm

I’ll second Band of Brothers for the top ten and suggest House of Cards as well.


The Witch From Next Door 09.17.09 at 9:09 pm

“John Doe Baker” – is that a felicitous typo or a gag? Am I being stupid?

EOD is one of those shows that makes life worth living. (The Wire and The Singing Detective being two others.) Although when I showed it to some friends recently, they were inordinately distracted by the stuff early on about Craven’s relationship with his daughter, especially the dildo scene. They made me feel a bit weird for not having been bothered by it previously.


Chris Bertram 09.17.09 at 10:31 pm

Yes Joe Don Baker! (corrected.) Not sure how I managed that.


Barry 09.18.09 at 1:37 am

That scene where he’s going through his daughter’s dresser drawer is an incredibly well acted scene.


annie 09.18.09 at 5:36 am

i was living in london one summer and friends with troy’s brother ian. troy brought over tape from EOD before the series ever went on. i thought, wow, how come they can’t make tv like this in the u.s. now see that they don’t make stuff like that often anywhere.


John Quiggin 09.18.09 at 6:48 am

I watched House of Cards again recently and agree with jdkbrown


jay bee 09.18.09 at 7:58 am

If you’re allowing The Wire surely Heimat/Heimat 2 count as one series? So you’re allowed pick another one Chris


frances 09.18.09 at 8:07 am

I loved EOD – favourite line Joe Don Baker of eighties London ‘hey this is the third world’ – a comment that I use to this day as a commentory on my inner mood/state of being which must bemuse auditors but at least my husband knows what I mean.

I am a geordie living in Newcastle (and met T Dan Smith a few times when he got out of prison during period he made a living being a charismatic worker for ex offender charities for a while). When Our Freinds in the North came out I couldn’t stand it as my instant reaction was ‘oh dear more warm hearted Geordie maundering’. But I saw the whole thing on DVD when I had flu a few years back and realised how wrong I was. Not only is it a really sophisticated take of political/ social Britain that got the low down on New Labour before it actually happened but it also starred Doctor Who and James Bond (although we didn’t know that at the time) – how likely was that?.


Chris Bertram 09.18.09 at 8:45 am

#12 No, I think Heimats (!) 1 and 2 are separate in a way that Wire seasons are not. 2 came out after a hiatus of several years, and, though there’s an adult Hermann at the end of 1, Hermann (played by a completely different actor) is the central figure in 2 (and 3).


John Kozak 09.18.09 at 10:06 am

I’d have “A Very Peculiar Practice” in the top five.


bert 09.18.09 at 12:02 pm

Band of Brothers is brilliant in parts, which only makes it more disappointing overall.
It’s part of the Greatest Generation industry, which enjoyed a mini-boom a few years ago. The ending, with the German officer allowed a sympathetic speech to his troops (and with his line about Kampf for the Vaterland translated as “you fought proudly for your country”) is a saccharine American version of standard imperial platitudes about the Noble Adversary. I remember as an impressionable kiddie being fed similar nonsense about the Crusades, and the mutual respect between Richard I and Saladin.
Weirdly, the only non-American Allied troops are a couple of idiot Brits who appear early on, dressed for their own amusement in stolen Nazi uniforms.
It reminds me in a way of Charlie Wilson’s War. Brilliantly successful as drama. But vapid, pandering, and a sour-tasting missed opportunity when judged on anything other than its own terms.


bert 09.18.09 at 12:10 pm

I’d not heard about the Mel Gibson remake, by the way.
As Jedburgh, Ray Winstone.


dave heasman 09.18.09 at 12:50 pm

When I was 18 I was very impreassed, to the point of remembering it pretty well for 45 years, by this


Chris Williams 09.18.09 at 1:06 pm

re 16 – much of the time, it’s easier to tell stories about you enemies than about your allies, after the show ends. Either they did more work than you (in which case, they are blowhards who lack a picture of the overall situation) or you did more work than them (in which case, they are ungrateful hangers-on and cowards). Brits, coming in 3rd in the ‘we beat the Nazis’ stakes, thus have it slightly easier than the 2nd-placed Yanks, since it’s blatantly obvious from 3rd place that allies were necessary. The 4th-placed French probably also have a lot to complain about, having been pretty much written out entirely.


Harry 09.18.09 at 1:25 pm

Nobody has mentioned Z Cars? Probably no-one remembers.


jdkbrown 09.18.09 at 2:58 pm

I’m happy to concede bert’s point about Band of Brothers, though the noble adversary claptrap is largely confined to the last few installments. (I think the series starts to go downhill after Market Garden.) Still, the high points are so high that BOB deserves a mention.

And so my contributions to this thread aren’t *entirely* off-topic: I haven’t seen any of Troy Kennedy Martin’s work before, and this post sent me scurrying off to add it–along with the rest of Chris’s top 5–to my Netflix queue. Thanks, Chris.


Chris Bertram 09.18.09 at 3:30 pm

#21 – well make sure you get the original Singing Detective with Michael Gambon and Joanne Whalley rather than the crappy remake.


jdkbrown 09.18.09 at 5:12 pm

I take it that the advice “avoid the crappy remake” also applies to The Italian Job?


vivian 09.19.09 at 1:11 am

Actually, the Italian Job remake was not too bad. The story/acting wasn’t wonderful, but the giant chase was re-imagined and done really well. It’s worth sitting through the first part of the film.


Barry Freed 09.19.09 at 5:46 pm

It’s a shame that “Da Vinci’s Inquest” gets no love.


dsquared 09.19.09 at 11:58 pm

Chris, you’re not often wrong, but in implicitly putting OFITN above either “Boys from the Blackstuff” or “Cracker”, you’re wrong. (the episode of Cracker which launched Robert Carlyle’s career was more or less the best thing I’ve ever seen on TV, including Edge of Darkness).


deliasmith 09.22.09 at 12:27 pm

This was brilliant:

But it was elevated to a class on its own by the theme song:

Which is all that survives.


Phil 09.22.09 at 12:57 pm

in implicitly putting OFITN above either “Boys from the Blackstuff” or “Cracker”, you’re wrong

I’ll give you BftB, but Cracker doesn’t begin to compare with OFITN. (My uncle worked with T. Dan Smith. The original of Robert Carlyle’s serial killer driven crazy by the aftermath of Hillsborough was… er, there wasn’t one.)


Phil 09.22.09 at 1:01 pm

Delia – it was on too late for me, alas. Thanks for the Youtube link – that must have been one of the first things I learned to sing in a foreign language (if you don’t count Welsh).


belle le triste 09.22.09 at 1:15 pm

Time for a very topical remake: a gritty drama about the daily problems of being parachuted into a high-profile quasi-govt tabloid-bait role to address some single-issue folk panic like drugs or crime or binge-broken Britain. To be called Z Czars.


Gary 09.24.09 at 6:59 am

The Clapton soundtrack to EOD has haunted me for the 22 or so years since I first heard it.

Comments on this entry are closed.