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The adventures of the International Space Police Force, led by Nathan Spring, in 2027. The Star Cops are made up of officers from all over the world: the British Colin Devis, the Australian Pal Kenzy, the Russian Alexander Krivenko, the Japanese Anna Shoun and the American David Theroux.Written by
Marty McKee <email@example.com>
Star Cops was a brilliant fusion of speculative and crime fiction unfortunately cut down in its prime. The nine episodes it does have to show for itself are well worth your time, engagingly portraying as they do a pretty credible look at what life might be like a couple of decades from now when mankind takes its first steps into space and establishes a permanent presence there. In the new frontier, where the laws have yet to be codified and the interests of corporations and rival governments can be pursued without consequence, Earth-bound authorities soon realise the need for a dedicated police force to be stationed where the action is. Seasoned terrestrial detective Nathan Spring is sent skyward to take charge of this very first attempt at extraterrestrial law enforcement - disparagingly nicknamed the Star Cops. With a team comprising members from across the globe, the Star Cops discover that while the base motivations for things like murder, espionage, kidnappings and fraud are little different in zero gravity, the rapidly different environment in which they take place and the technology affording extraterrestrial habitation allow them to be conducted in a variety of new ways, from sabotaging space suits or atmospheric decompression to alien hoaxes. It's far easier to make people disappear, far simpler to traffic drugs and far harder to receive any help when it's millions of kilometres away.
The show is a genuine attempt at speculative fiction based on real-world foundations, making it more Doomwatch than Doctor Who, the former based around extrapolations of the real science of the day. Meanwhile, the production team constructed models and sets that didn't stray too far from what we are rapidly seeing in the space stations of today and perhaps the moonbases of tomorrow. Help was even supplied by the McDonnell Douglas Corporation (now part of Boeing) to incorporate real flight simulators, giving the series that extra touch of authenticity. Actors were suspended on wires to simulate weightlessness, though in time, dramatic license prevailed - it's hard to look dignified when you're floating. An excellent cast headed by David Calder breathed life into the disparate characters who initially take time to trust each other, but bonds are developed even over the short span of the series.
The show was not without its faults, some of which are only more evident in our more politically-correct age. Sexism, particularly on the part of Colin Devis, the rough, slightly misogynistic, but nonetheless caring and likable detective inspector hired by Spring in episode 2. While such behavior is even less likely to be tolerated in 2027, when the action takes place, it does at least underscore the fact that Star Cops was not meant to be Star Trek - this was not the enlightened 23rd Century. Equally more jarring today are the racial stereotypes - the Americans are cowboys, the Italians are all in the mafia, the Japanese are excessively polite, and so on. It's a welcome indicator of at least one way in which television has progressed in the decades since - even if the actual content hasn't. None of this however greatly detracts from all the things Star Cops gets right - solid storytelling, and great characterisation. Humanity is at the core of the series, good and bad.
Unusually for a series of this nature, the incidental music is neither synthesised nor orchestral, but rock-based, through the talents of Moody Blues frontman Justin Hayward, who himself sings the theme tune. You'll find it hard to meet someone who thought any of this was a good idea (not even the show's creator), but I'll go at least halfway by saying that I do like the theme, though 80s rock instrumentals do not work to underscore the drama any more than 'Yakkety Sax' would work in a documentary about the First World War. However, I applaud experimentation - Evan Chen's unusual score for 'Crusade' was a far better attempt at something completely different.
Star Cops is generally considered to have failed due to conflict behind the scenes, constant rescheduling by the BBC and its inability to find an audience: it wasn't 'ET' enough for sci-fi fans and too much so for lovers of crime fiction. It was an attempt at something new, which didn't sit well with a Britain that had in the late 80s grown tired of what they considered sci-fi to be (now that opinions have turned 180 degrees, maybe it's time for someone to carry on where the series left off). The title itself doesn't help either, bringing to mind images of ray guns and spandex. Trust me - you won't come across any of that here. All of which is a great shame, and as time has passed, it's become more favourably re-appraised. I certainly give it the thumbs up and recommend it to the curious.
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