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Series / A Touch of Frost

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"Get on the radio to the station son and tell Sergeant Wells we found a body in the churchyard. And when he stops laughing, tell him I think it is young Paula Barkner."

A Touch of Frost (1992-2010) was a detective television series produced by Yorkshire Television for ITV. It was based on a series of books by R D Wingfield.

It starred Sir David Jason as Detective Inspector William Edward Frost, G.C., known as Jack to everyone but his late wife. He is a down-to-earth, straightforward copper who is more interested in banging up crooks than figures and statistics. His immediate superior, Superintendent Norman "Horn-rimmed Harry" Mullett, is a by-the-book, procedural man who seems to see Jack as a personal insult.

Let's be fair. Jack is, by whatever measure, a bent copper. He has planted evidence, bribed, bullied and tricked, but he does it to get the criminals behind bars. Old, grumpy and misogynistic, Frost has a near endless supply of dirty jokes and considers teaching someone how to fiddle his expenses claim to be a cornerstone of police training. He is not as great a detective as some other TV detectives are shown, but he is good at his job. The TV adaptation actually toned DOWN the scale of Frost's unscrupulous antics compared to the original crime novels.

He also has the George Cross, a fact that has saved his career more than once, after he tried and failed to commit suicide by armed criminal.

The show concluded in a two-part final in April 2010, with Georgie being killed after the bitter ex-husband of the woman Jack was about to marry drove his car into theirs.

This show provides examples of:

  • Absence of Evidence: This comes up in both cases in "Mind Games". Frost realises that despite getting into a physical confrontation with Roman Cassel, Jason Cohu didn't kill him because he would've been covered in Roman's blood, yet there wasn't a drop on him. This also leads to Frost to realise Carl Meyer likely didn't kill Jane and Harriet just as he always said; while he was found covered in Jane's blood from cradling her body, there was no evidence indicating he'd physically interacted with Harriet, much less killed her.
  • Anti-Hero: Jack is a Pragmatic Hero. He's a very flawed man and doesn't always do things by the book (sometimes engaging in outright unlawful or unethical acts) but it's always in the name of pursuing justice and getting dangerous people off the streets.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: A decidedly NOT Played for Laughs example in "No Other Love". Mullett sees an opportunity to finally get rid of Frost and repeatedly tries to sideline him the entire episode in order to make Jack resign. But then Frost's partner Barnard is killed by the deranged Charlie Lawson and Frost, in a fit of shell shocked guilt, hands in his resignation. Mullett can only stare at Frost in horror when he gives in his notice, and his face screams My God, What Have I Done?
  • Big Eater: In the show, Jack is very often seen with food either in his hand or mouth. His constant eating usually serves to amplify his disaffected, snarky persona.
  • Blaming the Victim:
    • In "Stranger in the House", a sleazy cab driver says a girl he picked up and then tried to have sex with was asking for it, because she was dressed in skimpy clothes and didn't protest when he started kissing and touching her. When Frost questions why he didn't stop trying to go further when she did start protesting, the driver says it's "too late" by that point, that she knew what she was getting into and that men can't control themselves in that situation. He backtracks a bit though, when Frost reveals that the girl was only fifteen (the age of consent in the UK is sixteen so even if he wasn't being forceful he would still get prosecuted for statutory rape) and that she was violently raped at knifepoint after fleeing from him. It turns out the cab driver wasn't the rapist, though not from lack of trying, and it's implied he's still going down for Attempted Rape of a minor and physically assaulting her when she resisted.
    • In "Mind Games", it's revealed the real killer of teenage cousins Jane and Harriet is David Crewes, the father of Jane and uncle of Harriet. He killed Harriet because he found out she was planning to run away from home and would've likely exposed that he'd raped her; David says he believed Harriet wanted to have sex with him, as he'd seen the way she acted around boys her age and the way she dressed, even though Harriet explicitly told him she never wanted this and was clearly traumatised afterwards. David ended up killing Jane because she saw him kill Harriet and knew what he'd done. David's account of how this happened also has victim-blaming undertones; he says that Jane refused to listen to him and wouldn't stop screaming, insisting he had no choice.
  • Book Ends: Jack being widowed in the first episode and remarrying in the last. And relatedly, being called William rather than Jack.
  • Bowdlerisation: The series is very, very, heavily toned down from the novels, in which Jack is much more unsympathetically bigoted, violent, irresponsible and semi-corrupt, and there is a lot more general depravity among the characters. It could be argued that the TV Frost is the sympathetic version of the Old-Fashioned Copper, and the prose Frost is the realistic one.
  • British Brevity: Seasons tended to be very short - seasons 7, 8, 9 and 15 were each a single two-part story, and seasons 12 and 13 were just one episode each, which tends to lead to them being lumped together as season 12, and season 13 being treated as an Un-Installment.
  • Commuting on a Bus: Hazel Wallace was Put on a Bus when she was promoted from uniform to CID, but returned several times.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: One is featured in the very first episode.
  • Curse Cut Short: Frost is insulting his superior (as usual) when the man in question enters the room.
    Frost: Well Horn-rimmed Harry can go stick it up his ahhhh hello sir!
  • Da Chief: "Horn-rimmed Harry" Mullet. In early seasons Denton CID was headed by DCI Jim Allen but he was Put on a Bus and Jack more or less became Da Chief in all but rank.
  • Death Seeker: Frost displays this trait on several occasions. Besides his misinterpreted suicide attempt that earned him a George Cross for bravery, he frequently does reckless things such as pursuing or confronting dangerous suspects without back-up or protective gear, with little thought for his personal safety.
  • December–December Romance: Jack himself in the last series, with RSPCA investigator Christine Moorhead (Phyllis Logan).
  • Deus ex Machina: Frost's magic keys. It is never explained how he got them, where he got them and why they can open seemingly every door in Denton. It is theorized by some however that they are meant to be the mythical Police Skeleton Keys.
  • Downer Ending: Frequently, even when the killer is caught.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Frost's real first name is the normal sounding William, but prefers to go by the obvious nickname Jack.
  • Epunymous Title: "Night Frost", "Christmas Frost", "Hard Frost"...
  • Grief-Induced Split:
    • It's mentioned near the end of "Held in Trust" that John and Emma Palmer have separated following the abduction, rape and murder of their young son Bobby, even though the police caught the killer. A significant contributing factor is that John was briefly considered a suspect in the crime, due to him having been previously reported for trying to persuade a young girl to get in his car (his intentions were benevolent) and the family having been investigated for abuse allegations (which was a ruse for the real culprit to get close to the family); a distraught Emma had confronted John about whether he was involved and confessed she didn't know what to believe, with John vehemently defending himself. Frost finds the situation tragic yet unsurprising, remarking that it's pretty difficult for a couple to come back from something like that.
    • In "If Dogs Run Free: Part Two'', Sally and Gerry Berland have already been shown to have a horrible marriage, including Domestic Abuse on Gerry's part, but the final straw for Sally is when their son Sean kills himself out of guilt for accidentally killing another boy. Sally blames her husband because she had wanted to go to the police, but Gerry insisted they cover it up. Sally tells Gerry there's nothing left between them now that Sean is dead and that she never wants to see or speak to him again.
  • Informed Attractiveness: The episode Deep Waters revolves around this as a plot point. We are told many times by many characters (including Frost and his colleagues) that the victim Helen Tudor is beautiful. Just as it starts to seem like overkill, the discussion veers onto the burdens of being beautiful, such as having everyone talk about your body whether you want them to or not and attracting creepy stalkers who want to kill you.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Frost ran into this when he tried to investigate a death on an army base.
  • Killed Off for Real: Of the recurring characters, Barnard and Toolan.
  • Let Me Get This Straight...: An epic case occurs in the episode "Appendix Man" where a truly bewildered Jack is informed by police archivist Ernie Trigg that fingerprints found at a crime scene match those of the titular "Appendix Man" who died a year previously and Jack naturally employs this trope in response.
    Frost: Are you trying to tell me that a bloke who died a year ago hops out of his coffin, hitches a lift to Riverside Apartments, commits a murder, then nips back to the graveyard, probably stopping off at the Red Lion for a pint?
  • Medal of Dishonor: Winning the George Cross is a matter of some embarrassment to Frost, even more so after Barnard dies in more heroic circumstances.
  • The Mentally Disturbed: Frost met a few clearly insane people during his career, raging from simply mentally disabled to outright delusional. Nevertheless they almost always portrayed as seriously ill and suffering from their multiple problems, even the one's who proved to be very dangerous.
    • Tony Jarvis from "Deep Waters" is a delusional Serial Killer, he was also obsessed with the ocean, water and the idea of mermaids. To the point he ended up convinced that his victims were mermaids, and that by drowning them, he was freeing them. Its best displayed at the end while he's in custody, he can't even grasp the idea that he's hurt anyone.
    • Sydney Snell from "House Calls" is a very tragic and unbalanced man. Well into his forties, he still has the mind of a child. Always wanting to be a doctor he ended up breaking into houses, and harmlessly injecting children with water, under the delusion he was in someway helping them. Frost arrested him several years before the events of the episode, and he was promised Psychological help. But he never got it, and was instead thrown into prison, where he was beaten up by the other inmates for being a child abuser. This did nothing to help his fragile sanity. Sydney was very much a kind and quite pitiful man, who never hurt anyone and had no idea what he was doing was wrong. Following being mistaken for murdering two children, he ends up confessing despite being innocent, as he even doesn't understand his actions.
  • Murder Makes You Crazy: Tony Jarvis as a boy he murdered his little sister in a fit of jealousy. The guilt of what he did, drove him completely insane to the point that in his adulthood, he's a completely delusional Serial Killer.
  • Nepotism: Subverted by DS Barnard. In-universe, he is initially seen as a beneficiary of nepotism, but with Jack's support he is able to prove himself as a capable detective.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Frost is universally known as "Jack". His real first name is William. This was changed from the books on which the series is based where his name actually was Jack, but the producers deemed it too implausible.
  • Old-Fashioned Copper: And it eternally pisses off Mullet that Jack is naturally this although it is highlighted often that Jack's methods are reckless regardless of his results.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: In an unusual example, Frost tends to get depressed whenever people refer to him winning the George Cross, feeling that he doesn't really deserve it.
  • Police Procedural
  • Scars are Forever: Jack has a facial scar which is explained by his back-story.
  • Serial Killer:
    • Frost chases one in "Windows and Orphans" who targeted old women. He turned out to be a mentally unstable man, who outside of his attacks was the nicest person anyone ever met. His problems stem from being abandoned as an infant by his mother, and raised by his abusive grandmother who he still lives with in the presence. As such he started two killing spree's on his mothers birthday. And as a child was caught in an incident to try and burn down the school, after the psychiatrist report deemed him unstable.
      • In the book Night Frost he attacked his grandmother with a knife at 12, though as she didn't press charges it didn't go to court. At 25 he starts a killing spree for unknown reasons.
    • He also faces another one in "Deep Waters" in this case Tony Jarvis, he was completely insane when he was ten years old he drowned his seven year old sister out of jealously, to deal with the guilt he developed an obsession with water and the sea. And ended up believing his sister was an actual mermaid (the family had dubbed her "are little Mermaid" as she was so good at swimming) and he had released her to swim forever. This lead to him in his adulthood drowning at least one other woman who reminded him of his sister, convinced she was a mermaid to. Then later trying to drown a third woman under the same delusion. Frost managed to save the final victim.
  • Serial Rapist: The villain of "Stranger In The House" responsible for raping six different women (one only fifteen years old). He attacks them in their own home and holds then at knife point. He also attempts to rape WPC Wallace, in a particularly disturbed example when confessing he admits he's not insane, he just doesn't get pleasure out of consensual sex.
    • In the book Touch of Frost he raped women because his wife treated him like a child, even during sex. She was also over a decade older than him and he was very hen-pecked.
  • Signature Headgear: Jack's trademark trilby.
  • The Sociopath: Anton Caldwell, a Paedophile and diagnosed psychopath is the main antagonist of "Held In Trust," a cruel and quite disturbed man, he was responsible for the abduction of two eight year old boys and the murder of two people (one of them being the first little boy). He seemed to consider the whole matter one big joke, and was dangerously intelligent, even wiling to drop clues during his interrogation.
  • Throwing the Fight: A soccer player is offered money to lose the game, which he refuses. However, he then misses a crucial goal shot, so he figures he might as well take the money anyway by pretending I Meant to Do That. This turns out to be a mistake as he finds himself under pressure to throw more games.
  • Useless Security Camera: In one episode, Frost asks Toolan if he managed to get the evidence from the camera for a murder that had happened in an alley, only to be told that it was facing the wrong way.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The location of Denton is never revealed. Fans believe it to be somewhere in or between Wiltshire and Oxfordshire given the repeated references to Swindon, Reading and Oxford within the show. Like the Trope Namer, Denton is a fairly common place name, though none of the real-life Dentons are big enough to resemble the fictional one.
  • Worst Wedding Ever: In the series finale, Frost and Christine's wedding ends in tragedy when shortly before the ceremony is due to begin, Christine's insanely jealous ex-husband Adam rams his car into the vehicle Frost, his best man Toolan and Mullet are sitting in outside the church. Adam is killed at the scene and the other three are hospitalised; Frost and Mullet recover with minor injuries, but Toolan's injuries are too severe to treat, with Frost getting to spend his wedding day watching his best friend be taken off life support. Fortunately, it doesn't negatively impact Frost and Christine's relationship, with Christine telling Frost she already vowed to stay at his side for better or worse and Frost deciding to focus more on his personal life in wake of what happened to Toolan.
  • You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: Jack is only called by his real first name, William, by two people: his late wife in the first episode and Christine Moorhead in the last.
  • You Do Not Have to Say Anything