Bearing in mind the fracas that had kicked off between cast and writers on this series in the lead-up to tonight, I decided to keep a beady eye on the script values in this first episode of the return of New Tricks.
The team are united, for now
Amanda Redman had led her cast-mates Dennis Waterman, Alun Armstrong and James Bolam, in complaining that the scripts had become “bland” for their characters, the Unsolved Crime and Open Case Squad.
But there was nothing bland about the business in this opening episode of Series 7. The gang of four were called upon to solve a crime from 1851, under their own beady eye of Whitehall figure Stephen Fisher, played with hammy relish by Tim “Darling” McInnerny.
UCOS found themselves investigating a crime committed in 1851
But all the real drama was going on within the unit, with Jack Halford (James Bolam)’s announcement that he was departing the team.
Jack's announcement of departure from UCOS unsettled the rest of the team
With his “private, not secret” phone calls, Bolam was turning in a performance worthy of a small screen Smiley, and with McInnerny’s slipperiness and phone calls with ice-filled glasses on red leather couches, it all played out like a very sedate, octane-free episode of Spooks.
Fisher told Jack he was "professional to the last, Mr Halford" and indeed as he took his leave, Bolam took the narrative to somewhere deeper than we are used to experiencing with this bunch of Expendables of the Yard. Bland it was not. Continuing the series at this level in Bolam’s absence will be a challenge for writers and cast alike.