Halifax fp: articles

Goodnight Jane Halifax, now it's time to go

Dr Jane Halifax—Bowing out after 21 episodes

About 10.30 on Sunday night, the credits will roll up on the 21st and final Halifax f.p. telemovie. It's a pity, too, not just because this last instalment is a ripper, but because Melbourne so obviously needs her.

After all, when people start disappearing and the homicide squad insists on barking up the wrong tree, who else but Dr Jane Halifax could work out that two paranoid schizophrenic homicidal lesbian horticulturists may have dunnit? And that they may be still doing it?

But then again, if she's so smart, why is she sleeping with a married cop? Just goes to show no one's perfect, I suppose.

Sunday's finale starts with a slightly cringeworthy scene—a foam baseball batwielding Halifax (Rebecca Gibney) teaching Psychology 101 to a bunch of credulous cops—but once things get moving, disbelief is suspended.

While a hooded kidnap victim pleads for his life, Australia's favourite forensic psychiatrist is asking a troubled young elf named Ellie (Mary Docker) to explain why she threw acid on a stranger's car. Waiting for the two events to be linked gives the viewer time to muse on whether or not the dialogue seems just a bit stilted and the voicesintheheadeffects a bit hokey—but not too much time.

Gibney, as you would expect, is smooth and assured as Halifax, but Docker is the showstealer, making the most of her erratic character, by turns terrified, manipulative, deluded, vicious and downright scary. Docker, a graduate of Britain's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, is well supported by by Sacha Horler, who plays her violent girlfriend.

Well directed by Ken Cameron (My Brother Jack, Brides of Christ, Bangkok Hilton), the telemovie is nicely filmed in Melbourne—noted author Halifax even finds time to pop in to the Kill City bookshop in Chapel Street to sign her latest monster tome for fans.

Unfortunately, it doesn't offer much insight into the mental illnesses of Docker and Horler's characters, though acute drama queenery appears to be a symptom ("The sodium's so high the meter's jumping all over the place,'' frets Horler's character when her lettuces start wilting).

The overall package isn't up to the standard of Phoenix or Janus, but admittedly they were a different kind of animal (and perhaps the highwater mark of Australian crime drama).

As this last thriller shows, Halifax f.p. was deserving of the accolades and awards it has collected since first airing in 1994. It is a worthy finale for a series that has showcased the talents of Frances O'Connor, Jacqueline McKenzie, Guy Pearce, Ben Mendelsohn and Hugh Jackman, to name a few.

And if you watch closely, you'll see an exquisite shot of a fat cop scoffing a chocolate doughnut.

Halifax f.p.: Takes Two screens on Sundayat 8.30pm on Channel Nine.

By Brad Newsome
July 04, 2002
The Age