The near future, man has expanded into space, Star Cops was originally pitched in 1981 as a radio series. Writer Chris Boucher had script edited season 4 of Blake’s 7 (writing nine episodes), and eventually, Star Cops became a single series of nine stories transmitted on BBC 2 in 1987. It rated badly and was beset by production challenges. Now, 31 years later, it returns in the four-story boxset, Mother Earth Part 1.
Former police detective Andrew Smith’s One of Our Cops is Missing brings listeners up to speed: we may be in space, but people are still people, corporations still greedy, crime still occurs and solid police work still needed. The lead of the International Space Police Force (aka the Star Cops) is Nathan Spring (David Calder, who also voices Box, his digital assistant – iPad + Siri on steroids), and his team is Colin Devis (Trevor Cooper) and Priya Basu (Rakhee Thakrar). David and Trevor were both in the TV show, along with Linda Newton as Pal Kenzy, an Australia in this story no longer a Star Cop. We also meet, Paul Bailey (Philip Olivier). There’s a nice mix of small story (smuggling) and big story (activist group Mother Earth, who believe we should be staying on Earth). It’s a great introduction, and the post-episode interviews are almost a distraction as we move on to…
Tranquillity and Other Illusions by Ian Potter: the site of the Apollo Eleven moon landing, and a murder. Bailey gets to spend time with Devis, and there’s a glimpse of life on the moon and even romance. We explore the heart of Star Cops, it’s a cop show in a wild west in space, not science fiction. Devis, even in the late ‘80s was visibly old school, and now we identify him as unreconstructed, Ian Potter finds the man behind the cliché, in an episode with a strong plot and even stronger performances (director Helen Goldwyn take a bow).
In Lockdown by Chris Hatherall action switches to Earth and puts Nathan Spring centre stage as both Mother Earth and a criminal gang seeks to disrupt a conference in Paris, at state-of-the-art security venue Tech Tower. There’s a lot more besides as clues lead back to orbit, so all the Star Cops are involved. Stakes are raised, and nobody comes out with reputation untarnished.
Guy Adams brings the set to a close with The Thousand Ton Bomb, brings Pal Kenzy back to the fore and a chance for Paul Bailey to go back undercover. The story needs all the Star Cops and more, with plenty of reminders how fragile our existence in space will be.
The whole set captures the atmosphere of the original and there’s new title music (no singing this time). This is a well-conceived world, with great storytelling and strong characters. Part 2 is due in December; we’d bet on in years to come.
STAR COPS: MOTHER EARTH PART 1/ AUTHOR: ANDREW SMITH, IAN POTTER, CHRISTOPHER HATHERALL, GUY ADAMS / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / STARRING: DAVID CALDER, TREVOR COOPER, LINDA NEWTON, RAKHEE THAKRAR, PHILIP OLIVIER / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 30TH