Apple Tree Yard review: Rotten from the inside


I don’t think anyone has been quite rude enough, yet, about BBC One’s latest crime series: Apple Tree Yard, which concluded last night.

It happened to be one of the most dull, yet deranged, television dramas I have seen in a long time. Not helped by the fact that none of the story makes sense.

Apple Tree Yard asked too much of its audience from the start, when we were supposed to believe that Yvonne Carmichael (Emily Watson), an amazing genetic scientist, would recklessly embark on an affair with sexy stranger Mark Costley (Ben Chaplin). In a cupboard.

The plausibility of this situation was not helped by the fact that Watson and Chaplin the chemistry of two sea otters. Not that I was paying much attention; I was too busy wondering if Costley’s character would ever change his suit.

The series was padded with unnecessary detail, and numerous times subplots were discarded as quickly as they were introduced. Yvonne – the amazing scientist – engages in the most insensible of electronic activities, searching for STD clinics on her laptop and penning elaborative diary entries, both of which are highly incriminating. Forensic teams would pounce on this information, so should script writers. Yet all of it is left to rot in early episodes.

Similarly, some of the characters should have died on the editing floor: Yvonne’s pregnant scientist daughter and bipolar son, to name two.

The pace of Apple Tree Yard was slow indeed, and felt all the more ploddy given that Watson only talks in one voice – an affected, RADA-style whisper that induces the effects of Nytol, rather than intrigue. Yvonne’s long-suffering husband Gary is the only one who gives the show some welly.

Overall I wasn’t sure what the point of Apple Tree Yard was. For a crime series, it has very little mystery, generally because the audience constantly follows Yvonne and Mark throughout their shenanigans – and is, thus, always in the know (albeit, apart from a small twist at the end). In courtroom scenes, I held my breath, waiting for a shock. Will Mark betray Yvonne? Will he explain why he only wears one suit? But the only surprise was that there was no surprise.

At the very least, I would have hoped Apple Tree Yard would have some sort of message to it; even for a crime series, one does hope for a bit of intellectual stimulation. In the beginning, Watson offers impressive-sounding soundbites (“fear, that’s what makes animals of us all”), which I suppose are meant to sound deep and meaningful, but ultimately cannot mask what a hollow story this is. There is nothing to take away from Apple Tree Yard – other than, don’t let strangers take you on a tour of a cupboard. It is simply a series of events. And daft ones at that.