TV review: The Interrogation of Tony Martin, Channel 4 (3 stars)

TV review: The Interrogation of Tony Martin, Channel 4

One-off 'verbatim drama' that might have had more to say about a fatal gun crime

There's none of this wishy-washy 'based on a true story' or 'inspired by real events' stuff for the people behind The Interrogation of Tony Martin. This hour-long docu-drama about the 1999 shootings at the appropriately-named Bleak House in Norfolk is pitched simply as 'a true story'. In the dead of night that August, lone farmer Tony Martin opened fire on two young burglars, killing one and seriously wounding the other. His eventual conviction of life for murder was reduced to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and he was released after serving just three years in prison.

This idea that The Interrogation of Tony Martin is nothing but 'the truth' is bolstered by the fact that what we are seeing is a 'verbatim drama' with transcripts and police notes used as the basis for all the moments when Martin (played with a slick-backed brashness by the League of Gentlemen's Steve Pemberton) is being interviewed (interrogation actually feels too brusque for what we are shown) by detectives played by Daniel Mays and Stuart Graham.

Though the drama's bulk takes place in the interrogation room, there are also moody exteriors of a farm at night, while the sounds of banging or shooting are forcibly inserted onto the soundtrack, usually whenever Pemberton has just said the words 'banging' or 'shooting'. More contentiously is the appearance of Martin himself at the finale, showing little remorse for his actions as he paws at the boarded-up windows of his old farmhouse. This also seems slightly unfair on Pemberton whose 'interpretation' of Martin is put up for extra appraisal when the man himself is on screen.

While many TV drama series can seem several hours and episodes too long, this one-off feels a little rushed and barely scratches at the surface. Rather than making the transcripts the entire rationale for this programme, they might have formed part of a longer, more contemplative work that explored Martin's psychology further. And the tragic events at Bleak House could have been given a broader context in a world where notions of self-defence and 'reasonable force' are still hotly debated.

The Interrogation of Tony Martin is on Channel 4, Sun 18 Nov, 9pm

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