Doctor Who's got nothing to fear from this naff American imposter: CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night's TV 

Timeless

Rating:

Six Wives With Lucy Worsley 

Rating:

Quick, follow that time machine!

Shovel some more cods-wallop on the bilge burners and turn the McGuffin-meter up to max — don't let them get away.

Timeless (E4) is what you'd get in a parallel universe where Americans invented Doctor Who. 

Instead of quirky idiosyncrasies, it delivers flat-footed characters hitting each other over the head with lumps of dialogue, and instead of papier mache monsters it has big-screen special effects that don't look a jot more realistic.

Christopher Stevens said Timeless (E4) has 'flat-footed characters' and 'big-screen special effects that don't look a jot more realistic'

The premise is that a bad guy has stolen a time machine, and if Lucy Preston and her young friends can't thwart his wicked scheme, it's the end of the American Way Of Life.

I'm betting that the bad guy isn't really evil. 

He'll turn out to be the father of the heroine, the dad she never knew because (prepare to shed a tear) he died when she was little.

Instead, the real villain will be the time machine's billionaire inventor, played by Paterson Joseph. 

We know he's a wrong 'un because he has an English accent — so English that he sounds like the Queen Mother doing a Noel Coward impression at a garden party.

Could the time machine's billionaire inventor, played by Paterson Joseph be the true villain?

For my money, the true culprits are the writers, who thought it was a clever idea to create a sci-fi serial with an educational theme. 

Intrepid time traveller Lucy (Abigail Spencer) is a history teacher: that's convenient, since it's her job to keep up a running commentary on dates and crucial facts.

EXPRESSION OF THE NIGHT 

'What's up wi' you? You've got a face on you like a crow,' growled killer Peter Manuel (Martin Compston) to a glum mate on In Plain Sight (ITV). That's so much more menacing than swear words. This show continues to impress with its finely observed detail.

Episode one was all about the Hindenburg disaster of 1937, and we learned why the airship exploded, how many were killed, and what simple safety measures could have averted the catastrophe. 

It wasn't so much a plot, more an O-level history essay.

Next week it's the assassination of Abe Lincoln in 1865. Then we're off to 1962 and the Cold War. 

This is sci-fi that dispenses with the need for imagination by opening The Boys And Girls' Big Book Of American History at random each week.

Lucy is strong-armed into joining the adventures because, as a government agent warns her, the past itself is in peril: 'I think someone who loves history would want to save it.' 

Whack! When dialogue as wooden as that hits you, it makes your ears ring.

Another bold, time-travelling Lucy is our guide to the menacing Tudor world in Six Wives With Lucy Worsley (BBC1). 

Christopher Stevens found the dramatic reconstructions 'jarring' in Six Wives with Lucy Worsley (BBC1)

Dr Lucy dons a cotton bonnet and tiptoes round royal palaces, pretending to be a maid but eavesdropping at keyholes.

She gets everywhere — serving Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn with figs from a pewter platter while they argue about whether he's allowed to have mistresses, helping Queen Catherine of Aragon to pack her suitcases, even rocking Princess Elizabeth's cradle.

She's living dangerously, and not just because spies were hanged, drawn and quartered in the 16th century. 

Henry wasn't above dallying with the servants: in fact, his third wife, Jane Seymour, had been a lady-in-waiting to his previous two.

Perhaps that's the twist in part three — Dr Lucy becomes the last wife of Good King Hal.

Her passion for dressing up will go into overdrive when she's the star of her own royal wedding. 

Don't tell me that, in her day job as chief curator of the Royal Palaces, she hasn't occasionally daydreamed about it.

Her moments in costume are the best bit about this series, which is weighed down by the sheer familiarity of its material. 

The dramatic reconstructions, based faithfully on contemporary reports, sometimes drag, and when they cut away to the modern day, the effect is jarring.

Christopher Stevens was also concerned that Dr Lucy seemed to not know how to use a seatbelt

One minute, we're listening to the verbatim conversation of Anne and Henry, the next we're watching a Thames ferry chug past the Tower of London.

Odder still are the scenes where Dr Lucy rides around the country in the back of a VW camper van. 

It's not that she has a portrait of Catherine of Aragon on the back seat: haven't we all done that?

The really weird thing is that Dr Lucy doesn't seem to know how to wear a seatbelt. 

She wraps it around her body like toilet tissue round the Andrex puppy. 

That doesn't look safe.

 

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