Picture courtesy of the B.B.C.

Cast: Martin Shaw, Lee Ingleby, Helen Baxendale, Alison Steadman, Mark Gatiss, Simon Hubbard, Andrew Frame, Faye Castelow, Katie Anderson, Tony Haygarth.It is every parent’s worst nightmare, the sudden disappearance of their child and the awful truth that can be associated with it. For Bacchus and Inspector George Gently is perhaps was one of their most harrowing cases.

The Inspector George Gently series has never been shy in looking at some of the more destructive and heart-breaking sides of 1960’s northern life and this episode The Lost Child was absolutely no exception.

Acting on the raised emergency call of a missing child, Bacchus and Gently, perhaps mindful of the real events in Greater Manchester at the time, wasted no time in starting the search for the missing baby. Where the programme took a neat turn was to have the baby having been adopted and from the clutches of the so called mother and baby unit ran by the indomitable Alison Steadman. This gave the programme the Sunday evening feel of not being the sensationalist set up of child murder but instead the nagging and doubting thought of what happens to the children we give up rather than are taken from us against their will.

What it also gave the viewer the chance to see was another side to Lee Ingleby’s character of Detective Sargent Bacchus. Normally the so called hard, sarcastic and young know it all, the episode allowed the man to be seen for what he is, someone with his own issues with his father, his worries about his daughter and ultimately the life that he has taken was one that is rarely seen in period detective story’s. The title of the story may as well apply to Bacchus as the kidnapped baby, for Bacchus is still growing up himself and is totally lost at times himself.

With the added A-list of acting stars in the episode, the story-line could also have been overshadowed by the demands on the viewer, to liken it to I.T.V.’s Poirot or Miss Marple. The fact that these programmes sometimes read as who’s who of crime television with the sole intention of running up ratings and giving the audience the excuse to believe they can solve the crime faster than the erstwhile detective or eaves-dropping lady. In Inspector George Gently, it really is more along the B.B.C. ethos of story first, the acting fraternity adding colour and gravitas.

In others hands; in a series of less quality or with less commanding actors, it could have been a mess, an episode that languished and found itself sensationalising itself and worse taking the conclusion to far. The last shot of Helen Baxendale and Mark Gatiss kneeling at the flower bed with trowel in hand looking at the place where the police had dug up in a vain attempt to find the missing child was both poignant and chilling, it didn’t need anything more than that.

Ian D. Hall