Episode Four :
Trivial Games and Paranoid Pursuits
Written by:
Chris Boucher
Directed by: Graeme Harper
Episode Length: 51'48m
Originally Broadcast: 27th Jul 1987, 20:30
Ratings: 2.5m

David Calder (Nathan Spring), Erick Ray Evans (David Theroux), Trevor Cooper (Colin Devis), Linda Newton (Pal Kenzy) and Jonathan Adams (Alexander Krivenko).

Daniel Benzali (Commander Griffin), Marlena Mackey (Dilly Goodman), Robert Jesek (Pete Lennox), Russell Wootton (Marty), Angela Crow (Lauter), Morgan Deare (Harvey Goodman) and Shope Shodeinde (Receptionist).

Technical Personnel:
Stuart St. Paul (Stuntman); Chris Boucher (Series Deviser); Ian R. Wallace/Fiona McTavish (Production Associates); Kevan Van Thompson (Production Manager); Sue Card (Production Assistant); Christopher Ballantyne (Assistant Floor Manager); Robin Lobb (Video Effects Supervisor); Mike Kelt/Malcolm James (Visual Effects Designers); Alisdair Mitchell (O.B. Cameraman); John Wiggins (O.B. Lighting); Graham Haines (O.B. Sound); Peter Granger (Technical Co Ordinator); Gerry Tivers (Studio Camera Operator); Charles McGhie (Graphic Design); John Charles (Properties Buyer); Dennis Collett (Videotape Editor); Jim Stephens (Vision Mixer); Chris Townsend (Studio Lighting/Director); Chick Anthony/Gerry Borrows (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); Malcolm Thornton (Designer) and Evgeny Gridneff (Producer).

Character Development:
Moonbase Co-ordinator Doctor Alexander Krivenko arrives on the base, a Nobel Prize winner for medicine.
Theroux was a student radical.

The Crimes:
Doctor Harvey Goodman was a 47-year old microbiologist working on the Space Station Ronald Reagan on for nine months. A graduate from Cal Tech and post-graduate from MIT, his disappearance and the disappearance of his Module OMZ13 coincide with Nathan's visit to the station and his sister, Odelle, enquiring after his whereabouts...

Future lives:
The Ronald Reagan is a space station with a PR Graphic to answer all incoming calls. The workstations are weightless, but all rest recreation and living quarters have about 1/3rd Gee artificial gravity. As this may occasionally vary, the station's pool table is self-regulating and controlled by an electro-magnetic field, bounced by an analogue computer. Scavengers can claim a "Hazard to Navigation Premium" for picking up debris. Kirk Hubble was an American National working part-time for an American company, and his forced resignation during episode three has angered the American government. They refused to either give any more Americans to the International Space Police Force or let any "Star Cops" work on their space stations.

The Solutions:
Dr. Goodman was working on germ warfare for the Americans in the P-type module. When his experiments failed, the module was ejected to avoid contamination. The pod was later found by two scavengers on Lunar path B3462. Commander Griffin paid off Kirk Hubble in order to buy his silence on the matter.
Goodman's "sister", Odelle, wasn't really his sister after all, but an employee of the World Press Association. Her intervention helps flush out the facts, and she engineers a political coup whereby the Americans agree to instate more Star Cops from their nation.

Nathan and David's Movie-Buff Challenge:
Nathan mockingly refers to Commander Griffin as "John Wayne".

Trivia - Onscreen Ident Codes:
Now this is very new, and very, very Anorakky. Six of the episodes feature characters talking to one another via viewscreens, with an ident code (dial code number, perhaps?) along the bottom of the screen. This can first be seen in An Instinct For Murder, where Nathan's Earth base calls his home, with an obscured number appearing along the bottom of the screen. (1955 8000 X 7438 59 115???) Theroux also speaks to David at his home in Conversations With The Dead with the ident code of LDL I 961 X 1991 7744 ??? - again, the final numbers are obscured.

So Trivial Pursuits is the episode where I log this detail of the series, as it's the first episode where the numbers can clearly be seen. When the Ronald Reagan Space Station is called from an Earth terminal, the code "002 493 1934" can be seen. When the same terminal calls Moon Base, it brings up the ident "002 5900 342" (The same call, seen from the other direction, registers as 002419164476941). However, just when you think you can draw some internal logic to these numbers, the episode In Warm Blood features Ho calling Moonbase from Japan, with the ident 002 5900 342. So Richard Ho's headquarters has the same dial code as a terminal in America? Or would national code barriers be meaningless when it's Earth to Moon?

It's perhaps just a continuity error (and yes, I realise this is probably the most anal thing I've ever done) because the episode A Double Life has a dial code that slightly varies on location. When Alex calls Assadi from his office, we get the code of 002419164476955. When David does the same from the Star Cops office, within the same area, we get the same ident, except with "41" replacing the 55. A call from Bannerman's home to Moonbase (Which could be on a portable videoscreen of David's, it's never specified) is charted as 002 2-413-577-2864.

Finally, for completeness' sake, This Case To Be Opened In A Million Years has an Earth to Moonbase call-up of 002 6432 289, along with a call to Moonbase from Italy (002 373155) and Space Lab to Moonbase (002 8966 868) along with Moonbase to the very same Space Lab (008 6587 313). The very same "space lab to Moonbase" ident call is also seen in In Warm Blood (002 8966 868), but this time it's a different space lab. Don't you feel better now you know all that?

Viewpoint 2017:

"It was an honest mistake."
"Well it must be a first for you."

Trivial Games and Paranoid Pursuits contains probably the most unconvincing depiction of a foreign nationality in the entire series, which is no mean feat. In the 2006 documentary The Cult Of... Star Cops Chris Boucher admits to such flaws, stating "Yes, okay, I'll hold me hands up... they were stereotypical. [...] You can't beat a good stereotype."

What really harms Trivial Games is the writer's voice coming through, as it becomes less of a narrative, and more one man's diatribe about American world relations. A world where an American space station would be commanded by a cigar-chomping, pool-playing, Coke-drinking boor. What helps is that guest star Daniel Benzali is such a good actor that his quality manages to peak through the cracks of the two-dimensional character he's given.

There's also plenty to like, such as the verbal jousting between his too-bigoted Commander Griffin and Nathan, as well as Nathan's fractious relationship with Kenzy. The episode is full of imaginative little touches like a pool table in zero gravity which Nathan rigs to gain a psychological advantage, and, while a lot of the Americanism is more than a little "on the nose", there's also plenty of wit in evidence. The final plot resolution - the Star Cops don't so much solve a case as get told the answers - can seem a little underwhelming, but this is a strong entry despite such flaws.

Average Rating:

Along with Intelligent Listening For Beginners, this episode is one of just two to receive a below-average rating on this site (back in c.2000), and has experienced some wide variations in score ever since. As a result it's averaged 3.2 out of 5.