Sci-Fi Storm

Retro Review: Star Cops

by on Jun.15, 2007, under Television

First of a new series of reviews of older programs, some you have probably not seen, and some may have never heard of. First up is the BBC series Star Cops. Produced in 1987 and set in the very near future, it dealt with the police force in charge of keeping law and order in the internationally controlled “High Frontier” of space stations, moonbases, and even Mars.

“You leave Earth and anything you forget to bring with you will kill you. Anything you do bring with you which doesn’t work properly will kill you. When in doubt, just assume everything will kill you.” – Chief Inspector Nathan Spring

Created by Chris Boucher (previously script editor and writer on Blake’s 7 and writer on Doctor Who, and set at a time where national and multinational space stations are in orbit about Earth, along with a moonbase and even an outpost on Mars, Inspector Nathan Spring (David Calder), while investigating an “accidental death” according to the computers (where inspectors typically just pay attention to the computers instead of investigating), is compelled against his wishes to interview for the position of Chief Inspector, International Space Police Force, or otherwise known (often derisively) as the Star Cops, generally considered a joke and a corrupt organization. Spring suddenly is involved in a mystery in orbit: people are dying and its being attributed to “suit failure”, yet according to the computers the death rate is constant. Never one to leave a mystery, he works on solving it to the point of being named permanently to the position he didn’t want. He then starts cleaning up the Star Cops.

Spring (British) is joined by David Theroux (Erick Ray Evans), an American expatriate not particularly liked by the Americans; Colin Devis (Trevor Cooper), a British inspector fresh from Earth; Pat Kensy, an Australian who Spring actually fires before she becomes a hero and he reluctantly has to put back to work; and Anna Shoun (Sayo Inaba), a physician from Japan.

Spring relocates the Star Cops office from the Charles De Gaulle station to Moonbase, where due to Spring a Russian is appointed commander “ahead of schedule” according to the Americans (Soviet distrust still exists in this timeline). Alexander Krivenko (Jonathan Adams) doesn’t appear to be worthy of distrust. In fact, the Americans (other than Theroux, which is stressed) are portrayed as pompous and arrogant, with lots of secrets to hide from the Star Cops – they don’t want any appointed to their station.

While the special effects can be considered lame by todays standards, they were quite good for the BBC. Sure, you could tell that weightless scenes were done with wires, and low gravity situations were talked about but never acted realistically, but the BBC isn’t likely to rent time on the Vomit Comet for it (and the actors are probably grateful at that).

An interesting little item is Box. A possession of Spring, its a mini computer – I think he called it a “self selecting interface system” or something like that. Its a prototype, the only of its kind, and apparently remarkably advanced as no one else seems to know its capabilities.

The series only lasted 9 episodes. I believe it was interrupted by a writers strike, and production never picked up again. For some reason episode 8, “Other People’s Secrets”, sticks out in my mind, not because of the plot (I thought the reasons contrived) but because of the character interactions, notably the bit about Spring’s father.

Lastly, the theme song is not what you’d expect of a SF show – but for some reason I have a terrible time getting it out of my head…

This series is definitely worthy of viewing – if you can find it. It has appeared from time to time in the U.S. on PBS stations, and a Region 2 DVD is available (NOTE: Region 2 DVDs will not play on most U.S. and Canada DVD players).


5 Comments for this entry

  • Anonymous Coward

    British Invaders Episode 2

    I am co-hosting British Invaders, a podcast about British Science Fiction TV. We discussed Star Cops in episode 2.

    • Doc

      Re:British Invaders Episode 2

      Yes, I listened to that podcast…it happened to come out just after I started watching the episodes again…

      Depending which co-host you are, we have the larryniven-l mailing list in common.

      Any day now I’ll write up a review of Blake’s 7 series 1 and 2…which means that’s probably your next podcast… πŸ™‚

      • Anonymous Coward

        Re:British Invaders Episode 2

        This is Brian writing the comments, so we don’t have the mailing list in common. We will certainly cover Blake’s 7, but it won’t be for a while. It was a great show, but we don’t want to cover all of classics right away!

  • Anonymous Coward

    Theme song

    “Lastly, the theme song is not what you’d expect of a SF show – but for some reason I have a terrible time getting it out of my head…”

    I’ve had it running through my head periodically for the last ten years.

    It won’t be easy.

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