Monday 20 March 2017

So ... what did you think? SS-GB has ended

The gravelly voiced Douglas Archer
Well, blog readers: Whaddya think?

Yesterday's episode certainly introduced the action and tension which some viewers seem to have felt was missing earlier on.

After "mumble-gate" and a drop-off in viewing figures after episode one, the five-part adaption of Len Deighton's SS-GB finished with the final episode last night introducing some radical departures from the source novel ... opening up a second series, potentially.

[The Radio Times has a useful guide on the differences between the TV series and the book, here.]

I would give the series four out of five stars, mostly because I found pacing issues in the middle, perhaps as a result of it being stretched out over five weeks (it may not feel different, for example, if binge-watched on DVD).

Critical response has been mixed. Seems to have been a marmite series: Those who want to bash the BBC hate it; it also became a meme linked to Brexit, with some drawing parallels between the Nazis in the 'thirties and the modern EU (face-palm!). Other critics have lauded the quality of the acting, the quality of the direction and the 'noir' element.

The world of Twitter has been its usual, crazy, bubble, with little or anything approaching effective commentary being possible!

What did Deighton Dossier readers think of the series - do share your thoughts.


  1. I liked the casting, but I was a little unsure about the changes the screenwriters made to Deighton's plot, plus a couple of well-remembered scenes from the book had been altered, perhaps for cost reasons: when Archer meets Huth & Springer aboard Himmler's special train, then immediately afterwards when Huth takes Archer to his old house by motorcycle.

    Otherwise a very nice production!

  2. I'd have to say I'm a little disappointed. The TV version seems to loose one of the key strengths of the novel - namely that we the readers know how significant an atomic bomb and what it could mean if the Nazis got their hands on it, while the protagonists just see it as a 'McGuffin'.

    The TV version also looses much of the tension. In particular the journey in the troublesome ambulance is a nail biter in the book and that's lost in the TV show.

    There also seems a frequent recourse to 'telling not showing' of various plot points. With 5 episodes one might have expected less of this particular 'shortcut' device. And then we get, for no particular reason several minutes of Huth polishing his boots!

    Regarding the casting, we all have pictures in our heads when we read books and Sam Riley, with his long boyish haircut just didn't sit right for me. Kate Bosworth is suitably beautiful but rather too skinny for a 1940s female lead. Although much of the interior design is beautiful and not anachronistic the two leads don't look like right to me they seem too 21st century. Sylvia, however, works pretty well.

    The Germans look better. Kellerman and Huth work pretty well although at times Huth goes over the top.

    Interestingly the TV series gets into the topic of Entartete Kunst (abstract art and jazz) which the novel doesn't touch on. This post, from my blog, is regularly my most popular section.

    I'd love it if they'd gone for full-on film noir and shot the entire thing in black and white with maybe just that splendid opening animation in colour!

    And please, can you ask Len how he thinks, in SS-GB, we might have lost the BoB?

    1. Agree with Jim re casting of Sam Riley as Douglas Archer. He just didn't cut it for me, the voice was aggravating and oh the Dick Tracy hat :-(. I have no doubt in other scenarios Riley would be a very good actor, not this one for me. German players were excellent and was pleasant to find real accents.
      Overall nothing else to quibble about

  3. When I viewed first episode I too thought Sam Riley was too young and not dressed right with his 'Dick Tracy' hat.

    But turning to the book, Deighton describs him as 30 years old (Sam Riley would have been 36 when series was filmed) "tall and thin" and a new generation of detectives who rejected the traditional costume. "Douglas favoured dark shirts and the sort of broad-brimmed hats he'd seen on George Raft in a Hollywood gangster-film."
    -So, spot on in looks and age.

    In the book and film I never really 'got' that the German Army would conspire with the British Resistance while their soldiers were being murdered; yes they'd embarrass the SS - but how exactly, when it was the Army that got the SS guard confined to barracks when the Kind was freed?

    The constant chain-smoking of Riley irritated me. (and in he book Archer smoked "as often as his tobacco ration allowed"; no sign of rationing here.)

    The one scene that changed things out of kilter with the book was the one invented for he film in the last episode in a farm house when it appears the tenants are going to betray Archer and the King.

    Archer cold bloodedly shoots in the back a man running away. No cry of 'stop, armed police' here. In the book, Archer kills no one. Also, it was a shot with a heavy army bolt-action rifle over a very long distance to hit a man running up a hill. An incredible feat of marksmanship. How did Archer do it, how did he know how to work the rifle? He was too young to be in the army in WWI and had taken no part in the fighting in the invasion.

    I liked the reference to the Auxilary Units in the film; I think their existance wasn't revealed at the time Deighton wrote his book, and I see the film has left it open for a sequel, but I'm not holding my breath.

    Shame Huth got it, as he did in the book. But as Huth is a special representative of Himmler, Kellerman may be facing a sticky future himself since he is also SS

    1. I thought Huth's portrayal was the best thing in the series.