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Series / Inspector George Gently

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British Crime and Punishment Series starring Martin Shaw.

Based on the 1960s novels by Alan Hunter, but moving the setting from Norfolk to Northumberland and County Durham, this crime series set in The '60s involves two detectives: Detective Chief Inspector George Gently (Shaw), formerly of the London Police, and Detective Sergeant John Bacchus (Lee Ingleby), his hothead trainee.

The 2007 pilot and 2008 first season (just called George Gently) were rather dark affairs; a battle for the soul of Bacchus waged between Gently and the corrupt police force. The second season is somewhat lighter in tone- the stories are still fairly dark, but there are new "Sixties-style" opening titles and more comedy.


  • Always Murder: Averted.
    • In "Gently Northern Soul", the death turns out to be accidental, but the assumption that it was murder brings its own repercussions.
    • "Breathe in the Air" revolves around an apparent suicide which for once actually turns out to be a suicide, and a case of corruption which contributes to several deaths - but not an actual murder.
    • Double subverted in "The Lost Child". The case turns out to be a kidnapping, not a murder, and the baby is eventually returned to her family albeit the birth mother who was tricked into giving her up, not the adoptive parents she was kidnapped from. However there is an Accidental Murder midway through the episode - committed by Sergeant Bacchus, no less.
  • Back for the Dead: China, Gently's informant who disappeared after the first season, in "Goodbye China".
  • And the Adventure Continues: The final scene of the last episode of the show is Bacchus and Rachel leaning over Gently's desk and working on solving the murders of Gently, his wife and a reporter that died previously in the episode. Rachel even asks, "What would Gently do?" showing that they have learned from their mentor.
  • Arc Words: "Walk away", which are mentioned to a near-retirement George multiple times over the course of "Gently and the New Age". George Gently ultimately refuses to walk away from investigating a high profile corruption case, a decision which gets him assassinated by agents of his own government.
  • Backwards-Firing Gun: At the end of "Son of a Gun", the skinhead leader Jonjo Burden is blinded when the Sten gun he is aiming at Gently backfires. It turns out the boy he was forcing into modifying it hadn't finished boring out the barrel.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Many episodes.
    • "Gently With the Innocents". Harry Carson is saved from the gallows, and the man who ran a children's home so the children could be sexually abused is dead, but the wife and doctor who ignored or abetted it get away with it, because it's not clear what they could be charged with and Gently can't stand the thought of dragging the victims through the courts.
    • "Gently Northern Soul". George and Joseph Kenny persuade Ambrose not to kill Bernie, and it's pretty clear that the actual killer will be charged for what he's done. However, at the end of the episode we see a racist old lady hanging up a union jack flag, showing that while the potential race riots have been averted the prejudice still lingers.
    • "Gently in the Blood". Jimmy is reconciled with his son and father, and embraces his Arabic heritage, calling himself his full name, Jamil. However the baby's white grandparents refuse to even shake the baby's Arab grandfather's hand, and he is denied board for his skin colour.
    • "The Lost Child". Faith is reunited with her mother biological, that is, the Groves' marriage seems to be healing, as is Bacchus's relationship with his father. However, the Groves have lost both their children, and Bacchus is devastated at having killed a man.
  • Black Gal on White Guy Drama: In "Gently Northern Soul".
  • Bribe Backfire: In the episode "Bomber's Moon", a German businessman tries to bribe Sgt. Bacchus. Bacchus accepts the bribe so he will have the evidence to arrest him.
  • British Brevity: 25 episodes made throughout 8 series were made.
  • Break the Haughty: The racist dad in "Gently Northern Soul" looses both his sons when his attitude poisons them against each other, and in the end it's only because a black man who had every reason to hate him persuaded his would be killer to stand down that he's alive.
  • Buddy Cop Show: Gently is introduced as a bitter, vengeful cop who won't rest until his wife's murder is solved. The dynamic is turned on its head when he meets Bacchus, a diminutive hothead who seemingly became a cop as an excuse to yell at people.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Played with. Gently knows when to play along with rules and when to show his hand. Bacchus is a Rabid Cop in the making.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Series 5 was pretty damn grim - a Downer Ending every episode, and the Season Finale ends with Gently and Bacchus both lying on the floor of Durham Cathedral, having both been shot in the gut, with no help on the way.
  • Chairman of the Brawl: The Victim of the Week in "Gently Among Friends" is done in by a chair to the head, aided by some judicious kicking once he is down on the ground.
  • Character Name Alias: The Victim of the Week in "Gently Among Friends" uses the aliases 'T. Dan Smith' and 'Richard Grainger': two prominent figures in the history of Newcastle who both had the nickname 'Mr Newcastle'.
  • Chocolate Baby: In "Gently in the Blood", the Victim of the Week is a single mother with a dark-skinned baby. Attempting to ascertain the identity of the father forms a major part of the investigation. It ultimately turns out to be her boyfriend, who dumped her after the baby was born, not believing it to be his. The father was actually half-Arab, but unaware of this.
  • The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: In "Goodbye China", the coroner's officer rules the death of Gently's old mate an accident: a fall caused by him being drunk. Gently is suspicious because China would have had to fallen in such a way as to both break his nose and smash the back of his skull. And leave no blood at the scene of the 'accident'.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: In "Breathe in the Air", a Swiss corporation is covering up the fact that they knew that asbestos was giving their workers cancer years before they shut down their factory. Their ruthless cover-up drives a doctor to suicide.
  • Dead Animal Warning: In "Breath in the Air", a doctor's dog is killed as part of a harassment campaign that ultimately drives her to suicide.
  • Death by Falling Over:
    • What ultimately caused China's death in "Goodbye China".
    • This is how the Body of the Week in "Blue for Bluebird" was killed; falling backwards and hitting her head on the edge of a table.
    • A suspect dies like this in "The Lost Child" after Bacchus hits him.
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength: The mentally handicapped boy in "Goodbye China". He's a fairly hefty teenager with the mind of a four year old. It ends tragically for just about everyone concerned.
  • Downer Ending: in "Goodbye China", Gently chooses to arrest the man kidnapped and tortured two boys until one committed suicide, and the other was mentally destroyed, in revenge for them having caused his mentally disabled son to kill China. He does this despite knowing that it will get the son institutionalised. Ultimately justice is done, but it's hard to say anyone is better off for it.
  • Driven to Suicide: The Victim of the Week in "Breathe in the Air" is a doctor who was driven to suicide as a result of harassment from a corporation when she attempted to expose their corrupt practices that were given their workers cancer.
  • Dye or Die: In "Son of a Gun", Rachel has her long hair cut short to allow her infiltrate the skinhead subculture (and wears a wig when she is in the police station).
  • Embarrassing Last Name: In one episode, one of the suspects is a retired wrestler who still goes by his stage name. He is made to admit his actual name, and reveals his last name is actually Fairy.
  • Evil States of America: The Man Behind the Man in "Gently and the New Age". The American's want to build a new airbase on British soil, and their British contacts try to get George to convict a politican who's standing in their way of murder. George refuses to go along with their scheme and is killed for his troubles.
  • Fanservice with a Smile: One episode features a club called "Rakes", with "Fox Girls".
  • The Gambling Addict: The wife of the Victim of the Week in "Gently Among Thieves". Deeply in dept to Loan Sharks, they come to an 'arrangement' with her that essentially amounts to prostitution.
  • Gay Bar Reveal: In the episode "Peace & Love", Gently and Bacchus call in at a bar recently visited by the murder victim whose movements they're tracing. Bacchus is increasingly discomfited as the nature of the place dawns on him, and then indignant when he finds out that Gently had suspected it before they went in and hadn't bothered to say anything.
  • General Ripper: Colonel Darwin in "Gently with Honour". He is so obsessed with defeating the communists that he is subjects his men to unauthorised drug experiments, tortures and murders them, and then commits further murders to cover up his crimes.
  • Going by the Matchbook: In the episode "Peace & Love", the murder victim has a matchbook from a particular bar in his pocket. Played with slightly, in that the barman remembers him even though he only went there once because he swiped all the matchbooks.
  • Hates Everyone Equally: Bacchus probably has a chip on both shoulders – he hates people cleverer and richer than him as well as hating people more stupid and poorer than him! Consequently he loves using his badge to impress/terrify people he's met throughout his childhood.
  • "Hey, You!" Haymaker: Gently delivers one to a rapist and murderer in "Gently With the Women".
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: After attempting to blackmail a reluctant associate into reconditioning more guns for him, the particularly nasty gang leader in "Son of a Gun" attempts to shoot him with an unfinished gun - which literally backfires on him.
  • Honey Trap: Bacchus in a few episodes, and Coles in "Son of a Gun".
  • How Did You Know? I Didn't: This exchange between Bacchus and Gently at the end of "Son of a Gun (after Gently has faced down a Sten gun wielding skinhead):
    Bacchus: How did you know the gun wouldn't work?
    Gently: I didn't.
  • How We Got Here: "Gently and the New Age" begins with a scene of Gently uttering his wife's name while looking out onto the ocean. The episode then backtracks five days to the start of the case and plays out chronologically, eventually revealling that the beach scene was actually Gently's dying moments.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: In keeping with the original novels, most episodes (even those not based on a novel) are named along the lines of "Gently Goes ____", "Gently With ____", "Gently in the ____" etc.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: In "Son of a Gun", the commissionaire at the bank grabs the dropped Sten gun and opens fire at the getaway car, emptying the gun on full auto. Gently blows his top at him, pointing out that there was a phone box, a bus stop and a pub in the direction he was firing, and has him charged with illegally discharging a firearm in a public place. It is later discovered that one of his shots had fatally wounded the getaway driver.
  • Impairment Shot: There is a shot from Gently' POV that goes blurry just before he passes out in the boxing ring in "Gently With the Women".
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: In "The Burning Man", Commander Empton of Special Branch lays a beatdown on a suspect inspected of being involved with the IRA, to Gently's obvious disgust.
  • The Jailer: In "Goodbye China", Gently uncovers a pair of police officers running an off-the-books detention centre for young offenders where they attempt to beat some respect for the law into them.
  • Jerkass: The fact that Bacchus often reflects the prejudices of his era is unfortunate but understandable. The fact that he frequently takes every opportunity to be a complete tool about it, less so. He's not without his better side, though.
  • Knight Templar Parent: The episode "Goodbye China" revolves around the actions of one. After the title character is inadvertently murdered by a mentally retarded child when trying to save him from a mugging, his father finds the two culprits and tortures and intentionally breaks them to prevent them from speaking of the incident. One is Driven to Suicide and the other is a Nervous Wreck. As Gently arrests him, the father vows he will never be remorseful for what has happened and even pleas for his silence in fear his son will be sent to a mental institution upon his arrest (which are even less cushy in the fifties).
  • Lawman Baton: In "Gently Between the Lines", police with truncheons charge to disperse a group of protesters. After one of the policemen is injured in the ensuing melee, a group of three of coppers are shown menacingly brandishing their truncheons as they return to the fray, looking to inflict some serious payback on anyone they can find.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: In "The Lost Child", a couple who've wanted children for years manage to adopt, only for the baby to be stolen from her crib. Investigations later reveal that of the two it's the wife who desperately wanted children, so much so that her disgruntled husband pretty much bought a baby from the adoption agency to keep her happy. The kidnapper turns out to be the couple's biological child, who was given up for adoption decades ago due to his mother having him out of wedlock while his father was off fighting a war.
  • Loan Shark: A pair of loan sharks force a woman who is Trapped by Gambling Debts into prostitution in "Gently Among Friends". Bacchus deals out a little street justice to scare them off.
  • Location Doubling: The show is filmed in Ireland, partly for tax reasons, partly for lack of suitable architecture.
  • Long-Lost Relative: What fuels most of the drama in "The Lost Child". The culprit ends up being Gareth, the Grove's biological son who was secretly given up for adoption by his mother decades ago, who manages to track down his biolgical family only to discover that they're in the process of adopting an infant. His father only discovers their relationship when Gareth is in a coma on his deathbed.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: The series ends with George Gently being brutally gunned down as an attempt to protect his students Bacchus and Rachel from governmental assassins.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: In "The Lost Child", an older woman is having clandestine meetings with a younger man who turns out to be the son that she was forced to give up for adoption years ago.
  • Mistaken for Pedophile: Played for drama in "Gently Between The Lines". A local decides that a squatter living in an empty house is a pedophile because of his interest in a young boy (he is actually teaching the working class boy about poetry). This has tragic consequences.
  • My Beloved Smother: Alethea Blackstone. Her son eventually commits suicide, because of her smothering and with the death of his only friend as the last straw.
  • Never Suicide:
    • In "Gently with Honour", Gently and Bacchus return to a psychiatrist with a warrant for the medical files of one his patients and find the psychiatrist hanged; an apparent suicide. Gently's suspicions are immediately raised, especially when he finds the medical file he was after is missing. It is later discovered that the psychiatrist's neck had been snapped and he was then strung up to make it look like he hanged himself.
    • Averted in "Breathe in the Air" where the Body of the Week really is a suicide, and the discovery of why she killed herself reveals another crime altogether.
  • New Year Has Come: In "Son of a Gun", the perpetrator is apprehended just before midnight on 31 December 1969.
  • Noble Bigot with a Badge: Detective Sergeant Bacchus is this in a Hates Everyone Equally fashion, but ultimately always does the right and sees justice served, no matter who the perpetrator or victim are. He is also a chauvinist and does not think women belong in the police in general, and especially not in CID.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: Wanda Lane dons a merry widow and fishnet stockings when she attempts to seduce Gently in "The Burning Man".
  • Officially Shortened Title: Inverted. The show started as George Gently before expanding to Inspector George Gently.
  • Old Cop, Young Cop: Gently and Bacchus.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Gently's accent wanders considerably.
  • Oop North: The series is in North East England, centering on Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland and County Durham. Gently himself is a transplanted Londoner, but most of the rest of cast sport Northern accents.
  • Pit Girls: A scantily-clad ring girl carries round cards between the rounds of the inter-constabulary boxing match at the start of "Gently Liberated".
  • Police Brutality: The series is set in the 1960s, when such practices were widespread. However, Gently himself is fiercely opposed to it and will come down hard on any officer he finds indulging in police brutality. This becomes especially relevant in "Gently Between the Lines", when Gently and Bacchus are asked to investigate when a suspect dies in police custody, seemingly after being assaulted by three officers during a riot. Gently's superiors expect him to just sweep the whole incident under the rug, but they underestimate Gently's devotion to justice.
  • Politically Correct History: Subverted. Gently is enlightened on manners of race sexuality and gender, but it's made painfully clear that many other people don't share his views. Made particularly clear in "Gently Northern Soul", which takes place around the same time as Enoch Powell's Rivers of Blood Speech. A female landlady actively has a "No blacks allowed" sign, while several of the policemen actively agree with Enoch Powell's speech.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Done deliberately with Bacchus, in contrast to Gently's more inclusive personal doctrine.
    • He does undergo some character development in "Gently Northern Soul" (he does develop a sense of empathy for the black community whereas before he just saw the victim as an "exotic").
    • Bacchus is also extremely dismissive of Gently's young protege Rachel Coles, insisting that women have no place in the force generally, and in CID in particular. He opposes Coles being made Acting Sergeant and it's only once he gets his own promotion to Inspector that he starts to see her as less of a threat and begins to accept her as a capable detective. By the final episode they're working together with no friction.
  • Porn Names: This is both used and subverted when Gently and Bacchus are investigating a casino with "Fox Girls". The murder victim's real name was Audrey Chadwick. However, she was using the name "Blaise" for working purposes. Not Modesty Blaise, as "she doesn't have any modesty". However, Fawn Granger, her best friend, was using her real name.
  • Pursued Protagonist: "Gently With the Women" opens with a young woman being chased the river in Durham by her eventual killer.
  • Rank Up: In season 7, Bacchus is promoted from Detective Sergeant to Detective Inspector, which he had been angling for since season 1, and Rachel is promoted from WPC to Detective Sergeant.
  • Retirony: In the final episode, Gently himself is shot dead with less than a week before his retirement.
  • Revisiting the Cold Case: In "Gently Liberated", the discovery of the body of a man who went missing in 1962 causes Gently to reopen the case, as his wife had been convicted of his murder on flimsy evidence despite the lack of a body.
  • Scooter-Riding Mod: The rivalry between Mods and Rockers featured prominently in one episode.
  • Shotgun Wedding: How Bacchus ended up marrying his wife.
  • Shout-Out: The references to "Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)" by Frank Wilson in "Gently Northern Soul" are clearly an in-joke for northern soul fans, since anybody who knows of the record in question (latterly the most valuable record ever sold at auction) would be well aware of its rarity and that there is no way a girl in Durham in 1968 would own a copy. Given Bacchus' response to the soul club in this episode, one has to suspect a case of Writer on Board.
  • The '60s: 1964 to begin with, but moves on roughly in real time just as the books do, and reaches The '70s at the end of season 7. The meaningful date of 1 January 1970 is when Rachel Coles' promotion to Detective Sergeant becomes official.
  • Skinheads'': In "Son of a Gun", Gently chases a skinhead gang that is robbing banks.
  • Surprise Incest: "Gently Going Under" features a half-siblings version. The girl's father had an affair with the boy's mother while her husband was away at the war. When the relationship is discovered, the father tries to move away and take the daughter with him but she is already pregnant. The boy's mother tells her the truth, causing her to attempt to abort the child.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: In "Gently Upside Down", Gently investigates the murder of a 17 year old schoolgirl and discovers that she was having an affair with one of her teachers (who happens to be the father of one of her best friends). It turns out the teacher has a history of this.
  • Time-Delayed Death: In "Gently Between the Lines", a prisoner who died in the cells actually succumbed to liver damage sustained in a beating he received before he was arrested.
  • Twisted Christmas: "Son of a Gun" begins on Christmas Eve and ends on New Year's Day. Gently, Bacchus and Coles spend much of Christmas Day itself doing a street-by-street search for an abandoned getaway car, and find it - complete with the gruesomely-mangled corpse of the driver.
  • Unconfessed Unemployment: More like 'Unconfessed Bankruptcy', but the Victim of the Week in "Gently Among Friends" is hiding the extent of his financial troubles from his wife, even while he is pawning their belongings and passing their disappearance off as theft.
  • Undercover Cop Reveal: Frequent with Bacchus, who does most of the undercover work.
  • What Would X Do?: Bacchus and Rachel ask themselves what Gently would in the closing minutes of the series finale as they start their investigation into the deaths of Gently, his wife, and the episode's initial Victim of the Week.