Patrick Stewart returns to our television screens on Thursday 19 January at 9pm in a new ITV1 drama series called "Eleventh Hour". The production consists of four, weekly, ninety-minute thrillers played out against the world of contemporary science. He plays Professor Ian Hood, emeritus Professor of Physics now serving as Special Advisor to the government's Joint Sciences Committee. At his side is Rachel Young, his Special Branch bodyguard played by Ashley Jensen.
Hood's a roving troubleshooter. His remit is to seek out or respond to any human crisis arising out of, or offering a threat to, current scientific endeavour. Hood and Rachel are perpetually on the road, living in hotels and out of suitcases, travelling from one challenge to another in an unassuming hand-me-down official pool car.
Patrick Stewart has never really had a primetime show on British television as "Star Trek: The Next Generation" was sidelined into a weekday teatime slot on BBC TWO. I've sometimes wondered what the ratings would've been like had it been transmitted early Saturday evenings on BBC ONE in the slot allocated to "The New Adventures of Superman". Patrick was already a highly regarded character actor, in films such as "Lady Jane", "Excalibur" and "Lifeforce", before getting the "Star Trek" job and that success has continued post "Trek" with the "X-Men" trilogy.
Ashley Jensen is perhaps best known to British audiences for roles in "May to December" and, more recently, acting alongside Ricky Gervais in "Extras". Interestingly, Patrick Stewart guest starred in an episode of "Extras".
"Eleventh Hour" was devised by Stephen Gallagher whose credits include "Bugs", "Chimera" and "Oktober". He also wrote the scripts for the "Doctor Who" stories "Warriors' Gate" and "Terminus". Gallagher has taken inspiration from "Quatermass" in the creation of the Professor and Emma Peel of "The Avengers" when writing the character of Rachel. The show sounds a little like early Seventies science fiction series "Doomwatch". So, all things considered, the prospects look good for a cracking new science fiction series!