By Edward Kellett
The early Nineties saw the debut of what is arguably the show’s forgotten title sequence: a rejigged effort that ran for a little over a year, before the titles reverted to their original format in 1993. The opening montage had changed remarkably little in the previous three years, much less than the actual turnover of cast members, and a change was certainly overdue – poor old Ted had leapt out of that CID car well over three hundred times! But the replacement is an experiment that doesn’t quite work, and shows what a difficult task the opening titles were. There isn’t the same building anticipation of the police car approaching and screeching to a halt; instead there is just a close-up of the flashing siren, followed by a montage of single clips between each flash, which enables more characters to be crammed in but removes the pace and energy of the earlier, and later, versions. The great thing about these images, at their best, is that they not only showcase the characters but tell you something about them. This includes the ones that were staged for the titles rather than cribbed from an actual episode, like Jim leafing frantically through paperwork or Burnside banging up a prisoner with a wry look off-camera. Some of my personal favourites come from the Barlby Road era: Norika left holding the baby by Alec Peters, Tosh patting his stomach forlornly and best of all, Viv whispering something positively scandalous in his ear (“You’ll make someone a lovely wife,” is what she’s actually telling him). Fast forward into the mid-Nineties and you find more specially staged clips, including perhaps the most iconic, the shot of Dave exclaiming “Reg!” in exasperation as the latter pursues him. But the ones taken from the show itself have that all-important quality of being remarkably unremarkable, a perfect fit for what the show is all about. Highlights include Conway’s grand entrance through double doors, Sally Johnson’s mug gesturing, and the ‘jazz hands’ of Meadows while walking down a corridor with Greig. The static half-second clips in the 1991-92 titles don’t tell you anything except ‘Here’s someone else’, and were wisely abandoned after a year.
Change is visible not just in the opening credits but in the closing ones. These get the modern-day speed treatment for the first time, rushing past in a blur, and it’s a shame that the viewer is taken so quickly out of the atmosphere of the show, rather than being eased slowly out as in the past. This truncated version does some odd things to the theme tune as well: on many episodes the end drums are overlaid with the fanfare of the opening theme and this condensed twenty-second piece plays out over the walking feet, which produces a strange, dissonant effect. But the show needed all the extra advertising space it could afford, to build up to the marathon effort of turning out 156 episodes a year rather than a paltry 104. The episodes from 1991 seem to have had quite an influence on that later period. If the argument between Cryer and Brownlow in ‘Fear or Favour’ looks familiar when viewed now, it’s because shots of the two men appeared many times in the mid-Nineties titles, but this year was more than just a good source of clip bait. The ‘rags to riches’ phenomenon where guest artists were promoted to regular parts wasn’t that remarkable, given that they had already proved their worth on the show. But with the benefit of hindsight, it is remarkable that not one, not two, but the next three actors to follow Christopher Ellison into the DI’s chair all make an appearance in the space of a dozen episodes in Series 7. First up is Jaye Griffiths, as the traumatised mother of a cot death baby, followed by Gary Whelan and Shaun Scott almost back-to-back, playing villains who get a little too matey with some members of CID. Gary Whelan’s role is notable for him playing a gangland boss, Vic Palmer, whose bitter rival is Mickey Whelan, which must have caused a few misunderstandings on set. If it sounds unlikely that real and fictional names would get confused so easily (and Graham Cole has already spoken of how often this happened, and how some actors got wound up about it), then check out the scene in ‘The Harder They Fall’ where Cathy Marshall tries to contact the injured Steve Loxton. Who is this mysterious ‘Tom’ she is addressing? And how did he slip through one of Michael Chapman’s demanding viewing sessions afterwards?