Saturday, November 04, 2023

Annika: The 1984 Episode

The very idea of re-writing Orwell’s 1984 is Orwellian, but that is the current woke state of publishing. The plan is to tell the story from Julia’s perspective, to reflect contemporary feminist theory. If they stay true to Orwell, it should be almost exactly like Winston Smith’s story, except Julia has the added irony of belonging to the Party’s “Junior Anti-Sex League,” which strived to make their dystopian society celibate and genderless (thereby rendering the new “angle” moot). Apparently, DI Annika Strandhed understands 1984 better than Orwell’s heirs, but she does not always emphasize the most important parts in the latest episode of Annika, premiering tomorrow night on PBS.

As a detective with the Scottish Marine Homicide Unit, Strandhed is summoned to remote Jura Island in the Hebrideans, where George Orwell wrote
1984. Unfortunately, she is not thrilled to be ferried in aboard a chopper. Her team says she is afraid of heights, but she really has a fear of falling from a great height, which is only rational. Regardless, an unknown male was found floating in the river encased in a solid block of ice, so he is either dead or the Thing from Another World.

Of course, he was murdered and the jokey tattoo on his butt will make the identification easier. If he was killed on tiny Jura it will greatly reduce the potential suspects. It is one of the least populated islands in the Hebrideans, especially if you factor out the shrinks attending a convention, awkwardly including Jake Strathern, Strandhed’s daughter’s former analyst, who is now using them as a case study.

Strandhed’s initial thoughts on
1984 focus on the ways the Ministry of Love forces dissident prisoners to face their greatest fears. For most readers, the corrupting power of propaganda and newspeak are more significant. However, her thoughts eventually shift to the omnipresent surveillance. Ironically, surveillance footage provides a big break in the case, so quiet little Jura has its share of Big Brother as well.

Frankly, this mystery is better written than that of the “Jekyll and Hyde” episode. Series star Nicola Walker also has some decent chemistry with Paul McGann (the one-and-done TV movie Doctor Who), playing Strathern. However, their budding relationship seems somewhat questionable from an ethical standpoint, but maybe they don’t worry about that kind of thing in Scotland. Among the “guest stars,” semi-recurring Varadu Sethu is by far the most memorable as DC Harper Weston, the closest local copper to Jura. The rest are functional but not very distinctive.

These are Orwellian times, which is terrifying, especially given the reported lack of support from the increasingly authoritarian Millennials and Gen Z’ers for free speech, so anything that encourages people read
1984 is a good thing. Don’t just buy it. Read it. This is also a solidly competent serving of British police procedurals and an improvement over the previous episode. Recommended for fans of Brit cops shows, the 1984 episode of Annika airs tomorrow night (11/5) on PBS.