As a Shetland fan, I thought I'd try Rebus and I love it

Richard Rankin as John Rebus, wearing a leather jacket and leaning on a wall
(Image credit: BBC)

Missing Shetland? I know I am. Ever since Douglas Henshall first played DI Jimmy Perez in the hit Scottish series way back in 2013, I've loved the mix of drama, beautiful scenery, superb mysteries and great acting. It even managed to neatly survive the loss of its leading man, with Ashley Jensen taking over detecting duties in the latest series.

But we have a long wait for Shetland season 9, which brings us to Rebus, BBC One's new Scottish drama based on the hit books by Ian Rankin.

Cora McLean, DI Ruth Calder, DI ‘Tosh’ McIntosh in Shetland season 8

Ashley Jensen and Alison O'Donnell in Shetland (Image credit: BBC)

I'm old enough to remember the previous ITV version, with John Hannah playing the character in the first series. However, he quit the part after just one series and Ken Stott gave a performance more familiar to people who enjoy the books.

Now, Richard Rankin is playing a young Rebus and superficially at least the series has a lot in common with Shetland. Both take advantage of the fabulous Scottish scenery, with Rebus making the most of its Edinburgh setting.

Young Rebus also isn't a million miles away for DI Jimmy Perez. Both have a daughter and both love a brooding camera shot. Both men are also alone. While Perez’s wife died, Rebus is divorced. One difference is Perez is somewhat calmer than hot-headed Rebus!

In the opening scene, Rebus is in a car crash after being rammed off the road by his arch nemesis Ger Cafferty (Stuart Bowman). Rebus finds Cafferty in an ambulance and proceeds to beat him up so badly he almost kills the crook. Not long later, we see Rebus thumping his brother Michael after a jibe about his failed marriage.

Lucie Shorthouse as Siobhan Clarke and Richard Rankin as John Rebus, hunched over a computer

Rebus and Siobhan Clarke quickly establish a great cop partnership (Image credit: BBC)

Like Shetland, there's plenty to enjoy here. Rankin makes for a convincing Rebus, with just the right mix of charm and hostility. He gets some good lines too. When he's asked to show the ropes to his newbie cop partner, Siobhan Clarke, he quips: "There's no ropes, they went out with the last budget cut".

Later seasons of Shetland created a story arc over the whole series, rather than a weekly case for the cop to solve, and Rebus follows this.

Rebus finds himself in the middle of a drug war in Edinburgh. Just as Perez bonded with Alison "Tosh" McIntosh in Shetland, we see Rebus quickly forming a formidable team with Clarke.

Like Shetland, Rebus shows that behind the surface beauty of the location, there's plenty of darkness and villains lurking. There's marginally more violence and bad language in Rebus.

Rebus is hugely enjoyable and, if you’re missing your fill of Shetland, you won't be disappointed.

David Hollingsworth

David is the What To Watch Editor and has over 20 years of experience in television journalism. He is currently writing about the latest television and film news for What To Watch.

Before working for What To Watch, David spent many years working for TV Times magazine, interviewing some of television's most famous stars including Hollywood actor Kiefer Sutherland, singer Lionel Richie and wildlife legend Sir David Attenborough. 

David started out as a writer for TV Times before becoming the title's deputy features editor and then features editor. During his time on TV Times, David also helped run the annual TV Times Awards. David is a huge Death in Paradise fan, although he's still failed to solve a case before the show's detective! He also loves James Bond and controversially thinks that Timothy Dalton was an excellent 007.

Other than watching and writing about telly, David loves playing cricket, going to the cinema, trying to improve his tennis and chasing about after his kids!