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TV review: The Serpent is charming, but Charles is lower than a snake

© BBC/ Mammoth ScreenTahar Rahim  stars as Charles Sobhraj in The Serpent
Tahar Rahim stars as Charles Sobhraj in The Serpent

We’ve been a bit starved of classy dramas of late.

Aside from a smattering of Black Narcissuses and Doctor Whos, the Christmas schedules were lacking in small-screen blockbusters because it’s too difficult to film them while adhering to social distancing.

Thankfully the Serpent slithered on to our screens on New Year’s Day and it packed enough bite to make up for the drama famine.

Don’t believe the pleasing, glossy ’70s veneer which makes it look like a continuation of the sadly now ended Mad Men.

This is a real-life story of Charles Sobhraj. The playboy Frenchman – complete with wide-collared shirts, tight, flared trousers and huge aviator sunglasses is seemingly the epitome of charming.

He presents as a gem dealer but, like a cobra, he hypnotises the unwary tourists of Thailand before unleashing a deadly venom.

Jenna Coleman as his accomplice is more than a million miles away from her recent role as Queen Victoria but spends most of the running time of the first episode tangling with her accent. Is it French? German? Manx? Who knows.

The Serpent follows Charles and the attempts to bring him to justice; an especially chilling scene which opens the drama suggests that won’t be the case.

Someone block Wikipedia on my phone, I’m desperate to check.

The Serpent, BBC1


The Mandalorian, Disney+

Last I checked, Disney+ costs £6.99 a month or £69 for the year. I might well write a cheque to whatever PO Box services Walt Disney’s frozen head right now.

That should hopefully do my bit to cover the next year, and the next series of The Mandalorian, which has now finished its second series.

Silly family sci-fi action western it may be, but it also might be the best Star Wars since 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back. That was the year I was born, for heaven’s sake.

Nothing nails the feeling of lighthearted, lived-in space nonsense quite like the adventures of one man and his Baby Yoda.

Come back, Mandalorian, you’re our only hope.