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Series / Ultimate Force

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Ultimate Force indeed, ladies and gentlemen...

Ultimate Force. Originally starring Ross Kemp, Jamie Draven, Tony Curran, Danny Sapani, Sendhil Ramamurthy and Miles Anderson as members of the British Special Air Service Regiment, more specifically the fictional 'Red Troop'. Created by Rob Heyland and Chris Ryan, the show's first two series presented a stark and brutal demonstration of what the operators of the SAS go through, from hostage rescue to preventing an assassination, and the repercussions of their actions both with the world at large as well as with their families and friends. People die. But then it went pear-shaped with the beginning of the third series. The entire cast, excluding Ross Kemp, Miles Anderson, and Christopher Fox. were given the boot and replaced with a new cast.

The show has aired in over a few countries now, including recently the USA (via BBC's American channel) aside from most of Europe, Oceania and Japan (as SAS: British Special Forces in Japanese). It's also available only in DVD currently with a collector's edition that collects all of the DVDs from all four seasons.

This show features examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: The departure of half the cast led to several plot threads going unresolved, such as Jamie's family drama, the death of his stepfather (Word of God states that Ricky killed him), Pete's struggle with PTSD, his wife's affair, Henno's killing of Capt. Ian Macalwain and Jamie's relationship with Caroline.
  • Action Girl: Becca Gallagher and Caroline Walshe.
  • Affably Evil: Louis, who combines a bit of Sociopathic Hero and Deadpan Snarker to create one of the more interesting characters later in the show.
    • If only because he's one of only three original cast members by Season 3.
  • Anyone Can Die: Slightly jarring at times, particularly during the first series.
  • Asshole Victim: When Jamie finds out that his abusive father has been murdered, his response is "Good. I hope it hurt".
  • Badass Crew: Well, they're the SAS...
  • Bank Robbery: The first episode involves the team being called in to deal with a bank siege gone wrong.
  • Baseball Episode: In "Mad Dogs", Captain Macalwain's first act upon taking command of Red Troop is to make them play rugby as a team-building exercise. Not being upper-class, the guys aren't thrilled, though Ricky takes pleasure in tackling Louis.
  • Black Comedy: Most of the original cast frequently indulges in it.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Averted, Ricky Mann dies off-screen.
  • Body Double: The villain of "Something to Do with Justice" is a war criminal who has many doubles, much like Saddam Hussein.
  • Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: Col. Dempsey is the Captain Smooth, while Henno fits the Sgt Rough trope to a T.
  • Cartoon Bomb: In "The Class of 1980", Henno, having jumped out a transit stuffed with tertiary explosives, is on the cliff face when the van detonates, the yield supposedly capable of shifting an entire city block sideways, and Henno climbs up with no apparent ill effects from an overpressure that would normally have collapsed his lungs, throat and sinuses.
  • Catchphrase: Ricky Mann's "They love it" and variations thereof.
  • Chickification: Mostly averted with the female cast members, but happens a little bit to Becca Gallagher, who goes from staunch tomboy at first to dressing in more noticeably feminine ways out of uniform by the end of the run.
  • Colonel Badass: Colonel Aidan Dempsey reliably kicks a lot of arse when called upon, most notably in "Dead Is Forever", "Never Go Back" and - particularly - "Charlie Bravo". In the latter, he strides through a gunfight, casually taking one-handed potshots at rebels, while exhorting his local counterpart to "Pretend you're an officer and get your men in order!"
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: MI 5 Attache Pru Banks, who is a regular in series 2 and ends the series romantically involved with Henno, disappears without explanation before the beginning of series 3.
    • Also happens to Kathy Crampton after Series 3, although she featured less often, and Sean Smith, who was head of Blue Troop for two seasons and had been on enough missions for his absence to be noticeable.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: In "The Killing of One-Eyed Bookie", Jamie is captured by Northern Irish terrorists. He gets beaten up, worked over with a red-hot poker and made to dig his own grave.
  • Cool Guns: Plenty.
    • The squad's main sidearm is a Browning Hi-Power.
    • The MP5A3 is the main weapon used for domestic counter-terror operations
    • Various models of Colt M16 and M4s are used overseas.
  • Cop Killer: In "What in the Name of God", an ex-British soldier from the first Gulf War kills a couple of constables.
  • Coup de Grāce: In conjunction with No Kill like Overkill, SAS troopers are shown taking down terrorists with controlled bursts and then raking the body with a few more to make sure their targets don't get back up.
  • Courtroom Episode: "Mad Dogs" sees Red Troop face a full judicial inquiry that could land them in jail following the events of "Communication".
  • Crazy-Prepared: The UK-based Al-Qaeda cell in "Class of 1980". They were so prepared that they expected to face SAS CRW commandos when they gunned down SO19 officers before the SAS went to engage them, armed with LAW rocket launchers and a FN MAG GPMG to stall the CRW units before Red Team was able to defeat them.
  • Creator Cameo: Chris Ryan shows up as the commander of Blue Troop.
  • Death of a Child: In "What in the Name of God", Pete is forced to kill a child holding a gun during a siege. He later vomits out of distress.
  • Don't Call Me "Sir": Henno reminds the newcomers in the first episode not to call an officer "Sir".
  • Double Agent: A PIRA officer was also working with the RUC in quelling the revolts in Northern Ireland.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Done with nearly the entire cast at the beginning of Series 3. Only Dempsey, Henno, and Louis made it through unscathed.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: The British SAS after all, even when they get on the action with little/no involvement from SO19. There's (possibly) the 1st Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment, although they get into a firefight with SAS units in civilian clothing.
  • Fake Action Prologue: "Wannabes" opens with Jamie, Pete and Ricky scoping out a house at night, awaiting a man and a woman entering. It seems like they're on a mission - it turns out to be a prank they're playing on Louis and a prostitute, whom they tricked into meeting him.
  • Fake Shemp: Draven, Curran and Sapani didn't return for the third series, so body doubles were used for their death scene.
  • A Father to His Men: Colonel Dempsey, very much so.
  • Far East Asian Terrorists: Red Troop was called during a hijacking to take out Tibetan ultranationalist terrorists, led by an ex-British Army officer who is tired of seeing the Chinese government mistreat Tibetans.
  • Fingore: In "The List", the safe cracker that Red Troop recruits to assist them in the heist gets most of his fingers blown off by a booby-trapped box.
  • First-Name Basis: Despite being higher by several ranks, Col. Dempsey is very close to Henno and is the only person who calls him by his first name.
  • Five-Token Band: Between the working-class northerner (Jamie), the big black man (Ricky), the ginger Scot (Pete), the middle-class British-Asian (Alex) and the public-schoolboy Captain (Dotsy), the original cast ticked virtually every British socio-ethnic box going. Keeping it PC.
  • From Camouflage to Criminal:
    • The villain of "Natural Selection" is a wannabe soldier who failed the SAS course twice and tries to prove his worth by murdering the current recruits.
    • The villain of "What in the Name of God" is a Gulf War veteran turned fanatical cult leader.
  • Heist Episode: "The List" sees the team take a "black bag operation" to steal a list from a secure bank vault. To do this, they enlist the service of a professional safe-cracker.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: In "Natural Selection", Henno threatens to throw the villain out of a helicopter to get a confession about the murders he committed, much to the disapproval of the police inspector riding in the helicopter alongside them. Billy claims that he was good enough for the regiment, and that he should have been selected instead of being returned to his unit. Henno refutes, saying that Billy cracked under two seconds when threatened to be pushed out of the helicopter. Henno then puts a bag on Billy's head and throws him out of the helicopter to fall to the ground, but it is then revealed that the helicopter was hovering just above the ground.
  • Hostage Situation:
    • The first episode involves a siege at a bank where criminals have taken hostages.
    • "Deadlier Than the Male" involves Free Tibet terrorists hijacking a passenger plane and threatening to blow it up.
    • "Violent Solutions" sees gangsters take control of a tour bus with Becca posing as a hostage.
  • Hypocrite: In "Wannabes", one of the main villains is a woman who recruits suicide bombers for a cult that wants to, among other things, outlaw homosexuality, deport illegal immigrants and execute paedophiles. She - a) has sex with a black nightclub bouncer, b) has a girlfriend and c) recruits candidates at the school she teaches at via seduction.
  • Instant Marksman: Just Squeeze Trigger!: Played With when Henno gives a pistol to an ambassador he is protecting with these instructions. However, he then reveals he was actually suggesting a suicide method.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: In "Wannabes", Pete interrogates a bigoted villain tied to a chair via smacking him with a copy of his own inflammatory book and punching him in the face.
    I've read your book. (smack) It's shite.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Corporal Louis Hoffman embodies this.
  • Killed Offscreen: Corporal Ed Dwyer is killed off between Series 3 and 4 in unknown incident and buried at the start of Series 4.
  • Large Ham: Ross Kemp as Staff Sergeant Henno Garvey, also Miles Anderson as Colonel Aidan Dempsey.
    • "Boss" from the very first episode also comes to mind.
  • Middle Eastern Terrorists: One episode involves the squad taking out an Al-Qaeda cell that occupied the Italian Embassy.
  • Missing Backblast: Horrifically averted in Season 4's "Violent Solutions". One of the bad guys fires a LAW 80 from the top of a bus, roasting the face of one of his own men. Becca, undercover on the bus, manages to duck, thus secretly weaponizing it.
  • Model Planning: In "The List", the SAS team under Henno practices with a semi-turned thief on how to break into a high-security vault.
  • The Neidermeyer: Captain Macalwain showed many tendencies toward this.
  • Not Enough to Bury: According to Henno, Pete had to have sandbags in his coffin, "because there wasn't enough to fill a mess tin".
  • Off with His Head!: In "Never Go Back", Henno decapitates a man who was holding him hostage with a machete.
  • Pervy Patdown: While posing as a mercenary, Henno uses the opportunity to 'demonstrate' the correct way to search a female journalist coming to interview the warlord he's working for. The journalist is actually a female member of Henno's unit, so while his pat-down is entirely professional there's a definite subtext.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: "Wannabes" features a hard-right group of suicide bombers led by a racist, ant-semitic, xenophobic businessman. Naturally, he's interrogated by Ricky and Pete.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Alex leaves the army at the end of Series 1, partly due to the death of his brother in the first episode.
    • Caroline Walshe gets this treatment at the beginning of Series 3, after being a major character in the first two series. She doesn't return.
  • Recruiting the Criminal: "The List" sees the team recruit a thief to help them break into a bank vault and steal a list. He does well until he injures his hand in a booby trap and the team are forced to abandon him to the police.
  • Shoot the Television: Pete shoots a TV set during a CQB exercise.
    Henno: Alright, who shot the T.V.?
    Pete : I did. It was Richard Whiteley. I felt he posed a risk to life so I used necessary force.
    Henno: Fair enough.
  • Shout-Out: Henno saying a familiar line by John McClane after he knifes a PIRA/RUC double agent to death.
  • South Asian Terrorists: An Al Qaeda terrorist named Al Djouf, who takes over the Italian consulate in "The Class of 1980". It's possible that AD is of South Asian origin since his actor is a British man of South Asian origin.
  • The Squadette: Becca Gallagher, to some one of the contributing reasons to the vault over the shark.
  • Stress Vomit: Jamie throws up after killing a man for the first time in the first episode and Peter vomits after having to shoot a child holding a rifle in "What in God's Name".
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Naturally, given Red Team's habit of explosive breaches.
    • In "Violent Solutions", an anti-tank rocket fired at a police car misses and hits a flatbed truck...'loaded with fireworks. The driver immediately runs the hell away as the entire load goes up.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute:
    • Corporal Dave Woolston filled Ricky's role as the token black guy in the final two seasons.
    • Corporal Finn Younger replaced Corporal Ed Dwyer for the final season.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: In "Wannabes", one of the villains is a schoolteacher who recruits impressionable students to join an Aryan suicide cult via seducing them.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork:
    • During the first season, Jamie and Alex repeatedly butt heads, with Alex blaming Jamie for his brother's death in the first episode.
    • Henno and Captain Macalwain the second season. The former having an affair with Pete's wife only escalates things. Henno may obey an order, but that doesn't mean he has to like it.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Captain. Ian. Macalwain. Sleeping with another man's wife can lead to murder amongst civilians. Macalwain doubles-down on the risk by cuckolding one of his own men - one of a group of highly-trained soldiers who work with explosives and automatic weapons on a daily basis and routinely arrange for fatal mischiefs to befall people they have no personal reason to dislike. Then he gift-wraps an opportunity for Henno to deal with the problem by putting himself alone with Sgt. Garvey in circumstances where his death could be blamed on the hostiles without any bothersome questions being raised.
  • Training from Hell: In "National Selection", ten new SAS recruits face their toughest challenge yet, a three-day combat survival course in the Welsh highlands, where they must evade capture by 40 Paras while navigating rough terrain and swollen rivers. Henno even gives them a speech saying that no matter how cold, starving, or exhausted they may be, things can only get worse. Louis and another recruit pass after enduring interrogation, white noise, sexual humilation and violence.
  • True Companions: It's occasionally shown just how far the troopers are willing to go for one another. This includes committing cold-blooded murder in someone else's stead so that the person the police would suspect will have an air-tight alibi.
  • Unfriendly Fire: In the series 2 finale, Henno clears a room with Captain Macalwain, picks up an enemy AK-47, and shoots half a clip into his back in retaliation for sleeping with Pete's wife. Afterwards he has a Coke.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: The troop members wind each other up, insult each other and play pranks on each other, but they have each other's backs in combat and support each other in other ways. Plus, they take attacks on them personally.
  • Wham Episode: The first episode of series 3 killed off three of the five main characters in the first five minutes and put its mission control on a bus, as part of a retool to a longer format.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • In "Breakout", Alex guns down a Russian-British scientist named Sergei after he was holding a flask in a top-secret disease research center. Jamie uses this on Alex that the two slugged it out against each other. Granted that Sergei was not armed and was under heavy stress when one of his relatives was with a pro-Chechen extremist group that attacked the center that it initially raised a lot of suspicion, but he was cleared of not being a terrorist. Still you wonder if his relatives would press charges against the British military for wounding/killing Sergei?
    • In "Dead is Forever", Henno guns down Captain Macalwain at close range in Georgia during a rescue mission, covering it up by disguising it as a shootout between Georgian government-sponsored militants and Red Troop. The others didn't bother to figure it out (possibly since the captain's personality was disliked by most of them) and Colonel Dempsey treated him as a "hero", not bothering to ask any questions.