By Louise Bolotin
Quick – reverse the polarity! Peter Capaldi (left) returns as the 12th doctor in Doctor Who (Sat, BBC1, 7.40pm). Michelle Gomez is set to feature heavily in this series as Missy, back from the dead – that was a stroke of genius previously to switch the Master’s gender – and Jenna Coleman as Clara is on board for most of it too. So, what’s in store? Some very creative and different styles of storytelling, including one episode shot Blair Witch style with “found footage” and a single-hander with just the Doctor – intriguing! Of the 12 episodes, most will be two-parters, suggesting lots of major cliff-hangers. Plus lots of Daleks, the Zygons are being revived and we’ll get some Vikings too. The opener sees the Doctor in hiding with only one day left to live, while the cosmos is about to crack wide open... Period dramas go head to head on Sunday. The fabulously soapy (and hideously addictive) Downton Abbey (Sun, ITV, 9pm) returns for the last ever series. The action has moved forward to 1925, on the eve of the General Strike and big upheavals in society. In the opener, Lady Mary’s past is about to catch up with her – is her illicit virginity-losing tryst with the deceased Turkish diplomatic about to hit the gossip columns? (Or am I throwing in red herrings?). Meanwhile Lady Edith has life-changing decisions to make now she’s inherited her lover’s media empire. Then there’s also the loose ends to be tied up over the next eight weeks – will Bates and Anna get their happily ever after, will Carson and Mrs Hughes marry and who really killed the rapist valet?
Meanwhile, the BBC has adapted LP Hartley’s The Go-Between (Sun, BBC1, 9pm) into another feature-length drama (like An Inspector Calls and Lady Chatterley). Set in 1900, this coming of age tale of love, lust, deceit and betrayal is seen through the eyes of a 12-year-old boy, Leo. His crush on Marian, a friend’s older sister, is heightened as he discovers her secret affair with a local farmer in a classic upstairs-downstairs liaison and agrees to be the courier for their messages. But disaster lies ahead as secrets are exposed, an engagement is nearly called off and there is a shocking death. It looks lush – all ethereal frocks, sunshine bathing everything and gorgeous stately homes. I’d pick this and watch on Downton on catchup. Anna Maxwell Martin stars as a vicar in Midwinter of the Spirit (Wed, ITV, 9pm). Police struggling to solve a gruesome murder – a crucifixion – turn to Merrily Watkins for help, for she is also learning to be an exorcist, guided by mentor Huw (an increasingly dishevelled-looking David Threlfall) and used to being around evil. But guess what, it’s not long before she realises her life is under threat – she’s caught a really nasty infection after visiting a man in hospital, a dying man the nurses claim is, guess what, evil... This three-parter delivers heaps of shocking plot twists – no coasting here, it’s an edge-of-the sofa gripper and Maxwell Martin shines as the gracious and very human vicar.
We’ve had broadcast news for 60 years and And Here is The News (Tues, ITV, 10.40pm) is a delightful hour’s worth of unashamed nostalgia, unearthing the newsreaders who’ve made their mark bringing us the daily digest of what’s happening in the world. There’s some marvellous archive clips of Kenneth Kendall and Richard Baker pioneering the anchorage in 1955, while a huge array of more recent newsreaders discuss their experiences in front of the camera and behind the scenes – Jons Snow and Suchet, Angela Rippon, Julie Etchingham, Sandy Gall et al. The UN is currently investigating Britain for the growing inequality over the last five years, because one of their goals is eliminating poverty. Don’t Panic: How to End Poverty in 15 Years (Wed, BBC2, 8pm) looks at the issue globally, because a shocking billion people survive on less than $1.25 a day. Professor Hans Rosling, a master of data analysis, unravels the stats and presents some personal tales from people in developing countries to illustrate how poverty stunts opportunity. He also uses the data to present possible solutions to ending such hardship. The Secret Rules of Modern Living (Thurs, BBC4, 9pm) investigates how algorithms affect every aspect our lives, not just helping search engines filter results – from decorating your home via online dating to organ transplants. Mathematician Marcus du Sautoy presents this highly entertaining look at how algorithms – tiny chunks of maths – make light of complexity. Just about enough time has passed for an overview of a massacre in January that shocked the world. Charlie Hebdo: 3 Days That Shook Paris (Thurs, More4, 10pm) is a sobering account of those events and contains heartbreaking testimony from those caught up – witnesses, widows and passers-by.
Tuesday’s double bill kicks off with The Naked Choir with Gareth Malone (Tues, BBC2, 9pm), who challenges half a dozen choirs from around the UK to get to grips with a song of his choice. Each choir has just three weeks to arrange it and learn it before they convene for a gala concert in which a winner will be picked. Malone’s previous outings have unearthed some fantastic talent while illustrating why singing is a powerful liberation for the soul. Later Live...with Jools Holland (Tues, 10pm) features Welsh rockers the Stereophonics showcasing tracks from their new album. Roisin Murphy, who fronted Moloko many moons ago, is also airing new songs, her first in seven years. Folkie Richard Thompson, indie group the Maccabees and Jamie Woon complete the lineup.
Escher’s marvellously complex paintings and drawings of seemingly impossible architecture are explored in The Art of the Impossible: MC Escher and Me (Sun, BBC4, 8.30pm) by renowned cosmologist Professor Sir Roger Penrose. A long-time fan of the Dutch Escher’s mathematically inspired graphics, they actually shared a lengthy creative collaboration in which the artist himself took inspiration from Penrose’s own scientific work and then the professor used the art to explore new ideas and theories. It’s a bit meta as a result, but on the eve of a major Escher retrospective, Penrose’s personal explication sheds fascinating light on those masterpieces.
Actor Jane Asher is better known for her cakes, so she’s a good choice for presenter of Best Bakes Ever (Mon-Fri, BBC2, 3pm). Clearly, the weekly slice of Bake Off every Wednesday isn’t enough. Asher’s role is to curate a daily selection of classic cakes and bakes by some of TV’s top cooks – think Nigella, Hairy Bakers and, yes, Mary Berry. The 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards (Mon, Sky Living, 8am live and 9pm for highlights) celebrate the best of TV. Unsurprising Breaking Bad is nominated for a slew of gongs but the BBC’s Wolf Hall may well walk away with a trophy or too as well. Top British stars Emma Thompson, David Oyelowo and Ricky Gervais are among the best actor nominees. Andy Samburg is your host in LA. Piers Morgan’s Life Stories ((Fri, ITV, 9pm) often veers towards sycophancy but the veteran journalist does occasionally coax interesting revelations from his celebrity guests. So this week’s quarry, John Lydon – best known as ex Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten – is likely to be an interesting fount of disclosures. About to turn 60, he’ll be discussing the childhood meningitis that shaped his adult life and how Sid Vicious’ death affected him. But Lydon is a wily, intelligent fox and may outwit Morgan – miss at your peril.