Should You Watch This New British Police Drama? 

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Oct. 26 2011 3:34 PM

Should I Watch Whitechapel?

Philip Davis, Rupert Penry-Jones, and Steve Pemberton in a publicity shot for 'Whitechapel'.

What is it?
Whitechapel is a British police drama, premiering Wednesday Oct. 26 on BBC America. In the first three episodes, the rozzers investigate a series of crimes in London’s East End that bear a remarkable resemblance to the 19th-century murders attributed to Jack the Ripper; episodes 4-6 follow cases that echo the 50-year-old crimes of the infamous Kray twins.

June Thomas June Thomas

June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. 

You’ll like it if you enjoy fish-out-of-water stories.
At the beginning of the series, a squad of rough-and-ready coppers gets a new boss, Detective Inspector Joseph Chandler (Rupert Penry-Jones), launching a study in contrasts: tidy vs. boorish, privileged vs. self-made, educated vs. experienced, fast-tracked vs. dead-ended, rich vs. poor—and, this being a British story, the most important of all: posh vs. common.


You won’t like it if you want to see a realistic portrait of London.
Whitechapel’s version of the Metropolitan Police Service is lily-white, and its representation of the East End isn’t all that different. (A scene set in Brick Lane manages not to include a single brown face.) In fact, Whitechapel is an ethnically diverse area with a large Bengali population.

You’ll like it if you have a taste for macabre historical murders.
A Ripperologist (played with gusto by The League of Gentlemen’s Steve Pemberton) rescues the show from police-procedural cliché.

You won’t like it if you want to see the carnage.
Although the descriptions of Jack the Ripper’s throat-slashings and disembowelments are quite explicit, this isn’t a slasher pic. It’s a spooky story that won’t give you nightmares.

The bottom line:

Accents, creepy historical crimes, that handsome English actor who always plays princes and posh boys, that less handsome English actor who always plays taxi drivers and oiks. What’s not to like?



The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers


Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.


The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
Dear Prudence
Oct. 23 2014 6:00 AM Monster Kids from poorer neighborhoods keep coming to trick-or-treat in mine. Do I have to give them candy?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
Oct. 22 2014 11:54 PM The Actual World “Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.