In the Flesh ep 1

A few years ago, hundreds of thousands of the dead rose from the grave and began to attack the living. Overwhelmed with the hordes in the cities, the government largely left the more rural communities to fend for themselves, prompting villages like Roarton to form their own local militia, the Human Volunteer Force, to fight the “Rotter” menace.

Now, “partially deceased syndrome” is treated with powerful medication, and teenager Kieren is just one of the sufferers being re-introduced into the communities they originally lived in. Communities like Roarton which can’t yet let go of the pain, violence and fear of the past; communities still holding on to the fight against the “Rotter” menace, treated or otherwise….

That’s the premise of BBC3’s new drama In the Flesh but that synopsis only skims the surface of the intricate world-building underlying the story. From the meticulously regimented routine of the treatment centres (white walls, group therapy and endless lines of controlled, walking dead queuing for their injections) to the all-powerful anti-PDS Roarton Council and its simmering, sinister, organised hatred, this is fiercely intelligent, serious stuff, which, like the best fantasy dramas, is much more about human frailty than it is about zombies.

It’s also unflinchingly and uncompromisingly dark. The deeply disturbing murder at the end of this episode is only one example of that and it’s a brave, if horrifying, statement of intent: this show isn’t pulling its punches, and writer Dominic Mitchell and the programme-makers deserve plenty of credit for that.

But – and there is a but – my problem with In the Flesh is, rather like certain literary classics, I admired it more than I enjoyed it. It didn’t have the charm, humour or the characters of The Fades or the original incarnation of Being Human and, without those things, I was conscious watching it that it was tv of merit but not tv I was looking forward to watching again. Much like fellow zombie show The Walking Dead, I know it’s brilliant, but I don’t think it’s for me. I wish In the Flesh all the luck and awards in the world but I think this is where we part company. Comments are, as usual, welcome on this thread though, so if you stick with the show, let us know how you get on.

Public Service Announcement 13 of 2013: Longmire, In the Flesh

Two very different new shows coming to UK screens this Sunday (17th).

First up, modern western drama Longmire debuts on TCM at 9pm. It stars Robert Taylor as a Wyoming Sheriff, back at work after the loss of his wife, and juggling the actual business of crime investigation with trying to secure re-election in the face of a challenge by an ambitious young colleague. Based on a series of novels (which I haven’t read), it has been moderately well-received and has been renewed for a second season. The real selling-point for me though is the presence of Katee “Starbuck” Sackhoff as one of the sheriff’s deputies. That alone is enough for me to give it a shot. BSG forever!

At the other end of the spectrum, meanwhile, three-part drama In the Flesh at 10pm on BBC3 is another addition to of the Zombie Rehabilitation sub-genre that seems to be all the rage just now. Recent movie “Warm Bodies” may be the cuddliest example: it’s sweet, funny and thoroughly charming. In The Flesh, however, looks anything but sweet, funny or charming. It too deals with the aftermath of a zombie epidemic but the comparisons would appear to end there. A cure has been found, the zombies have been “treated” and the plan is to re-integrate them into society although, after the atrocities it’s seen and suffered at the hands of the undead, society really isn’t keen on the idea. Guilt, pain, grief, hatred: the trailers suggest it’s dark, fearless and hard-hitting, but it also looks intelligent and thoughtful, and, if we’re very, very lucky, it might – MIGHT – be a worthy successor to the much-missed The Fades. Review here as soon as I can manage.