Juliet Bravo – Family Unit

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John Murphy (Rio Fanning) is a regular at Hartley police station. A widower with a young family of four, his fondness for a drink coupled with his inability to hold it means that he’s often to be found overnight in the cells. When he attacks his teenage daughter Maeve (Rebekah Blair), social services – in the form of Tom – are brought into the picture. It quickly becomes obvious that Jean and Tom view Murphy’s case very differently ….

Family Unit opens with a tracking shot showing a sizeable chunk of Hartley. Although it’s set up to establish a specific plot point (Jean notices smoke coming from the chimney of a house that should be empty) it helps to once again remind us of the sort of environment Hartley is.

The stuttering relationship between Jean and Joe is teased out a little more during the opening few minutes. Although they’ve been on a fairly even keel since the third episode, there does seem to be slightly more bite to their conversations here. Was this script originally planned to air earlier in the run?

Jean sends Joe out to look at the house, but doesn’t tell him why. When he radios in to query, she then suggests he walks across the street – once he does so, he spies the smoke and the penny drops. During their dialogue, Joe is the model of stolid efficiency, but there’s something about the way he pauses every so often which borders on the insolent.

Hiding in the house is a bruised and battered Maeve. Whilst Joe escorts her to the hospital, the character of Murphy is developed. It’s striking that Jean and Tom see very different sides of his character. Resident in the cells, Murphy views Jean with extreme disfavour (wondering how such a terrible woman could have snared a lovely man like Tom).

But when Tom later runs him down, he’s contrite and tearful as he explains the reason for the attack (he came home to find Maeve playing records in her bedroom with a Pakistani boy and snapped). Murphy’s racial hatred is never far from the surface – later he confides to a drinking buddy that he’s going to track the boy down and “descend on him, mangle him and give him a biblical pasting”. The irony that Murphy – as an Irishman – would also be viewed as an outsider by many isn’t overtly commentated upon, but the inference seems to be there.

We do later see Maeve’s friend (he receives a few punches from an incensed Murphy before she intervenes). But since he never speaks he serves no other purpose than to illustrate Murphy’s simmering anger. Maeve herself is similarly never really developed as a character in her own right – she exists purely to bring her father to both the police and the social sevices’ attention.

If Jean’s job sees her interact with Murphy once he’s broken the law, then Tom’s working from the opposite end. This explains why they’re on very different sides – Tom doesn’t want to see the family unit broken up and the children placed into care, whilst Jean isn’t prepared to let a potentially unstable father continue to live with them. Both, of course, are right in their own way, and this conflict helps to generate the main drama of the episode.

A little extra spice is added by the fact that Jean is concerned about the possibility that her confrontation with Tom, once it becomes public knowledge during the court hearing, might have a negative impact on her career. She worries that an enterprising newspaper reporter could spin it into an embarrassing story, thereby damaging her reputation at Headquarters. This isn’t something which shows Jean in a very good light, although as the script was written by series creator Ian Kennedy-Martin it’s not possible to argue that it’s the work of a writer unfamiliar with the series or characters. Clearly this is a side of Jean’s character that Kennedy-Martin was keen to touch upon.

Just a couple of episodes after another female office was attached to Hartley, Sergeant Margaret Cullinane (Maggie Ollerenshaw) turns up for a short transfer. She’s a very different proposition from the naïve WPC Hannah Maynard though. Experienced, confident and plain speaking, she wastes no time in telling Jean that she’s keen to take her job! Jean responds with icy politeness. Unlike Hannah in Expectations, Margaret is a fairly peripheral character, although the pair do have a brief late-night conversation in Jean’s office (this is after she’s had yet another run-in with Tom and is feeling somewhat emotionally bruised).

George Parrish might continue to play second fiddle to Joe Beck, but Noel Collins is gifted a lovely scene in which he harangues the ever-hapless Roland (Mark Drewery). Roland’s complaint that he doesn’t think it’s fair he has to make the teas and coffees for everybody (it’s not what he joined the force for, he says) is viewed with a definite lack of compassion by George. The scene is capped by George sending a severely ticked Roland out to the shops to buy some biscuits!

The court hearing is an uncomfortable experience for both Jean and Tom. Tom especially, who finds himself as the sole Social Services representative. Jean continues to paint Murphy in the worst possible light – acidly commentating, after his appearance in the witness stand, that he’s “a better actor than Laurence Olivier”.

After making an impassioned plea that he’ll never drink again or hit Maeve, it’s easy to see her point though (especially when a jubilant Murphy invites Tom to join him for a victory drink). In addition to this, the way Murphy brusquely instructs Maeve to take the other children home suggests that his contrite statements in court will prove to be worthless. Jean and Tom both witness this scene, with the inference being that Jean was in the right all along, although a more philosophical Tom is of the opinion that there were no winners, only losers.

What might happen to Murphy’s family in the future is left dangling, but from Jean’s point of view this case has damaged her relationship with Tom. “I can’t count on you 100 percent in the future, count on your 100 percent support”. Tom considers this to be a good thing though, the fact that they both have principles and are prepared to stand by them.

Rio Fanning gives a good performance, but it’s really the Jean/Tom dynamic which is the main focus of another decent series one episode.

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Juliet Bravo – Home-Grown or Imported?

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Peter Palin (Ivor Danvers), a newcomer to Hartley, hasn’t made himself popular with the locals. Having bought Tarn Hill House, he plans to turn it into a swanky country club, something which Greenwood (Allan Surtees), a farmer and Palin’s nearest neighbour, is less than happy about.

When Palin is later found unconscious and badly injured, Greenwood is an obvious suspect. But he’s not the only one – an escaped criminal called Martin Wright (an old business associate of Palin’s) had a score to settle with him. Plenty of possibilities then, but it could it be that there’s yet another reason for the attack which nobody has considered?

Like a few previous episodes, Home-Grown or Imported? is a slightly wrong-footing story. The opening few minutes sets up the conflict between Palin and Greenwood, but although that looks set to be the dominant theme, the story quickly veers in a different direction.

The difference between their characters is quickly delineated. We see Greenwood and his son in a Land Rover, slowly herding sheep down a narrow country lane with Palin stuck behind them. With the road blocked by sheep there’s no alternative for Palin but to sit and wait, something which obviously irritates him greatly (the number of angry toots he gives on his horn is some indication of this).

More possibly could have been made of the conflict between the pair. Greenwood’s disdain at the way his rural life is being threatened by this interloper is certainly a theme, but it isn’t central to the story.

Twelve episodes in, and this is the third to feature coppers from London. DI Winder (John Judd) and DS Fournel (Eric Richard) are easily the most objectionable seen so far though. Right from their first scene it’s clear that they regard the local force with the upmost contempt. Their baiting of Joe being a case in point.

Fournel confides to Joe that Jean’s “a bit of all right, isn’t she?”. Fournel’s unreconstructed mindset is further demonstrated when he then mentions that he couldn’t “take orders from a skirt”. This is the cue for Joe to launch a spirited defence of Jean. “The only thing that counts is how well the job gets done. Inspector Darbley’s as good as any male boss I’ve known”. High praise from Joe, especially given his attitude towards her which we witnessed in the opening episode.

Joe later gains his revenge by sending the two officers on a wild goose chase around Manchester. Interesting that when Jean learns about this she gives him her tacit approval. A sign of the growing respect between them maybe, or possibly it’s just that she’s becoming more relaxed now that she’s settled into the job.

Geoffrey Larder makes his third appearance as the constantly vague DS Melchett. We’re given a rare early glimpse into the CID room at Hartley (eerily deserted) as Melchett takes down the message that Winder and Fournel are in the area. But his inability to tell Jean about this earns him a scathing dressing down later. “Our two visitors from London … no doubt think we’re just clodhopping country cousins. You had a clear duty to give me that information at the earliest moment and not just when it suited you, sometime never”. Ouch!

Home-Grown or Local? boasts some very familiar faces. Ivor Danvers (best known for Howards’ Way) drops a few rungs down the social ladder (Palin is something of a wide-boy). Meanwhile Eric Richard warmed up for his later role as Bob Cryer in The Bill by playing another copper. Although as we’ve seen, Fournel’s character is a million miles away from that of Uncle Bob.

Martin Wright’s backstory is delivered in detail by Winder and Fournel. Remembering that a previous episode also saw two London officers on the trail of a criminal who never actually appeared, the attentive viewer might have been wondering if the same trick was going to be pulled twice. And so it was, which is slightly surprising.

With Wright a no-show, it seems obvious that Greenwood will turn out to be Palin’s attacker. This doesn’t turn out to be the case, although there’s still a connection to the farmer. The link may feel a little contrived (Roland notices a van without a windscreen and follows his nose) but since real-life policework also thrives on coincidences like this, it’s not too outrageous.

Winder and Fournel might not have got their man, but without their presence Home-Grown or Imported? would have been a rather thin story. But with them, it’s a rich and entertaining yarn (even if, not for the first time, the actual crime element isn’t dominant).

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Juliet Bravo – Expectations

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Hannah Maynard (Rosalind Wilson) is a green young WPC, temporarily seconded to Hartley. She’s keen, very keen, but quickly learns that there’s a wide gulf between theory and practice ….

Expectations, like a number of other episodes, juggles several plotlines. The slightly testy relationship between Tom and Jean is teased out in the opening few minutes. At present he’s got an even heavier workload than she has (Tom tells her that he’ll need to work this weekend). His desire to make a success of his new career in Social Services is clear, but so is the feeling that everything’s starting to slip away from him.

His office is a glimpse into the long vanished, pre computer age. Apart from whispered conversations and ringing phones, the only sound is the gentle click clack of manual typewriters. With no computers available to store or collate data, it means that everything has to be written down – hence why everybody is drowning in reams of paperwork.

There are several examples of this – a message from Jean on Tom’s desk (reminding him about their lunch date) becomes buried under a bunch of files whilst his fumbling with more files during a case conference draws expressions of disapproval from some of the others present.

Tom’s current case concerns Laura Cartwright (Jean Rimmer) and her husband Jack. He’s confined to a wheelchair, but this doesn’t prevent him from lashing out viciously at her. Laura later tells Tom that she allows Jack to hit her for the simple reason that if he didn’t attack her then he might do something to himself. A bleak moment with no closure, it’s another of those well-mounted kitchen sink drama scenes that the series excelled at.

It’s interesting that despite this being a major plot point, it isn’t a police matter (they aren’t involved at all) and indeed the travails of Laura and Jack are somewhat secondary to the examination of Tom’s working practices. His desire to prove himself has led him to take on more and more cases (since he believed that refusing any would be a signal that he wasn’t up to the job).

With Tom’s colleague, the ever patient Jennie Randall (Wendy Allnutt), also present, Laura directs a diatribe at poor Tom – describing how his visits are perfunctory at best and useless at worst. She may be being a little hard on him, but for a man who’s always prided himself on his ability to work with people (and joined the Social Services in order to make a difference) it’s something of a hammer blow.

Whilst this is going on, Jean welcomes WPC Maynard to the team. She clearly heroine worships Jean – confirmed by the fact that she requested a secondment to Hartley precisely because she wanted to serve under an officer whom she admired. Jean isn’t especially delighted to hear this and gently tries to explain to Hannah that the job is the important thing, not personalities. It’s left unspoken, but there’s the inference that it’s rare to ever be in a position to pick your superiors (we’ve seen how the likes of Superintendent Lake are – at best – rather condescending towards Jean). Rosalind Wilson is excellent as the keen as mustard Hannah, who manages to exasperate the phlegmatic Roland with her attention to detail.

Youth culture isn’t something that the series has tackled so far, but today we see two punky teenagers – Mo (Clare Toeman) and Laura (Sarah Sugarman) – which proves that Hartley does have its share of disaffected adolescents. They mooch around the perimeters of the plot for a while – trying the doors of locked cars on a grimy housing estate, running through a bleak concrete shopping centre – before they come face to face with Hannah.

Left to her own devices by Roland for thirty minutes, it’s plain that she’s no match for Mo and Laura. The pair, apprehended for shoplifting, are marched to the manager’s office – but when he has to leave, Hannah is left alone with them, which is where the trouble starts. The manager locks them in – a strange move since it means that once the punky pair turn on her, Hannah has nowhere to run.

The sight of a dishevelled Hannah, “pig” written across her forehead, slowly walking through the store (with an amazed Jean looking on) is a memorable one. Hannah’s reason for not cleaning herself up first – she wanted to public to see the dishevelled, other side of police work – is given short shrift by Jean. She considers this to be a highly melodramatic way of proving a point.

If the title of the episode could easily relate to Hannah’s experience, then equally it fits Tom’s nightmare of a day. The episode ends as it began, in the bedroom, although this time Tom is in a reflective mood. “I was incompetent and irresponsible” he tells Jean. His long suppressed resentment of her more successful career also bubbles to the surface but as they settle down for the night, there’s the sense that they’ve turned a corner and more positive times lie ahead.

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Juliet Bravo – The One Who Got Away

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It’s a busy time in Hartley. A group of international counterfeiters have moved into the area, a vicious murderer is on the run and Jean’s interest is piqued by a smooth con-man who targets rich widows ….

The One Who Got Away is content to slowly introduce and manoeuvre its guest characters, meaning that it takes a while before we understand exactly who they are and what their function in the story will be. A couple, who we later discover are Detective Inspector Harry Connor (Walter McMonagle) and Detective Sergeant Annie Aspen (Stephanie Fayeman), are shown selecting an isolated cottage (which looks perfect for a stake out) whilst a confident middle aged man, Commander Scott (Geoffrey Hutchings), checks into the Highwayman hotel.

The episode will spend a fair amount of time in the lounge of the Highwayman (which is a nicely realised studio set). For Hartley it’s clearly an upmarket sort of place – albeit with fake rustic overtones – which looks to be positioned slightly out of town. The cheesy muzak which constantly plays in the background is a nice touch, setting up the atmosphere perfectly.

Everything about Scott screams con-man, which is reinforced when his dinner guest – Colette Newby (Shirley Stelfox) – arrives. Scott spins a yarn that he served with Colette’s late husband on the Ark Royal and although there’s no obvious flaws in his story, something seems slightly off-key about him.

At this point, it might be expected that Harry and Annie have arrived in Hartley on Scott’s trail, but that’s not the case. Although when Harry later sees him (coincidentally he’s entertaining Jean at the Highwayman) he does comment that he seems familiar.

If The One Who Got Away has a theme, then it’s about subverting our expectations. Not only is Scott not Harry’s target, but Scott proves to be less in control of the situation than he thinks. Colette might be an imposing and respectable figure – chairman of the Townswomen’s Guild – but she came up the hard way and is more than capable of spotting a confidence trickster when she sees one. Bedecked in a wonderful fur coat, Shirley Stelfox is good value for money.

So although the viewer might have expected Colette to be the victim, she instead turns out to be, if not the hunter, then not exactly a passive character either. Colette (real name Mavis) offers Scott (real name Trunky Porter) a job. As a smooth salesman at her second-hand car lot, he seems set to make a go of things. It may not quite be that she’s going to make an honest man of him, more a case of thieves together ….

The way that Scott/Porter drops his cultured air when later confronted by Jean is nicely done, as is his reaction after he learns that his prey’s real name is Mavis! A con-man conned back.

The return of Superintendent Lake (John Ringham) has primed the audience to expect that the arrival of Harry and Annie from the Crime Squad is big news. Their action against the counterfeiters seems set to be the major theme of the story and yet – in another example of subverted expectations – it turns out to be almost totally a MacGuffin. We do briefly see the counterfeiters, but their presence has no impact on the plot.

Instead, the latter part of the episode focuses on Annie (maintaining the stake-out, all by herself) encountering the runaway murderer (played by Andrew De La Tour). It’s already been established that the house has no phone (which Harry seemed unconcerned about) so when the wild-eyed fugitive breaks in it appears that Annie’s going to have to face him on her own. It’s a slight shame that Annie is transformed into a victim during these scenes (she manages to beat him off before Roland arrived in the nick of time).

Odd that Annie would be left by herself with no means of communication. Whilst Harry is depicted as a secretive type – only Lake and Jean know why the Crime Squad are in the area – this is stretching credibility a little too far. Andrew De La Tour casts an imposing shadow though – and he’s all the more effective since his character never utters a single word.

The meeting between Jean and Harry is one of the most interesting parts of the episode. It’s plain that they have a history, with the clear inference being that they were lovers at one point (Harry waxes lyrical about the time they were snowed in at Merthyr Tydfil during an operation). In his presence Jean is almost girlish whilst the later arrival of Annie casts a slight chill over proceedings. When Harry wanders off, Jean and Annie start a faltering conversation which seems to have a clear subtext (both, in own their way, are keen to prove that they know Harry best). Despite vanishing for a section of the story, Walter McMonagle is another strong addition to the guest cast.

Mixing several different storylines, The One Who Got Away, thanks to its wrong-footing ways, is a very decent story.

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Juliet Bravo – Rage

Kim Buckley (Judy Liebert) is a new mother driven to distraction by the demands of her constantly crying baby boy. With no assistance forthcoming from her husband Jeremy (Christian Rodska) she quickly becomes a danger to her son ….

Rage opens with a visit to two very different households (although both homes are fairly spacious middle-class dwellings, not typical of Hartley). In the first, Jean and Tom are having a relaxed and playful early morning bicker. Tom is mock annoyed by the fact that the newspaper boy is slow in delivering his Guardian (he likes to park up at the end of the street and read it). Clearly he must be a well-read lad if he prefers it to the charms of the Sun.

Playing in the background is Terry Wogan’s breakfast show with Marmalade’s (an appropriate group for the time of day) version of Ob-La-Di-La-Da. The same song continues when the focus switches over to Kim and Jeremy, but the mood there is completely different.

They don’t exchange a word, although their non-verbal actions speak just as clearly as any dialogue would. Jeremy’s face expresses disgust at various small things (the way the teaspoon has been left in the sugar bag, toys scattered about the room) whilst the constantly crying baby is like a knife through Kim’s heart. When he leaves for work (slamming the door) still without having spoken to her, it might have been the trigger for the first of her breakdowns – she smashes up the living room – although this violence doesn’t appear to give her any respite.

Clutching a bottle of whisky, she eventually staggers up to her son. Up to this point we haven’t actually seen him (he’s been represented purely by sound alone). This works on several levels. Not only practically (strict rules would have governed the length of time a baby could be present in the studio) but also story-wise (there’s something slightly more disturbing about a crying baby when we can only hear it).

The sheer misery and desperation of Kim’s life is contrasted by the merry atmosphere at Hartley nick. When Jean enters, Joe is doing his best Long John Silver impression – all because they’ve received a report from a Mrs Edith Bridewell, who’s told them that her son has stolen her wooden leg ….

Moving onto film, as Kim takes her baby out, we get our first sight of the child. But not for long – once Kim enters the police station (as usual, recorded in the studio) the baby has disappeared from the pram. After Kim claims to have killed her son (the empty pram suggests this might be so) she runs off, necessitating a switch back to film as the green young PC Ian Shelton (Martyn Hesford) sets off in hot pursuit.

After this filmic moment we again switch back to the station on videotape (this constant jump from videotape to film and then back to videotape isn’t ideal but it was the way drama of this era tended to be made). A strange videotape/film mix occurs later in the episode when we see Roland checking out the Buckley’s house. The living room is on videotape, but the hallway is shot on film ….

Across the course of the episode, Judy Liebert is called upon to produce several violent mood swings – it’s certainly the sort of role that you have to through yourself into. After being pulled into the station is a deeply hysterical mood, she switches back to being quiet and composed.

She doesn’t have a particularly long list of credits, which is a slight surprise as Liebert’s very compelling as the deeply disturbed Kim. The battle of wills between Jean and Kim is well-written, giving both actors a chance to shine. Kim’s comment that Hartley “sits like concrete on my neck” sums up in a few words the sort of prison she believes she’s found herself in.

Kim’s wildly fluctuating moods continues to drive the story onwards. The moment when she punches Jean in the face (Jean responds by slapping her) is one such example. Presumably Jean intended the slap to bring her to her senses (which it did) although it’s still a jarring sight.

Writer John Foster had cut his teeth on Softly Softly (his first television writing credit was an episode of the series back in 1966) before moving onto a range of seventies dramas including Sutherland’s Law and Z Cars. He would contribute eight scripts in total to Juliet Bravo, including the memorable episodes Aunt Sally and Chasing The Dragon. It’s fair to say that downbeat often tended to be his JB style.

Offering little in the way of light relief, we do at least have a fairly happy ending after the baby is found safe and well. Jean tells Jeremy that he has to do his job better in the future (listen and respond to his wife) with Jean inclined to write this matter off. The right decision? Only time will tell.

Juliet Bravo – Cages

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George Donkin (Patrick Durkin) is an inept career criminal who’s captured the attention of Melisande Duffy (Anita Carey). Duffy, the bored daughter of a wealthy local businessman, declares that Donkin is a persecuted political prisoner and organises a demonstration outside the station.

Meanwhile Donkin, firmly inside the station, suggests to Joe that he checks the back yard of Szabo’s fish and chip shop. Szabo, a friend of Joe’s, has been resident in Hartley for some time (he fled Hungary decades earlier as a political refugee). And what is Szabo hiding in his shed? Why, a bear ….

Cages has two parallel storylines which eventually converge. At first, it seems that the travails of Donkin will dominate. Patrick Durkin was an actor with one of those faces that you instantly recognise, even if you can’t quite place where you know him from. Donkin is a faintly comic character, whose general lack of criminal ability is later sketched in by Joe (he tells Szabo that the one-eyed Donkin wore a balaclava when robbing a bookies, but only cut one eye-hole in the mask!)

We never quite learn why and how Melisande Duffy latched onto him. That she’s happy to use him in order to further her own political (Marxist) ends is clear, but Duffy never really emerges as a rounded character. She does interact well with Roland though – with him playing the hapless stooge and she the temptress.

Scriptwriter Kenneth Clark is more successful with Szabo (Jon Rumney) who enjoys several lovely scenes with Joe (which are easily the highlight of the episode). When Szabo describes the interrogation he suffered in his own country (a bucket was placed over his head and hammered all night long) it’s done in a very matter of fact way, although Rumney’s skilfully able to imply the horror non-verbally.

If we don’t know why Duffy latched onto Donkin, then neither do we discover how Donkin discovered that Szabo had a bear in his back yard. The reveal is nicely done though – mainly because it’s so unexpected – with a non-plussed Joe looking on. Although the reason for the presence of the bear is another slightly sketchy part of the plot (Szabo’s brother – a circus acrobat – had recently died, so the bear was passed over to him).

Duffy, on learning about the bear from a besotted Roland, decides to free it. This leads to a rather droll line from Joe, after he explains to Jean what happened when Szabo went out to feed it. “When he took the bear his porridge, no bear”. There’s then an attempt to generate a little bit of tension – will the bear, roaming the streets, maul a group of children? – but this part of the story doesn’t really grip.

Better is the byplay between Duffy and Duckworth (David Ryall). Duckworth is a down on his luck newspaper man who senses that the Donkin story might be his ticket back to the big time. Ryall could play this sort of part in his sleep (he’d later appear again as a reporter in another police series – The Chief) but he’s gifted some decent lines as he explains to Duffy that everybody – including both of them – live in cages, just like the unfortunate bear.

Kenneth Clark had experience with a number of police series, such as Dixon of Dock Green and Z Cars, but Cages never really clicks into gear. Save for the character of Szabo (and this is mainly down to Jon Rumney’s performance) there’s not a great deal that’s memorable here. The fifty minutes pass by amiably enough, but overall it all feels a little insubstantial.

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Juliet Bravo – Coming Back

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Having served a ten year sentence for armed robbery, Mick Grainger (Ron Bain) is heading home. He has a wife, Judy (Rachel Davies), waiting for him, but his reintegration into society isn’t straightforward. Especially since some people, such as Joe Beck, aren’t prepared to forgive or forget ….

There’s not a great deal of film in one, but what we do have is used very effectively. The episode opens with a panning shot, moving from a group of industrial chimneys to a bleak block of flats which are carved unappealingly out of concrete. The eerie silence is a signifier that it’s early in the morning and as the camera closes into one specific flat, we see that Chris Evans (Kevin Whately) is preparing to take his leave of Judy.

It’s plain that they’re in a relationship – which is a complicating factor since her husband is due home any day. The fact that Evans is a constable at Hartley nick adds another layer of complexity to the problem.

An early screen credit for Kevin Whately, his role in the story isn’t terribly large (although it’s an important one – especially the closing scene). Many series tended to feature one-off characters, like Evans, who have clearly been around for some time but were never actually seen by the viewers either before or after their single appearance. This always feels less than satisfactory and since Evans is a fairly peripheral character for most of the story there seemed to be little value in making him a policeman. Given that he hardly interacts with any of the regulars during the bulk of the story – apart from one scene where he asks Jean for a transfer – he could have worked anywhere.

One of the striking things about Coming Back is that it’s not afraid to use silence. Mick’s eventual return home to Judy is a halting affair – punctuated by awkward gaps in their conversation. As we progress through the episode, various people have their say about him – Judy’s employer Mr Lawrenson (Bernard Gallagher) considers Mick to be a dangerous man whilst Joe Beck can’t forgive him for attacking one of his best friends on the force (Mick’s assault meant that the officer was forced to retire due to ill health).

And yet Mick now hardly seems to pose a threat to anyone. True, he’s capable of getting drunk and riled, but his health issues (a major operation in prison has hit him hard) seems to have curtailed his previous wild spirit. Of course, we have no way of knowing just what sort of a character he really was before this current prison spell. Joe fills Jean in with Mick’s career highlights – but given Joe’s obvious bias it’s possibly not surprising that he delights in painting as black a picture as possible.

Crime is not central to Coming Back. Joe might be convinced that Mick is already planning another job, but that’s not the case. In fact, the only crime occurs in the last minute or so (and doesn’t concern Mick). Instead we have a character based drama which just as easily could have been a Play for Today or an Armchair Theatre. Ron Bain and Rachel Davies make for an intriguing pair – the dynamic between their two characters shifts somewhat during the course of the fifty minutes – and they’re the ones who really drive the episode along.

The Hartley regulars have no interaction at all with either Mick or Judy – only Mr Lawrenson bridges the gap (a nice performance by Bernard Gallagher as a rather pompous and self-important type). There’s some decent character building moments at Hartley nick though – we see Jean relaxing with the others in the kitchen, mock annoyed at George because he had the temerity to call her a Liberal! George also has a lovely line after he turns his nose up at the news that a new wine bar’s opened in town. He sorrowfully shakes his head and declares that Hartley’s becoming more like Morecambe every day ….

The aforementioned wine bar is where Jean and Tom head off for lunch, although it’s something of a stormy meal. Their argument – mainly about whether they should take Jean’s (unseen) mother on holiday with them – continues when they get home. So far Tom’s been a rather placid character, so it’s not a bad thing to see a bit more spark from him.

Those who enjoy the rough and tumble, cops and robbers, aspect of police series won’t find much of interest here (this one couldn’t be further removed from The Sweeney). But as a piece of kitchen sink drama, Coming Back stands up very well.

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