The one hundred and fifty-fourth TV show: #903 Marchlands

Thanks to some last minute changes in Christmas plans, we ended up watching a modern ghost story for Christmas. Marchlands in the story of three families living in a house called Marchlands, each twenty years apart, and the story of a ghost that connects them. The story slowly builds as we find out what happens and more characters gain prominence,

Setting the story in the same location helps a lot with that, as you keep going back to the same places, but always looking different - from a dark 60s house to the pastels from 1987 and the brighter, cleaner 2010 version. It adds to the continuity of events that draws the three families together even as the parallels between them shrink. One of the three eras doesn't even get too involved in the resolution of the story, instead providing the context for its hauntings and scares. It's more about how the death of a girl can linger on a house while giving it a more supernatural view of it.

It almost doesn't need to be said, but the performances are the best, as you can expect from British prestige drama. Jodie Whitaker as the bereft mother puts in a wonderfully layered performance in both her initial sadness and coping with it afterwards, and Anne Reid's follow up performance manages to carry that through perfectly. The other parents that are most involved - Dean Andrews in the 1980s and Shelley Conn as the new mother in the 2010s do a lot of this as well, trying to understand and be in tune with what is going on around them. A lot of them never interact, but here it means they get to shine on their own.

In the end, there are no big mysteries or conspiracies here and the story stays a lot more personal, just with a supernatural element that pushes things forward. It makes for a better show, in tune with one where the spirit is trying to help and warn rather than to scare, and all in all it's about that sadness, rather than any sort of horror angle.