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18 June 2014
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Maelstrom: Click for more imagesJames:

Why do I remember Maelstrom as being so great? It's plainly not, and yet my childhood memories are of something better than Bergerac. It was mystic, it was spooky, it was shot in a really beautiful country, and there's the really creepy, sad ending.

Watching it now, it belongs to an old era of slow, gentle pacing, and gradually unwinding mysteries. Even for its time, this is often turgid stuff. There are long, lingering shots of formica tables and pine wall-panelling, there are endless stilted drinks and luncheons, and the shots of the scenery are almost soporific.

Somewhere in the middle of all this is a cracking, intriguing concept - the woman who wakes up and finds herself an heiress. But the telling of it is sooo boggy, it's really disappointing. The ending is still cracking, though.


Now, as I remember it, it was terribly good. Maybe it was because my mum kept trying to send me to bed because she thought it was a bit too adult for me. She loved it.

On the other hand, my mum isn't necessarily a reliable guide to quality programming. As a person with a passion for all things scandiwegian, she loved the stylish nordic furniture, and all of that terribly healthy scenery.

The Cult team are never, ever going to forgive me for choosing Maelstrom. They laugh at any of my suggestions for top programmes to dig out of the archives, now. Which is sad, because I wanted to make them watch Rockliffe's Babies next...


Even before dipping into Maelstrom I had been warned to expect a slow pace and less than stellar production values, so my expectations were low. Unfortunately, I was still disappointed. What I hadn't expected were the huge, indigestible chunks of exposition, generally delivered in a deadpan style reminiscient of a bored call centre operative at 8.30 on a Wednesday evening.

These massive lumps of plot summary then give way to more snail's pace melodrama, managing to be vaguely ominous in a soul suckingly dreary way. Empathising with the main characters is impossible, due to the strange, stagey way they declare rather than say their lines, so it's down to the admittedly lovely scenery to save the day. Sadly, while it manages this ably during outdoor scenes, all of the interiors seem to have been filmed in fantastic wobble-o-scope, destroying any iota of belief the viewer might have built up.

A bonus for me were some good shots of rather nice cabin cruisers, but this isn't going to, ahem, float everyone's boat. If I want to watch something that slow, I've got plenty of walls which need painting. Best left forgotten.


Not since Monty Python's mock documentary on Finland have I (unintentionally) laughed so much at a Scandanavian production.

It's fun spotting the Doctor Who and Blake's 7 stalwarts filling out the cast and generally admiring the scenery, though. At least the fjords don't wobble as much as the sets they're used to working with.

The slowness of the whole enterprise is breathtaking, but whilst this could create atmostphere, Maelstrom's creakiness outweighs its creepiness. Perhaps with some ruthless editing the show could be watchable for modern audiences, but as a slow-burning spooky drama, it's no Twin Peaks.


VIDEO CLIP:Titles - the dolls make their entry.

VIDEO CLIP:Disembarkation - everyone off at Norway.

VIDEO CLIP:The dolls - fire is the ultimate end.

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