Blakes 40 – Blakes 7 40th Anniversary Rewatch: Series Two, Episodes Eleven to Thirteen

Gambit

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Gambit‘s an odd one. The main plot – the hunt for Docholli – moves very slowly whilst the production design is somewhat on the tacky side. But since Robert Holmes’ script is packed with entertaining one-liners this isn’t really a problem.

If you like your B7 stories on the gritty side, then you’re out of luck. Aubrey Woods’ overpowering Krantor sets the tone. Woods is clearly having a great deal of fun – the banter between Krantor and Servalan being one of the episode highlights.

Blake, Jenna and Cally (the two girls glammed up to the nines) are involved in the main plot, but it’s Avon and Vila (attempting to break the bank at the casino) who get all the best scenes. The Avon/Vila subplot is so played for laughs that it feels more like a parody than proper B7 – the notion of Avon sneaking down to Freedom City (is he afraid of getting a ticking off from Blake?) and the way he persuades Orac to shrink himself (how handy and how odd it was never done again) are just two examples of this.

Oh, and the moment when he spits out his food after learning that Vila’s been tricked into playing the Klute at speed chess ….

With Holmes scripting, it’s possibly not surprising that the dialogue is a little different from the norm (Avon’s comment of “you dummy” doesn’t feel like something he would ever say).

There are also some prime examples of Holmes’ colourful command of the English language. Servalan’s thoughts on Krantor for one. “He is a despicable animal. When the Federation finally cleans out this cesspit, I shall have that vulpine degenerate eviscerated with a small and very blunt knife”.

Krantor’s counter-comments are equally as eye-opening (“one of these days, Toise, I am going to have Supreme Commander high-and-mighty Servalan ravaged until she does not know what month she’s in. I’ll have her screaming for death …”).

With an unforgettable turn from Sylvia Coleridge, an appearance from Bill Filer and Travis in a silly hat, Gambit is top class entertainment.

The Keeper

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If you’ve seen The Pirate Planet then you’ll know what to expect from Bruce Purchase’s Gola – except that the Captain had hidden depths, whilst there’s no such luck with Gola (who’s just all bluster). The Keeper is another example of Blake’s shaky leadership qualities – no sooner has he, Vila and Jenna teleported down to the surface of Goth than they’re overpowered with embarrassing ease.

Vila (obviously) becomes the King’s new fool whilst Jenna becomes the King’s new … well, you can probably guess. Sally Knyvette manages to mine a few comic moments from this fairly unpromising scenario. Meanwhile, Blake mooches about doing nothing much whilst Avon, aboard the Liberator, leaves the others on Goth to fend for themselves as he sets off to destroy Travis’ ship. One point, how did he know that the ship belonged to Travis?

If you like ripe overacting then you’ve come to the right place. In addition to Purchase there’s also Freda Jackson as Tara (she has a nice line in cackles). Servalan’s on/off relationship with Travis is now back on, since he’s once again at her side (Travis changing from being Servalan’s enemy to her ally multiple times since Trial has been decidedly odd). The way he cuts and runs some twenty minutes in does generate the episode’s only surprising moment though.

Fifty minutes of running on the spot, The Keeper ends up as something of an also-ran although with Derek Martinus onboard as director there’s some decent camerawork in evidence.

Star One

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Star One (rather like Terminal and Blake in fact) does indulge in a fair amount of running on the spot. Some of the scenes set on Star One (especially the hunt for Lurena) aren’t that interesting, but since the episode also features several of B7‘s most memorable moments the good outweighs the bad. Despite the fact that this is Blake’s last hurrah as a regular, Avon is still the one who gets all of the best lines. “As far as I am concerned you can destroy whatever you like. You can stir up a thousand revolutions, you can wade in blood up to your armpits. Oh, and you can lead the rabble to victory, whatever that might mean”.

His face-off with Travis (“Now talk or scream, Travis, the choice is yours”) is also rather good.

But at least Blake does have that brief chat with Cally, where the pair discuss the ethics of destroying Star One. It’s a fascinating scene – not least for the fact that Cally (next to Blake the most fanatical) was the only one to voice a tentative concern that killing millions of people might possibly be a bad thing.

Some of Star One’s functions are discussed in the opening few minutes. They seem rather benign (climate control) rather than oppressive and domineering. And the way the episode begins with Servalan effectively cast in the role of the goodie (discussing how to bring Star One under control in order to prevent further deaths) before crossing over to the Liberator (where Blake and the others are plotting to destroy it in order to generate chaos) shows how far the lines between good and evil have become blurred.

Servalan’s surprisingly a fairly minor character in this one, but the moment when she instigates a palace revolution is chillingly played by Jaqueline Pearce. “The President and those members of the Council who are unable to accept the realities of the situation are even now being arrested, as are those of our own people whose loyalties may be divided. At a time like this complete unity is an absolute essential”. The inference is that under military rule the Federation will become an even more oppressive force, although the aftermath of Star One rather negates this.

Travis’ death is a mercy killing (both for the character and the audience). A shame the effects shot of him tumbling to his doom isn’t terribly effective though.

And that cliffhanger ….

Blakes 40 – Blakes 7 40th Anniversary Rewatch: Series Two, Episodes Eight to Ten

Hostage

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Oh dear, this isn’t very good is it? Plus points, we get a brief smidgen of Kevin Stoney whilst Servalan placed under a little pressure is always good to see.

Continuity isn’t a strong point of this story. Servalan reacts with amazement when Joban tells her that Blake’s become a hero amongst the rank and file of the Federation, which flatly contracts previous stories where Blake’s growing reputation was becoming a problem.

I don’t know if it was ever seriously considered, but the possibility of Travis teaming up with Blake would have been very interesting. Having Travis as a new crewmember aboard the Liberator opens up all sorts of possibilities (which would have been more satisfying than the increasingly odd way his character was used – Voice From The Past, anyone?).

The crimos are pretty rubbish, as are the polystyrene rocks, whilst Travis seems stupider than usual (does he really not know who is weakest out of Blake, Avon and Vila?).

So not good, but there’s a few good one-liners scattered about and – as ever – great interaction between the regulars, so it’s not completely unwatchable.

Countdown

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The main drawback with a story which has a ticking countdown throughout is that things only really get exciting during the last few seconds. And so it proves here – even though we know that Avon and Del will save the day just in the nick of time, there’s still some decent tension wrung out as the clock ticks down to zero.

As for the rest of the episode, the development of Avon’s character (especially the revelation about his love for Anna and his uneasy relationship with her brother) is clearly the main point of interest. Darrow and Chadbon spar very effectively and it’s a pity that Del was never seen again (although given what we learn about Anna in Rumours of Death that’s possibly not too surprising).

Elsewhere, the characterisation of the remainder of the guest cast is pretty sketchy. Provine is a nasty piece of work and that’s about it – his only function in the plot being to give Blake another clue to the location to Star One (which is done in a highly unconvincing way). The locals are all pretty forgettable as well but I’ll give a bonus point out for the fact that there’s a female amongst their number (I’ll then deduct a point for the fact she’s such a wet lettuce).

Once again the girls are stuck by the teleport whilst the boys go down to play. This is becoming rather monotonous. Since it was already known that Sally Knyvette wouldn’t be returning for S3 (indeed she wouldn’t have done S2 had her contract not forced her to) it almost looks like all the writers had given up any interest in developing her character.

I do like the way that the Federation troops (supposed to be the best of the best) spend the opening few minutes doing nothing except running away as fast as they can from the advancing rebels!

Decent enough, but never a favourite.

Voice From The Past

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It may be mad as a box of frogs, but it’s impossible not to love Voice From The Past. I like the notion that Cally has badgered the others into doing exercises although it doesn’t seem to be agreeing with Blake, who is having the funniest of all funny turns.

Gareth Thomas goes right over the top and then back up again during the first fifteen minutes or so. It’s great stuff, as are Paul Darrow’s karate chops when Avon attempts to subdue a hysterical Blake!

Given Blake’s often arbitrary command style, it’s surprising that the others twig quite quickly that he’s not himself. Avon, as so often, is gifted most of the best lines (“Well, he’s certainly not normal, not even for Blake”).

Jenna, looking especially lovely today, is persuaded to share Blake’s nightmares (so she too gets the chance to register high on the hysteria scale). But once that moment of fun is over, the plot starts to fall apart somewhat.

It’s barely credible that Avon would leave Vila in sole charge of Blake. Equally hard to believe is the fact that a gullible Vila swallows Blake’s story that Avon and Cally are the guilty ones. Also, why are Avon, Cally and Jenna all sitting in a room with a door that Blake can lock? A touch careless of them ….

All of this messing with Blake’s mind ultimately does feel like filler, since when the main plot kicks in – Blake is invited to join a cabal of notable Federation types who plan to bring down the current administration – it seems clear that Blake would have been happy to join them without any manipulation.

What can you say about Shivan? Words fail me ….

Servalan’s tussle with Governor Le Grand tops the episode off in style. Servalan on the big screen is some sight.

Something of a messy episode, but it’s also great fun.

Blakes 40 – Blakes 7 40th Anniversary Rewatch: Series Two, Episodes Four to Seven

Horizon

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I love the opening ten minutes or so, which shows that tempers aboard the Liberator are getting rather frayed, with the result that everybody – especially Jenna – has become rather snippy. Well, everybody except poor Gan, who’s been exiled to the teleport bay for no good reason.

Horizon might be a fairly unsubtle colonial satire, but both Darien Angadi and William Squire are very watchable. Angadi’s Ro is a fascinating character – when he displays disinterest in the continuing deaths of his people at the mine (whom he refers to as primitives) is this an example of his Federation indoctrination or is he genuinely unfeeling about their fate?

Squire’s Kommissar oozes seductive villiany (a much better role than the Shadow in The Armageddon Factor – especially since this time he’s not hidden behind a mask).

The one part of the plot which doesn’t quite hang together is the revelation that Blake was intimately acquainted with one of Ro’s best friends. It’s far too much of a coincidence to be credible (unless Blake knew about Ro and Horizon all along and simply pretended to the others that he didn’t).

The scenes of Avon alone on the Liberator, debating whether to cut and run, are a highlight as is his explosive appearance on the planet, where he mows down a number of Federation troopers in his best Clint Eastwood style.

Not as bad as its reputation suggests, this is pretty decent fare.

Pressure Point

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Brian Croucher’s performance is considerably dialled down compared to Weapon. He still doesn’t quite convince, but a calmer Travis is a better Travis for me. It seems barely credible that Servalan would have hung about for eighteen days, waiting for Kasabi to turn up. She’s the Supreme Commander for goodness sake, who’s doing all the paperwork?

Jacqueline Pearce’s crocodile smile is on overdrive today – and she’s the recipient of some dramatic scenes with Jane Sherwin’s Kasabi. It’s always good to see Servalan slightly discomforted.

The main plot’s a bit of a run-around which doesn’t make a great deal of sense. If Central Control is only a shell, why does Servalan have so much trouble in getting the barriers deactivated? And since Travis has already snaffled the teleport bracelets from Blake and the others, he doesn’t actually need to follow them down – all he has to do is wait at the entrance, as eventually they’ll all have to come back up that way.

Blake’s cry (“We’ve done it! We’ve done it! We’ve done it! I’ve done it!”) and his subsequent collapse to the ground is a S2 highlight. That one of Blake’s merry gang dies in a totally pointless way seems apt – from start to finish this was a doomed exercise. For all of Blake’s optimism (his year of secret planning) his lack of foresight and tactical planning has been cruelly exposed.

Trial

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It’s hard to get too invested in the travails of Blake and Zil, so it’s lucky that the other plotline is rather stronger.

Travis gets his moment in the sun (explaining that his misdeeds are a direct result of his Federation training). Croucher starts to go way over the top here, whereas earlier in the episode – possibly because he didn’t have too many lines – he was somewhat more restrained.

Surprising that Servalan doesn’t feature more, but presumably there were political considerations precluding her appearance at court. Kevin Lloyd gives a nice performance as Trooper Parr – it’s always good when the Federation rank and file are given a voice.

Pretty watchable, but not a favourite.

Killer

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No surprise that Holmes quickly latched onto Avon and Vila as a team. Both are given plenty of good lines (such as Vila’s “When Avon holds out the hand of friendship, watch his other hand. That’s the one with the hammer”). This does mean that the others (especially Jenna and Cally) are somewhat sidelined though.

Ronald Lacey and Paul Daneman are both decent guest stars, Lacey as the untrustworthy “friend” of Avon and Daneman as a “good” Federation man. Given the way that Blake in the past has tended to regard the Federation as a single evil entity, it seems a little out of character for him to be so keen to warn the base about any possible danger from the mysterious vessel.

Some of the costumes are rather silly, but this is an occupational hazard with B7, especially during the second series.

Killer feels pretty trad – it’s almost as if Holmes was feeling his way at this point (crafting a story that wasn’t too dissimilar to what had gone before, but with a little extra twist). It’s his next one where he really starts to cut loose …

Blakes 40 – Blakes 7 40th Anniversary Rewatch: Series Two, Episodes One to Three

Redemption

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Redemption is a slightly odd way to kick off series two. Mainly because the first thirty minutes are Liberator bound, which gives it the feel of one of S1’s cheaper bottle stories (like Breakdown). Still, this does give us plenty of time to goggle at everybody’s new togs whilst the Liberator moves very slowly to a mysterious destination.

Avon – as usual – gets most of the best lines. His needling of Blake (“well now, you only had to ask”) is a delight. Sadly, the amount of time spent aboard the Liberator means that by the time we get to Space World there’s no time to explore it in any detail. Harriet Philpin and Sheila Ruskin look very nice but since the Altas are slaves to the machine they aren’t gifted distinct characters (so the creators of the Liberator remain just as much of a mystery at the end of the story as they were at the beginning).

There’s a nice bit of location filming, but Redemption doesn’t really amount to anything more than an amiable run-around.

Shadow

There’s a harder and more cynical edge to this story, which after a few fairly generic Terry Nation romps is more than welcome.

Blake’s desire to deal with the Terra Nostra, despite knowing exactly what they stand for, is a highly revealing character moment – clearly the ends justify the means for him. That Gan is the one who expresses the most vehement disapproval is a nice touch (this allows him to emerge as a character in his own right for once, but alas it’s too little and too late).

Blake is proved to be completely wrong, which demonstrates just what a flawed “hero” he is. Vila may be acting early on from self interest (he’s desperate to get to Space City) but his assessment of Blake – a pampered Alpha grade who wouldn’t last a minute amongst the underclass that Vila used to hang out with – seems spot on.

Avon delights in later telling Blake “I told you so”. And his ironic comment (“law makers, law breakers, let us fight them all. Why not?”) when learning of Blake’s next crazy scheme is a typically good Darrow moment.

Space City might be rather underpopulated (we have to rely on Vila’s vivid imagination to fill the gaps) and the subplot with Cally and Orac does seem rather bolted on to fill up an underunning script, but overall Shadow is a good-‘un and a favourite from S2.

Weapon

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Travis, after getting out of rehab, looks strangely different …

Brian Croucher doesn’t have a particularly auspicious debut (Travis here has all the subtlety of a bull in a china shop). Luckily, he would settle down a bit in later episodes.

The plot doesn’t make a lick of sense. If a perfect facsimile of Blake (or indeed two) can be whipped up, you’d think they’d be put to better use than what we see here. Clone Blake’s sole function is to inspect Coser’s wonderful weapon, IMIPAK, for a few minutes before Servalan arrives and takes it off him. Eh?

The earlier scenes with the Clone Master are fun though – all moody lighting, dry ice and Dudley going overboard on the organ ….

John Bennett does his best as Coser, despite the character’s funny clothes and the fact he’s only got one mood – very, very angry. Candace Glendenning also doesn’t have much of a part but is really rather lovely, so I’ll cut her some slack.

Scott Fredericks, despite his limited screentime, makes easily the best impression as the supremely confident puppeteer Carnell.

And what of our heroes? Well, they spend most of the episode on the Liberator, having a chat. Which sort of sums this one up, it’s mostly talk with little action.

Easily Chris Boucher’s least engaging story.

Tony Hancock (12 May 1924 – 25 June 1968)

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Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of Tony Hancock’s death. This has generated a crop of newspaper and magazine articles, some – unsurprisingly – focussing on his sad demise.

The essential beats of the story should be familiar to most – the way his decision to gradually divest himself of all his comedy associates (first Kenneth Williams, then Sid James and finally Galton and Simpson) sparked a slow but inevitable decline. Spike Milligan’s famous quote (“he shut the door on all the people he knew, and then he shut the door on himself”) seemingly provides the final word.

And yet … this has always seemed to be not quite the whole picture. For one thing, it’s hard to argue against Hancock’s assertion that his comic character needed to grow and change. Sir Peter Hall (speaking in the Heroes of Comedy programme on Hancock) labelled the Lad as a product of the fifties (comparing him to Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim). If so, then carrying this persona unchanged throughout the next decade simply wouldn’t have worked.

The assumption seems to be that Galton and Simpson could just have continued churning out comedy classic after comedy classic for Hancock, but how many more stories were there left to tell? Possibly a move into a regular film career would have been best. It’s well known that Hancock grew to dislike and fear the pressure of the television studio environment – not least due to the problem of having to learn so many lines. Whilst The Government Inspector (bafflingly, still not available on DVD) suggests that – like Max Wall – he could have pursued a dramatic career.

It’s all what ifs of course, but the notion that if only Tony had stuck with the old team everything would have been fine does seem a little flawed. For those who want to dig into the story deeper, there are a number of books available (some much more lurid than others). John Fisher’s biography is by far the best – an unashamed fan and admirer, he nevertheless didn’t shy away from the darker moments. But he also made the observation (which few others have) that Hancock’s life, post Galton & Simpson, wasn’t all downhill. During the later years there were still high spots to be cherished.

But even when the details of Hancock’s final years have been picked apart for the umpteenth time, we still have most of his best work available to enjoy. And this should always be Tony’s enduring legacy.

For any newcomers, a few suggestions to get started.

The Blood Donor/The Radio Ham

These two television episodes, from his final BBC series, were later re-recorded for an LP release and it’s these audio re-recordings (released and re-released numerous times over the years) which are my preferred versions. Slightly tighter and better performed than the television originals (plus The Radio Ham has a little extra value – “If I’d had me key I wouldn’t have knocked on the door, would I?”) they’re an excellent introduction to the world of Tony Hancock.

The Last Bus Home

One of the later radio HHH‘s with the core team of Tony, Sid and Bill, this is simply a joy. Like Sunday Afternoon At Home, it makes a virtue out of the fact that very little happens (they wait for the bus, they can’t get on the bus, they have to walk home). But there’s still so much to enjoy – especially Tony and Sid’s punch-up (“at least I know where I stand”). The way that Sid dissolves into giggles after Bill announces that the bus is finally coming is a lovely unscripted moment.

The Missing Page

An obvious television HHH choice, but that’s because it’s very, very good. Tony and Sid work beautifully together and if the plot doesn’t quite hold water, with so many wonderful lines (not to mention Tony’s beautifully performed library mime act) I’m not complaining.

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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 – 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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