Professor T Inexplicably Adjusts to Jail in "Heir to the Throne"

Ben Miller as Professor T during a prison riot in Professor T Season 3

Ben Miller as Professor T during a prison riot in Professor T Season 3

Eagle Eye Drama

After a season spent watching his love interest date someone else, our titular Professor T, Jasper (Ben Miller), was vindicated when Christina’s (Juliet Aubrey) boyfriend, Simon (Alastair Mackenzie), turned out to be a crooked cop. This led to the season finale confrontation where the Prof discharged an unlicensed rifle in the police station to save Christina. Because she had taken a gun from the police inventory without signing it out, her career would have been compromised, leading the Prof to remain silent rather than implicate Christina. Season 3 begins the day after this incident, with the Prof being taken to jail to await trial.

With a character suffering from OCD as severely as Jasper does, the conflict should have stemmed organically from the prison setting. Situationally, some of it does, but the episode misses opportunities to delve into the professor’s torments and inner landscape. For instance, it avoids showing the indelicacies of the strip search Prof would have been subject to, instead picking up with him after he’s already changed into a prison uniform. I’m not expecting grittiness on the level of Oz – this is PBS, not Max – but the Prof’s reaction is missing. His responses to what would seemingly be his nightmare scenario are largely absent. Think of “The Mask Murders” episode in Season 2, where the Prof was admitted to a hospital and behaved exactly as you expect a germaphobe would.

To be fair, the Prof is clearly in denial upon being brought to jail. Straight-faced, he suggests a list of things the correctional officers can bring from his house so he won’t have to use the standard-issue soap, sheets, and clothing. Prison Officer Steddon (Lee Ross) calls him a comedian and removes the Prof’s surgical gloves, exposing his bare hands with barely any reaction. This should have been a more significant moment.

Ben Miller as Professor T teaching himself chess in his cell in Professor T Season 3

Ben Miller as Professor T teaching himself chess in his cell in Professor T Season 3

Eagle Eye Drama

Professor T is lucky to get the mostly tolerant Omar (Chris Ryman) for a cellmate, who is annoyed but not violent when Prof can’t help but criticize his tea-making. Omar advises that Prof is the wrong color, religion, and class, and he better “find his tribe” to survive jail. Later in the prison yard, Kenny Holland (Phil McKee) menaces the Prof. (Kenny was the Season 2 bad guy Simon was in cahoots with and whom Dan captured in a police sting.) Despite the Prof’s non-involvement, Kenny blames him for his incarceration, traps the Prof in his cell, and smashes his face. 

He pulls out a shiv but is interrupted when Prison Officer Burridge (Terence Maynard) comes to the Prof’s rescue. Burridge offers to move him to the Vulnerable Prisoners’ Unit but Prof refuses, somehow believing he can survive the “belly of the beast.” He claims he’s been gifted a unique opportunity as a criminologist.

Meanwhile, Christina gets questioned about the circumstances that led Jasper to fire his rifle. Rabbit (Andy Gathergood) works out what really happened and why the professor is mum; he advises her to lie. Simon claims Christina aimed a gun and tried to kill him; she states, for the record, he’s lying – she didn’t have a gun.

The Case of The Week

Emma Naomi as Lisa Donckers at her desk in 'Professor T'

Emma Naomi as Lisa Donckers in 'Professor T'

Sofie Gheysens/Eagle Eye Drama

Lisa Donckers (Emma Naomi) and Dan Winters (Barney White) are on uneven ground now that Donckers’ promotion is in full swing. Dan’s arm is in a sling since getting shot by Kenny in the season finale. The team investigates murder at a mechanic shop where the owner, Leo, was beaten to death with a metal bat. Their prime suspect, Seb (Ben Wilson), was seen speeding away from the shop, and it turns out he has a motive. 

Leo sold counterfeit car parts, which failed and caused Seb’s wife a debilitating crash. Further exploration leads the police to Adam Bernard (Jack Ashton), a former boxing champion and a favorite of Donckers’ father. Adam owns a car dealership and frequently buys Leo’s parts, though he claims not to know they were counterfeit. Adam’s prints are found on the murder weapon, and though Donckers has doubts, she and Dan make the arrest.

Adam ends up in the same prison as the professor. He’s a celebrity both in and out of jail. Omar used to spar with Adam and says the professor should help clear him. Before he can answer the Prof is called away for “laundry duty” by the crooked Officer Steddon, who locked him in with Kenny earlier. This is, of course, a set-up, and the Prof finds himself cornered by Kenny and his shiv again. 

Ben Miller as Professor T working in the laundry in Professor T Season 3

Ben Miller as Professor T working in the laundry in Professor T Season 3

Eagle Eye Drama

But Professor T is unwavering, quoting literature and confusing Kenny. He says if Kenny kills him, this ends; if not, he has an “amusing anecdote” for his memoirs. Before Kenny can blind the Prof, Adam comes to the rescue, easily dodging Kenny’s clumsy punches and knocking him out. Adam offers to protect Jasper in exchange for help with his case. Adam is bewildered when the Prof declines. He later explains to Omar that he can’t promise help unless Adam is innocent, and he knows nothing about the man or the case.

Naturally, Prof changes his tune almost immediately once Donckers gives him the case file (which seems outright illegal, or at least ill-conceived). Studying the case, Prof concludes Adam had motive, means, and opportunity, but doesn’t think he fits the profile of a murderer. Further, upon speaking with Adam about the importance of reading body language in prison, Prof suspects Adam’s brother Joseph (Kyle Pryor) after observing the brothers’ prison visits. Separately, Donckers finds suspicious transactions and traces them to Joseph, though he won’t admit to any wrongdoing.

Joseph visits the jail and Prof talks to him, saying his brother’s fate depends on whether he’s courageous enough to tell the truth. He knows Joseph didn’t intend to kill Leo; it was a momentarily losing control. After the Prof leaves, Adam confronts his brother and Joseph admits to the crime, taking his place in jail.

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Professor T

The Professor is in jail and must find a way to get his old life and job back.
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Unwanted Thoughts

  • As in the hospital episode, Ms. Snares (Sarah Woodward) sends the Prof a care package filled with the comforts of home, although the hand sanitizer gets confiscated for alcohol content. Jasper has been rejecting his mother Adelaide’s (Frances de la Tour) requests to visit, so she arranges an in-prison session with his therapist, Dr. Helena Goldberg (Juliet Stevenson). Prof is wearing his gloves again and has his handkerchief, which he sets on the chair before sitting. Dr. Goldberg admits she’s there at Adelaide’s request and that his mother is worried he won’t survive jail. “When my father died, I constructed an edifice of rules for protection,” Prof begins. “Under pressure, it is buckling.”
  • The most effective parts of the episode show Professor T responding to his surroundings, such as the scene where he turns the cacophony of prison into classical music.
  • There were far too few scenes like that, which gave the overall impression that the Professor was suddenly not beholden to his disorder.
  • Details of his father’s death are in dispute, and so far, Adelaide and the Dean (Douglas Reith) are keeping it from the Prof.

Professor T Season 3 airs at 8 p.m. ET on Sundays on most PBS stations, the PBS app, and the PBS Masterpiece channel through the end of July. All six episodes will be available as a binge for members on PBS Passport on premiere day. As always, check your local streaming service/listings.

Marni Cerise headshot

A writer since her childhood introduction to Shel Silverstein, Marni adores film, cats, Brits, and the Oxford comma. She studied screenwriting at UARTS and has written movie, TV, and pop culture reviews for, and Wizards and Whatnot. You can usually catch her watching Hot Fuzz for the thousandth time. Find her very sparse social media presence on Twitter: @CeriseMarni

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