Review: BBC thriller The Control Room was a thrill ride which kept you guessing right from the start

I didn’t really see where new BBC drama The Control Room (BBC1, Sun-Tues, 9pm) was going at the start.

By Philip Cunnington
Friday, 22nd July 2022, 5:00 pm

Paramedic call-handler Gabe (Iain de Caestecker) gets a panicked phone call from a distressed woman who seemingly confesses to killing her abusive partner. Gabe tries to calm her down when all of a sudden she stops, and says “Gabo?”

From there, poor Gabe – played with finger-tugging nervous intensity by de Caestecker, who is best known as a part of the MCU in Marvel’s Agents of Shield – is well and truly down the rabbit hole, with school sweethearts, villains with guns and dogged detectives all becoming intertwined in a knotty thriller.

The script, by Nick Leather, who wrote the terrific drama about the appalling killing of Sophie Lancaster in a Lancashire park, was taut and tense – who would ever have thought that waiting for an electric garage door to open could be quite so draining?

A nervy Iain de Caestecker in The Control Room

And all the way through, you could never quite be sure of the characters’ motives. Was Gabe really such an innocent abroad, given flashbacks indicated a pre-pubescent fascination with matches?

Was Samantha, Gabe’s lost childhood love, really an abused woman, desperate to escape a doomed relationship?

It had a sort of propulsive momentum, which meant it kept you on the edge of you seat. And it was possible to come up with a number of possible endings, but the climax didn’t feel forced or obvious.

Three hours flew by, and if you didn’t know where it was going at the start – I even toyed with time travel at one point – you could really enjoy the journey.

Iain de Caestecker and Joanna Vanderham starred in the new BBC thriller The Control Room

I did not have high hopes for Witness Number Three (Channel 5, Mon-Thurs, 9pm). Five has form for these stripped dramas, which don’t fail to disappoint, but this drama proved a hugely different beast. Nina Toussaint White was terrific as Jodie, whose moment of good citizenship turns into a nightmare. Inventively shot, it’s terrific.

Most infuriating programme of the week was Unvaccinated (BBC2, Weds, 9pm) in which mathematician Prof Hannah Fry took seven people who refused the Covid-19 vaccine, for various reasons, and attempted to change their minds through stats and maths. Banging heads and brick walls came to mind.