Edge of Darkness – Troy Kennedy Martin’s masterpiece

Although he never managed to make the Twitter Trending Topic of Doom, it appears that British scriptwriter Troy Kennedy Martin has merged with the infinite.

It seems possible that Kennedy Martin’s death may go rather unnoticed given the recent deaths of Patrick Swayze and Keith Floyd, so I wanted to commemorate his passing. To throw a few titles at those of you not familiar with the name: Kelly’s Heroes, The Italian Job and Edge of Darkness.

The latter is unquestionably one of my favourite TV serials of all time, and I urge any readers (there are readers, right?) who are interested in such things to check it out.

The late-80s serial mixes nuclear paranoia, militant environmentalism, cold war politics, coal, Irish provos, James Lovelock, grief, loss, Willie Nelson, an iconic theme and score from Eric Clapton and Michael Kamen and age-old feudal battle. In the original draft the script’s protagonist, Craven, turns into a tree at the climax.

Out of all of that Martin, along with director Martin Campbell and producer Michael Wearing, fashioned a cohesive, intelligent and hard-edged thriller, with the mystical and ethereal overtones still integral but muted.

A spectacular cast also helps, with the sadly-departed Bob Peck perfect as lonely, unglamourous and rather dour Yorkshire detective Ronnie Craven.

Ian McNiece and Charles Kay are also particularly good as mysterious government suits Harcourt and Pendleton, while there’s solid back-up from John Woodvine, Jack Watson, Joanne Whalley, Zoe Wanamaker, Tim McInnery and, pleasingly, Blake’s 7 stalwarts David Jackson and Brian Croucher.

Stealing the show, though, is Joe Don Baker as Darius Jedburgh, a fun-loving, vaguely unhinged CIA agent gone rogue – a great, if slightly hyper-real creation, made believable by Baker.

Pretty much everyone involved went on to bigger things, including Kennedy Martin, who spent time on various underwhelming action scripts for Hollywood.

Speaking of, a Hollywood movie of Edge is planned which, although directed by Campbell, threatens to be awful.

The touches that made Edge of Darkness so superb in the first place – Jedburgh’s love of Come Dancing, the grimy London settings, the coal board corruption, the black flowers and the duality between the real world and the mystical – are likely to be missing. Small but important details whose significance is likely to be lost on US producers.

Edge of Darkness was a product of its time, a rare example of every element combining to make something even greater than the sum of its parts. Troy Kennedy Martin’s masterpiece.

• In the clip below, Craven discovers his murdered daughter’s double life as an environmental activist.

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