You may love it; you may loathe it; you may not even have seen it. But with series 4 in full swing, prime time TV police drama ‘Line of Duty’s ratings remain sky high. Its mix of jeopardy, nerve-shredding plot twists and beguiling characters keeps its devotees coming back for more (I should know – I’m one of them). No matter that new Met commissioner Cressida Dick doesn’t watch it – she has a beleaguered capital to protect. I’m sure she’ll catch up on the box set one day.
The drama focuses on the investigations of police anti-corruption unit ‘AC12’, which in this series revolve around the central ‘incident’ of DCI Roz Huntley killing a forensic officer (in self-defence apparently), then tampering with blood spatter evidence that links her to the crime.
Huntley is a slickly smart, reptilian character, played by black actress Thandie Newton. You can’t help but quietly applaud this masterstroke of diversity casting, especially as we watch her sparring with and skewering a host of hapless males. Our thrill at her performance is matched only by the ruthlessly sharp cut and thrust of the interrogation room scenes, where evidence, motive and circumstance are (quite literally) forensically scrutinised.
I’m reminded too of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock in his ‘mind palace’ moments, observing, marshalling and processing minute evidence in that other BBC detective hit. TV writers are plainly tapping into a vein of public interest, at least in the crime domain (let’s hope it now extends to political parties pontificating from the stump!).
What I personally find intriguing right now though, are parallels with the historical investigations and ruminations in a book I’m reading about the resurrection of Christ. Yes, a bit left field, I grant you.
There’s an irony in our fascination with ‘evidence’ in TV drama, when contrasted with fairly widespread credulity about assessing the truth claims of faith – commonly perceived as arbitrary and subjective, or just groundless fantasy. There actually exist out there some very inviting ‘lines of enquiry’. I’m not a natural ‘believe without question’ type. I revere the gift of child-like trust, and love the promise and path of faith – but also have a sceptical, investigative streak, even a dose of doubt of sorts – so I enjoy exploring scholarship that helps me see more clearly actual grounds for belief – and indeed where questions and uncertainties may still lie.
I’m currently reading NT Wright’s monumental tome ‘The Resurrection of the Son of God’. A comprehensive examination of how faith in the bodily resurrection of Jesus arose in the early church, through an exhaustive study of the New Testament documents, within the broader matrices of ancient pagan beliefs about the hereafter, and the contemporary Jewish context. For a reader curious to find out, it’s a compulsive page-turner. For an introduction to this author, see his page ntwrightpage.com
Unlike in Line of Duty, the evidence under Wright’s microscope is, from my reading so far, not primarily physical & forensic but historical & documentary. But no less powerful for that. It’s not a case of simple straightforward watertight controlled experiment type proof. Sorry peeps it’s not like that – but then few of life’s weightier matters are. Equally, it’s very hard to put down with any notion of ‘sky fairy fantasy’ intact. A quarter of the way in, it already looks like a compelling, detailed body of evidence. I think it’s possible for such evidence, fairly examined, to provide the springboard for a ‘step’ of faith; a glance toward God, simple, natural, you might even say logical. And, well who knows what world of spiritual life and colour that could lead to, or what fresh ‘evidences’ of grace might flourish and multiply daily there…
I grant you that takes us a long way from the dark machinations of ‘Line of Duty’. But in their openness to rigorous enquiry, the two may not be so far apart.