By Edward Kellett
The focus on vigilantism during this year is an extension of The Bill’s longest-running theme. Hardly an episode goes by without a complaint from a guest character that the police do nothing for them. Sometimes it feels like background noise, helping to pad out a script. But, given the show’s ability to focus on day to day policing and crimes both major and minor, the uneasy relationship between the police and the public is at its very core. Pick any point in its history and you can see a snapshot of that relationship; a taking of the temperature. To look back from the present day, when trust in the police is seemingly at an all-time low, is doubly fascinating. The growing culture of litigation, highlighted in early 1992, returns in ‘A Malicious Prosecution’, by Julian Jones. Cathy and George are in court representing the Met as it is sued for damages by a man they arrested. “If he loses he’ll have to pay costs,” Cryer reminds them. “At least it won’t cost him his career!” she snaps. “It’s us who have to sit in court and listen to him tell lies.” The issue at stake is, once again, a literal storm in a teacup. “On the afternoon in question, Mr Berne got into an argument with his milkman. A neighbour called the police. Having had a brief word with the milkman, they went onto Mr Berne’s property and arrested him for threatening behaviour.” Berne says he told them to leave, but “the woman said I couldn’t tell them what to do. Her foot was in the door maybe, ’cos when I tried to close the door I couldn’t. And then boom, she suddenly lost it. Gave me a shoulder barge and the PC must have joined in. They were in the house, I was thrown to the ground and handcuffed!” When the gawky milkman takes the stand, he doesn’t exactly aid their cause: “I said that Mr Berne was a nutter… a psychopath. What else do you call a man who does his marbles when the milk’s not on time? It was a bit childish, but… I put a little V-sign up to him. He’s the sort of bloke you lose your temper with.” The prosecution barrister grins from ear to ear the moment he’s handed that gift. “You don’t like Mr Berne, do you? You’ve had several run-ins with him.” “Look, he lies about when his milk’s been delivered. Tries to con his way out of paying the bill.” George emphasises that Berne was “incandescent with rage” when they spoke to him. When he denies that Cathy’s remark was made, she looks anxious and we realise that holes are appearing. “I put it to you that you were angry with the WPC because you knew she’d ‘cocked up’. She’d arrested the man in his own house for threatening behaviour, and that’s against the law; isn’t that true, PC Garfield?”
Cathy brings up the abusive language they faced and is reminded that there is nothing illegal in it. “Not since they repealed the Profane Oaths Act of 1745,” remarks the judge, who views proceedings with an air of wry detachment. “If there were we’d have to make a lot more arrests, your honour.” The witness statement of a neighbour suggests that “you were in some dispute with your colleague” after they took Berne out of the house. Pressing home his attack, the barrister points out the three occasions in her notes where she emphasises that he was in the street at the time of arrest. “When were these notes made? After my client told you he intended to sue?” He pursues this with Cryer, who was custody officer, suggesting that he spent six hours trying to pressure Berne into accepting a caution in the knowledge that this would undermine his subsequent lawsuit. Meanwhile, Dave and June are looking into the theft of a keyboard by someone wearing a crash helmet, and pursue a suspect, Kevin Ryan, as he runs out of his college library. Dave chases him into the toilets and is clouted with the crash helmet; he lands a couple of punches in return before Ryan escapes. The next day his mother turns up alleging assault and wants to skip the complaint stage: “My solicitor told me to sue ya! I want compensation!” “You want a trial without an investigation?” Ryan comes in, claiming that he was suddenly attacked, having gone to the toilet feeling nauseous. “Yeah, exactly the way I’m feeling now,” mutters Burnside. “And of course you had no idea he was a police officer?” “I had me headphones on. You probably didn’t see them; they’re very small.” His alibi is that he was sitting his exams at the time of the burglary, and Burnside’s other evidence is thin: “Apart from the fact that he might wear a crash helmet, and he might be able to pick out Three Blind Mice with one finger on a piano! His solicitor’s already suing for assault, I don’t want him adding wrongful arrest and false imprisonment. Cathy and George have already used our budget up on that.” To add insult to injury, the librarian at the college asks for the chief super’s number: “I intend to make a formal complaint about your fellow officers’ conduct yesterday.” Even when Burnside points out who struck the first blow, she is unmoved by his suggestion that Dave used reasonable force.
The two storylines converge in one bristling moment that gets to the heart of the issue, when Dave takes his turn in the witness box, having been jailer when Berne was locked up. The judge spots his black eye and observes drolly, “I see that a member of the public has been helping you with your enquiries, Constable.” Dave’s pained smile – we’re public punchbags, hilarious! – freezes into anger for a moment before he manages to bury it. When Ryan’s alibi is confirmed, he ponders whether the complaint will affect his chances of promotion. “I wouldn’t worry about it Dave, you never had any chance anyway,” June assures him. They spot a green shirt, matching the description given by the robbed man, hanging outside Ryan’s squat and a search reveals the missing keyboard. When he returns, his brother fills in the details of the scam: “I’ll do your GCSEs for you, but I’m not getting a record for you! I thought I was giving you a qualification, not an alibi.” But this success story isn’t matched in court. The foreman announces that they have reached a decision on only one issue, whether Berne should have been detained for six hours: “We answer no.” The default legal position of the police, explained to an astonished Dave a year earlier, is restated by Cryer. “They’ve found liability on one issue, they won’t have to answer the other questions. Be told to settle out of court. It’s usual Met policy now, so Joe Public don’t know how much we paid out.” “But the jury may have found that we correctly arrested him,” George observes. “It doesn’t matter now.” “It does to me!” protests Cathy. “We were in the right.” George sums up the absurdity of these tit for tat battles, in which the only victors are the lawyers: “Why don’t we take him to court for being wrongfully sued?” “Maliciously sued,” she corrects him. The courtroom format is at its best here, relying not on some last minute twist but retelling events from different perspectives, Rashomon-style. Left to draw their own conclusions, the viewer can see that Cathy has blundered, but in the face of intense provocation, which the police are expected to be immune to. Not only are verbal and physical abuse a standard part of the drill, but they can stem from the most trivial matters.
The relief are under fire from all sides in ‘Cause for Complaint’, which marks a welcome return for Edwin Pearce, who hadn’t written for the show since the Barlby Road days and would go on to be a regular contributor throughout the mid-Nineties. Monroe deals with a complaint from a businessman, Mr Hassan, who was assaulted and robbed but waited forty-five minutes in vain for the police before taking a taxi to hospital. He discovers that Steve entered the wrong address because he misheard Mrs Hassan over the phone, a detail that Mr Hassan neglected to mention. Once again, language barriers add a layer of difficulty to what is already a tough job. Meanwhile, a man complains for the third time about a youth hassling his teenage daughter. “I’ll make sure he’s spoken to,” Boyden assures him. “Yeah, but I’ve heard it all before!” Soon after, Tony is waiting in the area car as Dave visits a cashpoint. A speeding car goes past round a bend, nearly hitting another vehicle. “Oi!” its furious driver shouts at Tony as he takes down the number. “Not even a signal! You just sit there, mate!” This is exactly the kind of needle between police and public that the show highlighted by focusing on small incidents. But it doesn’t remain small for long. Cryer passes on an emergency call about a fifteen year old girl, Hayley Thomas, who has been abducted by Darren Collins, in the same car that just went by. Boyden slams the wheel in frustration on hearing this. He and Polly track down the car, but find only a shoe lying beside Collins. Boyden drags him out and yells, “Where is she?” His mother rushes from the house, demanding that they get their hands off him. The shaken up Collins admits that he left the girl on waste ground. She is found badly beaten and rushed to hospital. “Oh, you want to talk to me now?” says the distraught father. “You’re priceless, you lot!” Collins’ mother demands to see Monroe, alleging assault. Reg tells Polly, “She’s spitting fire, what happened out there? It weren’t you, was it? Give that lad a couple of backhanders? I heard he looked the worse for wear.” Boyden is called into the headmaster’s office for one of many entertaining duels throughout this year. “Did you strike him?” “No sir.” “I’m told half of Harmer Crescent saw otherwise.” “Well they would, wouldn’t they?” “You roughed him up.” “I had to get him to tell me.” “And if he hadn’t? How far would you have taken your version of reasonable force?” “Not sure, sir,” Boyden simpers, using the evasive tone that grinds Monroe’s gears: a man of certainty against a man who always holds something in reserve. “The road gets more slippery, doesn’t it? What position would this have put Page in? Would she be tempted out of loyalty to back you even if she thought you had gone too far?” But it turns out that the father hit Collins repeatedly before he kidnapped his daughter. “Make out for the marks on his face. Can’t be sure though. You could still have a rogue copper on your hands.” “More of a loose cannon, Matthew. I don’t approve of either.” “You might put a thought in her mind, sir. It was touch and go with the girl when we found her. If Darren Collins hadn’t talked when he did, he’d be on a murder charge.”
A show written from a police perspective is always going to be sympathetic to their point of view when it’s challenged – but, with its layer of detachment, The Bill makes us sympathise with the aggrieved party too. This is seen even in an episode that leans heavily on the experience of one officer, ‘A Life in the Day Of’ by Edward Canfor-Dumas, in which mundane events collide with devastating ones. Once again motoring offences are the starting point. Dave and Steve are on parking patrol, enforcing zero tolerance. “Leave it out mate, I was only there for a couple of minutes!” a van driver protests. “A couple of minutes too long, sir. It’s a double yellow line,” an uncaring Steve replies, handing over the ticket. He spots a woman across the road locking her car on another yellow line, but she says she needs something urgently from the chemist’s for her daughter. “All right, I haven’t seen you,” he says grudgingly. “Five minutes, I promise!” “Oi, oi!” the van driver calls as he goes past. “What is it, one law for birds and different for blokes? I’m reporting you, mate!” Conway is reminded that he asked for experienced officers on this crackdown: “Mm – not two Rottweilers.” The first scene is echoed brilliantly when a councillor on the police consultative committee is told that he can’t park in the yard as it is reserved for officers. “Well, Inspector Monroe, I shall make sure Mr Brownlow knows exactly why I’m late for our meeting,” he huffs as he gets back in his car. “Quite frankly Chief Superintendent,” he later remarks, “with officers like that I’m not surprised the Met finds it so difficult making friends.” A man rushes up to Steve saying that he saw someone climbing into a derelict factory by the river. With him gone, the woman returns to her car to find it being towed on Dave’s orders. “But the policeman said I could leave it here. It was an emergency. My baby urgently needs these – nappies.” He stares at her for a moment, then gives the truck drivers the nod. “I’m sorry, but once the wheels are off the ground I cannot release the vehicle.” “But when I got here the wheels weren’t off the ground!” Her anger mounting, she grabs him by the collar as the rubberneckers look on, all on her side. Finally losing it, she knocks off his hat. “You’re lucky I don’t arrest you.” “You couldn’t care less, could you?” “Bus stop’s over there.” She lands a slap, visibly regretting it the moment she’s done it, and this time he does arrest her.
Steve gets down to the river and finds a man standing on a boat, looking out at the water and swigging a can of beer. “What am I doing? Good question. Doing myself in, officer. No point me living, that’s all. Failed – job, flat, family, everything.” Steve is forced into the alien role of Samaritan: “So you got family then, kids. They don’t want to lose their dad, do they?” “Four minutes, they reckon. That’s all you’ve got.” An increasingly desperate Steve watches the man fill his pockets with stones. “What’s the point of doing yourself in, just when things are getting better?” “Never get better for me, Steve. Jinxed. It’s better like this, clean, over, everything!” Steve gives him one last appeal, saying that he could have a fresh start with his family. The man stares at him for a moment, seemingly convinced, before he drops backward into the water. Steve rushes to the side and watches him flail about, fighting for breath, until he drops out of view. He radios for urgent assistance, then sees the passer-by watching from the quay. “When I got here, the two of them were just talking,” the latter tells Tony afterwards. “He just sort of, keeled over. “He didn’t jump?” “Hard to say, didn’t look like it. And he just stood there watching,” he adds pointedly, looking at Steve. “Didn’t try to help nor nothing.” “Yeah, well… we’re advised not to risk life needlessly.” “That right?” comes the unimpressed reply. Steve finds out that the deceased’s name was Ian Clarke. Tracking his wife and children to a grim one-room bedsit, he doesn’t get the sorrow he was expecting. Once Mrs Clarke has sat down in shock, the first word out of her mouth is, “Prat! He always said he would! If things didn’t get better, like this hole he got us in! Go on then, I said. Give us all a rest. Bastard!” “It’s not definite that it was suicide.” “No, it was. It’s just to spite me and the kids. These witnesses, didn’t try to help him then?” “Too dangerous apparently,” says the tight-lipped Steve. “Nah. No one ever felt like helping him. Trouble, really.”
Back at Sun Hill, Cryer asks Dave if he has any witnesses to the assault. “Only the removals truck driver. None of the public wanted to know, of course.” “I’m not surprised!” The woman, Mrs Scott, is astonished to learn that she is being put in a cell while they wait for her solicitor. When he arrives, she refuses to accept a caution and is happy to go to trial. “All my client is saying, constable, is that when the bench hears how a policeman told her she could park her car there and she did, and how another policeman then came along and started to move her vehicle onto a removals truck, and wouldn’t let it down even though she got there before the wheels were off the ground, and how she was on an urgent trip for her little three-month old baby who was crying at home in considerable pain with nappy rash – well, they might look rather unfavourably on your actions. They might even wonder why you wasted their time bringing the case before them at all.” When Steve returns, Mrs Scott calls out triumphantly, “That’s the one who said I could park there!” “No,” he replies bluntly, and walks off. “You liar! He’s lying!” “Look, I never gave her permission,” he tells Dave, “I just said I would turn a blind eye for five minutes!” “Oh brilliant! Me and the truck only turned up and tried to remove her motor!” “I was called off on a shout. I was busy – OK?” Steve tells Monroe that he was writing out a ticket for the woman’s car – fifteen minutes later, not five as she promised – when he was called away. Monroe asks how the deceased’s widow took the news. “She wasn’t exactly heartbroken, sir,” he chuckles bitterly, his voice cracking: and for a moment the pain is etched on his face, in a sublime piece of acting by Tom Butcher. “Me, I’m all right,” he adds dismissively. “It’s not easy, not going in to help, is it? You did the right thing, Steve. You did your best, and he didn’t want to know. Might as well go after someone who’s chucked himself in front of a train as go into the river.” “But what if he didn’t mean it, what if he fell?” “Accident or suicide, you’re not responsible for his death – only he is.” “I was just remembering last winter, when I went into the canal, and my coat got waterlogged. I nearly drowned. And I was looking at him in the water today, and I was thinking, ‘That could have been me, you know.’”
Monroe has to go through another counselling session with Mrs Scott, who is thinking of making a complaint. She too is in distress, and while it’s petty in comparison to what Steve has gone through, she has good grounds: “My baby’s screaming with nappy rash, and I rush out to buy her some new nappies. And I end up being flung in a cell, kept hanging around for hours, treated like I’m a piece of dirt! And then when the guy who could have sorted everything out eventually turns up, he just denies the whole thing and walks away!” Monroe gently informs her of the situation that Steve faced that day, and asks if she wants to proceed. “Perhaps you should bear in mind that sometimes, we do actually have better things to do than spend our time dealing with other people’s parking problems.” He pops into the canteen to tell Dave and Steve that she has dropped the complaint and taken the caution, which is perhaps the one time where the episode gives human nature a little too much credit. While she was undoubtedly the victim of pettiness, no one mentions the extra time she took – a tiny abuse of goodwill, because a parking offence isn’t a ‘real’ crime. These are the fascinating nuggets of behaviour that the show mined time and time again. The issues in this story are so plentiful that some are only mentioned in passing: should the emergency services endanger themselves to save life, or should a potential suicide be handled at arm’s length because the victim is less ‘deserving’ of aid? These are the questions faced by police officers who become the last safety net for someone the rest of the world has given up on. It’s often observed that the police only make contact with people in extremis, but rarely are we reminded that this extends beyond the simple dichotomy of victims and criminals. It’s that much worse for Steve because there are no loving friends or family to absorb the grief of Clarke’s death. Despite being the last person to fail him, he is also the only one left to mourn him. But the world won’t stop to share his pain. Conway arrives in buoyant mood after getting through his nightmarish meeting: “How are my two Rottweilers, then? Busy morning? Well good, keep it up. And no quarter given, all right?”
It’s unsurprising that uniform bear the brunt of the public’s anger. But CID face it too in the other ongoing strand of this year, when a new initiative takes them into people’s homes on a regular basis. In Julian Jones’s ‘Fact of Life’, the office is given an injection of youth by the arrival of Marcus, a sixteen-year old on work experience from St Gregory’s School. “I didn’t think that was a school, I thought they’d turned it into a borstal,” says Jim. “One of the many things you require as a policeman is a sense of humour,” notes Greig. “Unfortunately that’s one of the many things Jim lacks.” Dave is in pursuit of a burglar who has broken into a lady’s home and realises it must be a notorious youth, Tony Reilly, who he arrests for going equipped. Cryer points out that the evidence is thin, and Reilly is due in court that day on two other charges of burglary. Greig advises him to “enjoy the luxury of a flushed toilet while you’re there. It could be some time before you see one again.” But after a sob story from the defence, he is let off with a fine. “They’re lay magistrates, what do you expect? If he wasn’t in custody he’d probably have picked up enough this afternoon to pay that. He’d have fleeced a few houses and been back in time to watch Neighbours.” The story points out a truth rarely seen in TV drama: that the detective work of finding an often obvious culprit is nothing compared to the work afterwards. “We can’t just keep screening it out and hope it’ll go away!” Greig protests. “Where do these lay magistrates live, do they know what it’s like to be burgled? If we get a stipendiary magistrate on the bench, I will personally raise a flag on the station roof!” “There are six burglaries on this ground every day alone – and five of them can be put down to Reilly,” Tony tells Cryer. “In the end, the public think that we just aren’t bothered.” But Conway reminds us that everything is connected to everything else: “Mr Brownlow has been onto the magistrates. They’ve got the government on ’em; they’re trying to cut down on overcrowding. Don’t have a go at me Bob, I’m not the home secretary!” Greig pulls an all-nighter to identify a pattern in Reilly’s crime spree, Andrew Mackintosh cutting a dapper figure even when crawling from a sleeping bag in his socks and a night’s stubble. He and Dave realise from the distribution of post boxes in the area that Reilly is posting the stolen gear back to himself. Asked to transfer the data from one map to another, Marcus observes that it’s like being back at school. “You’d rather be out playing football, we’d rather be out nicking villains,” says Jim. “The government thinks it helps prevent miscarriages of justice. You see, if we do all this paperwork, we haven’t got time to go and arrest anyone.”
But the episode does more than just rail against bureaucracy. When Dave talks to the shell-shocked victim, the true cost of burglary is revealed. “All he got was my wedding photo. It was in a lovely silver frame… My husband died not long after we were married. It’s a shame I can’t open the window any more!” “I’ll make sure someone from Victim Support visits you.” “No, there’s nothing you can do. I’ve been lucky really, considering the area, that I’ve never been burgled before. I suppose it’s a fact of life nowadays.” The secondary status of burglary, as a non-violent crime, has led to a vicious circle of acceptance that runs from victim to police to courts and back again. Dave later finds her passed out, having had a stroke, and is more determined than ever to nail Reilly: “Some woman somewhere’s gonna be wondering when’s the next time chummy’s gonna come breaking through her window. Probably end up a Mogadon casualty.” The breakthrough comes by chance, when Marcus sees Reilly entering a post office to buy stationery. He is grabbed with empty jiffy bags and address labels on him, one of which is for a jeweller’s shop that is fencing the stolen gear. “Well Marcus, we’d normally go for a pint now,” says a cheerful Meadows, “but I’ll buy you a cup of tea downstairs.” Jim introduces him to the real rite of passage for a budding lawman: “You come and sit yourself down here. You’ve done your first arrest; now you can do the paperwork.” Conway has already gone to Meadows with a proposition. “Someone’s got to do something about these burglaries. My lads are fed up of turning up at everybody’s house, taking down the details, knowing full well that you’re going to screen them out and they’re not gonna get investigated! There’s a bit in here about Operation Bumblebee,” he says, pointing to an excerpt in a newsletter – a real initiative, introduced here a few months before it became capital-wide in real life. “It means setting up a dedicated burglary team.” “It means that every reported burglary gets properly investigated. It means we don’t treat it as a victimless crime, and we give chummy something to worry about for a change!” “You’ll have to do something about sentencing before that happens.” “We send jokers like Reilly up to court week after week, they’ll get as sick of him as we are. Believe me, they’ll soon do something about putting him away.” “A life without Reilly.”
So begins the show’s biggest expression of the ‘public service’ theme that had developed over the past couple of years. In The First Ten Years of The Bill, script editor Zanna Beswick describes how Bumblebee was designed to address public concerns about burglary, and the fact that it was viewed as a Category B crime warranting only a uniform visit, with no follow-up. The scheme begins in earnest in Joanne Maguire’s ‘Supply and Demand’, where we learn that Dave and June have been seconded to it. “Bumblebee’s a PR exercise, isn’t it?” says Barry. “Giving these burglary victims flannel about how concerned we are.” Tosh and Alan are equally doubtful about the new annexe being carved out behind them. “At least we’ll never be lost for a drawing pin again,” observes Tosh. “I get it, you join all the same coloured pins together and they spell out chummy’s name!” “But it’ll never beat the tried and tested method of standing around reading tealeaves, will it?” says a scathing Donna Harris as they raise their mugs in unison. Bumblebee proves to be Donna’s finest hour, her role as collator coming into its own a few years before computerisation made it redundant. There’s a pleasing realism in the way the show explores the unglamorous, seemingly ‘un-televisual’ crime of burglary, proving its dramatic potential. The techniques of criminal profiling, so often used to build up a picture of a rapist or serial killer, are just as applicable here. Donna visits “the hub” of the operation and meets PC Jardine, who is compiling a vast map of burglaries on which times, methods of entry and forensic details are recorded. “Once you’ve identified a group of jobs which share a common factor, you can pull them out and take a closer look at them.” Donna applies the same reasoning to the burglaries she is dealing with, which all involve keys cut at the same bar. In addition to being grounded in real life, burglary stories were also an ideal fit for the show’s ‘dovetail’ effect, in which two seemingly separate plots are gradually merged together. A stolen VCR, containing a racy bubble bath video that the relief are keen to inspect, is linked to an electrical shop selling dodgy gear, including items taken in the housebreaks. Thus the pins that Tosh joked about are indeed lined up to spell out the suspect, and he has to concede that “Bumblebee could actually be taking off.” “I think we’re already airborne,” Greig corrects him, “thanks to the Queen Bee.”
The operation kicks up a gear in the next instalment from Julian Jones, ‘Fagins’. Burnside raids a flat and discovers the head of the family lying in squalor on a mattress, addled by a heroin habit. “He’s my dad, right?” says the youth at his side. “Really? You’ve got my sympathy, son. This is Operation Bumblebee, pal. We can knock your door down, pull your floors up – you’ll be lucky if we don’t take your ceiling down.” They retrieve a number of stolen jewellery boxes, but the difficulty comes with finding the losers. Once he is released from hospital, ‘Zorba the Turk’ is brought in for questioning. Having played a veteran from the Kray era in ‘Old Habits’ five years earlier, Ralph Nossek delivers another memorable performance here as the emaciated father, rolling cigarettes to stick between his yellowed teeth as Burnside tries in vain to get the truth from him. “I got them in a car boot sale. I come back with all sorts of strange things.” “Got all the old answers.” “Well, it’s too late to think of any new ones, innit? We’re just talking, Mr Burnside; I ain’t saying nothing.” On his release, he points out that his name is “Hassan, not Zorba”, and asks if he can get a lift back with all the jewellery boxes that have been returned to him. “You worried you’re gonna get robbed?” asks a sarky Lamont. Burnside observes he is a placer, a man who other people come to for advice on where to fence stolen goods: “In return for which he gets a few favours – most of which goes up his nose.” Meanwhile, Greig and Ackland have arrested a youth, Robert Butler, together with the goldsmith to whom he flogged stolen jewellery. The latter’s wife turns up at the station, warning that he suffers from terrible migraines that cause stars in his eyes. “When he saw Butler, I wouldn’t be surprised if he saw pound notes in his eyes,” replies a caring Greig. Then, with the practised eye of a copper, he observes, “That’s a nice watch. Have you got a receipt for it?”
When they search the couple’s home, June finds another, gold Cartier watch hidden in the frozen peas. “That’s very generous of Birdseye,” notes Dave. “Didn’t want burglars to find it,” the wife explains. “Defrosts and works perfectly.” Dave does some research with Cartier and finds out that it would cost over ten grand. “You can buy a car for that!” exclaims June. “At current prices you could buy my flat for that,” Greig adds dismally. The company keeps a record of every watch sold in excess of five thousand pounds, and via this they are able to trace the original owner. He sold it to a dealer who was subsequently found murdered in his shop. The goldsmith, Lucas, insists he knew nothing of the killing even though he bought the watch: “He’s just a kid, I didn’t know…” The trail leads back to the nondescript teenage boy who seemed to be just a minor player in all of this. Confronted at his home in front of his shocked mother, there are no escape attempts or protests of innocence: he just nods matter-of-factly and comes quietly. “I was only going to nick the watches. It’d have been all right if he hadn’t come back. He used to fence stuff, didn’t he; had loads of gear off me. But he was just ripping me off!” We are reminded that burglary is more than just the movement of goods among the well-off who can sit back and deny everything. At the heart of it are kids taking huge risks for very little reward, and facing the consequences alone when it goes wrong. Brownlow congratulates Burnside for his progress after only two weeks on the operation, and the latter suggests a publicity drive to get people marking their property clearly in future. “You’re getting to be quite a diplomat, guv,” says Greig approvingly. “Yeah, well if we save on budget it means we can go out and buy a few more sledgehammers. And some circular saws!”
Bumblebee also acts as a useful jumping-off point for other crimes. In ‘Out of the Mouths’ by Duncan Gould, Greig and Quinnan look into an early-morning burglary “with the Met’s usual lack of resources, leaving Reg Hollis to explain the wonders of it all to a load of teenagers.” Showing the people skills his colleagues rarely appreciate, Reg wins over his giggling audience of schoolkids when he says of Bumblebee, “Yeah I know, it’s a stupid name innit?” Holding up a stereo he might offer them for a quid, he asks for takers but has them dropping their hands when he suggests it belonged to a boy who is now dead. “Looks kind of different now, doesn’t it? Possessions are personal. And so is burglary.” In the next group of kids, one loudmouth insists that most burglary victims are “rich gits” who claim on the insurance. Reg invites them to consider the frightening prospect of someone who knows where they live and what they’ve got, and can slip in at any time. “But all that is going to be changing, because we’re going to be fighting flat out from now on against burglars. Bumblebee is about making a stand against burglary. Us and you. And if your mates, like him,” he adds, pointing to the troublemaker, “don’t agree – then stuff ’em. Because it only takes one to make a stand, and you have to do what you think is right.” His moral force has unexpected results. One of the boys, Kevin, asks to speak to him in private: “My dad. He beats my mum up. He has done for years… He’s gonna kill her one day. I want to stop him, and I want you to help.” He puts himself forward as witness and is told by Monroe that the CPS will not allow a thirteen-year old boy on the stand, nor permit him to give video evidence like young children do in abuse cases. But Reg begs to differ: “Not necessarily, sir. Up to the age of fourteen can give evidence on video now, as witness to violent or sexual offences. It’s the Criminal Justice Act 1991, Section 54.” In the rare position of being corrected, the irate Monroe has a word with him outside. Then, with a teeth-baring grimace that we might call ‘The Hollis’, he accedes to his demands. Kevin describes the history of violence in the home and casually reveals that he has been hit too: “Well, all dads hit you, don’t they?” Seeing the scars, the police can suddenly act, and Monroe apologises to Reg, who goes to arrest the father. Here the episode pulls the kind of surprise that The Bill was so good at. The off-screen picture that has been built up of this monster is undercut when the door is opened by the cardigan-wearing, bespectacled John Leeson: best known as the voice of Doctor Who’s cute robot dog K-9, but also a real-life justice of the peace, and therefore used to viewing these scenarios from the other side! “You must be joking,” Reg sneers. But he learns a painful lesson when the man is brought into Sun Hill at the same moment his son is being ushered out. He goes crazy, charging at him and landing a left cut on Reg when he intervenes. “Right idea, but it’s the little ones you have to watch,” Monroe tells Reg as he helps him up. “In more ways than one,” he mumbles, nursing a broken tooth. Greig makes an astute observation that others are slow to learn: “He’s not as stupid as he looks, our Reg.”
The burglary team unearths a more powerful family secret – involving, as it happens, another son called Kevin – in ‘Coming to Terms’, by Roy MacGregor, a regular contributor in the early Nineties whose episodes this year are some of the most noteworthy. June and Dave turn up at the house of a middle-aged couple, the Tolmans. “I don’t want to be here,” Dave mutters on the doorstep. “It’s their son who’s the monster, not them,” he is reminded. The father is curt and businesslike, bemoaning the lack of co-ordination with their uniform colleagues. “Some people do tidy up the mess, they were brought up that way!” he snaps when he is reproved for clearing the glass from their break-in. “After our son was arrested, your colleagues searched the house from top to bottom. They left it looking like a tip.” Learning that nothing has been taken, Dave is told that the purpose was intimidation. The details are revealed by the mother, a harrowing performance from Maureen O’Brien as a broken woman who sits alone in her front room, afraid to open the curtains. “We’ve been getting abusive phone calls since he was arrested… They’ve quietened down now, except for this one woman who keeps phoning. She talks about natural justice; how we’re guilty by association. If we stay we’ll get what’s coming to us. My husband says she’ll get bored and leave us alone eventually. He’s kidding himself; things’ll never be normal, not after what Kevin did.” The husband insists that the trashed bedroom is, not was, his son’s: “We’ll have it cleared up for when he returns. I know Wendy Charlton’s already pronounced him guilty, but then you wouldn’t expect her to be rational about it. The mother… of the boy who was murdered.” Now he has been ordered to stay away from his workplace, the couple are effectively prisoners in their own home. June asks if she has ever tried to speak to someone about it. “I couldn’t talk to a stranger about that. Anyway, what good would talking do?” When June suggests that they too are victims of their son’s crime, she gets another broadside from the father about how he hasn’t been tried yet. Dave speaks to a kindly neighbour, Mrs Lewis, who observes that Mr Tolman “can be a bit funny, but he’s harmless; mind you, that’s what we all thought about his son. It’s Pat I feel sorry for, she’s such a sweet woman…. I mean you read about children getting murdered, but you think the men who do it live on a different planet!” Tosh describes the details to Greig, of a mild-mannered clerk with no previous who lured a young child from a playground into the woods and strangled him. The police were alerted by an anonymous tip-off but there is no doubt they’ve got their man: “The DNA scuppers him.”
Greig visits Wendy Charlton, reassuring Tosh that “I won’t be taking the thumbscrews with me.” She is an upbeat young woman who is redecorating her son’s bedroom to help her move on – the advice of her counsellor, showing that she is getting the help that Mrs Tolman has refused. Furious to be accused of the burglary, she goes to their house and screams at their front door. Once she is dragged away, Tolman wants her charged. “I don’t have to put up with that sort of abuse!” he snaps as he files away the remaining glass on his broken door. “Since everyone round here is screeching for justice to be done, why shouldn’t I?” He relents as the reality of what she has been through hits him, together with the knowledge that he will never have the moral high ground again. “No, I don’t want her charged. And I don’t want her coming round here again either.” “Well he’s not all bad,” Dave concedes afterwards. Wendy apologises to the police but, like Tony Stamp a couple of years earlier, maintains that the parents must share the blame: “It’s like the neighbour said, they brought him up!” They call back on the helpful Mrs Lewis, who told Wendy that justice should get them in the same way as their anonymous caller did. “Do I look like a master criminal?” “The person who broke in next door certainly was not a master criminal. We expect to find plenty of forensic evidence.” She admits that she is the one who wants to move, not them. “I can’t afford the mortgage since my husband died. But you try selling a house with the parents of a child murderer next door.” Scratch the surface of a human tragedy and the real issue of property prices is revealed. June pops next door to see Mrs Tolman, who is upstairs tidying Kevin’s room, to her husband’s fury. “I don’t think we have to worry about forensic tests after all…” “I don’t give a damn about that! She’s no right to touch his things,” he declares as he storms away, hiding his grief. June finds the mother holding one of the model aeroplanes her son used to build. “He was clever with his hands,” she observes, echoing the innocent comment in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, of the young killer played by Farley Granger, that “these hands will bring you great fame one day.” June picks up a framed photograph of him. “‘The face of evil’ – that’s how the newspapers described it. But that’s the Kevin I remember,” insists his tearful mother. She adds briskly, “I had no choice. He might have killed another child.” “Are you saying that… you tipped off the police?” “My husband said I was mad, said I should put the idea out of my head, said it couldn’t possibly be Kevin they were looking for. He said, ‘How could any mother think that about her own son?’ But the moment the thought entered my mind… I knew beyond all doubt. It was Kevin.”
The work of CID may settle into a familiar pattern during this year, but the personnel go through a tumult that wasn’t seen again till the start of the Noughties. The overhaul begins with the exit of Viv Martella, in The Bill’s highest-viewed episode of all time: Russell Lewis’s ‘The Short Straw’. As the briefing room fills with SO19 officers, ready to tackle a “common or garden blagging” on the high street, Burnside asks if everyone is present and correct. “All except Viv.” “Well we’re not waiting.” June and Steve find the guilty party hunched over her broken-down car and give her a lift. “Ah – the late Martella,” says Carver cuttingly on her arrival. To her dismay Burnside grounds her, even though it was her operation to begin with. “Sorry, nothing. You don’t you do your homework, you don’t come to the party!” “Yeah, well you wouldn’t want a woman spoiling your Jolly Boys’ Outing anyway, would you?” she sneers. “I mean that’s what this is all about, isn’t it?” “What this is about, Martella, is commitment.” “I am committed,” she vows before she storms off. “Don’t tell me about it, love,” he mutters as he sits beside Jim. “Show me.” In the ladies’ she tells June a story that the latter knows all too well, of being palmed off on kids and domestics when a woman’s touch is needed. “He wouldn’t pull this one on Jim or Tosh if they broke down!” “No, of course not.” “If I get a result, I don’t expect extra praise for doing it without laddering my tights – but I also don’t expect the overkill when I mess up neither!” Meanwhile, Tony passes info on a handbag snatcher to CID. Against orders, Viv decides to accompany him on the arrest. “Burnside can whistle for it, can’t he? Do my brain in, cooped up in here.” In the high street, CID spot the white Transit van that was named in their tip-off – only for Maitland and Gary to rush onto the scene, pursuing the same petty thief, John Stack, that Tony has gone to nick. The spooked van drivers try to get away, and are even more spooked when they are surrounded by armed police. “I can’t see Varney,” says Jim, referring to the ringleader of the gang, and Burnside realises they have got the wrong men.
Outside Stack’s home address, Tony and Viv sit in the car waiting for him to return. It’s news to the former that there is an armed robbery expected that day, as they heard nothing from CID: “But we are only plods, I suppose.” “I tell you Tony, he carries on like he’s doing and I’ll transfer out, back to the button mob.” A blue Transit van pulls up on the corner, blocking their view, and Viv goes over to move them on. She gets increasingly suspicious of their claim to be repairmen, and asks them to step out. Their boss rummages in a bag, insisting that he can produce his documents – and instead produces a shotgun, firing at point blank range. Tony is clipped by another round and almost run over by the escaping van. He rushes to Viv and radios in the news. “Repeat previous, Tony,” Boyden asks him as he lifts his blood-stained fingers from the body. “It’s Viv. She’s dead.” In common with the other deaths we’ve seen up till now, the fatal moment comes midway through the episode, not at the climax. It’s timed to kick in just before the ad break, an important choice missed when watching on DVD, with the caption cards and theme removed. When the action resumes, it’s clear that time has passed – not a huge amount, but enough for word to spread and a despondent air to settle on everyone. With screen time at a premium in the half hours, this saves exposition but also builds up a greater emotional power. Monroe and Cryer find the dazed Tony, who has barely noticed his own gunshot wound and insists he can walk to the ambulance by himself as the paramedics try to help him. A sympathetic Brownlow talks to Dave and George in CAD, stressing the need for professionalism. For that reason, Steve is unable to take the area car to the scene of the crime. “I just want to see!” says a plaintive June. “She was my mate, Steve.” “All the more reason for not going.” “Well you never served with her, we go back a long way!” As the show embarks on an oddly specific fashion for killing off female officers beginning with M, which I noted in a previous review, it’s from here onwards that June becomes a kind of index, and testament, for the deaths around her: the one who keeps going while so many fall by the wayside.
Stack is booked into custody and starts mouthing off. Maitland is restrained from attacking him, and Boyden offers his own gentle advice: “You push your luck today my old son, and we’ll bounce you off the walls.” The story echoes the death of Ken Melvin in ‘Trojan Horse’ in more ways than one, in that the bombs and bullets are sheer happenstance. Both he and Viv were after petty criminals whose paths happened to intersect with more serious villains; it’s misunderstanding and poor communication that seal their fates. Like the car thief, Wilks, Stack is an odious little weed who wasn’t worth the trouble. “What are you looking at?” Tosh snarls in his face as he takes him off for interview, knowing that this is the man Viv died for. Recrimination kicks off in earnest when CID arrive, to find that one of their own is now a body in a tent like so many they have dealt with. “If you’re going to be sick, go outside,” Burnside orders Jim. “You might have told us about the op,” says Monroe. “Spilt milk Andrew,” he replies offhandedly, before trying to get Jim moving. “Don’t make a song and dance about it. I don’t need you to go frosty on me, we’ve already lost one silly bitch today.” “What’d you call her?” “If she’d turned up for that briefing, she’d have known what the score was. That’s what you get when you get sloppy!” “I don’t believe you, you bastard!” Jim screams as he attacks him, before Greig drags him away. Polly spots the blue Transit and for the next few minutes the action takes over the story. Here the show begins to throw its resources and its co-operation from the real Met at the screen, capturing a chase via helicopter filming for the first but not last time this year. With armed units ready to take over, the area car is ordered to pull back – but with Steve at the helm, there’s no chance. “Unsafe to break off pursuit,” June radios in, fooling neither Cato nor Brownlow. They clash bumper to bumper with the robbers before they pass under a set of railway arches. The getaway car swerves to avoid a digger and crashes into another vehicle, sending it flying. Revenge is served hot as it bursts into flames, and June calls in the FAT’AC.
This extraordinary set-piece, carried out by a stunt team working to a schedule tighter than any feature film, is matched by the fireworks of the next scene. The dust settling, Meadows has a conference with Burnside. “She was late,” the latter insists. “There was a point to be made.” “Well no doubt she’s learnt her lesson.” “Look, I can’t turn back the clock. It’s happened! The mistake is not mine!” “It never is, is it Frank?” The nature of Burnside emerges in all its horrible, compelling glory: beneath the one-liners and the Jack the Lad image is the ego that rages onward, leaving casualties in its wake. “I’m not donning sackcloth and ashes over this! It makes me sick… The sympathy junkies! It’s all show, Jack. They’re not sorry for Martella, they’re sorry for themselves! Behind all that hand-wringing they’re saying, ‘Thank God it wasn’t me’!” “You know, you’ve got a very singular view of human nature, Frank.” “Yeah, I have. Or maybe I’m just more honest than some people.” But his rant about self-interest merely reveals his own, getting in an early defence before the finger is pointed at him. As the undertakers remove the body, and a bucket of water is thrown over the last traces of blood, June and Steve return to the nick. “You got to be looking at commendations here,” says Reg, trying to cheer them up. Instead they are summoned to Cato’s office. “Pleased with yourselves?” “No sir, not really,” murmurs June. “Won’t bring her back, will it?” Steve takes full responsibility for the decision, but Cato is unimpressed. “What do you take me for? There’s no medals for stupidity, you know!” She informs him coldly that they weren’t thinking of medals. “And what were you thinking of?” “If you’d known Viv, that’s not a question you’d be asking.” The last scene is given to Cryer and Burnside, introduced as mortal enemies in the show’s very first episode, in which Viv also debuted as a walk-on part. Burnside is stuffing her possessions into a box on her desk, including her shoes. He turns down Cryer’s offer of the pub: “To watch Carver get legless? No thanks.” “Tomorrow then.” “Yeah.”
Having echoed the death of Ken Melvin in one way, the story parallels the more recent demise of Phil Young in another. Once again it’s split between two of the show’s great authors, The Two Russells, Lewis and Christopher. ‘Missing’ opens with Jarvis wandering round CID distributing paperwork. “Not on that desk – OK?” snaps Tosh after he dumps some on Viv’s. In her comments about how she didn’t want Viv to end up horizontal in CID, Nula Conwell observed that it would be “much more interesting to explore her genuine friendship with Tosh.” Given that he was the one friendly face among the dinosaurs when she started, her death hits someone who is basically a cheery soul hard. On enquiries, he meets a greengrocer who calls him “a bit of a comedown from last time, when me till got done. Tart come round, black hair… short skirt. Viv somebody. You should send her every time. It makes it worthwhile getting blagged!” “Have you been away sir, or just incommunicado?” asks Tosh coldly. “The black haired tart got killed last Friday.” Meanwhile, the cuts still visible on his cheek, Tony returns to work at his own insistence. “She should never have gone into CID,” he tells June. “Should have stayed a plonk and gone for stripes. You should and all. Get yourself off the streets.” But it was Viv’s worries about the streets, and whether she was up to the challenge, that partly prompted her move to the brains department. She had this debate with June back in Series 3, and as before, the latter resists any notion that her sex must be shielded from danger: “What, because we’re women and only men should get shot? Don’t be such a prat, Tony!” Her successful bid for stripes is not far away, but this is an ambition she had voiced years earlier for career reasons, not as an escape from the front line. There is a beautiful coda in which she invites Tony for a drink. “Being a woman, I’ll let you treat me,” she smiles, putting her arm in his; she understands his chivalry and is happy to indulge it to a point. “Fine. But no toast to absent friends, eh?” he insists, reminding her that he will never be one of the touchy-feely brigade.
Memorable as it is, Viv’s departure feels as though the show has woken up to a valuable character it had forgotten about for some time. Opinions may differ, but it seems to me that she was never used as well in plain clothes as in uniform. Her time on the beat asks difficult questions about women on the front line, in episodes like ‘Sun Hill Karma’ or ‘No Shelter’ where she is right in the firing line of traumatic events, literally so in the case of the latter. Her entry into CID sparks a debate on sexism, but as argued in previous reviews, this was often a case of the show having its cake and eating it. While Viv, Christine Frazer, and Kim Reid all face hostility and condescension in a man’s world, the storylines rarely push past this: to hint at a better alternative rather than merely reflecting current problems. This is hardly surprising given the indifference of the man at the top to a female presence in the show. Despite being well written and acted, it’s telling that Viv’s final argument with Burnside in ‘The Short Straw’ is little different from those she was having three years earlier when she joined. The problems of being an outsider, trying to fit in, can show in more interesting ways than direct confrontation – as seen in two examples from 1992, both by female authors. In Susan B. Shattock’s ‘Party Politics’, Viv smiles through a shaky rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ with embarrassment but also a hint that she enjoys being the Queen Bee among the men. When she opens Jim and Tosh’s carefully wrapped gift she doesn’t bat an eyelid, declaring, “Thanks, Tosh. Every girl should have at least a three-pack”, before dropping it into her pocket. She is dragged out of her own do because someone who can function is needed for an arrest, and she was on the tomato juice all along – shades of Mike using mineral water to get him through CID’s lunchtime boozing. Viv is not so calculating, but there is a sense that she must play up the good time girl image around her colleagues. In ‘Private Enterprise’, by Carolyn Sally Jones, Meadows asks Donna Harris up to CID to highlight their poor information sharing with the collator’s office. Images speak louder than words, never more so than when a nervous Donna walks in to face a wall of suits and ties, all in beautifully variegated shades of grey (except Tosh, clad as always in optimistic slimming black – who says CID lacked diversity?). They listen in sullen silence as she reads out the contents of the file passed to her by CID in the last month. “Told you it wouldn’t take a second, Jim,” Meadows reminds the pouting Carver once she has finished. Afterwards Tosh puts a comforting arm around her and delivers a verbal pat on the head: “Don’t worry, love. No-one’s blaming you for landing us in it.” “Oh I’m not worried, Tosh,” she sets him straight. “’Cos in my books what the DCI said was spot on.”
If the women in CID, and the writing for them, seemed to be going round in circles for a while, perhaps this reflects a transitional period in real life where women were being slowly accepted in habitually masculine fields. At some point the exotic becomes normal and is no longer worth being commented on purely for its own sake. Come 1993, the show grants itself the luxury of not just one but two females to replace the lost Martella, which eliminates this idea of the lone woman struggling against the odds. While they face the same challenges, they approach them in a low-key fashion that fits their personas. One of the best female characters in The Bill’s history is the marvellously no-nonsense Jo Morgan, whose initial rank of DC comes as a surprise on rewatch. It feels as though she was a DS from the start, such is her natural authority, and the promotion is not long in coming. What stands out in Morgan is the same quality in June Ackland and Cathy Marshall: that stoic, severe demeanour that is instantly recognisable in real female officers seen on TV. It feels like a necessary shield for those who have to get sense from drunk or hysterical people, and listen to the harrowing stories of victims, a task frequently dumped on women as June so often complains about. Less is more, a philosophy Jo applies to her colleagues as well as the public. ‘In Broad Daylight’, another Roy MacGregor script, gives her her first substantial role in a story of attempted abduction. A woman is left shaken after a narrow escape from two men who tried to drag her into their car. “I’m not saying that she’s lying, just that it might have been a genuine misunderstanding,” ventures Reg, in one of those periodic episodes where he’s written as insensitive clown rather than intuitive genius. “Blokes have to be very careful how they approach women these days.” He outlines a scenario where he sits on a park bench next to a woman, who might see him as “some dodgy bloke she’s got to be wary with.” “In your case Reg, she’d have a point,” comments Jim. “It’s all a big laugh, isn’t it lads?” Morgan remarks flatly from across the room. “I just don’t think it’s a humorous topic, that’s all.” She leaves without any further comment.
Morgan is still a newbie at this stage, but she develops considerably in the next MacGregor story, ‘High Hopes and Low Life’. When a promising young boxer is found beaten in an alleyway, by thugs who targeted his hands, Jo and Jim are once again on the case. Before he speaks to the dossers in the area, he drops her at the boxer’s gym: “Now before you go rushing in, you sure you fancy this on your own?” “Why, is it haunted?” “It’ll be full of virile young men.” “Sounds like paradise,” she beams. “Good luck with the winos.” They identify a local crime boss, Maurice Cowans, as a suspect and go to question him. In a brilliantly surreal touch, his door opens to reveal a giant bear costume – which he sheepishly removes, having donned it in readiness for a fundraising event at a children’s home that night. “It’s the law; come to arrest me for impersonating a teddy bear,” he tells his girlfriend Sarah. She confirms his alibi before she goes, sporting a black eye. She turns up at the hospital with flowers for the boxer, who she has been seeing, hence the assault ordered by Cowans, and Jo sits her down for a chat. The ensuing scene is one I always remembered from my first viewing of the series, illustrating the challenges of victim support. “Beneath that teddy bear exterior there’s a very violent man.” “Look, I don’t want this conversation. I’ve been through the social worker stuff before and it bores me.” “He’ll go over the edge eventually, men like him always do. Violent men don’t get less violent. Like alcoholics, they get progressively worse. I’m just curious to know what the hell you see in him.” “Don’t tell me; you’ve always been sensible about men. Yeah, I bet you found your Mr Right. I bet he’s kind and thoughtful and as boring as a wet Tuesday!” “I’m speaking more from my experience as a police officer. I get to see the dead bodies.” “You smug bitch! Don’t tell me how to live my life!” But this rage just bounces off Jo, whose advice is ‘take it or leave it.’ It’s obvious that she has had this conversation so many times, she is uninterested in offering tea and sympathy, only the unvarnished truth. It’s the nature of TV drama, of course, for things to be wrapped up in the space of minutes. Sarah’s later change of heart, coming into the station to admit that “you weren’t telling me anything I didn’t know”, would put many officers out of work if it were that easy in real life. The cops arrive at the children’s home to see Cowans frolicking among a group of children in his bear suit. With a flash of inspiration, Jim writes a note and passes it to Jo, who shows its brief contents to their target: ‘You’re Nicked.’ “I’m afraid children, Uncle Teddy’s got to go to the honey factory,” says the deflated bear, who is led away as the kids wave goodbye to him.
The author who introduced Morgan, Michael Jenner, gives her a central role in ‘Carrying the Load’, where the attempted hijack of a lorry from a haulage firm turns into a vicious assault on the driver with baseball bats. Jim wonders what he is doing out on the road instead of running his business. “It’s not his firm, it’s his wife’s,” Alan corrects him. “Same thing.” “Hah hah, you reckon?” He was thought to be the inside man, not the victim; now a DS in charge of the operation, Morgan has some catching up to do. She visits the firm and meets the boss, Iris Cressley, a formidable piece of work who insists that she can’t leave to visit her husband in hospital. “You don’t get many angels driving lorries, love. Devil cast his net round this yard he’d catch a few. It’s a hard business love, especially now, firms going to the wall left, right and centre, they’d kill for a load. It was a big laugh when I first started: a woman running a haulage company.” But Morgan is unconvinced when she reports to Meadows. “Something doesn’t ring true. I mean, this woman’s hard as nails. Has to be. But when it suits her she goes for the sympathy vote; goes for it hard.” “Getting a bit tough on her, aren’t you Jo?” The awkwardness of fitting into a man’s world is shown, again, in one image: the diminutive Suzi Croft stubbing out her cigarette along with the circle of blokes around her as they get into a van for the operation. A grizzled, sexist worker at the firm reveals that the husband was seeing another woman, and used to meet her on the patch of waste ground where he was ambushed. Morgan brings Mrs Cressley in and informs her that he has died of his injuries. “She wanted him hurt bad,” says one of the attackers, who did a better job than expected. Before she is charged with murder, she insists, “I loved my husband.” “Nobody’s saying you didn’t,” replies the impassive Morgan. “I thought I was hard,” the wife observes. “I got nothing on you.”
The changing of the guard accelerates when Ted Roach finally runs out of favours in ‘Punch Drunk’, by Edward Canfor-Dumas. Dave and Tony are called to a pub brawl in which the contestants are “killing each other!” Tony comes face to face with a bloodied and dishevelled Roach. “You want us to nick him Sarge, or what?” “What I want you to do Tony is to go away, pretend you’ve never seen me, OK?” But the other man needs hospital treatment, and any hope of keeping it under wraps is gone. Once again Roach has got himself into a brawl over a woman, and once again his nemesis is on the case: “Monroe? I’m supposed to be somewhere at five. Thanks, Tony. Thanks a million,” he snipes, still resorting to emotional blackmail when he can’t get what he wants. Monroe and Boyden, or as he knows them, “Tweedledum and Tweedledee”, are soon on the scene. There’s a wonderful hint of pride in the way Roach turns, bruised and battered, to face the spick and span Monroe: I’m me, and thank God I’m not you. He hands his car keys to Boyden without even looking at him and is driven back to Sun Hill. “That it, then?” the landlord rages. “One of your blokes kicks in some geezer’s head and just walks away?” “I can assure you Mr Peyton,” Monroe replies with misplaced confidence, “no one is walking away from anything.” The woman, WPC Lisa Bright, is embarrassed to find the spotlight falling on her. She had come to end a fling she was having with Ted, but when her fiancé Mark Leonard also appeared, he thought they had set it up to mock him and went berserk. But she “really couldn’t say” who started the fight, sticking to the code of honour even with her career on the line. At the station, Boyden allows Burnside to have a quiet word with his sergeant: “How many times do you have to kick him in self-defence? I’m getting a bit hacked off with having to duck and dive to pull your conkers out of the fire! And if you’re convicted, well… goodbye DS Roach.” “And that won’t look so good for you, will it Frank?” Roach hits out, determined to drag people down with him. “Failure to supervise and all that.” “Don’t play that game with me, Ted. You’ll lose,” says Burnside, with the certainty of a born winner addressing a born loser.
“It’ll be interesting to see how he wriggles out of this one,” Monroe remarks as he lays out the facts to Burnside. “Don’t try to lean on me, Frank! The person you should have leant on was Ted Roach – hard, a long time ago!” Meanwhile the grinning Boyden, who gets to dance on Roach’s corpse a year after the tables were turned, advises him to “get your retaliation in first. As soon he comes round, hit him with an assault charge; ABH. Muddy the waters a bit, eh?” “Oh, and you’d know all about that, wouldn’t you Matt? The things I could tell ’em about you, would turn them white upstairs.” “Listen mate, you wanna watch your big mouth. ’Cos right now you need all the friends you can get.” Roach tells Monroe he can’t remember what happened and is advised to “try, Sergeant. Selective amnesia won’t wash with MS-15, and it doesn’t with me.” Matching his condescension, Roach fires a warning shot: “I can’t remember exactly, Inspector; but to tell you the truth, he was getting right up my nose, you know what I mean? As a matter of fact when Leonard wakes up, I want him done with assault!” Boyden rolls his eyes in disbelief. At the hospital Burnside begins to weave his dark arts, reminding a dazed Leonard that “when the bad ’uns like Roach go down, they have a nasty habit of taking the good ones with them. She’ll probably find herself up before area complaints if you go ahead. Bringing the force into disrepute? Not a good mark to have at the start of a promising career.” Roach learns that he is OK – “Apart from a fractured cheekbone, stitches, bruising; yeah, he’s right as rain” – and wants to leave for another appointment. Boyden can read between the lines: “What is it, another bimbo? Edward! Unbelievable!” Monroe is immovable, and Roach gets more and more frantic: “You can say you were making sure he wasn’t spinning a line!” “Well thanks for telling me my job Sergeant, but the answer’s still no.” As the relief gather outside to eavesdrop, the argument gets more heated – and finally, the nub of it is exposed. “So far I’ve bent over backwards to help you, so do me a favour Sergeant and act like a grown-up for once.” “I always thought it was little boys who needed uniforms with shiny buttons to make them feel big, Inspector!” “Really gets you, doesn’t it?” sneers Monroe, pointing to his epaulettes. “Stuck at sergeant forever… You really are pathetic.” The death gleam in his eyes, Roach smacks him right on the nose – and the long-held threat that he made about more than one inspector has come true. The relief look on like shocked children watching the parents fight as Monroe orders him charged with assault. Boyden sits beside a despairing Roach, whose head is buried in his hands. “Are you on self-destruct or what?”
Burnside returns from the hospital having convinced Leonard to drop the charges, but all his efforts are for naught. “Not interested Frank, can throw the book at him for all I care – and will, I hope,” a red-nosed Monroe declares. In case we had forgotten just how many enemies Roach has made over his storied career, the story swings from his most recent nemesis to his oldest one, when he is hauled in front of the long-suffering Brownlow. “I am sick of you, and tired. And when MS-15 get here I’m going to bring every misdemeanour, every complaint, however trivial, whether proven or not – everything since you first graced us with your presence at Sun Hill, to their attention. In the old days you’d have been busted down to PC and back on the beat before you could blink your eye. But in these enlightened times we in uniform consider that if you’re not good enough for CID then you’re not good enough for us either. Believe me Sergeant, by the time MS-15 have finished with you you’ll be lucky to be a DC, pushing bits of paper round a crime desk.” “I’ll resign.” “Oh no you won’t, Sergeant. The days when our undesirables could slither off into some dark corner are over, almost. Do I make myself clear? Because I wouldn’t want there to be any misunderstanding about exactly where you stand in my esteem.” Burnside is ordered to guard him until MS-15 arrive, and the two men retreat to his office in front of disapproving looks from the rest of CID. Roach’s venom spills out uncontrollably: “I mean what was I thinking of, hitting him? No, I know. I hate him. I hate his guts, I hate everything he stands for, with his PACE and his Plus and his statements of purpose and his smiling at the punters and his have a nice day! I mean when was the last time he ever nicked anybody, eh? A real villain? When was the last time he ever put himself on the line?” Burnside tries desperately to shake some sense into him: “You’ve got to get hold of yourself, quick! Or it won’t be MS-15 coming for you, it’ll be the boys from the funny farm!” In the best line of an episode filled with gems, Roach snaps, “Watch the suit!” – proving that he is still a calculating man with an ego underneath, not an out and out idealist whose principles have driven him mad.
Monroe’s point about bending over backwards is a crucial one. Roach has only survived this long because of the goodwill of countless others, who pulled him out of the mire as early as the end of Series 2 when he could have been done for drink-driving. But, in typical Ted fashion, he shows them no gratitude. Even now, Burnside insists “this is still salvageable. Lisa Bright does not want to get covered in manure over this. So, what are you looking at? Conduct unbecoming, disrepute, drinking on duty.” “Oh, is that all?” “Oh come on, Ted. You and I both know blokes who’ve got out of far worse! Monroe’s your main problem.” “No wonder you made DI.” “Now listen you ungrateful bastard, do you want me to help you or not?” If he apologises to Monroe, then “mitigation, and the long view” will take care of the rest. “Mind you, this whole thing depends on how much you want to keep your job.” Roach begins the walk of penance, insisting he won’t run away: “Where would I go?” He knocks on Monroe’s door and the man himself appears in the corridor. “Yes? You wanted to see me about something – Sergeant?” Roach looks him up and down for only a moment before his mind is made up. “Nah,” he smirks. “Not at all.” Some rudimentary Googling of Canfor-Dumas reveals that he is now an international expert in conflict resolution, and one has to wonder: does he use this episode as an example of what not to do? Step 1: down a skinful. Step 2: beat a love rival into intensive care. Step 3: draw back fist and apply firmly to nose of pedantic inspector. Step 4: duck out of an apology. Chuckling, Roach skips up the stairs and grabs his coat. “It’s not worth it.” “It’s your only chance, and where the hell do you think you’re going?” “Sick.” “You’re not sick!” “I am, Frank. Of this place, the job, everything. Even you.” The hurt on Burnside’s face is a testament to how far they have come since the days that Roach would do anything to oust him. “Look around,” he adds, as we are shown the rest of CID, including the new generation of Woods and Morgan. “This is not the job I joined; you joined. Brownnose a creep like Monroe to stay here? You must be joking.” Burnside maintains that he’s not leaving till MS-15 arrive: “That’s an order.” Ted hands over his warrant card. “Shove it.” He moves to the door and stops to address his former comrades: “Oh, and by the way – don’t bother with the party.” With that he is gone, barging through the double doors with all the fire and fury that has marked his time at Sun Hill.
The departure of Roach leaves a gap that was arguably not filled until the arrival of Robocop Boulton two years later. Throughout the show’s first decade, Ted’s character arc is perhaps its greatest driving force: a remarkable achievement for a series of self-contained stories where no one person is bigger than the whole ensemble. On paper he should be a walking cliché, the hard-drinking, womanising maverick who doesn’t play by the rules. But The Bill was always adept at showing the messy edges of life, where the image people have of themselves breaks down. Being a renegade comes at a cost; it earns Roach no admiration from his colleagues, only irritation at having to cover for him. No matter how strong the overall cast are, long-running TV series depend on these intense characters: the ones that draw the eye when on screen, and prevent things sliding into cosiness. In the next episode, ‘Fall Out’, Meadows and Brownlow pick over the bones in the knowledge that life will never be the same again. Ted’s caseload has been taken on by Jo Morgan, who Brownlow agrees will flourish as a DS if Burnside doesn’t get to her first. “He and Roach have been covering each other’s backs for years.” “It’s the end of an era for Frank.” Trying to piece together Ted’s non-existent paperwork, Jo asks Jim about the details of a fraud case he was working on. “Roach and the governor were in it together.” “I’d rephrase that if I were you,” Alan advises him. Meadows calls Burnside to his office and lays out the situation. “The general consensus of opinion is that you failed in your supervision of Ted Roach. Now that’s a serious disciplinary offence, Frank. I should know.” “Yeah, well he’s a law unto himself, Ted, isn’t he?” Meadows puts it in simpler terms: “He dumped on you. And last week when you stuck your neck out he dumped on you again.” The wounded party has changed his mind and is pressing charges – so CIB will want to know why Burnside let a wanted criminal waltz out of the building. “I’d make your answers as full as possible if I were you, because there’s an outside chance that even in his absence, DS Roach will dump on you again.”
It’s unsurprising that, where Viv Martella’s death left people struggling to cope with their emotions, Roach leaves them struggling in a more practical sense. The woman he was supposed to meet that day is a snout, Chrissie Tranter, who is desperate to speak to him. As her co-handler Burnside sets up an urgent meeting, but is dismayed when told to take Morgan with him. Here we see the fault line between the CID of the Eighties and that of the Nineties: the ever-evasive DI and the dead-straight Morgan, whose presence reminds him that the boys’ club is over. Told of Chrissie’s background, feeding a drug habit, Morgan asks, “Turn a blind eye to that, do we?” “Ted did, yeah.” “Yeah, well to me that’s just not good enough. In this day and age when…” Her sermon is cut off as Burnside slams the car door on her. When they meet Chrissie he scorns her request to get out of the game, insisting that, “There’s plenty of mileage left in you yet.” This mercenary attitude renders Jo even more stony-faced than usual. “Look, I know we don’t have access to DS Roach’s brain at this exact moment – ” “I don’t think he has either.” Chrissie is abducted by a recently freed robber, Gary Murphy, who Burnside guesses was sent down by her info. “If Ted Roach hadn’t played things so close to his chest, I might have got there sooner.” They catch up as he is giving her a severe kicking. “She likes this sort of thing, don’t you Chrissie? It’s what she’s used to,” he boasts as Jo cradles her bloodied face. His macho stand-off with Burnside reminds us that the latter never went into this game to serve the public. “Make you feel like a big man, does it?” he yells in Murphy’s face after realising that the gun he terrified her with was a replica. For good measure he adds a well-placed knee: “That’s for Roach.” “Don’t like it out in the big wide world, do you Gary?” Boyden observes as he is booked in. “Four walls and a bucket is more to your liking.” He is sure that Chrissie will never press charges without Roach pulling the strings. Burnside radios Morgan at the hospital, telling her that “I want him proved wrong.” “OK guv, I’ll do my best,” she sighs – and once again she has to do the hard work of talking round a battered woman, this time huddled in agony on a bed. “I could kill him, you know,” Chrissie sobs through her stitches. “Yeah, I can understand.” “I mean Ted.”
If figures like Roach are essential, they are also irreplaceable, a point made by script editor Tim Vaughan on one of the Bill Podcast commentaries. It would have been foolhardy to try and find someone who could match the charisma of Tony Scannell and insert them into a similar role. Instead, the rank for rank swap produces an interesting change in the form of Danny Pearce, brought to life by the distinctive Martin Marquez, the most sinister flightless bird ever to grace our screens. Pearce too is a smart dresser who’s happy to bend the rules, but in a different way – and perhaps, for different reasons. If Roach wore his heart on his sleeve, one gets the feeling that Danny has several cards up his. Unfortunately, the character suffers from the same problem as everyone else at this point: submerged in the sheer volume of episodes being pumped out, which makes it difficult to build up his part beyond a series of traits. The most interesting of these, his devious nature, is explored in ‘Blind Spot’, by Roger Davenport, where Gary and Mike see a youth preparing to use a chisel on a car door and then find him kneeling over a man with a head injury; however, the chisel is not on him. A fresh-faced John Simm brings a creepy satanic quality to the smirking thug, Jeffries. “McCann?” he asks Gary with a malevolent stare. “Scotch, are you? Perhaps you’ll get promoted, and then you’ll be a happy little… Scotsman.” He admits stealing a purse they found on him, but not to the assault. They put their dilemma to Pearce, who observes that it’s not enough to interest the CPS. “Sometimes it’s a question of just how certain you want to be of getting a result… I had something like this when I was a probationer. There was this big uniform sergeant, we were on the beat, and we came across this bloke trying to break into a house. I was quick and I got him in the back garden. Now at the time, there was pressure on the clear-up rate, and this guy was a known villain. My old sergeant smashed the patio door and said to me, ‘You saw him do it, Pearce.’ Now what that sergeant would say to you is, ‘Are you quite sure you did not see Jeffries assault this man?’ All I’m saying is, there are some options open to some people. My sergeant would say it’s a question of protecting the public. He’d ask you if you’d want this guy back out on the streets to batter anyone he chose to.” Mike is worryingly keen to go along with this, but Gary is not. “Well, no harm done,” Pearce concludes of Schrödinger’s Fit-Up, having neither endorsed nor rejected it. “Does it matter?” he adds, when asked what he did about the burglar. The chisel is found, wiped clean by a wino. Then the victim cannot recall his attacker. “You never saw anything, did you?” the grinning Jeffries realises. “I’m gonna walk away from this. You can’t prove anything. And I hope he’s hurt real bad. Because he must be a very clumsy feller. Just like you two.” Pearce is waiting for them in the yard, rolling gum round his mouth like the spiv he is. “We did the best we could,” says Gary. “Well, that’s the main thing isn’t it?” he agrees, throwing a look of contempt from one to the other.
But if a smooth talker like Pearce is now the loose cannon in the team, it shows how quickly CID has been brought to heel under the leadership of Meadows. During 1993, his first full year in charge, the last remnants of the old regime are dismantled and he becomes the boss in every sense. This all-areas pass includes the interview room, where, as noted in previous reviews, he puts the screws on suspects in a way that no-one of his rank would do in real life. His approach does vary, however, and not just from writer to writer. Two episodes by Edward Canfor-Dumas provide a startling contrast. In ‘Heat of the Moment’, a woman is brought in admitting that she killed her husband with a hammer. She claims it was an argument that got out of hand, stemming from his controlling behaviour. Unmoved, Meadows asks why she didn’t leave him. “And it wasn’t a heat of the moment thing was it Mrs Baker, you thought about what you were going to do! An attractive woman like you, why should you put up with that, you could pick up any man you wanted!” She breaks down in tears under this hectoring barrage, and Viv, who has sat beside him in silence the whole time, is far from happy. “I think you were a bit hard on her sir, yes. She told us why. He kept her virtually a prisoner.” “Oh, you’ve got proof of that, have you? Besides, if I had a woman who looked like that I think I’d keep her locked up.” Disgusted, she goes to Cryer, who suggests that Meadows bring in Cathy Marshall with her DVU experience, but is sent packing. “You don’t like the way I’m handling things, do you? Is that why you had a word with Uncle Bob?” “All I’m saying is, being a man… well, you seem to be a bit biased to a man’s point of view. She deserves a bit more…” “Sympathy?” “No, consideration.” “Which as a man, you don’t think I’m capable of showing? Well Viv, for what it’s worth I totally reject your criticisms. Firstly, I’m a professional police officer, and I don’t care whether somebody’s male, female, black, white or blue, they’re all the same to me,” he declares: a risible statement that usually tells you the exact opposite. “Now secondly, before I came here my main job was murder enquiries. So I reckon I know a bit about investigating them, don’t you? Third, the fact that you’re a woman might give you some insights, which is why I wanted you there. But to my mind, that doesn’t mean that you’re blessed with total impartiality. So, if you still don’t like the way I run things Viv, you can always apply for a transfer. I won’t stand in your way.”
It turns out that the woman’s daughter was actually responsible, taking revenge on her stepfather for the sexual abuse he committed on her, and the mother was trying to take the rap. Meadows is in the middle of another verbal assault on her when he is interrupted, snapping, “What?” – No. 3 or 4 on the Cop Show Cliché Counter – and the wind is taken out of his sails. “I owe you an apology, Viv. I was barking up the wrong tree.” She is philosophical, observing that she had got it wrong too, which seems rather generous in light of the tirade she received earlier. The difference in the same author’s ‘Cry Baby’ could not be more extreme. Faced with another awkward domestic situation, Meadows appears to have changed tack – or maybe he is easier on male suspects than female ones. The sudden death of a baby becomes suspicious when a bruise is found on the back of her head. The mother is not only dependent on sleeping pills but couldn’t bond with her baby. She admits that she shook her that night to try and silence her crying, but it went on and she left her in the cot. “She just doesn’t like me… screams whenever I’ll come near her. Stuart’s more patient than me. He could handle her. He’s as good as her real father… better. At least he stuck around.” The boyfriend, Stuart Cotterell, is a teenage burglar who was taken into care following violence from his dad. When he is questioned, Tosh uses his vast experience in the field of parenting to good effect. Meadows sits in the background sizing him up, before he takes over and starts to deploys the empathy that up till now only Greig has bothered with. “Gemma may have banged her head on the rails of the cot, like you said. My daughter used to do it; scared us rotten.” He asks about Stuart’s dad, saying that he reminds him of his own short-tempered father. “I couldn’t wait to get out by the end. Didn’t see him for years after; not until just before he died, in fact. This shrunken old man in a hospital bed. It’s hard to believe it was the same bloke. Where all that energy had gone, all that anger. Gave it to me, I reckon.” Seeing the implication, Stuart insists, “I ain’t nothing like my dad.”
When he starts to break down, Meadows reassures him there’s nothing to be sorry about. “One thing you learn in this business, men can be just as sensitive as women. More, sometimes. You know, sometimes I feel it’s even harder for the father than it is for the mother. Now that’s not a fashionable opinion, I know.” He describes going to hospital with his wife and having to sleep on the delivery room floor. “The next day she has our daughter, I’m rushing back and forth, taking things, bringing things, ringing up the family… I’ve never been so busy. Two days later she comes back home, she’s as fresh as a daisy, and I’m on me knees! It’s right, isn’t it?” he observes as Stuart chuckles knowingly. He talks about how the sudden arrival of kids can change you, and not for the better. “I mean, I was jealous. Of me own daughter, all the attention she was getting.” Trying to get her to sleep in the night, “I was patting her on the back, I was totally calm… and suddenly this rage came out of nowhere. And I shook her hard, and I said, ‘Shut it!’ just like my dad. And then it went, just like that; back into the dark. Is that what happened to you last night, Stuart? You just snapped?” The value of the guest actor is again demonstrated when the camera lingers on Simon Nash’s face in one extraordinary shot lasting over thirty seconds, blinking as Stuart comes to terms with what he has done, before he murmurs, “Yeah.” Once formally arrested, he adds, “I couldn’t help it.” Tosh suggests the charge could be reduced to manslaughter, but Meadows says he is still looking at life, and offers a sharp opinion that’s perfectly consistent with his attitude in the first episode: “Different story of course if it had been the mother. Brief would say her hormones were all out of whack and get her off with a two-year suspended.” Tosh asks the DCI the question we are burning to know, and gets the answer we should have expected: “No, she slept through from day one. Besides, we’re not allowed to suffer from post-natal depression, are we?”
Meadows’ credentials as a former Detective Super are always tainted by people’s knowledge of how he lost them. But he achieves a reckoning with his past in ‘Hard Evidence’, by Tony Etchells, the same writer who fashioned his debut as a regular in ‘Re-Hab’ the year before. Alan Woods brings in a renowned hard case, Tony Speak, suspected of stabbing a man to death. Not only was he under arrest at Barton Street for another attack, he was also carrying a knife. Meadows welcomes the latest in the revolving door of AMIP Supers who replaced him, suggesting that his were hard shoes to fill (or that the production team found it easier to ring the changes than retain one actor for occasional roles). Ken ‘Dry’ Bones guest stars as Superintendent Corby, who knew Woods when he was a DCI at Whitton Street. “Like old times for you,” says Meadows. “Yeah, but the same old faces,” replies Corby as he watches Speak being booked in. He is due at Stafford Row in forty-five minutes to look into a fatal armed robbery – and we realise that murder cases are also a revolving door. “So, in words of one syllable, how far have we got with this?” The key witness, Michael White, is a vague and taciturn figure who insists that he didn’t see Speak nearby at the time. Corby asks Meadows to run with the case, displaying the art of delegation that Jack himself employed in the role. As in Etchells’ ‘Cold Shoulder’ the previous year, Meadows has to rein in the prejudice of his team: “I don’t like Speak any more than you do, but being a nutter in a nightclub isn’t exactly a crime. Just because we all want him convicted doesn’t mean to say he did it.” Corby is furious when he learns that there are doubts emerging about Speak. He insists that White is brought in for formal questioning to jolt his memory. “We’ve got the weapon, he won’t give a blood sample, what more do you want?” “Well to be honest, sir…” “Yeah, well the thing about honesty is, it gets you nowhere, Jack. Does it?” Besides being a dig at Meadows’ past, these profoundly worrying words from a senior police officer are soon backed up in the interview. Corby hints that White, who has his own blood-stained knife at home from an accident, could be in the frame as a suspect – unless he comes up with what they want to hear. Alan looks on with growing discomfort as he is coached towards the right answer. “Was Tony Speak at the bar when the man was stabbed?” “He might have been,” White nods feebly, beginning to twist in the right direction. “I just didn’t see him.”
Woods corners his former boss and suggests that White doesn’t have the intelligence to be a reliable witness. “He’s extremely suggestible, ’cos he knows he’s under suspicion.” “You’re not trying to tell me how to run this, are you? Save the bleeding heart stuff for your governor, all right?” Taking his advice, Woods goes to Meadows – it’s a pastoral life in CID – and explains his concerns. But in typically cagey fashion, Meadows loses his zeal for justice when it involves putting his own head on the block. “Course you know Speak probably did it,” he observes, playing devil’s advocate on himself. “I know we can’t prove it, but he still probably did. He’s a villain. There’s a lot of stuff he’s got away with.” “It doesn’t justify putting him inside on manufactured evidence, if that’s what you’re trying to say.” “That’s a serious allegation, Alan. So what do you do for an encore?” He asks that the matter be left with him, but offers no guarantees. “There’s no point in making waves Alan, you don’t get thanked for it.” Woods insists that White is lying, and Meadows suddenly explodes in a rant that releases all his pent-up frustrations: “So he’s not telling the truth, good for him! If I’d have done the same I wouldn’t be standing here now!” Alan looks at him in shock for a moment before he regains his composure. “Look, there’s no point in sticking your neck out. There’s hundreds of coppers like Corby, and he’s not the worst. If you don’t like what’s happening, turn the other way.” White, who has had “time to think” in his cell, is now prepared to tell the truth. “It was Tony Speak. I saw him knife the bloke.” Meadows finally puts his concerns to Brownlow, but like Pearce in the earlier example, is careful to outline what he thinks is happening without offering a definite opinion. “It’s a fit-up,” Brownlow concludes. “Well, it could be, er, that Detective Superintendent Corby’s overstretched. From the security guard killing.” Brownlow reveals that Corby has made a complaint about Meadows’ handling of the case, which he feels is “personally motivated.” “Thank you, sir. I bet he’s got witnesses, though,” Meadows adds glumly.
Reluctant to join in the victory celebrations at the pub, Alan follows Corby into the gents’ for another word. “Guilty till proven innocent, yeah?” he observes of White’s statement. “If we played it by the book we’d never get a conviction. You started the ball rolling.” “Making me part of the game as well? He’ll appeal, then there’ll be an enquiry!” “And you’ll do my legs, is that it? Well come on, Speak walks free and I take his place? Well thanks for the warning, Alan. But you’d better get plenty of evidence, ’cos I won’t go down any easier than he will.” When Corby has gone Roach ambles in, happy to eyeball any drama that doesn’t involve him for a change: “Just thought I’d come and see who stuck whose head down the toilet.” Hearing what has been going on, he shrugs, “Then it’s all up to the jury, isn’t it? Makes you proud to be British.” But as Corby is about to get another round in, he is ambushed by Meadows, who has finally grown a backbone. “I got busted down for less than this. And I didn’t even do anything. If you involve me, any of my men, in an investigation that’s going bent… You want to play judge and jury, lock a few people up, is that it? City’s full of them – stabbings, murders. It’s all out there waiting for someone like you to come along. But don’t you ever try it in my nick. And don’t think you’re using that tape as evidence!” Once Corby has made a quick exit, Meadows goes over to Woods. “With friends like that…” “It’s all right, guv. I never liked him anyway.” Given that this is perhaps the most central role Woods ever had, it’s interesting to see how it bears out Tom Cotcher’s assertion that the show was really about the upper ranks of CID, relegating the DCs to the margins. Even here, Alan’s dilemma is used to illustrate the bigger one facing Meadows. Up to this point Corby’s attitude has been his too – that principles are what your rivals use to screw you over so they can rise to the top instead. At last he realises that there is value in doing the job well, not just successfully. It would be naive to think that this spells the end for his careerist approach – but that closing monologue is the Meadows we remember, unleashing a moral fury, not a self-pitying one. By now he is happy to claim ownership of ‘his’ team, and the last remaining obstacle to his power is soon gone – not with a bang, but with a whimper.