John Hannah vs Ken Stott: Who's The Better Rebus?

The Hannah and Stott episodes differ in tone, plotlines and character. We explored the two eras and decided who came out on top for portrayal, darkness, depth, and faithfulness to the books.

Hannah vs Stott: Who's the best Rebus?

In series 1 and 2 of Scottish crime drama Rebus, John Hannah plays the protagonist of the show: a surly detective with many personal demons. In series 3, Ken Stott takes over from Hannah, and it's almost as if a completely different show begins.

1. PORTRAYAL

PORTRAYAL WINNER: KEN STOTT

PORTRAYAL WINNER: KEN STOTT

HANNAH: DI Rebus is a world-weary, pessimistic detective, both in Ian Rankin's novels and in the television adaptation. So when John Hannah was cast in the role, fans of the books questioned why a young, fresh-faced actor had been chosen to play such a gritty character. Although the character is written as a traditional hardboiled detective in Hannah's episodes, the actor's youth and suaveness mean that viewers need to suspend their disbelief in order to see him as the experienced cynic he portrays.

STOTT: Ken Stott, with his gravelly voice, gruff mannerisms and aura of grumpiness, was born to play a hardened Scottish detective. His age means that he exudes the air of experience required to play the surly Rebus. When the team comes across a murder suspect who claims to be clairvoyant, Stott's exasperation is perfectly clear without him having to say a word - his scepticism comes across effortlessly, and his portrayal of Rebus is thoroughly believable as a result.

2. DARKNESS

DARKNESS WINNER: JOHN HANNAH

DARKNESS WINNER: JOHN HANNAH

HANNAH: Rebus is known for being relatively dark compared to a lot of other police procedurals. Despite Hannah's youth, his episodes of Rebus are darker in tone than Stott's. Brutal murders are depicted in gruesome detail, like in the graphically violent opening scene of 'Black & Blue'.

STOTT: While Stott's episodes are by no means light-hearted - he's still John Rebus, after all - some of the bleakness of earlier episodes is gone. The opening credits are slightly more upbeat: while Hannah's era saw every episode opened with shots of dark corridors played to eerie music, Stott's title sequence uses music and clips that lend themselves more to excitement and action than dark retrospection. Even though the overall tone of the episodes loses some of the unique darkness that made earlier episodes more distinctively Rebus, the dark side of the character himself is still there - one scene in which the Inspector sets his car on fire and reports it as stolen with disturbing indifferent proves that he's still the same complicated DI.

3. DEPTH

DEPTH WINNER: JOHN HANNAH

DEPTH WINNER: JOHN HANNAH

HANNAH: Unlike those of the Stott era, Hannah's episodes are narrated by Rebus himself. This means that there's an extra dimension to the narrative that makes up for insights that are lost in the translation from text to screen, especially in 'The Hanging Garden' when the narration reveals important details about John's relationship with his daughter. In one episode we're even shown one of Rebus's dreams, giving viewers an insight into the character's subconscious. When Hannah's the protagonist, we really get to know Rebus on a deeper level.

STOTT: In Stott's episodes, there is more of a focus on external events than on Rebus's own thoughts. Other characters, like Siobhan and Gill, get more screen time, and the detectives feel more like a team. Without the narration we sometimes don't know what the Inspector is thinking, and it's another intriguing mystery for the viewer to solve. When Rebus is accused of being involved with the Daniel Carr drug case, this ambiguity means the viewer is as stumped as the other characters.

4. FAITHFULNESS TO THE BOOKS

FAITHFULNESS TO THE BOOKS WINNER: KEN STOTT

FAITHFULNESS TO THE BOOKS WINNER: KEN STOTT

HANNAH: Although Hannah wasn't what most fans of the books expected Rebus to be, his era is characterised by darker episodes that are truer to Rankin's stories. The Hannah era was at the beginning of the show's run when it was new and still crafting an identity. As a result, these episodes remain close to the original book series - like a baby bird unwilling to stray too far from its nest.

STOTT: Stott's episodes, which are slightly more light-hearted in tone, are more television-friendly than Hannah's. As a result they often do not follow the books as closely. Stott's era also contains the only episode that is not based on any of Ian Rankin's novels: 'The First Stone'. Nevertheless, Stott's portrayal of the character remains loyal to how he was written by Rankin.

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Which now just leaves it up to you: who's your favourite Rebus?

Can you think of any other actors who could have played the DI? Tell us in the comments below...

Watch Rebus on Drama every Saturday at 9pm.