In Review

The Control Room review: a ‘hooky’ BBC thriller set in Glasgow

Made by the team behind Sherlock, this is an ‘unexpected treat’ for high summer

This three-part BBC drama is “equal parts adrenaline shot and fever dream”, said Victoria Segal in The Sunday Times. Iain De Caestecker plays Gabriel, an ambulance dispatcher in Glasgow whose world is “blue-lighted into chaos” when he answers a 999 call from an old flame (Joanna Vanderham) who admits – before recognising his voice – that she has killed a man. With stylish direction and design, “elegantly handled” flashbacks and some nuanced performances, The Control Room keeps viewers’ “hearts pumping”.

This is the kind of “cheesy thriller” that will doubtless do “big numbers on iPlayer”, said Anita Singh in The Daily Telegraph. But to me, “the only mark in its favour” is De Caestecker, who plays “the bewildered everyman with real feeling”, and who makes you really root for Gabriel as he is sucked into the Glasgow underworld. Overall, though, the show has the slightly cheap feel of “something Channel 5 would knock out to fill a scheduling gap”. 

De Caestecker’s “terrific, tender performance” does anchor the show, agreed Lucy Mangan in The Guardian. But there’s plenty to enjoy besides. The drama doesn’t just coast on its hooky premise; there is a “meaty, succulent” plot. Made by the team behind Sherlock, The Control Room is an “unexpected treat” for high summer, a time when the schedulers usually try to fob us off with “second- or third-rate stuff”, on the basis that “we’re all too hot or on holiday to complain”.

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