Angel delight: Forget legal eagles, legal angels are the stars of a brilliant new drama series from the creators of Ashes To Ashes
The setting is the moonlit Yorkshire countryside, and through it stride Zak Gist and his companion Tom Greening. Well-dressed and wellspoken, of medium height and medium build, neither appears remotely out of the ordinary.
But as the two men catch sight of the twinkling lights of York in the distance, they suddenly sprout magnificent white angel’s wings, which flap serenely up and down in the crisp night air.
This is the eye-catching start to Eternal Law, ITV1’s new six-part drama series in which angels Zak and Tom (played by Sam West and TV newcomer Ukweli Roach) are sent down from heaven in the guise of lawyers to apply a little celestial justice to the problems of the world.
Winging it: The angels” wings in Eternal Law are made of silk and moved remotely using a joystick – but the motors had an annoying squeak that had to be erased in editing so as not to ruin quiet scenes
Providing earthly temptation for Zak is Hannah, a woman he fell in love with on a previous visit and remains smitten with. ‘It could be a fatal attraction,’ admits Sam, the son of actors Timothy West and Prunella Scales. ‘Angels may be immortal, but falling in love with a mortal being can have apocalyptic consequences for them.’
Their housekeeper, Mrs Sheringham, is herself a former angel made mortal again after a forbidden romance, and Richard Pembroke is a dark angel who turns out to be Zak and Tom’s nemesis on Earth.
Episode one centres on a shooting in a marketplace. An ex-convict, Sean, is the prime suspect when his ex-partner’s fianc is felled by a bullet on their wedding day.
ETERNAL LAW: PROFILES
A wet-behind-the ears angel who’s a former member of the celestial choir. Good-natured and innocent, he’s shocked to discover not everyone on Earth is entirely decent.
A former angel, she gave up her position in Heaven after falling for a mortal on Earth. She finds herself in the role of housekeeper to Zak and Tom.
A grumpy, careworn angel who’s been visiting Earth for billions of years. On his latest visit he should be looking after rookie angel Tom, but he’s far more interested in Hannah, a woman he fell in love with on a previous visit.
A barrister who gets caught up in
the marketplace shooting that dominates the first episode. She
has only a vague memory of Zak –
despite falling in love with him when
he last came down from heaven.
A dark angel – or possibly even the Devil himself – posing as a barrister in York. Charming, good-looking and blessed with a silver tongue, he’s also evil to the core and on a mission to make Tom and Zak’s lives hell.
It looks like an open-and-shut case when Sean is discovered next to the smoking gun. Can Tom and Zak call on some heavenly help to pull off an unlikely win when they defend Sean in court
Filmed on location in York, Eternal Law is the brainchild of Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes creators Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah. But as Matthew admits, it took a little divine inspiration to give them the idea for the series in the first place.
‘I was watching the classic Powell and Pressburger film A Matter Of Life And Death – about a wounded World War II pilot whose life is hanging by a thread – and was struck by the power of the courtroom scenes in heaven,’ says Matthew.
‘Both Ashley and I were intrigued by the idea of heavenly law and the concept of the spirit world being run on a set of rules and regulations. We thought, “What a great idea to modify it and bring these down to Earth.” But while there are courtroom scenes, Eternal Law is primarily a love story, with Zak caught between his duties as an angel and his love for Hannah.’
Sam West hopes the show takes off in much the same way his character can. ‘The wings don’t manifest themselves that often, though,’ says Sam. ‘They’re used sparingly to heighten their impact when they’re seen. Although I do get to run down the middle of York Minster in one episode with them fully opened. And that was pretty amazing!’
One person we won’t get to see is Zak and Tom’s boss, God – or Mr Mountjoy, as they call him. ‘We wanted to create the idea of Zak and Tom’s boss being unseen, but having a very definite, definable character, rather than just this celestial entity, God,’ explains Matthew.
‘Will we ever see Mr Mountjoy Possibly in series seven, and quite possibly played by Stephen Fry. We think he would be perfect casting…
Eternal Law, ITV1, Thursday, 9pm.