The BBC and the rooftop fascination- Guest post by KatharineD

Perry’s still away on holidays, so I’m going to crave your indulgence with a random post that’s a tad left-field- I figure everyone’s got The Hobbit covered for the moment, so it’s time for a different topic of conversation.

In honour of Sherlock finally coming back to TV screens after a two year hiatus (you can partly blame the inordinate wait on The Hobbit and Doctor Who for having overlapping actors and show runners), I started thinking about the BBC, and its weird fascination with placing main characters on rooftops at pivotal moments.
Of course Sherlock Holmes, wearing his signature Belstaff coat, made a very dramatic leap off the roof of St Bartholemew’s Hospital in the last episode The Reichenbach Fall, prompting endless speculation amongst fans and the media as to how the stunt was pulled off. The Empty Hearse has become one of the most keenly anticipated 90 minutes of television in recent memory- writer and Sherlock actor Mark Gatiss was tasked with writing the all-important episode.
Back in 2006 and 2007, one of my favourite TV shows was Life On Mars, the retro crime procedural set in the 1970’s, which intertwined elements of science fiction. It was, in turns, dramatic, sad, funny and perplexing, and exhibited a wonderful dynamic between it’s two lead actors, John Simm and Philip Glenister. In the final episode, our hero Sam Tyler found himself unexpectedly back in the present day, and in order to return to the 1970’s world he had come to love, he jumped off the roof of the police station. His successful return to the past brought a very satisfying conclusion to a much-loved series.
Captain Jack Harkness, played with great verve and charisma by John Barrowman, was a character that began life in Doctor Who, and became the central figure in the spin off Torchwood. Jack, a time traveller, had a penchant for surveying Cardiff from the top of tall city buildings, kitted out in his trademark World War II greatcoat. In the episode Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Jack, a man who can’t die, is thrown off a roof by his former lover Captain John Hart, memorably played by James Marsters. Captain Jack had melodramatic revivals throughout the series, and this was just one more instance.
So far we have three miraculous survivals from three plunges- Sherlock Holmes  (I’m sure there’s no spoiler there!), Sam Tyler and Captain Jack Harkness.
The fifth episode of the seventh series of Doctor Who in 2012, saw the final appearance of the Doctor’s two highly-popular companions Amy Pond and Rory Williams. The plot of The Angels Take Manhattan saw the return of the monstrous weeping angels, and in a complex series of events, Rory and Amy jump off the roof of an apartment building in New York City to create a paradox which allows them to defeat the evil angels and eventually live out their lives back in time rather than die- this is Doctor Who, so the normal rules of space and time don’t apply!  It was an emotional ending that fans could live with.
There is, of course, a fifth instance of roof jumping. Spooks spy Lucas North/John Bateman, portrayed by Richard Armitage, took what seemed to be the less culpable way out by throwing himself off a tower roof instead of killing his boss Harry Pearce, after being revealed as a traitor. According to co-star Peter Firth, the Lucas character was always slated to die, and at one point in the script development Harry was to have shot Lucas, so all things considered, I prefer the outcome we were presented with in the end. I appreciate that we didn’t see concrete evidence of Lucas’ demise.
In the end, science fiction plays by it’s own logic, so characters from that genre can survive if the script writer comes up with a reasonably plausible explanation, but poor old Lucas didn’t have that benefit.

13 thoughts on “The BBC and the rooftop fascination- Guest post by KatharineD

  1. Oh I love it. Great job! All shows and characters that I like to watch – especially the last one, of course. 😉

    I was/am a HUGE fan of Life on Mars. John Simm and Philip Glenister – both are brilliant, and I follow their careers a bit closely. (And Glenister’s brother, Robert, was Blake on Spooks)

    I just saw Simm in Exile on Netflix and I can’t recommend it enough!

    But Katherine, I have our mutual friend to thank so that I could actually look at your post. (She knew I was jonesing and she got me the hook-up.) Otherwise, I would have had to wait until the 19th to actually read her Blog. 😉


  2. I loved John Simm in State Of Play years ago, but I haven’t seen him in anything for some time now. I just checked, the series you mentioned, Exile, isn’t on the BBC iPlayer unfortunately.

    I made the mistake of watching the US version of Life On Mars- what a cop out of an ending! I felt really cheated- should’ve just stuck to the Kudos production.
    Loved Robert Glenister in Hustle, until the show started falling a bit flat.
    I don’t understand- don’t you subscribe to Perry’s blog?


    • I do subscribe to Perry’s blog, yes. State of Play is a favorite and has a great cast overall!

      Life on Mars used to be available on Netflix. At least I think I saw it on there, or I saw it on BBC America years ago. But I guess it is not there anymore. It was only one season – like the U.S. version – but still worth it. (The spin-off was Ashes to Ashes with Keeley Hawes and the return of Glenister as Gene Hunt)

      Life on Mars, just to tease you: 😉

      Hope you find it someday.


  3. Pingback: Season 3 is on and I’ve been Sherlocked! | I Want to be a Pin Up

  4. When the BBC get’s it right, I mean they GET IT RIGHT! I was actually just drafting my own Sherlock post and I’m happy I’m not the only one excited about the return of the Belstaff wonder (no, not RA, the other one…).


  5. Pingback: Armitage Weekly Round-Up Week 1 | I Want to be a Pin Up

  6. Great round up of shows – that I haven’t seen LOL

    Other than Sherlock, of course. And since I didn’t watch S9 of Spooks, I can’t count that either. I’ve always wanted to watch Torchwood and Life on Mars, so now those are on my list as well.


    • About Life on Mars – warning: there’s only one season. But still worth the watch. Glenister’s DCI Gene Hunt is a wonderfully of-the-period homophobic sexist who doesn’t even try to hide it. It is hysterical, especially when DCI Tanner (Simm) either calls him on it, or makes fun of him – which is usually over his head. The best.


      • About Life On Mars- I don’t know how it was shown in the US, but there’s actually two series- 16 episodes all up. I loved the fashion, the music, and the politically incorrect style of it all- reminded me of old British police series like The Sweeney.

        Definitely give it a go MM- just give yourself a chance to get right into the feel of it- it will probably seem a bit odd at first, but stick with it and you won’t be disappointed.


        • I could have sworn there was only one series – good that there was actually two, which I must have seen it because there was closure. (Hense, the “rooftop”)
          Maybe I binge watched and it all ran together in my head? Dunno. I’ve been a bit fuzzy lately, anyway.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s