1 9 8 7 (UK)
9 x 55 minute episodes
Set in the not-too-distant-future (2027), this BBC series was the brainchild of Chris Boucher (writer for Blakes 7 and Doctor Who) and presented the adventures of the International Space Police Force (ISPF) – disparagingly called the ‘star cops’ – led by seasoned British detective Nathan Spring (David Calder) who had become disenchanted with the system on Earth.
His companions were Box, an electronic “intelligent listening device” – in other words, a Dictaphone that could answer back (also voiced by Calder) – and his American assistant, David Theroux (Erick Ray Evans).
In the new frontier, where the laws had yet to be codified, and the interests of corporations and rival governments could be pursued without consequence, Earth-bound authorities realised the need for a dedicated police force to be stationed where the action was.
Other officers in the ISPF included Russian Alexander Krivenko (Jonathan Adams), and Japanese Anna Shoun (Sayo Inaba).
Two more important characters were soon introduced: Pal Kenzy (Linda Newton), an abrasive and, initially, corrupt Australian official who – through a devious publicity stunt – got herself tied to the Star Cops after Spring had given her the boot; and the series’ main comedy element, Colin Devis (Trevor Cooper), an overweight English chauvinist whose “Fancy a quick game of Hide The Sausage?” is one of the series best-remembered lines.
Despite the premise, the star cops didn’t battle extraterrestrial invaders. They investigated thefts, sabotage, kidnappings, drug trafficking and the like.
Star Cops contained some marvellous visual effects by Mike Kelt and Malcolm James and strong performances from guest actors, including Roy Holder and Geoffrey Bayldon.
Director Chris Baker’s style was very un-dynamic, favouring static camerawork and pristine, brightly-lit, studio sets, which didn’t quite sit well with the show. The original concept called for all the Earth-based location work to be shot on film to differentiate it from the space-bound material, which would be shot on videotape – but the series ended up being made entirely on videotape, which rather ruined the idea.
The scripts were intelligent and witty (despite an unfortunate habit of stereotyping ethnic groups) and Star Cops was actually signed up for a second season. But with a TV technician’s strike cutting the first series down to nine episodes and David Calder moving on to another show, there was no realistic possibility of the crew getting back together to make another 13 episodes.
The production-heavy soft rock theme song was by Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues.
Erick Ray Evans