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Series / Heartbeat

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Heartbeat was a long running British drama series which aired from 1992 to 2010. Set in rural Yorkshire in The '60s, it was about the adventures of the local constabulary and medical services of the village of Aidensfield and the larger town of Ashfordly where the main police station of the area is situated. Later on, real places (particularly Whitby) would appear, placing the fictional Aidensfield in much the same location as the real Goathland, where much of the location filming took place.

The series originally began with Constable Nick Rowan (Nick Berry) and his doctor wife, Kate (Niamh Cusack), accepting a reassignment from London, which was troubled with considerable civil unrest at the time. As Rowan and his comrades keep the peace, they keep a wary eye for the local con man, Claude Greengrass (Bill Maynard), who is forever looking for the next big score, which is usually just this side of legal to keep them from arresting him.

The series feels much like a police version of All Creatures Great And Small (Johnny Byrne was effectively the showrunner for both series) as small town life proves incredibly lively with numerous crimes to solve and medical problems to treat, usually with a touch of humour.

Not to be confused with the short-lived 2015 television series of the same name.

A spin-off series The Royal, ran from 2003 to 2011.

This series provides examples of:

  • Bottle Episode: One Small Step (aka "the one where they all watch the moon landing").
  • Buccaneer Broadcaster: In one episode, Nick goes undercover as a DJ on a pirate radio ship that is suspected of being used as a front for a drug-smuggling operation.
  • Characterization Marches On: Although it's meant to be the same character, David Stockwell's debut as a mentally handicapped man barely capable of doing anything for himself bears very little resemblance to his subsequent goofy but normally-functioning characterization when brought back as a regular.
    • The show was originally a vehicle for Nick Berry, but the show ended up lasting eleven seasons after he departed in Series 7.
    • Oscar Blaketon, the original sergeant, started the series as a very bad-tempered and cynical character, often seen shouting at those under his command. He mellowed considerably as the show continued, especially following his retirement from the police.
  • Comic Trio
  • Cryptid Episode: In one episode, the cops go searching for some legendary big cats that are killing sheep on the Yorkshire moors. They turn out to be incompetent sheep rustlers instead.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Years of dealing with his brother's harebrained schemes have made Bernie Scripps a master at this.
  • Downer Ending: About Once a Season, either as the result of a main character death, or as the conclusion of one of the occasional Darker and Edgier plots. The final episode also counts as this.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: About 90% of the show's main character deaths.
  • Fake Defector: Nick has to deal with a deserter from a Russian merchant ship in one episode. Turns out, he wants to claim political asylum because he thinks he's killed his captain. When it's revealed that the captain is actually alive and well, he rejoins the ship.
  • Faking the Dead: Vernon Scripps, twice.
  • Fanservice: Kate, to the extent where Niamh Cusack had a very brief topless scene in the first season.
  • A Father to His Men: Blaketon starts becoming this in Series 3/4.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Rosie, despite being a supposedly a valued friend of many characters, was very suddenly forgotten from the show. A background character that appeared once or twice in the entire show got a bigger sendoff the very next episode.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble
  • Friendly Enemy: One of the main character development arcs in the early series is how Rowan and Greengrass' relationship mellows into this.
  • Friend-or-Idol Decision
  • Frozen in Time: 18 seasons and the series remained firmly in the 1960s. In fact, it was specifically 1969 long enough that one character had two full term pregnancies in that year...
    • Oscar's progression from police sergeant, to postmaster, to landlord appears to progress approximately in real time, making this all the more jarring.
  • Get-Rich-Quick Scheme: Vernon Scripps' favoured way of making a living.
  • The Ghost: Mrs. Ventriss.
  • The Grim Reaper: Wanders around in the background shortly before Oscar Blaketon cops it.
  • I Am Spartacus
  • In Name Only: Already a very loose adaptation of Nicholas Rhea' source novels, the show quickly went its own way.
  • Loveable Rogue
  • Never Found the Body: All they found was a mutilated passport picture of Rosie; it is implied that she died.
  • New Neighbours as the Plot Demands. The introduction of a second female doctor to reprise the romantic arc with Nick Berry's replacement character pretty much sums this up. Peggy Armstrong was obviously introduced to complement Vernon Scripps in filling the various plot holes left by Claude Greengrass' departure
  • Nothing but Hits: On the radio, at least. The soundtrack throws up the occasional oddity, though.
  • Old-Fashioned Copper: Justified, since it's the 60's, most sergeants of the Aidensfield Police have no problem with accepting or outright inventing charges against certain people just because they don't like them (like Greengrass), even if all their underlings suspect something is amiss. Blaketon for example didn't like Claude Greengrass, vagabonds or gypsies - assumed they were criminals just because - and was willing to jail and charge them for slightest of reasons. However most of them mellowed out in the end to be more understanding and less judgemental as time went by.
  • One-Steve Limit: Literally averted: When the show introduced PC Steve Crane, they apparently forgot that supporting character Jenny Latimer had a brother called Steve and they ended up appearing in the same episode.
  • Oop North
  • Power Trio
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: An episode dealing with a farm being ruined by hoof and mouth disease caught some criticism for the way the euthanized cattle were disposed of (stacked in a pile hooves to the sky and set alight), seeing it as comedic or childish. Fast forward a year or two to another UK-wide outbreak of hoof and mouth disease, and generous media footage of cows being destroyed in just that method.
  • Retired Badass: Alf, who in one episode is revealed to have been a commando during World War II.
  • Spin-Off: The Royal, a drama about a hospital in in 1960ís Ashfordly that lasted eight series, was a direct one, with some of the Heartbeat cast making guest appearances, especially Greengrass, who seemed to spend most the first series in there.
  • Steam Never Dies: Steam-hauled trains operate far longer on the line through Aidensfield than they would have otherwise on Yorkshire branch lines in real life. Diesels finally did rule the day towards the end of the series.
  • 10-Minute Retirement: Alf is forced to retire from the police force - and doesn't take it well. By episode's end, he's being kept on as a plainclothes community liason of sorts, which pretty much amounts to him sitting at a desk and sharing background info on whoever is the focus of the episode's plot - more or less exactly what he did while in uniform in later seasons.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Alf's boiled eggs. He always had two, and he banged them toegether to break the shells.
  • Train Job
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: From the famous words of Sargent Blaketon, "Greengrass!"
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Vernon Scripps and Peggy Armstrong for Greengrass, especially the latter.
  • The Unseen: Alfred Ventress's wife, Mrs. Ventress is mentioned numerous times by Alfred and other characters, but never seen in the series.
  • Vacation Episode: DS Dawson and PC Mason go to Australia to track down the whereabouts of Rosie, who has fallen out of contact with everyone at home. It doesn't end well. Carol Cassidy goes along to search for her brother, separated from her when they were sent to a children's home.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The Mystery of the Week in "Off The Rails" is a direct lift from Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Lost Special".
  • Wrench Wench: Rosie. Although She Cleans Up Nicely.