‘An Instinct For Murder’ (TV)

‘AN INSTINCT FOR MURDER’

Please feel free to comment on my review.

It may surprise you to know that I’m a huge Nyssa, Sarah Sutton and ‘Doctor Who’ fan!

You may wonder why I started this review with that sentence. Well you see; I make it an endeavour to see and hear certain projects that my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ companion and best friend, Sarah Sutton, has done in her acting career. So far, I’ve heard most of the TV and audio productions that she’s done.

I’ve seen ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’ and ‘The Moon Stallion’ on DVD as well as ‘Wirrn: Race Memory’; ‘The Jarillion Mercy’ and the ‘Dark Shadows’ audio play ‘The Devil Cat’ on CD. Some projects that Sarah has done in acting are still unavailable, like her early work before doing ‘Doctor Who’.

So when I hear news that Sarah has done a new acting project whether on TV, DVD or audio, I look forward to purchasing it whenever I can to see or hear it. I was lucky to be told by Sarah at the ‘Folkestone Film, TV and Comic Con’ in May 2018 that she had done an audio episode of ‘Star Cops’.

I was thrilled to bits to hear the news that Sarah was going to be in one of the Big Finish audio episodes of ‘Star Cops’. But in order to hear the Big Finish audios of ‘Star Cops’, I would have to watch the short-lived TV series on DVD first. Thus that’s why we’re here with these certain reviews.

As I said, ‘Star Cops’ (Hey, don’t look like that! That’s what it’s called!) was a short-lived TV series broadcast on BBC2 in 1987. It only lasted for one season with nine episodes in total and the series was devised by Chris Boucher, who had written a few ‘Doctor Who’ TV stories for the Tom Baker era.

Chris Boucher was also the script editor of ‘Blake’s 7’, the sister show of ‘Doctor Who’ at the time. His writing and script editing experience enabled him to devise this sci-fi TV show that has become somewhat of a cult series over the years as demonstrated by Big Finish producing its audio episodes.

I didn’t know much about ‘Star Cops’ beforehand, other than that Trevor Cooper was in it. Trevor Cooper was in the ‘Doctor Who’ story ‘Revelation of the Daleks’ and he has done some Big Finish audios including ‘The Haunting of Thomas Brewster’. I came to know the series in that audio story’s CD interviews.

The reason why the ‘Star Cops’ TV series didn’t last beyond one season could be a number of things. The viewing figures weren’t that great but it was also due to the fact that the BBC bosses like Jonathan Powell didn’t care much for science-fiction. Hence why ‘Doctor Who’ became on trial then!

I was lucky to purchase the complete series of ‘Star Cops’ on DVD via Amazon.co.uk. The complete series is on a 3-disc set, with the first three episodes on Disc 1; the second three episodes on Disc 2; and the last three episodes on Disc 3. There are also special features on each of the 3 DVD discs to enjoy.

‘Star Cops’ the series is set sometime in the future in the year 2027. It focuses on the character of Nathan Spring who with the International Space Police Force (better known as the ‘Star Cops’) sets out to confront crimes such as mass murder; political corruption and art fraud that occur within our future.

Out of curiosity and wanting to get to the ‘Star Cops’ audio episode by Big Finish that features Sarah Sutton as a guest star in it, I decided to dive right into this short-lived sci-fi TV series on DVD to find out what the story and the characters were like. So let’s get into ‘Star Cops’ and see if I like this stuff.

The series begins with the first episode ‘An Instinct For Murder’ by Chris Boucher. The episode was directed by Christopher Baker. Chris Baker also directed four episodes of the original ‘All Creatures Great and Small’.

The first thing to stand out for me in the series so far is the theme song. It’s a rather catchy theme song written and performed by Justin Hayward called ‘It Won’t Be Easy’. There’s an optimism to the song.

I don’t think there are a lot of sci-fi shows where someone is singing the theme song in the opening and closing credits. The only other one I can think of is ‘Star Trek: Enterprise’ and that was in the 2000s.

I don’t know if it was Chris Boucher’s policy to have the theme music be as catchy and happy like the ‘Blake’s 7’ theme music is, but it suits the ‘Star Cops’ TV series well with it being a gritty, edgy cop drama.

Anyway, the first episode has David Calder as main character Nathan Spring who gets coaxed into applying for the position of commanding the International Space Police Force. It’s something he clearly doesn’t want.

At the beginning of the episode, two murders get committed. One is on Earth and one is in outer space. Someone swimming in a lake is killed by two people and an astronaut gets killed by two more.

Surprisingly, the murders aren’t the focus of the episode. The focus of the episode is more on Nathan Spring’s character going through training to get a promotion to be in charge of the Star Cops.

As I understand it, originally this episode was going to be a two-parter. That would make sense as it would give more time to focus on the two murders committed as well as Nathan Spring’s character.

But the Head of Drama at the time, Jonathan Powell, prevented this from happening. Jonathan Powell was clearly against sci-fi shows proving their potential – both ‘Star Cops’ and ‘Doctor Who’.

Anyway, on his first trip into outer space, Nathan Spring meets Erick Ray Evans as David Theroux. David is an American black man and he would go on to become a regular alongside Nathan Spring’s character.

In the episode, David Theroux is suspicious about a spate of spacesuit failures aboard the space station. Mind you, I didn’t register that when I first saw this episode since it does feature a lot of talking in it.

Yeah. I did struggle with this first episode. Not with it just setting up the characters and the story setting, but also because there was a lack of action. It’s what I expected to find in this cop drama series.

There’s also a lot of floating about in space with there being a vacuum aboard the space station that our heroes are situated in, especially as Nathan and David meet. As I gather, this was toned down later on.

And there’s an amount of mild swearing and blasphemy in the series which I wasn’t expecting. The DVD rating says that it’s PG, but this should really have a 12 rating considering the amount of swearing.

The episode features special guest star Moray Watson as the Commander. I was delighted to see Moray Watson in this. He portrayed Sir Robert Muir in my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ story, ‘Black Orchid’.

Moray Watson’s character is the one who insists and sees to it that Nathan Spring gets promoted to be the commander of the Star Cops against his will. He’s satisfied once Nathan Spring’s got the job.

The episode also features Gennie Nevinson as Lee Jones, Nathan’s girlfriend. The two have a meal at a restaurant which she doesn’t like. They discuss their future as Nathan’s going for the Star Cops job.

As well as Nathan and David, the episode also features the debut appearance of Linda Newton as Pal Kenzy. We don’t get to see much of her in this mind, since it’s only a cameo. She’ll be reintroduced later on.

There’s also Box, voiced by David Calder himself. Box is like Nathan Spring’s personal computer assistant which gives him advice on what he should do for the day. Nathan can find Box a little annoying.

‘An Instinct For Murder’ is a slow beginning to introduce the ‘Star Cops’ series and its characters. This episode would have benefited being a two-parter in order to appreciate the tale’s complexities.

The DVD special features for this episode are as follows. On Disc 1 of the 3-disc DVD set of ‘Star Cops’, there’s an audio commentary on ‘An Instinct For Murder’ by series deviser and writer Chris Boucher.

‘An Instinct For Murder’ rating – 5/10


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