Take two mysterious disappearances fifteen years apart and place them in the primeval Tasmanian forest. The result is The Kettering Incident, a brooding thriller set in the small fishing village of Kettering, an hour out of Hobart. Lovers of Twin Peaks and The X-Files will be instant fans of this genre-bending series, the first full television series produced entirely in Tasmania.
Dr Anna Macy (played by the Great Gatsby’s Elizabeth Debicki) returns to her hometown of Kettering fifteen years after the mysterious ‘incident’ – the disappearance of her best friend Gillian in the forest, for which she was blamed. The same night Anna returns, a girl vanishes into the forest in incredibly similar circumstances, and Anna finds herself looking for answers. Meanwhile, the town is embroiled in a dispute between loggers and environmentalists, while others hide dark personal secrets. So what is really going on in Kettering?
The local area is famous for its UFO sightings and rare natural phenomena in real life; the most significant was in 1976, when a man woken by his crying son saw a domed-shaped object land on the shore nearby. In the Kettering Incident, locals see strange lights and hear mysterious sounds in the forests around town. Throughout the series, the real question is whether the disappearances can be explained or whether there is something supernatural in the air. The part of the forest where both disappearances occur is called Mother Sullivan’s Ridge, where Anna’s father and other locals buried something years ago.
Local police officer Fergus McFadden (Henry Dixon) works as the show’s moral compass as he tries to uncover what is going on, while becoming increasingly suspicious of new cop Brian Dutch (Matthew Le Nevez). Dutch pursues his own interests, running a drug dealing operation with the reluctant assistance of two teenagers desperate to earn enough money to leave the town. One of the teenagers, Chloe, is the girl who disappeared on the night of Anna’s return, and Dutch begins tampering with evidence to keep himself clean and turn the spotlight on others.
In the forest, forgotten by most in Kettering, is mysterious environmental activist Jens Jorgennson (Damon Gameau), who has more influence in town than might be expected. The first couple episodes of the series struggle to combine the multitude of characters into a cohesive narrative, but now, with one episode to go, each character has had their moment of importance.
Debicki’s Anna might be the central character in the plot, but she is an unsteady heroine, taking anti-psychotic drugs, often having hallucinations and blackouts. At one stage, she wakes up from a blackout to find herself up at Mother Sullivan’s Ridge, wandering around an abandoned cabin, with no memory of how she got there. It is a credit to Debicki’s acting skills that she combines such vulnerability with a burning desire to prove to herself that she wasn’t responsible for the incident fifteen years ago. Conveniently enough, Anna is a haematologist, which allows her to investigate some concerning changes in locals’ blood types.
The stunning landscape portrayed in The Kettering Incident only adds to the tension. The Tasmanian environment is constantly involved, be it through the sinister forests, the eerie coastlines, or the bleak weather. Anyone wandering through the forest is out of their comfort zone, with unfamiliar animals and plants and unnatural sounds creating an atmosphere of fear and anxiety. To add to the strangeness, moss begins growing everywhere, even on locals’ skin, while something toxic infects the town’s water supply. As the show builds up to its conclusion, it’s impossible to turn away. If anything, this series tells viewers two things: Australians can make great television and Tasmania is actually really creepy.
The final episode of the Kettering Incident airs next Monday on Foxtel’s Showcase channel