Newcomer Matthew Beard teases the BBC2 period crime drama, which kicks off tonight
BBC2’s new drama Vienna Blood sees an experienced Austrian police detective and a young English doctor of psychology team up to solve baffling crimes in 1906 Vienna.
Adapted by Sherlock writer Steve Thompson from the best-selling Liebermann novels by Frank Tallis, the three feature-length episodes begin tonight with a young woman found dead in her apartment. Her death initially appears to be suicide, but first impressions can be deceptive.
In charge of the case is Oskar Rheinhardt (acclaimed Austrian actor Juergen Maurer) of the Vienna police. To add to his woes, he is told by his boss that a young English doctor, Max Liebermann (The Imitation Game’s Matthew Beard), is going to be observing him while he works on the investigation.
Max has studied under Sigmund Freud and is interested in the psychology of the criminal mind. He has plenty of insights into the case but his observations and deductions don’t go down well with the old-school copper – at least not to start with.
“Freud has all these new ideas about human behaviour that are exciting to Max,” says Matthew, 30. “And when he gets something in his head, he follows it through, much to the dismay of Oskar. They are in a long line of odd couples that we have seen in films over the years.”
As the investigation takes the pair into the seedy parts of Vienna and also into its high society, Oskar begins to realise that Max’s ability to build up a profile of the killer may be the key to solving the murder. But others view the new science of psychoanalysis as disreputable and dangerous, not least because its main proponent, Freud, is of Jewish descent.
“The mayor of Vienna at the time was Karl Lueger, who pretty much set out the blueprint for anti-Semitism and Nazism,” explains Matthew. “During this period, Vienna was at a crossroads politically, as well as in the arts and in science, which makes a great backdrop to our stories.”
Max’s family is Jewish, so they are tolerated rather than accepted by Vienna’s elite, while his parents Mendel (Doc Martin’s Conleth Hill) and Rachel (Gentleman Jack’s Amelia Bullmore) are dismayed by their son’s chosen field of medicine.
His father is particularly concerned that “exploring the darkness in men’s souls”, as he puts it, is not the career for a gentleman. And while Max has a girlfriend, Clara (Luise von Finckh), when they are out together, he is more often than not distracted by puzzling out a psychological problem.
“It is interesting to play someone who seems so sure about his diagnosis of other people, but who can’t work out his own feelings and understand why he might be upsetting someone,” says Matthew.
Although getting inside the mind of the killer is paramount to cracking the case, there is still room for some old-fashioned police legwork, including a spectacular chase across the rooftops of Vienna.
“I did a little bit of the scene on the rooftop,” says Matthew. “But for most of it, I was on the ground eating apple strudel watching the stuntman do all the work!”
Vienna Blood starts on BBC2 tonight at 9pm.