We’re fresh from an excellent holiday week, which is always a good excuse to catch up on various shows on the old DVR. The Doctor Who 50th anniversary viewed multiple times and truth be told not bad. A quibble here and there, but still fairly epic although it reinforced to me that I still prefer David Tennant to Matt Smith.

I followed that with catching up with the first couple of hours of Almost Human, the Fox futuristic cop show developed by J.J. Abram and starring Karl Urban for which I will say just two words. Watch it. And then onto the new BBC America drama Atlantis, a series that just might break Poulter’s 17th law of Television; that anything with Juliet Stephenson is great.

One of those quibbles I had with the Doctor Who special was the lack of the Master. Now I’m old school when it comes to Doctor Who and still remember Roger Delgado fondly for his, no pun intended, masterful performance. Delgado’s untimely death in 1973 in a car crash while on location for a film in Turkey abruptly ended what had been a fascinating story arc between John Pertwee’s third doctor and the Master. Eight years after Delgado’s passing Anthony Ainley reprised the role and since then Eric Roberts, Derek Jacobi and John Simm have taken on the character with varying degrees of success.

Simm, best known for a star making turn as Sam Tyler in Life on Mars, is an actor whose work I have enjoyed in the past, particularly in State of Play the six-part BBC political drama that was subsequently turned into the film starring Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck. So when the old Netflix algorithm suggested Exile, a 2011 three-part BBC drama, I was intrigued and ready to see more of his work.

Now this is quality television. Also staring Olivia Colman, who recently was seen as DS Ellie Miller in Broadchurch, and the Academy Award winning Jim Broadbent, Exile is the sort of drama that is so rare to find.

Fired from his writing job in London Tom Ronstadt (Simm) returns home to the northwest of England where his sister (Colman) cares for their father (Broadbent) who is suffering from Alzheimer’s.  Don’t be put off by that description; it may on the surface sound rather dry, but nothing could be further from the case as Broadbent gives something of a tour de force in the role of the former local journalist with a secret to hide. There’s also a welcome appearance from Claire Goose who remains one of my favorites from her time as DS Mel Silver in Waking the Dead.

It is revealed early that the younger Ronstadt left home, 18 years previously, following a severe beating after Tom had gone through his father’s private papers. The question of why his father had acted so violently and out of character has haunted his son ever since and ultimately he looks to revisit the issue.

And you’ll get no spoilers from me on this other than to say it is dark, very dark and gritty, but well worth the time invested. Brilliant character studies by all three primary actors with a mystery wrapped in to boot makes for incredibly compelling television over each 60-minute episode.

 — Wallace Poulter