Since David Tennant put down his sonic screwdriver in 2010, he has been trying to convince us that he can do more than just eccentric, wide-eyed and bouncy characters, and can in fact be as serious as a war between the Daleks and the Cybermen.
In his most recent (and most convincing) attempt, Tennant has taken on the role of one of Britain’s most infamous serial killers, the floppy haired and dead eyed Dennis Nilson – they look scarily similar – and he delivers performance of chilling mundanity. In ITV’s new drama, Des, Tennant skilfully portrays what made the killer such a curiosity: this is a normal guy, with a normal job, who just happens to have murdered a dozen or so young men and used them as props round his house. Interior design 101: don’t use corpses for décor. Despite his taste for the terrible, Nilson was famed for his nonchalance, particularly in the way he delivered gory details of the murders in the same way you might tell someone their shoe is untied. Tenant struts along the line between normal and narcissist, giving the entire show a creepy air that makes you at once unnerved and enthralled.
Anita Singh in The Telegraph was full of praise for Des, but says, “because Tennant is so mesmerising, the scenes that don’t feature him feel a bit flat.” Luckily for her, he’s in about 80 percent of it. Ed Cumming of The Independent disagrees with this, saying that “although Tennant’s turn naturally draws the eye, there are fine performances from all the leads.” In The Guardian, Lucy Mangan praises the show, saying: “perhaps the greatest accolade that can be given this sensitive, finely worked piece is that Nilsen himself, attention-seeking narcissist though he was, would surely have hated it.”
First shown September 2020. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.