In Spotlight: Martin Compston’s top TV shows – from Line of Duty to Vigil

Ahead of his role in Prime Video thriller The Rig, we round up Martin Compston's top TV shows. We take a look at the Scottish actor's finest performances, including Line of Duty and Vigil.

By Katie Archer Updated: 6 January 2023 - 3.37pm
Prime Video Martin Compston The Rig

Since Line of Duty first closed in on bent coppers 10 years ago, Martin Compston has become an increasingly familiar face on our screens.

Following his role in ITV's Our House in 2022, Compston is starring in new TV thriller The Rig, streaming now, exclusively on Prime Video.

Compston plays plays Communications Officer Fulmer Hamilton, in the six-part series based on an North Sea oil rig and filmed in Scotland.

Check out our exclusive interview with Martin Compston about The Rig

It's just the latest high-profile role in the career of the Greenock-born actor who is so popular with viewers that his name is even being touted as a potential future Bond.

We take a look at some of his high points on the small screen to date, rounding up Martin Compston's six best TV shows and movies below.

1. Line of Duty - DS Steve Arnott

BBC

If you’re not familiar with Steve Arnott by now, you mustn’t have turned on your TV since 2012 when Line of Duty began.

The action thriller about a police anti-corruption team has become one of the most popular shows around and is currently keeping viewers on the edge of their seats for a sixth series.

Arnott is the troubled cop transferred to AC-12 after he refused to cover up an unlawful shooting by his previous team, and battles demons including prescription painkiller addiction and personal loneliness.

He, Kate Fleming and Ted Hastings (Vicky McClure and Adrian Dunbar) are set on weeding out bent coppers from the force, but the organised crime group which has been blackmailing many of their officers goes right to the top of their organisation, resulting in cover-ups, killings and thrown cases galore.

The Jed Mercurio drama is best known for its tense, twisty police interview scenes, often headed up by Compston’s Arnott, as they strive to bring down corruption and find out the identity of the mysterious crime orchestrator 'H'.

Compston has shrugged off his Scottish roots for the role to perform as a Londoner – quite a feat, given the amount of fast-paced dialogue littered with acronyms that he races through in each scene.

The controversial ending to Line of Duty season 6 put viewers on edge, with season 7 yet to be announced.

Watch series 1-6 of Line of Duty on BBC iPlayer.

2. Vigil - CPO Craig Burke

BBC

Compston starred alongside Suranne Jones in claustrophobic crime thriller Vigil.

Compston plays Chief Petty Officer Craig Burke, a sonar mapping expert on the submarine HMS Vigil. When the disappearance of a Scottish trawler is followed by a death on board the boat, Jones' character, DCI Amy Silva, is sent to Vigil to investigate and uncovers a web of intrigue seemingly involving Russian spies, corrupt politicians and anti-nuclear campaigners.

The six-part drama kept viewers guessing to the very end when it first aired on BBC One in August 2021.

Watch Vigil on BBC iPlayer.

3. In Plain Sight - Peter Manuel

Compston took the starring role in 2016 ITV drama In Plain Sight, based on the true crimes of Peter Manuel.

He played Lanarkshire serial killer Manuel who murdered at least eight people between 1956 and 1958, earning himself the nickname The Beast of Birkenshaw.

In Plain Sight followed detective William Muncie’s pursuit of Manuel, who taunted him to the extent of even sending him Christmas and birthday cards before he was finally caught.

Compston starred alongside Douglas Henshall and James Harkness, offering an unsettling performance as the notorious killer.

In Plain Sight is available to buy in the BT Store.

4. The Nest - Dan Docherty

BBC

More recently, Compston was back north of the border for psychological thriller The Nest.

He and Sophie Rundle played a couple desperate for a baby who embark on an ill-advised plan to use a troubled teenager as their surrogate.

The mini-series also saw Compston back on screen with Harkness again, as his character delved into the murky past of the surrogate who was carrying the couple's baby.

It involved some completely outlandish plot twists, but was an entertaining emotional drama that saw Compston take on a completely different role to the police procedural he’s best known for.

Martin Compston on The Nest: 'It's definitely got a few cliffhangers'

The Nest is available to watch on BritBox and Netflix.

5. Traces - Daniel MacAfee

BBC

In Scottish police drama Traces, Compston played what he described as the opposite of Steve Arnott.

The show, now into its second season, centres on a Dundee forensics team, but Compston’s character Daniel MacAfee wasn’t actually part of the force this time – he was the director of a construction company in a relationship with one of the lab technicians who ended up in a spot of trouble with the law.

Talking to the Radio Times about his character, he said: “He’s just a flip from Steve (Arnott). Whereas Steve’s completely driven by ambition and his own ego, Dan just seems a likeable guy who’s trying to do right by people, so there’s definitely that contrast, which is appealing to play.”

Watch Traces seasons 1-2 on Alibi with NOW.

It's also available on the UKTV Play app.

6. Monarch of the Glen - Ewan Brodie

BBC

Compston landed his first major TV role as Ewan Brodie in hit cosy Scottish drama Monarch of the Glen.

While he featured occasionally from 2003's fifth series, Compston was promoted to the main cast for the revamped final two series, which saw a new laird in town after original protagonist Archie MacDonald (Alastair Mackenzie) had emigrated to New Zealand.

Ewan was the estate’s new cook, but most of his storylines centred on the pirate radio station he set up in Glenbogle.

Compston featured in 20 episodes of the BBC show until it ended in 2005.

Watch series 1-5 of Monarch of the Glen on BritBox