Line of Duty: Trail of Discovery?

A relentless pursuit of truth and justice, a rigorous assessment of evidence… in this month’s blog Bruce Gulland highlights aspects of a recent hit TV police drama which relate both to the resurrection and our work as Christians in the media. 

You may have loved it; you may have loathed it; you may not have seen it. But with the curtain having recently fallen on series 4, prime time TV police drama ‘Line of Duty’ remains hugely popular. Its mix of jeopardy, nerve-shredding plot twists and beguiling characters – despite lapses into melodrama – keeps its devotees coming back for more (I should know – I’m one of them!). The darker, slower paced Welsh crime offering ‘Hinterland’ – series 3 also recently ended – has proved no less gripping.

‘Line of Duty’ focuses on the investigations of police anti-corruption unit ‘AC12’, which in the latest series revolved around the central ‘incident’ of DCI Roz Huntley killing a forensic officer (in self-defence), then tampering with blood spatter evidence that linked her to the death.

Huntley was a slickly smart, reptilian character, played by black actress Thandie Newton. You couldn’t help but quietly applaud this masterstroke of casting, especially as we watched her sparring with and skewering a host of hapless individuals. And in the sharp cut ‘n’ thrust of the interrogation room scenes, evidence, motive and circumstances were (quite literally) forensically scrutinised.

BBC

I’m reminded too of Benedict Cumberbatch’s ‘Sherlock’ in his ‘mind palace’ moments, observing, marshalling and processing minute evidence in that other BBC detective blockbuster. TV writers are plainly tapping into a vein of public interest, at least in the crime domain (let’s hope we show similar interest in assessing our politicians’ claims!). For many of us working in media, especially but not solely journalism, concern with detailed evidence is of course critical.

What I personally find intriguing right now (post-Easter) are parallels with the historical investigations and ruminations of a well-known and respected New Testament scholar, in a book I’m reading about the resurrection of Christ. A bit left field, I grant you…

There’s a certain irony in our fascination with ‘evidence’ in TV drama, when contrasted with fairly widespread credulity about assessing the truth claims of faith – commonly perceived as arbitrary and subjective, or just groundless fantasy.

The thing is, there exist out there some very inviting ‘lines of enquiry’. I’m not a natural ‘believe without question’ type, though I greatly respect the gift of child-like trust. I love the promise and path of faith, but also have a sceptical, investigative streak, even a dose of doubt of sorts – so I enjoy exploring scholarship that helps me see more clearly actual grounds for belief – and indeed where questions and uncertainties may still lie.

So I’m enjoying NT Wright’s monumental tome ‘The Resurrection of the Son of God’. A comprehensive examination of how faith in the bodily resurrection of Jesus arose in the early church, through an exhaustive study of the New Testament documents, within the broader matrices of ancient pagan beliefs about the hereafter, and the contemporary Jewish context. For a reader curious to find out, it’s a compulsive page-turner. For an introduction to this scholar, see his page ntwrightpage.com

Unlike in Line of Duty, the evidence under Wright’s microscope is not primarily physical & forensic but historical & documentary. But no less powerful for that. It’s not a case of simple straightforward watertight controlled experiment type proof. This kind of evidence is not like that – no different from most areas of life. Equally, it’s very hard to put down with any notion of ‘sky fairy fantasy’ intact. It’s a compelling and forensically detailed examination. I think it’s possible for such evidence, fairly assessed, to provide the springboard for a ‘step’ of faith; a glance toward God, simple, natural, you might even say logical. Leading, for those who take it, into a world of spiritual life and colour whose fresh ‘evidences’ of grace flourish and multiply daily.

Which takes us a long way from the dark machinations of ‘Line of Duty’ or ‘Hinterland’. But in their openness to rigorous enquiry, the two may not be so far apart.

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