This review contains spoilers.
Wow, the third season really kicks off with a bang. The first half of this two-parter is really impressive, and one of the very best episodes 'Blue Heelers' has done thus far.
With the third season, updated opening credits are introduced, keeping the same general style, but with updated character shots and background images. This episode also opens with a recap of some of the running story threads from the previous season; from this season onwards, episodes will open with pre-credits sequence opening scene(s).
There also seems to be a definite break and resume of production between the second and third seasons, as opposed to the second season which seemed to continue production directly on from the first season.
BH does 'hustle bustle' well, and this is exemplified in this episode. Just the general commotion around the station, as the Heelers try to both keep the public safe from the raging bush fires, and prevent looters and opportunists from striking. And as always in BH, even with the more serious stories, there are some nice humorous lines to lighten things a little, mostly coming from Tom on this occasion, delivered as expertly as always by the ever reliable John Wood.
The hospital siege is filmed very well, with Wayne overpowered and stripped of his Police uniform, and Maggie creeping around trying to find a way to stop the hostage takers (the power and phone lines go out, preventing her from calling in to the Station).
In terms of filming, this is probably one of the slickest offerings BH has given thus far, everything feels very well executed indeed. This high quality would continue throughout the third season, with many fans considering it to be the shows "golden era".
I can't think of anything, not even a small niggle, with this story – there are no slack moments, or moments that don't quite work, and the exciting pace keeps up throughout. Of particular note is Radha Mitchell, as pretty yet ferocious gunwoman Nerida, who feels like a true menace and does not show a moments weakness.
As covered on many of my previous episode reviews for the series, I was just starting to become aware of the series in the latter stages of the second season, when it was run on my local ITV region here in the U.K. on Monday afternoons (I was at college at the time, but would sometimes get Monday afternoons off, and have the TV on in the background, discovering the series pretty much by chance). As I watched this episode, it brought back memories, as it was one of the first episodes that I really sat down and "watched properly".
I'm really looking forward to watching Part 2, and hope it keeps up the quality of this first half. I give Part 1 a solid 10 out of 10; it's one of the classics of the series.