Inside No 9 | Boo To A Goose review

Inside No 9 goose
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Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton kick off the final series of Inside No 9 in typically genre busting style. Here’s our review of Boo To A Goose.

This review contains spoilers.

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It’s all too easy to become complacent as a viewer when watching a show like Inside No 9, to just sit back and forget how remarkable it is that we are now watching the ninth series of an anthology genre programme. Let’s face it, such shows are the exception rather than the rule.

It’s an obvious observation but it bears repeating – as of this week, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton have written 51 standalone dramas. Not only dramas, but horrors, thrillers, comedies and everything in between, and that’s before you consider the astonishing amount of character detail and backstory they manage to seed into each 30=minute script.

There certainly isn’t any evidence of complacency on their part in Boo To A Goose, which kicked off the ninth and, we’re told, final series of Inside No 9. The setting is a train carriage, and as the episode begins the locomotive disappears into a tunnel.

Single location plays are hard enough to write before you saddle yourself with nine disparate characters, and Shearsmith and Pemberton waste no time in making us familiar with them. Inside No 9 may well be taught in screenwriting classes in years to come as a prime example of how to introduce characters and their relationships with a remarkable economy of exposition. We have Matthew Kelly’s Harold, who is keeping something nasty in his carrier bags. Shearsmith and Siobhan Finneran, who previously co-starred with Pemberton in Benidorm, as the safe old married couple Gerry and Edith, on their way back from the theatre. There’s Pemberton and Susan Wokoma as Wilma and Cleo, Phillipa Dunne as kindly nurse Elena and Mark Bonnar, who previously appeared in Shearsmith and Pemberton’s Psychoville, as Raymond and Joel Fry as conspiracy theorist Finn.

Knowing how steeped the writers are in horror tropes, there are shades of Christopher Smith’s Creep – a film in which a woman is trapped in the labyrinthine London Underground tunnels with a deformed killer – and it could have gone in a similar direction as the train grinds to a halt.

Instead, the catalyst for the conflict is Charlie Cooper as homeless beggar Mossy, who’s accused of stealing Elena’s purse. For the first 25 minutes, a morality play unfolds, as Raymond takes charge of the situation. He’s a teacher who deserves respect, or so he says, and gradually suspicion falls on each passenger in turn, until we reach Finn, who refuses to reveal the contents of his bag.

It brought to mind one of Russell T Davies’ best Doctor Who scripts, Midnight, also about people trapped on a vessel but, more importantly, it also showed how quickly humanity is lost in a confined space, and that is exactly what happens here. It isn’t long before Raymond’s goes from firm but fair to physical assault, as he insists on looking in Finn’s bag. They decide to cast a vote. The characters quickly pick sides and it looks as though the only solution will be violence.

For all its proselytising about power, the laughs still came thick and fast, so to speak, as the scene stealer this week was Pemberton as drag queen Wilma. Made up with a set of bosoms and a bright blue wig, the bitchy barbs are relentless. Fast-paced comic dialogue has always been a strength of theirs, right back to Shearsmith’s character in the very first episode Sardines, and Pemberton expertly judges his delivery, leaving no scene unchewed.

Shearsmith also gets one of the best lines: “Did you know that ‘Meryl Streep’ is an anagram of ‘Try Eel Sperm’?”

You’re a stronger person than me if you didn’t immediately go and rearrange the letters yourself just to check.

One of the problems of watching Inside No 9 -insofar as it is a problem – is that we’re primed for a twist the second the opening notes of the theme tune are played. Pemberton and Shearsmith know this, of course, and the pleasure of the programme is not in the twist but seeing their skill in getting there. That said, this week’s was a corker. As with all No 9 scripts, the seeds were there from the start – a sinister synth sci-fi score and the clues of a puzzle being ‘task force, actor and fake”.

Finn reveals several industrial looking masks and the opposition – Cleo, Edith and Mossy – are deemed a threat to the regime and are gassed to death. Their stone faced doppelgangers wait patiently on the platform to take their place as acquiescent alternatives. The meaning of the title finally comes into play as Finn, an undercover agent, tells Wilma, Raymond, and Elena that they survived because “you wouldn’t say boo to a goose”, and we learn that Harold and Gerry had already undergone the replacement procedure.

Philip K Dick would be proud.

See it. Say it. Sorted.

Inside No 9 returns next Wednesday at 10pm with The Trolley Problem

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