David Jason Vehicle Sinks
With Ghostboat, David Jason has left a smear on an otherwise glowing cv, says David Davies
I have been reading the reviews on Amazon for a novel called Ghostboat, which, incidentally, is now out of print. S. Mcconaughy, aka "MacWhoNaHey", agrees with someone (who this someone may be I do not know, as S. Mcconaughy is the first to post a review) who thinks Ghostboat would make a great movie. Well I am here to tell you, S. Mcconaughy, that it happened. And it was a big skidmark on the list of ITV Drama Premieres.
Before we go any further, I want to reinforce David Jason's legendary status. Perhaps the greatest television actor of all time, he has brought hours of mirth, merriment and drama to our fair land. So when I found out that he had spent a considerable amount of time trying to get this two-parter greenlit, I was excited at the prospect. I sat down on Sunday night with Capri-Sun in hand and zero trepidation. David Jason was backing this - how could it be pants?
Well, let’s start with the title. Ghostboat. As titles go, it is dairy milk chocolate, it is blue jeans, it is ready salted crisps. It has, in other words, been done before countless times, and the only people who ever needed to do it were the ones who did it in the first place. Why not go with something a tad more adventurous? Especially seeing as it was not actually a Ghostboat at all, it was a ghost submarine, a rather collosal oversight on the programme-makers' part (speaking of which, did that novel ever go near the safe hands of an editor?). I mean, aesthetically, Ghostsub is even worse, but at least it is accurate.
That is merely the tip of the turkey-shaped iceberg. The submarine in the novel was called the USS Candlefish, a believable tag if ever I did hear one. So why did the scriptwriters decide that Scorpion was a better name? Is this submarine captained by GI Joe? Did they ever get past lego? Why does Ian Puleston-Davies (as the pantomime villain Commander Travis) equate being evil with talking like a ventriloquist's dummy? Why does the ghostly Captain of the Scorpion look exactly like the U-Boat Commander from Das Boot? And why, why, why is Pancho from Dirty Sanchez on sonar duty?
Unfortunately these are questions pushed to one side in your quest to get around the hideous editing, which pitches from ultra-banal to incomprehensible at key moments during the show. Then there is the script, undoubtedly penned by weed-smoking chimps, though that may be an insult to open-minded primates around the world, as they could almost certainly come up with a better plot. Which, for the record, is reprehensibly bad. I am not spoiling anything by telling you Jack Hardy (David Jason) dies at the end, because if you make it that far your brain will have turned to mush anyway.
It is the presence of David Jason, with his titanic screen presence and natural charisma that keeps Ghostboat from being a complete disaster. Considering the script he had to work with, he creates a believable, sympathetic character, and when he finally sinks with the ship at the end, you feel a twinge of sadness. Which is swiftly counterpointed by the worst five minutes of primetime television you are likely to see this year, where a board of high-ranking official types discover the Scorpion on the seabed, surrounded by - shock horror! - forty years-worth of algae and coral. Yes, that's right folks, it was never there in the first place. A true Ghostboat. Or, sub. If you want to be accurate.
Ghostboat was not unspeakably awful, or laughably bad. I wish it had been. Instead, it committed the worst primetime crime of all. It was dull. Hideously, painfully, nauseatingly boring. If David Jason had not been in it, I would not have made it to the second night. The only other reason I did was to see if Pancho drowned (he did not, for shame). The plot was signposted better than the M25, the TV-quality special effects were backed up by an increasingly melodramatic soundtrack, and the cast were as engaging as Anthea Turner. Yet, despite all these opportunities to laugh at this show, I could not. I just sat there, my eyes glazed over, and sort of absorbed it. If this is ever repeated, do yourself a favour and watch a repeat of Frost on UKTV Gold instead. Or three episodes of Only Fools and Horses. No wonder it is out of print.