Spacemen are ten-a-penny. What they need out there is a good copper.Star Cops
was a British science fiction television series first broadcast on BBC 2
in 1987. Set in the year 2027, the world of Star Cops
includes five permanently manned space stations orbiting the Earth, as well as bases on the Moon and Mars, and approximately three thousand people live and work in space. The setting was influenced by the potential for greater access to space promised by the then new Space Shuttle programme, and by concerns about the militarisation of space through the US government's Strategic Defense Initiative (known as "Star Wars"), both of which were underway in the early 1980s. Space travel and life in space are portrayed in a hard science-fiction
style, with fairly realistic depictions of weightlessness and low-gravity environments, lengthy space journeys of months or years, and hazards such as spacesuit failures and radiation exposure.
Law enforcement in the developing stations and colonies is provided by the International Space Police Force (ISPF), initially made up of twenty ineffective part-time volunteers derisively nicknamed the "Star Cops". A decision is made to put the ISPF on a permanent, full-time footing, and veteran detective Nathan Spring is appointed to lead the force. Many episodes deal with the efforts of Spring and his team to establish the Star Cops as a credible organisation as he sets up headquarters on the Moon, recruits new staff, dismisses corrupt officers, and works to extend the ISPF's jurisdiction to the American space stations and Mars colonies. At the same time the team investigates the cases that come their way, many of which are new crimes arising from the technologically advanced future society the series depicts, and the hostile frontier nature of the environment.
In total nine episodes of Star Cops
were made. A tenth episode, titled "Death on the Moon", was planned but industrial relations difficulties during production led to it being abandoned shortly before recording was to commence. A combination of factors, including conflicts in the production team and poor scheduling, meant that the series never found a satisfactory audience and was cancelled after one season. In recent years, Star Cops
has undergone something of a critical reappraisal and is generally hailed for being a good attempt at a realistic "High Frontier"
Star Cops offers examples of a number of tropes, including:
- Anyone Can Die: Nathan Spring's girlfriend was seemingly set up as a recurring character in the first episode, but killed off suddenly in the second.
- Artificial Gravity: Averted. Spacecraft and space-stations don't have artificial gravity, apart from the American stations which have rotating sections. The weightless environment is cleverly simulated with wires, camera angles and careful movement by the actors.
- Blunt Yes: A rather good one from Nathan after Kenzy demands to know if she's going to be a glorified secretary for the rest of her Star Cop career. It's not that he's noticeably sexist by the standards of the day, mind you; Kenzy was on the take but too politically well-connected to be fired outright or overtly Reassigned to Antarctica.
- Bollywood Nerd: Dr. David Chandri, who turns out to have written a computer virus responsible for hundreds of deaths.
- British Brevity: Only nine episodes.
- Eagleland: Indulges in the "Americans are jingoistic war-mongers" stereotype.
- Evil Twin: An evil clone actually.
- Frickin' Laser Beams: Handled realistically. The laser weapons only produce a green "muzzle flash" but no visible beam.
- The Great Politics Mess-Up: The Soviet Union is apparently alive and well in 2027. They're referred to just as "the Russians", but their flag is the red banner with hammer and sickle of the USSR.
- Heel-Face Turn: Pal Kenzy. She's fired for taking bribes, and virtually blackmails herself back onto the team, but redeems herself by the end of the series.
- I Want My Jet Pack: It's 2027 and we have bases on Mars, but no internet, mobile phones etc.
- Multi National Team: The International Space Police in general, and the main cast (see Five-Man Band) in particular:
- Nathan Spring. British, Commander, The Hero, The Captain, Old-Fashioned Copper.
- David Theroux. American, Chief Superintendent, The Lancer
- Colin Devis. British, Inspector, The Big Guy, very Old-Fashioned Copper.
- Pal Kenzy. Australian, Sergeant, The Smart Guy, Dirty Cop (She gets better...)
- Anna Shoun. Japanese, Physician, The Chick, The Medic, Token Minority, Something of an ethnic stereotype.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Pal Kenzy's Australian and Alexander Krivenko's Russian accents are wobbly.
- Our Graphics Will Suck In The Future: The computers and displays look very eighties, including obvious IBM PC/AT keyboards, and there's not a graphic interface in sight. There are however desktop computers that resemble someone's attempt at building a tablet with the hardware of a mid-90s PC. (Insert your own Windows 8 joke here.)
- Perp Sweating: Spring and Devis love to sweat the perps. Sometimes literally.
- The Professor: Alexander Krivenko, the Russian commander of the moon-base where the ISPF is headquartered. A winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine.
- Recycled In Space: A literal case; the show was criticised at the time for being Bergerac IN ORBIT!
- Screwed by the Network: The series was plagued with conflicts between the creator/writer and the producer. Two different directors and complete production teams were used to make the nine episodes (Team-A produced episodes 1 & 2, Team-B 3, 4 & 5, Team-A 6, 7, 8 & 9). Each team had its own designer, and very different ideas about how the series should look, leading to jarring continuity problems. Finally, the program was broadcast on a weird schedule that did not co-ordinate with the BBC's other programming (it clashed with BBC 1's flagship Nine O'Clock News for example).
- Space Is Noisy: Averted. The only sounds heard in space are radio chatter and non-diegetic music.
- Space Police
- Surreal Theme Tune: "It Won't Be Easy" by Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues. Not surprisingly, it's actually rather good but has no obvious connection to the programme at all.note Compare and contrast with the theme of Star Trek: Enterprise.
- Used Future: The first couple of episodes were a bit squeaky-clean, then the series switched to a less brightly-lit, used-and-cluttered style for three episodes, before switching back for the remaining four. See Screwed By The Network above...
- Whodunnit to Me: "Conversations with the Dead" involves an investigation into an incident leading to the death of two astronauts — who are still alive, and able to take part in the investigation by radio, but stranded in space with no hope of rescue before their oxygen gives out.