Follow TV Tropes


Series / Bluestone 42

Go To
Not your average Bomb-disposal unit.

Bluestone 42 is a comedy drama about a British bomb disposal detachment in Afghanistan during Operation Herrick. It is a series about a bunch of soldiers who love being soldiers, and the camaraderie, bonds and banter they share, even though they are risking their lives defusing hidden bombs. The name of the show refers to the unit callsign, and as such, should be spoken "Bluestone Four-Two."

The show aired from 2013 to 2016, and ended after three series both because real-life combat operation in Afghanistan had ended, and BBCThree was shutdown as a broadcast channel, which moved to an online channel.

Has a Character page in need of more love.

This series features examples of:

  • Action Dad: Tower Block, who has a one-year-old daughter back home.
  • Action Girl: Bird, Ellen, and Jasmine.
  • Armed Farces: It's essentially a comedy about a military unit that's managed more like Whernham Hogg than an army unit, with pranks Tim would have been proud of being played on a regular basis, and a CO who's basically a female David Brent.
  • Asshole Victim: Colonel Randall Carter, an American CIA field officer that is riding along with them who gets shot after taking off his helmet while the team are dealing with a bomb.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Rocket is mourning the death of a pet. Simon snaps him out of it by reminding him that there's pizza.
  • Backstory of the Day: Mary, having been persuaded into a card game, turns out to be not just a Card Sharp but a former Gambling Addict to boot.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Bluestone 42 gets the coveted job of putting on the Nativity play. The results are predictably dire. Simon's directing doesn't help.
  • Bayonet Ya: Simon order Mac and Rocket to fix bayonets and follow him after Bluestone 42 is ambushed at night. Mac later mentions that he stabbed a terrorist in the eye during that action.
    • Mac and Tower Block later have an argument over what is the best melee weapon, with Mac claiming that a combo of trident and net (like Retiarii from gladiatorial combat) is the best while Tower Block claiming that bayonets fitted to their rifles are the best. They try to go head to head but Mac's side end up getting their legs tangled in their nets and falling flat on their faces while charging.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Do not mess with the CO's tulips (aka his 'girls'). A rat hiding in them was summarily executed and militants shooting them up was enough to get the CO to leap out of cover and return fire with a shotgun.
    • Tower Block is very proud of being from Oop North. When Mac points out this still makes him an "English poof", Tower Block responds by punching him in the face and wrestling him to the ground.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • When local pervert Mac steals a photo of Millsy's sister, using a nice bit of Loophole Abuse to justify him hoarding a picture of a 14-year-old, Millsy's first reaction upon getting the picture back is to punch him in the face.
    • Simon is the proverbial boy you can bring home to Mother. He also carries a very large gun and won't hesitate to fix bayonets and close with the enemy.
    • Colonel Smith is normally very affable and willing to play along with his soldiers' antics. But upon hearing that Simon had gone AWOL, he gets so angry that Bluestone 42 are quivering in their boots.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Series 3 finale: Bluestone 42's stint in Afghanistan is over and they're going home. But Simon suffers a Heroic BSoD and goes AWOL.
  • Black Comedy: Despite being a comedy, the show does not ignore the fact it is set in a war zone, with an on-screen fatality in the first episode.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Oddly, played straight. Despite snipers picking off personnel and someone getting three toes blown off their foot, blood is hardly ever seen. The only real exception are the remains of the Afghan tiger gecko.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: The general feel given off by the team. They're effective enough in combat, but are eccentric off it.
    • Mac and Rocket will mouth off, play pranks, and undermine what little authority Simon has over them, but when the bullets start flying they shut up and follow his orders. Mostly...
      In the middle of an assault on the firebase
      Mac: Don't blame yourself, Skip! We'll do that for ya later!
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Simon is the butt of everyone's jokes.
    • Millsy gets more than his fair share as well, particularly from Nick.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Tower Block and his skill with the gantry.
  • The Chessmaster: The Lieutenant Colonel knows every berserk button of every soldier in his command and knows how to press them to get what he wants without anyone knowing they're being manipulated.
  • Christmas Special: Aired during Christmas 2013 following the first series.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Millsy doesn't appear in the Christmas special, which introduces new arrival Tower Block. No explanation is given, through given that they're in the middle of a warzone...
  • Cliffhanger: The end of the second series. Also, the show ended after the third series with one major plot thread left hanging.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The characters curse so often that "Fuck" loses its shock value and only serves as an emphasis to whatever point someone is trying to make. Very much Truth in Television for some units
  • Combat Medic: Jasmine, introduced in Series 3, charges through enemy fire to save soldiers in areas that have yet to be cleared of IEDs. She copes with her job by loudly cursing.
  • Communications Officer: Bird, who is the ECM (Electronic Counter Measures) operator. One of her duties is to communicate with base when the team are fired upon by Taliban.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Mac, in his own way. He's memorized the age of consent in every country in the world.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Simon is the squad's designated whipping boy as well as a capable combat soldier who won't hesitate to fix bayonets and close with the enemy.
  • Darker and Edgier: The show normally cuts its life and death situations with with a heavy dose of gallows humor. But in series 2, we see Nick start taking the threat of a recurring bomber absolutely seriously and his efforts in tracking down said bomber culminate in a nighttime raid that is played absolutely straight, with no jokes and Nick emotionally drained after seeing how young his adversary actually is.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Tower Block recruits Jasmine to help him train because she is the loudest meanest soldier on the base.
    Jasmine: Pick it up and fucking RUN YOU TAPEWORM! Pick it up. Run. Fucking run! Run, you fuckwit!
  • Dull Surprise: The reaction of the troops when a character is killed in the first episode is fairly flat. Granted, they are immediately plunged into a firefight. Corporal Bird exhibits more emotion when the EOD robot is hit by a bullet. Although this was deliberate, as Carter was meant to be insufferable and they had repeatedly warned him to put his helmet back on.
  • Eagleland: Col. Carter is a Type 2.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: One episode has Bird lament that "Bluestone 42" isn't a cool callsign and tries to come up with an alternative. The unit sticks with with it, though
  • Fictional Counterpart: The characters wear patches marked IFAS (instead of ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force).
  • Le Film Artistique: Mac, Rocket, Nick and the Colonel think this about films like The Thin Red Line and Atonement, much to the great annoyance of Simon and Mary.
  • Finger in the Mail: After Graham is stolen by the Taliban, his parts are used in future bombs. Corporal Bird refers to this trope as they poke through one of these bombs.
  • The Fool: Rocket, who wasn't sure if Nick was short for Nicholas or not.
  • Friend in the Black Market: The source of Faruq's merchandise.
  • Handsome Lech: Medhurst, although he strenuously denies accusations of being a lothario;
    Medhurst: If I was, I'd be shagging you and Bird! And Millsy too probably, who I'm sure would be.. very accomodating?!
  • Heroic BSoD: In the Series 3 finale, Simon finds out that Nick's recommendation that he be awarded a medal (the one good thing that's happened to him since Series 1) has been turned down. Then he discovers that Ellen (whom he's still pining for) used to date the man his ex-fiance left him for and that she broke up with him because she thought he was too good for her. Later, Mac and Rocket try to show Simon some genuine appreciation by making him a homemade medal but he takes it to be more mockery. This pushes Simon over the edge and he goes AWOL and sets up camp in a cave with a jerry can (upon which he drew Ellen's face) for company.
  • Hidden Depths: Mac may be a huge sleaze, but when Simon is drunk and crying over breaking up with his fiancee, Mac is the first to sit with him and comfort him.
    • Ellen, while complaining about how Bluestone 42 is being uncooperative, reveals that the unit has been recognized for its potential:
      • Tower Block has the makings of an explosive ordinance disposal operator.
      • Mac could join the special forces if he applied himself.
      • Rocket could be one of the army's top 100 marksmen.
      • Averted by Simon. Despite his ambitions to be an officer, he's only considered to be an exceptionally tidy soldier.
  • I Call It "Vera": Corporal Bird is very attached to the team's bomb disposal robot, whom she names Arthur.
    • Series 2 robot is called Graham
  • Informed Attribute: A rare In-Universe example - Medhurst is claimed by the others to be quite good at poker, but the only times we see or hear of him playing, he's taken to the cleaners.
  • Inherently Funny Words: Rocket clearly thinks this about the term "WISWO", not unreasonably.
  • Knocking on Heathens' Door: Captain Softly's first option to gain access to the Taliban bomb factory. Option two is blow the doors and pile in, guns blazing.
  • The Lancer:
    • Millsy in Series 1.
    • Tower Block in Series 2.
  • Last-Minute Hookup: Medhurst and Mary at the end of season 2
  • Ludicrous Gibs: The base's rats are eliminated in a hail of gunfire and the viewers get to see the pests blowing up into little splatters of blood and gore. Rocket is appalled at this practice.
  • Magic Feather: Medhurst and his Fishermans' Friends.
  • Matter of Life and Death: Medhurst is not amused when Lansley makes light of having mistaken a plant for a tripwire, after having foolishly stepped off the path. As he rightly points out, if it had been an IED, he could have blown his legs off and taken a huge chunk out of the rest of the team!
    • Smith's reaction to Tower Block lighting a flare to simulate the Star of Bethlehem during the Nativity Play, which immediately brings their base under fire and destroys the cooking area containing their Christmas turkey.
    • In Series 2, Medhurst's increasing frustration as everyone continue to mess around, despite the team making no progress on figuring out how the "Orange Wire" bomber operates. Especially after they screw up recovering a device for forensics in episode one, Mac and Simon's near-miss in the episode two and news come in about a soldier from another bomb disposal team being killed by the same bomber in episode three.
  • Medal of Dishonor: Played with. The Jockstrap of Joy should be this, given as it is to the filthiest bastard on the base, but is instead hotly contested for.
  • Metaphorgotten: The Lieutenant Colonel:
    "You know the best soldiers are the ones that go unnoticed. Like waiters. Until they kick the door down and shoot everyone. [ Beat ] Not like waiters.
  • Misplaced Kindergarten Teacher: The new ATO, Ellen Best, generally comports herself like an overly preppy schoolteacher and even uses expression like "top of the class".
  • Mood Whiplash: Given the setting, it's not exactly surprising when this turns up, usually in the form of something suddenly going wrong whilst on patrol, such as when Colonel Carter gets shot, or Nick gets blown off his feet by an IED, saved only by the suit he's in the middle of bitching about having to wear. Also in the Series 2 Finale where the team starts out doing their usual schtick while heading out to a call only to have their vehicle hit by an IED.
    • During the incredibly bad Nativity Play, Tower Block lighting a flare and causing the base to come under fire.
    Smith: Who the fuck did that?!
  • Naughty Nuns: Much to the disappointment of the men on the team, Rev (Major) Mary Greenstock isn't. Medhurst doesn't seem to care though.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Captain Softly, leader of the recce platoon, is an aggressive and foul-mouthed individual. He starts the speech he gives with a hearty "hello cunts!"
  • Not So Above It All: The CO expressed outrage at his soldiers gambling on pubic lice racing, only for it to be revealed that he not only knew about everything all along, but has placed bets and is coming out on top.
  • Number Two: Millsy in Series 1 and Tower Block from the Series 1 Christmas Special onwards.
  • Obsessed with Food: Rocket.
  • Oh, Crap!: In the Christmas Special, Tower Block's reaction after notices that he has an undetonated RPG imbedded in his body armour.
    • Nick and Tower Block react like this in series 2 episode 4, when they discover that Achmed has brought a real car bomb into the base, rather than the fake one they asked him for.
  • Only Sane Man: Millsy frequently comes across as this.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Medhurst and Bird. He claims that the key to their strong friendship is due to having removed any possible trace of sexual tension by hooking up during basic training.
  • Proper Lady: Mary, which is part of the reason why Bird doesn't have much time for her.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Mary Greenstock left after the Series 2 finale. Her departure is explained by saying that she felt she couldn't work in Nick's vicinity any more after they had sex. This devastates Nick because he thought that he could develop a genuine relationship with her.
    • Nick leaves the series after losing his leg in an IED explosion in Series 3, Episode 2.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Nick. (Although he has his quirks, and does make some mistakes.)
  • The Reliable One: Bird and Millsy, almost in competition with one another.
  • Rescue Sex: Played with - the kidnapped Danish aid worker offers this to Medhurst, even though Simon was the one who actually rescued her. He initially refuses, but then goes through with it.
  • Running Gag
    • The Lieutenant Colonel's first rule, which changes each episode - occasionally, even within an episode.
    • References to "the Afghan tiger [insert creature here]".
  • The Scrounger: Farooq.
  • Shoot the Messenger: Faruq knows about this, and worries about it.
    Faruq: Do not shoot the messenger. *glances at Nick worriedly* No, seriously, don't.
  • Shout-Out
    Lt Col Smith: I am shocked, SHOCKED, to find that crab racing is going on in here!
    Faruq: Your winnings, sir.
    Smith: Oh, thank you very much.
  • Sitcom Archnemesis: In the second episode, an Afghan Tiger Gecko, aka "The distracting lizard".
    • Mac and Lansley.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Nick, an officer and gentleman, ends his orders to the team with a cheery "Go on. Off you fuck."
  • Spiritual Successor: This show has drawn many comparisons to M*A*S*H
  • The Spock: Millsy is so buttoned down and focused on his job that, when the Scots and Lansley are bemoaning the chance of losing Bird, he pipes up that they'll receive someone else with the same training, so the squad will function in the same way. He only remembers to be sad about a friend leaving after they remind him.
  • The Squadette: Bird, of the Ladette variety.
  • Teach Him Anger: Bird attempts this with Millsy during episode three. It works terribly, terribly well.
  • Those Two Guys: Mac and Rocket.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl:
    • Bird and Mary, respectively.
    • Taken up a notch with Bird and Ellen in series three.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Col. Carter, who is a veteran of Desert Storm and Fallujah takes off his helmet in an active war zone. He promptly gets shot by a Taliban sniper.
    • Lethally Stupid: Tower Block lighting a flare during the Nativity Play, causing the base to come under mortar fire. No-one dies, but they end up losing the cooking area and the Christmas Turkey as a result.
    • Everyone in episode three of the second series, when the rooftop "clubhouse" comes under enemy fire, leading them to realise that the "Keep Out" sign posted on the stairway leading up to it was put there for a very good reason.
  • Two Girls to a Team: Not literally, as Bird is the only female member of Bluestone 42, however Mary is essentially an honourary member of the squad.
    • This becomes the case literally in the second episode of Season 3, as the new ATO, Capt. Ellen Best, is a woman.
  • Worthy Adversary: Nick initially believes that the orange wire bomber in series 2 is a veteran militant and makes as if his having to defuse the bomber's devices is more a challenge to his intellect rather than a life or death game of cat and mouse. But as the bombs keep on coming Nick's attitude becomes more serious. Nick is completely shocked when it turns out that the bomber is only 17.