Juliet Bravo – Coins

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Major Adams (George A. Cooper), convinced that the Russians will attack sooner rather than later, has prepared for this eventuality by stockpiling an impressive array of food and other provisions. This proves to be an irresistible temptation for two young teenagers – Carol (Diana Walker) and Kenny (Mark Price) ….

The first of two episodes written by Ray Jenkins (a writer with an impressive track record across many popular series) Coins is a pretty low-key story which focusses more on the characters involved than it does the crime. The pilfering is pretty petty – some tins of food, a primus stove, etc – and is mainly of interest since it suggests that the perpetrator is somebody living rough.

Cooper’s role in the story is quite small (once Carol and Kenny are identified, Adams fades away) but as might be expected he’s terribly good value with what he is given to do. Adams (rather like Cooper’s most famous creation, Grange Hill’s Mr Griffiths) is somewhat pompous and self-important, but scratch a little below the surface and there’s hidden depths.

Adams’ war service and the things he saw might very well explain why he continues to run his life along such strict lines. His bachelor status and his self-professed pride in doing everything for himself is both admirable and slightly tragic.

There’s something of a jump (almost as if there was a missing scene) after Adams suggests that the young female thief might have been a papergirl who used to work the area. The long-suffering Roland is sent off to check this – but in the next scene we’re at the local care home, where Jean has arrived to speak to Carol. A spot of bridging dialogue, explaining that the ex paper girl was Carol, would have made this part of the story flow a little better.

Diana Walker’s acting career only encompassed this episode of Juliet Bravo and a limited run in Brookside a few years later. Her lack of acting experience helps to give Carol a natural, unforced air – with her mother in hospital (and unlikely to ever come out) she faces a bleak and uncertain future, with Kenny being the one bright light in her life.

Kenny’s disappearance drives the later part of the story, but it’s never suggested that he’s in any danger (or indeed is dangerous himself). His eventual discovery is more the solution to a puzzle, whilst his continuing absence allows the spotlight to be shone on his estranged parents – Bob (David Boyce) and Pat (Deidre Costello).

Joe Beck doesn’t take to Bob at all. Granted custody of his son, Bob seems to be a pretty decent sort of chap – true, he doesn’t often get to see his son (but that’s mainly because he’s working night shifts and sleeping during the day). As he tells Joe, he has to earn money to put food on the table. There’s something in Joe’s expression which suggests this is something of a feeble excuse and the way Boyce plays the scene does suggest that Bob is an inherently weak man.

But he must have seemed a better bet than Pat, since the court decided not to grant her custody. If Bob’s pallid and faded then Pat’s bold and brassy. But her confident public image proves to be decidedly brittle ….

Roland continues to provide a dollop of comic relief. Once again he demonstrates that he’s lacking in a sixth sense (referring to Jean as Wonder Woman, whilst unaware that she’s standing right behind him). But she keeps on giving him chances and decides to take him along to Pat’s house in order to discover whether Kenny is hiding out there. He’s told to dress in plain clothes – well, what he arrives in certainly isn’t a police uniform, but it couldn’t really be classed as plain clothes either.

It’s a slight frustration that this episode introduces us to the very capable WPC Gilbert (Helen Duvall) as sadly this would be her one and only appearance. Possibly it was felt that one female regular was sufficient, but these early episodes would have been stronger if there had been at least one female amongst the rank and file officers.

Fairly forgettable crime-wise then, but Coins is a decent character study.

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