Seance Time is the final episode of series 2 of Inside No.9, began with a suitably spooky opening as the mysterious Hives (Reece Shearsmith) escorted young lady Tina (Sophie McShera) into a darkened room where Madam Talbot (Alison Steadman, dressed up to look like a mad old woman who’d gone blind) would attempt to contact her deceased relatives, only for the situation to go a little ka-ka. A tambourine flew off the table, smoke emitted from Madam Talbot’s mouth and a whole load of weird stuff happened including a scary monster scaring Tina, and drawers flying out of the dresser…
But… it turned out to be a hidden camera show, as opposed to a real seance, all orchestrated by failed TV host, Hives. He was bringing back the “Scaredy Cam” show, previously airing on ITV prior to cancellation, and I now got the impression it would end up on a digital-only channel instead, as has been the direction for some TV shows since the recession, and as viewers’ tastes change.
With Reece playing Hives as a demanding and impetuous lead, the show’s future starts going down the pan as next participant, the gruff Pete (Steve Pemberton), is left alone in the room for a moment and, being the inquisitive sort, starts starts ruining the set, tripping over things and pulling others apart, coming across very much a doubting Thomas. As the ‘seance’ goes on, he ends up accidentally punching the scary Blue Demon Dwarf (Doctor Who‘s Dan Starkey – aka Strax, knocking the actor dead to the floor, causing panic all round.
Then things started going overly spooky to the point which events were out of the control of the crew – something I figured early on was going to happen at some point. Here, we first saw some water on the floor – the effect of the little boy who wet himself from an episode years ago, which led to the original show’s cancellation.. then the water disappeared… then the Blue Demon Dwarf was back up and about, leading Hives to go and check on him, but he had actually channelled the spirit of the little boy, and it all led to an ending which felt rather rushed due to the short period of time that was left and didn’t quite work as ‘scary’ but was definitely intriguing.
Mixing in general chit-chat between the actors about their other bit parts outside of this show, such as Anne (aka Madam Talbot) doing Hedda Gabler on stage, with Steadman also excelling in her role, wailing away like she really was contacting the dead.
I agreed with a friend that the episode could really have done with another 15 minutes to develop things some more. In fact, seeing this, and also the masterfulness of The 12 Days of Christine and Series 1’s A Quiet Night In, 45 minutes is about the same length as an episode of Doctor Who. So, BBC, how about letting Messrs Shearsmith and Pemberton write an episode of that?
And, finally, a note about continuity announcers Red Bee Media and programmes like Inside No.9:
I really hate it as they talk over the ending, when it’s a unique piece of end credit music. Every episode of most soaps end the same, for example, yet shows like Inside No.9 are different every time. Why doesn’t someone at the BBC grow a brain and realise that they’re killing the atmosphere of what you’re trying to watch? They were probably promoting the DVD of the series, but as I once saw described elsewhere about this sort of thing – when you’re still eating your main course, you don’t want someone shouting in your face about what their is on the desserts menu!!!
Seance Time is available on the BBC iPlayer until May 30th.
Overall Score: 6/10
Director: Dan Zeff
Producer: Adam Tandy
Writers: Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton
Sound: Matthew Brace
Hives: Reece Shearsmith
Tina: Sophie McShera
Madam Talbot: Alison Steadman
Blue Demon Dwarf: Dan Starkey
Gemma: Cariad Lloyd
Amanda: Alice Lowe
Pete: Steve Pemberton
William: Caden-Ellis Wall
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.