Episode One :
An Instinct For Murder
Written by:
Chris Boucher
Directed by: Christopher Baker
Episode Length: 51'28m
Originally Broadcast: 6th Jul 1987, 20:30
Ratings: 2.8m


Starring:
David Calder (Nathan Spring) and Erick Ray Evans (David Theroux).

Guest-Starring:
Linda Newton (Pal Kenzy Cameo), Moray Watson (Commander), Keith Varnier (Controller), Gennie Nevison (Lee Jones), Andrew Secombe (Brian Lincoln), Frederik De Groot (Hans Diter), Luke Hanson (Lars Hendvorrsen) and Katsa Kersten (Marie Mueller).

The BBC Wishes To Thank:
The McDonnell Douglas Corporation for their assistance.

Technical Personnel:
Chris Boucher (Series Deviser); Ian R. Wallace (Production Associate); Gary Downie (Production Manager); Karen Jones (Production Assistant); Betsan Morris-Evans (Assistant Floor Manager); Robin Lobb (Video Effects Supervisor); Mike Kelt/Malcolm James (Visual Effects Designers); Gareth Milne (Stunt Arranger); Eugene's Flying Ballet (Weightlessness); Trevor Wimlett (O.B. Cameraman); John Wiggins (O.B. Lighting); Ian Leiper (O.B. Sound); Peter Granger (Technical Co Ordinator); Peter Goldring/Gerry Tivers (Studio Camera Operators); Charles McGhie (Graphic Design); Chris Ferriday (Properties Buyer); Dennis Collett (Videotape Editor); Jim Stephens (Vision Mixer); Peter Catlett (Studio Lighting/Director); Chick Anthony (Studio Sound); Lynda Woodfield (Costume Designer); Jill Hagger (Make-Up Designer); Justin Hayward (Theme Composer/Theme Sung By); Justin Hayward/Toni Visconti (Incidental Music); Joanna Willett (Script Editor); Dick Coles (Designer); and Evgeny Gridneff (Producer).



Character Development:
Nathan Spring is introduced, a 41-year-old English Chief Superintendent. A policeman for 22 years, Nathan has several officers working under him, including "Hanson", "Langley" and Brian Lincoln. His father worked in computers, and, though he harbours an instinctive distrust of their judgement, he carries with him "Box". Box, a present from his father, is a communications device with interactive voice control. Nathan's favourite restaurant is the Chinese restaurant Lotus Garden, an unpopular restaurant that his girlfriend, Lee, hates.
American Flight Engineer David Theroux resigned from the American space program and works in communications and traffic control. He's also a part-time Star Cop. He, Nathan and the senior traffic controller are film buffs.
Australian Pal Kenzy gets a cameo, revealing she is ambitious for the Commander's job, and also a keen poker player. However, her present winning streak is the first she's had "in months".


Future Lives:
The International Space Police Force, "twenty so" part-timers that were unaffectionately tagged "Star Cops" by a journalist. Their progress is being monitored by Lars Hendvorssen, a parliamentary representative and described as a "self-made zillionaire and self-appointed guardian of the public purse". A communications space station Coral Sea is referred to, a development of the Allied Pacific Consortium. A (presumed news-only) television channel is in operation, WNB. The policeforce use computerwork extensively, and no longer make house calls.

The Crimes:
Nathan is investigating case LS 3421, a drowning. He believes the case to be murder, but is pulled away to Eurostation Charles de Gaulle to solve a case involving a 2% failure rate in space suit backpacks. While in space, his understudy, Brian Lincoln, is promoted in order to force Nathan to join the Star Cops permanently as Commander.

The Solutions:
Case LS 3421 was indeed murder, the drowned man's wife having paid for him to be killed. The backpack failure was organised by three executives from Pancontel, a Dallas-based Multinational attempting to wrestle the contract for backpacks off the Russians. The Charles De Gaulle's Traffic Controller was paid off to turn a blind eye to the murders...

Things to look out for :
We see evidence of the future's super-quick coffee making for the first time this episode. Between Nathan clinking his coffee cups, walking back from the kitchen and putting a cup of coffee in David's hand, only 16 seconds have elapsed.

Nathan and David's Movie-Buff Challenge :
A defining characteristic of Nathan and David, particularly in the first few episodes, was their mutual love of the movies.
The first episode is the story with the greatest number of film references, most of them between Keith Varnier's Controller and Theroux. In fact, the very first exchange occurs between them with:
Controller: "Can men of our profession worry about things like that? It may even be sacrilegious.... well..?" David: "If God did not want 'em sheared he wouldn't have made 'em sheep? Well, it's from The Magnificent Seven and it's a rule infringement - incomplete speech, ten bonus points to me".
It seems there are rules to this little game between David and the Controller - such as with this exchange later in the story: David: "That son of a bitch!" Controller: "One word clues don't count. Give me the year, the star and the director".
These exchanges between the two continue throughout, sometimes in the middle of a conversation. At one point they both drop into the exchange between Joel Cairo and Sam Spade from The Maltese Falcon: "You always have a very smooth explanation" - "What do you want me to do, learn to stutter?" In fact, so obsessed is the Controller, that when David accuses him of murder, he still retorts with "is that a quote?" "It's what you said" "What movie?" "How about the innocent American?" "Is that a movie?" The Controller also describes Nathan (who David thinks is about to sack him) by paraphrasing the 'knock your teeth out then kick you in the stomach for mumbling' line of The Big Sleep, which he incorrectly identifies as The Long Goodbye. David corrects him, only for him to retort: "Are you sure? Long Goodbye's more appropriate".
This takes us up to the end of their friendship, when the Controller is revealed to be a murderer: Controller: "Should be the perfect quote for this". David: "I don't believe that" Controller: "Sorry. Man's gotta do what a man's gotta do?" David: "It's from Shane, but I don't know what the next line is, and we were friends" Controller: "No, that wasn't the next line"
So where does Nathan fit into all this? The first hint that he might be a buff comes when the Controller asks him if the 'romance of space' has passed him by. "Faster than a speeding bullet" is Nathan's reply, which is actually from the Superman TV Series of the 1950s. Superman again rears his head as Nathan does a typical 'flying Superman' pose while in a weightless area and asks David if he remembers him. This is quite an amusing little in-joke, too, as David Calder appeared as "3rd Crewman" in the 1978 Superman movie. Press releases at the time also indicated that Erick Ray Evans appeared in the same film too, though that information is not recorded on the IMDb.
Yet how did Nathan know Theroux was a movie buff? Certainly, we don't see David give a quote on-screen in front of Nathan, yet he does seem to be aware of it as we get this exchange: David: "Oh, he's very young and very proud" Nathan: "Yeah... the graveyards are full of kids who are very young and very proud. The Magnificent Seven. Well what's the matter? You thought you're the only person who ever saw a movie? Remember Superman?" David: "Remember Deadfall?"
Nathan's final quote of the episode is just before he's about to be murdered, quoting Cody Jarrett from White Heat with "Made it, ma. Top of the world". This seems to genuinely touch the crooked Controller, who exclaims "He's a movie buff. You didn't tell me he's a movie buff". "Look," replies David, "I only just found out myself".



Viewpoint 2008 :

"A force of twenty-so part-timers, unaffectionately termed "The Star Cops."

So... Star Cops twenty one years on. A series with some woeful 80s fashions, an atrocious theme song and a slightly misjudged title, it's a series that perhaps never reached its full potential, and was perhaps never allowed to. When I first saw Star Cops I loved it so much I bought the .com to praise it, but since then my take on it has risen and fallen with every fresh viewing, this being the fourth review in regular updates.

Despite what I may previously have claimed, perhaps time has been kind to Star Cops. Seeing the odd CSO lines or a kirby wire is now quite charming given that the programme is entering its relatively veteran age, and doesn't seem so important. Sure, there are a couple of poor moments where lines are overdubbed where people clearly aren't even talking, but these things are minor. What really shines through about Star Cops is the strength of the script, despite some "too witty to be real" lines, and David Calder's strong acting. Erick Ray Evans is more of a striking presence than I'd previously recalled, too, even if he seems to struggle a bit with some of the more melodramatic lines towards the climax. Of the guest stars then Andrew Secombe does well in a minor role, Gennie Nevison flounders somewhat under the script's more contrived lines and her 80s hypermullet, while Moray Watson is, sadly, pretty awful as Nathan's Commander. Any scene featuring the Commander and his blandly decorated office does have a tendency to fall flat, while Keith Varnier's waspish Controller is appealing though does occasionally overplay.

While the Cold War themes governing the series are no longer so pertinent, there's a rewarding society depicted in Star Cops where an Earth (and Moon) wide version of the internet seems to have taken place and the situations are so hectic that people frequently talk over one another, a nice touch of realism. At the time of its broadcast there were objections to bad language in a SF show, bad language which now seems both groundbreaking and quaint. In all, Star Cops has much to recommend it as a concept, even in execution. Sure, it could do with a new theme tune, completely new incidental music and an absence of portable televisions on trolleys, but the ingenuity and respect of its own format that it shows here is more than rewarding.