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Spacemen are ten-a-penny. What they need out there is a good copper.
Star Cops was a British science fiction television series first broadcast on BBC 2 in 1987. Set in the year 2027, the world of Star Cops includes five permanently manned space stations orbiting the Earth, as well as bases on the Moon and Mars, and approximately three thousand people live and work in space. The setting was influenced by the potential for greater access to space promised by the then new Space Shuttle programme, and by concerns about the militarisation of space through the US government's Strategic Defense Initiative (known as "Star Wars"), both of which were underway in the early 1980s. Space travel and life in space are portrayed in a hard science-fiction style, with fairly realistic depictions of weightlessness and low-gravity environments, lengthy space journeys of months or years, and hazards such as spacesuit failures and radiation exposure.
Law enforcement in the developing stations and colonies is provided by the International Space Police Force (ISPF), initially made up of twenty ineffective part-time volunteers derisively nicknamed the "Star Cops". A decision is made to put the ISPF on a permanent, full-time footing, and veteran detective Nathan Spring is appointed to lead the force. Many episodes deal with the efforts of Spring and his team to establish the Star Cops as a credible organisation as he sets up headquarters on the Moon, recruits new staff, dismisses corrupt officers, and works to extend the ISPF's jurisdiction to the American space stations and Mars colonies. At the same time the team investigates the cases that come their way, many of which are new crimes arising from the technologically advanced future society the series depicts, and the hostile frontier nature of the environment.
In total nine episodes of Star Cops were made. A tenth episode, titled "Death on the Moon", was planned but industrial relations difficulties during production led to it being abandoned shortly before recording was to commence. A combination of factors, including conflicts in the production team and poor scheduling, meant that the series never found a satisfactory audience and was cancelled after one season. In recent years, Star Cops has undergone something of a critical reappraisal and is generally hailed for being a good attempt at a realistic "High Frontier" SF series.
Star Cops offers examples of a number of tropes, including :
- Anyone Can Die. Nathan Spring's girlfriend was seemingly set up as a recurring character in the first episode, but killed off suddenly in the second.
- Artificial Gravity: Averted. Spacecraft and space-stations don't have artificial gravity, apart from the American stations which have rotating sections. The weightless environment is cleverly simulated with wires, camera angles and careful movement by the actors (you know, actually acting. What a concept!).
- British Brevity: Only nine episodes.
- British Telly: Made by The BBC
- Eagle Land: Indulges in the "Americans are jingoistic war-mongers" stereotype.
- Evil Twin: An evil clone actually.
- The Great Politics Mess-Up: The Soviet Union is apparently alive and well in 2027. They're referred to just as "the Russians", but their flag is the red banner with hammer and sickle of the USSR.
- I Want My Jetpack: It's 2027 and we have bases on Mars, but no internet, mobile phones etc.
- Multinational Team: The International Space Police in general, and the main cast (see Five-Man Band) in particular:
- Nathan Spring. British, Commander, The Hero, The Captain, Old-Fashioned Copper.
- David Theroux. American, Chief Superintendent, The Lancer
- Colin Devis. British, Inspector, The Big Guy, very Old-Fashioned Copper.
- Pal Kenzy. Australian, Sergeant, The Smart Guy, Dirty Cop (She gets better...)
- Anna Shoun. Japanese, Physician, The Chick, The Medic, Token Minority, Something of an ethnic stereotype.
- Heel Face Turn: Pal Kenzy. She's fired for taking bribes, and virtually blackmails herself back onto the team, but redeems herself by the end of the series.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Pal Kenzy's Australian and Alexander Krivenko's Russian accents are wobbly.
- Our Graphics Will Suck in the Future: The computers and displays look very eighties, including obvious IBM PC/AT keyboards, and there's not a graphic interface in sight.
- Perp Sweating: Spring and Devis love to sweat the perps. Sometimes literally.
- The Professor: Alexander Krivenko, the Russian commander of the moon-base where the ISPF is headquartered. A winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine.
- Screwed by the Network: The series was plagued with conflicts between the creator/writer and the producer. Two different directors and complete production teams were used to make the nine episodes (Team-A produced episodes 1 & 2, Team-B 3, 4 & 5, Team-A 6, 7, 8 & 9). Each team had its own designer, and very different ideas about how the series should look, leading to jarring continuity problems. Finally, the program was broadcast on a weird schedule that did not co-ordinate with the BBC's other programming (it clashed with BBC 1's flagship Nine O'Clock News for example).
- Space Police: Obviously.
- Surreal Theme Tune: "It Won't Be Easy" by Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues. Not surprisingly, it's actually rather good but seems to have no connection to the programme at all. Compare and contrast with the theme of Star Trek: Enterprise.
- Yes, it does. Okay it's not about 'cops in space', but it is about Nathan's sense of lonelines and detachment from the world following Lee's death.
- Used Future: The first couple of episodes were a bit squeaky-clean, then the series switched to a less brightly-lit, used-and-cluttered style for three episodes, before switching back for the remaining four. See Screwed By The Network above...