With her caustic wit and singular charm, DCI Vera Stanhope and her trusted right-hand man DS Joe Ashworth face a series of captivating murder mysteries set against the breathtaking Northumberland landscape.
This was quite a pioneering series about life in a womens' prison that did not flinch from controversial subject matter.
Apart from the lives of the prisoners themselves much of the drama rose from the tension between the 'enlightened' policies of prison governor Faye Boswell (Googie Withers) and the more traditional 'bang them up, you can't trust them' approach of her senior officers. In between were Charles Radley (Jerome Willis) and Dr Mayes (Denys Hawthorne) who sympathised with Faye's ideals but realised the need for pragmatism when dealing with convicted criminals.
In one episode Faye established a special wing for drug addicts, who she felt were not criminal in the true sense and needed to be sheltered from genuine villains while they dealt with their addictions. The prisoners are allowed to decorate the area and live more freely. Unfortunately this provides such a sheltered environment for people who already have problems dealing with the real world that one girl almost kills herself with an overdose as soon as she is released in order to get back in.
Other topics include the violence and bullying of life inside a community of convicts, separation from husbands and boyfriends who may or may not be faithful, and the pressures of life as a prison officer. In an all-female setting lesbianism, of course, was an issue to be addressed (how my mother must have enjoyed explaining that to me when I was 10!).
The series was a big hit. It is now being released on DVD and is well worth watching as a well-written, acted and directed quality production of its day.
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