An Instinct For Murder

Star CopsDetective Nathan Spring is frustrated when a suspicious drowning is declared to be free of foul play by the police department’s computers. In the highly automated future, computer investigation helps to separate cases which need direct police intervention from those that don’t, but despite the computer’s analysis that there was no sign of foul play, Spring pursues the investigation anyway, devoting the manpower of his underbudgeted, understaffed department to it. When he’s called on the carpet by his superior, Spring is advised to take the opportunity to apply for the vacant job of the chief of the Internaitonal Space Police – or the Star Cops, as they’re sometimes less than affectionately known. Spring, who has never even been into space, dismisses the idea instantly…until his supervisor informs him that taking the position is Spring’s only hope for career advancement.

Spring interviews for the position and finds himself en route to a European-staffed space station whose crew has experienced a number of recent fatal accidents with faulty spacesuits. Again, the initial investigation is handled by a computer, which fails to detect any kind of pattern or motivation for foul play. Spring follows his instincts instead, befriending Star Cop David Theroux, who has already joined the crew and investigated the incidents himself, to no avail. But even then, Spring hasn’t ruled Theroux out as a suspect. Even though he has only rookie-level astronaut training, Spring decides to put his own life on the line in an attempt to draw the suspects out into the open – something which goes against every standard Star Cop procedure – only to discover that he’s up against an organized criminal operation targeting someone much bigger than the Star Cops.

written by Chris Boucher
directed by Christopher Baker
music by Justin Hayward & Tony Visconti

Cast: David Calder (Nathan Spring), Erick Ray Evans (David Theroux), Moray Watson (Commander), Keith Varnier (Controller), Gennie Nevinson (Lee Jones), Linda Newton (Pal Kenzy), Andrew Secombe (Brian Lincoln), Frederik de Groot (Hans Diter), Luke Hanson (Lars Hendvorrsen), Katja Kersten (Marie Mueller)

Notes: A very short-lived late ’80s attempt at a more adult science fiction series than Doctor Who (which, at the time, had just entered Sylvester McCoy’s tenure), Star Cops was created by former Doctor Who writer and Blake’s 7 script editor Chris Boucher. The series was only watched by a small number of people, thanks to a late-night BBC2 timeslot, very thin promotional efforts, and constant battles being fought behind the scenes between Boucher and producer Evgeny Gridneff. This episode was originally written as a two-parter, and was quickly condensed into a single hour as Gridneff’s insistence; it also made use of stock footage of underwater astronaut buoyancy training provided by McDonnell-Douglas, voiced over by the show’s cast. Though never credited for it on screen, David Calder also provides the voice of Box, Spring’s portable (and, it must be said in light of Boucher’s Blake’s 7 background, Orac-like) computer, throughout the series.

LogBook entry by Earl Green