Ruth Bowen -
Jodie Whittaker

Paul Bowen -
Jamie Thomas King

Robert Bowen -
Dennis Lawson

Evelyn Bowen -
Tessa Peake-Jones

Eddie Maynard -
Dean Andrews

Helen Maynard -
Alex Kingston

Nisha Parekh -
Shelley Conn

Mark Ashburn -
Elliott Cowan

Written by -
Stephen Greenhorn

Directed by -
James Kent

Crooked House
Ghost Whisperer
Whistle And I'll Come To You

Episode 1 - First transmitted 3rd February 2011

In 1968, Marchlands was home to Ruth and Paul Bowen, a couple living with Paul's parents and trying to come to terms with the loss of their daughter, Alice, who drowned in an accident nearby. In 1987, Marchlands was rented out to the Maynard family whose daughter Amy had an imaginary friend called Amy who liked to play with water. In 2010 one time village resident Mark Ashburn is setting up home in Marchlands with his pregnant partner Nisha Parekh, who has just discovered a painting left on the wall of the house concerning Alice.

The now traditional process of American television buying a British show to make into their own home grown version is reversed here as US production THE OAKS, which never got past the pilot stage, is reworked into this five part drama for ITV.

The opening episode sets up the characters from the three time periods that the show features and their situations whilst throwing in some darker moments as warnings of what is to come. The depiction of the three families could not be more different. The grief of the Bowen's is marked in the muted colours of the time, whilst the bright and lively Maynards are all colour and little substance. Mark and Nisha are modern, flash and minimalist, not to mention multicultural. The period setting is a bit overdone in the early stages with completely unnecessary shots of TV shows of the day and the like just to hammer home the point that this is a period drama even if the periods are fairly recent.

Because of the ensemble, the characters struggle to establish themselves with the Bowens coming off best by having the strongest of the dramas to work with. How can you compare the loss of a child with an imaginary friend and a painting on the wall. And yet it is the later periods that provide the harbingers of darker times ahead. The incidents with water of the Maynards indicate that there is more to Alice's death than an accidental drowning whilst the modern day section hints at secrets untold of dark times suffered.

It's intriguing without being compelling, but this is the first episode and has a lot of backstory to get through. There are enough hints to bring us back to see where it goes.


Episode 2 - First transmitted 10th February 2011

A crucifix necklace is left on Alice's headstone, making Ruth believe even more that her death was not the accident everyone else thinks that it is. Amy's behaviour has led to tests that lead everyone to believe that she has a psychiatric problem and Nisha gets herself a new housekeeper, a house keeper called Ruth Bowen.

The different strands of the storyline are slowly coming together across the years. It's a slow burn that is much more about the families and their personal dramas than the supernatural trappings, though the hints of those continue.

Unfortunately, the family dramas are not as deeply examined as they might be and the constant crossing between the timelines seems to have been constructed far more carefully than the stories themselves.

The period trappings remain impeccable and are far less rammed down the audience's throat than in the first episode. A trip to the local priest reveals views that are shockingly insensitive and the behaviour of a police sergeant would be unconscionable in this day and age.

MARCHLANDS still doesn't intrigue and compel the way that it would like to, but there are signs that it is heading in that direction.


Episode 3 - First transmitted 17th February 2011

Nisha's baby is born and she decides to call it Alice, much to Ruth's consternation. In 1968 it is Ruth causing the consternation as she reacts to her husband's accusational outburst by running away with students to sample some life beyond the suffocating confines of the family. In 1987 Eddie learns that his daughter is actually being haunted by Alice's ghost.

It is the 80s story that provides the impetus for this episode. Nisha having her baby is the significant moment, perhaps, but it is Eddie's uncovering of the truth behind his daughter's imaginary friend that provides the interest. Ruth's marital problems in the 60s start off well enough, but descend into ever increasing unlikelihood as she meets and takes up with a couple of students.

Even so, there is a sense that the show is marking time, filling out the running time with unimportant side issues that could have been dispensed with and would have given the trio of stories more focus and a sense of convergence.


Episode 4 - First transmitted 24th February 2011

Eddie and Helen are arguing over the right way to treat Amy to the point that she runs away, following Alice towards the lake where she drowned. Ruth, back from running away, struggles to reconnect with her husband and Mark is presented with a ghost of his own past by Nisha.

The modern and middle section get all the good moments this time around as Mark's relationships past and present throw up surprises and tragedy. This is all very well played and is terrifically moving. It doesn't move the main plot forward any, but the background is being coloured in at a great rate of knots now.

Amy heading off for the water suggests where the main storyline might be going and since this is the penultimate episode it's nice that the stories are all converging towards what we now hope will be a great finale.


Episode 5 - First transmitted 3rd March 2011

Three families are unravelling in Marchlands. Matters are coming to a head after Ruth finds out about her husband's fight. Eddie and Helen are constantly fighting over the truth about Amy's imaginary friend and fail to notice what's going on with Scott. Nisha and Mark are trying to work through the revelations about the child that he never knew he had and lost. It's time that the truth about what happened to Alice came out.

MARCHLANDS finally comes to its climax as secrets fall out into the open and the truth is learned. Unfortunately, whilst this does bring closure and wraps up the story quite nicely it's a bit of a low-key ending, much as the rest of the show has been. The main success is Ruth Bowen's finally coming to know the truth about how her daughter died and her reaction to that. The tense moment as Nisha and Mark find her with the new baby Alice at the water's edge where her Alice died should have been chilling, but fluffs it after a nice build up.

The main disappointment is the Maynards' story, even though it does contain the main creepy moments as Alice appears via a washing machine. The explanation as to why Alice haunted this family is a good one, but again lacks the oomph that the show really needed.

The truth behind Alice Bowen's death turns out to be rather mundane and rather sad instead of something that ought to have driven her to remain after her death.







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