SS-GB is set in an alternate past, beginning in November 1941, fourteen months after the Germans won the Battle of Britain… yes, you read that right.
Due to extreme austerity, it’s not only a time for sharing bathwater, but also sharing other things, since we first see Detective Douglas Archer (Sam Riley) sleeping with his secretary, Sylvia (Maeve Dermody), but there’s no time to a ditty about him phoning her mother because he’s gone to investigate the murder of a man called Peter Thomas, with Sgt Harry Woods (James Cosmo), where they also discover plenty of forged Luftwaffe petrol coupons. Thrown into mix is Kate Bosworth as Barbar Barga, a journalist from the New York Times, and Lars Eidinger as Dr Oskar Huth, a member of the SS and for whom Archer has to do some of his donkey work… you thought your supervisor was bad at work?!
Based on the Len Deighton novel, I came to this fresh, but this was a plus for me as an an alternate-history drama since it reminded me of the Homefront game series. While that one is set in the near future, the idea is similar, in that the world’s ne’er-do-wells are taking over your city and you’ve got to do what you can to stay alive and defy them.
Watching this as a preview with no subtitles, it’s difficult to make out all of the dialogue without them, and that also occasionally leaves some English dialogue spoken with a German accent sounding a bit like Michael Palin as Pontius Pilate in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, who couldn’t pronounce the letter “R”… or something verging on ‘Allo ‘Allo. But that’s a rare downside to this.
Riley has a brilliant presence in a well-acted drama where everyone has their secrets and there’s lots of things I can’t say about it (or the Nazis will come down from the moon and get me… Iron Sky was real, yeah?). Overall, it’s difficult to assess it on just one episode, but what I did see is entertaining and I am very much looking forward to more.
You can also watch the first episode on BBC iPlayer until March 21st.
Episode 1 Score: 8/10
Director: Philipp Kadelbach
Producer: Patrick Schweitzer
Writer: Neil McKay
Music: Dan Jones
Douglas Archer: Sam Riley
Barbara Barga: Kate Bosworth
Fritz Kellermann: Rainer Bock
PC Jimmy Dunn: Aneurin Barnard
Mrs Sheenan: Christina Cole
Sylvia Manning: Maeve Dermody
Dr Oskar Huth: Lars Eidinger
Harry Woods: James Cosmo
Luftwaffe Pilot: Max Befort
Soviet Lieutenant General: Daniel Donskoy
Assassin: Jonathan Harden
Prostitute: Susannah Wise
Journalist: David Reed
PC Miles: Frankie Fitzgerald
Doctor: Oliver Gomm
Propaganda Journalist: Arndt Schwering-Sohnrey
Glott: Michael Epp
Bob Sheenan: Kit Connor
Douggie Archer: Louis Ashbourne Serkis
Kellermann’s Driver: Alexander Devrient
Blockwarden: Jordan Long
Sir John Shields: Paul Bentall
Huth’s Office Sergeant: Jules Armana
Hausser: Lucas Gregorowicz
Two Brewers Unteroffizier: Maximilian Dirr
Headmaster: Geoff McGivern
Spode: James Northcote
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.