We are finally wrapping up the posts on the UK part of my European detective series. This country really has been an adventure for me and I do hope you liked it too! For the first five UK posts I used categories that seemed appropriate to me, but any categorisation of course is arbitrary. But using the ones I did, there were some that for me just did not fit into any of those categories and those series are the ones I will cover in this post. It is a melting pot of detectives, but I just liked them. They are different and should get as much or even more attention the the other ones. I do understand that some might have been part of another post, but for some reason I had decided not to do it. As UK series go, some have had only a few episodes, even if they’ve been aired over a few years and some have become cult classics.

But before I start, my usual request. If you liked reading this post, please give it a heart. It is the reward for us (non-paid amateur) writers who try to make this site more fun for us all. In this way we know it is appreciated what we do and we will keep on writing.

Last time we visited the UK part 5 Non English (and Irish) and as said, we now will move on to those series that drifted around in my detective landscape without a place to settle down.

The singing detective (1986). is a (mini) series about mystery writer Philip E. Marlow (Michael Gambon) who is thrown into a personal crisis by the latest manifestation of the disease that has plagued his life, psoriatic arthropathy, a chronic skin and joint disease.



It partially cripples his hands and feet and makes it even more difficult for him to write. As he is in constant pain, having a fever and refusing to take his medication, Marlow falls into a fantasy world involving his novel called ‘The Singing Detective’. It’s an escapist adventure about a detective (also named ‘Philip Marlow’) who sings at a dance hall and takes the jobs ‘the guys who don't sing’ won't take. In the reality, writer Marlow also experiences flashbacks to his childhood in rural England, and his mother's life in wartime London. It is a dark themed series that even has been the topic of papers on psychoanalytic subjects. But even we ‘normal’ viewers will just love it. The series is notable for its use of 1940s-era music, often incorporated into surreal musical numbers. It ranks 20th on the British Film Institute's list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes.




Dirk Gently (2010-2012) stars Stephen Mangan (whom we know from Episodes) as holistic detective Dirk Gently and Darren Boyd as his sidekick Richard MacDuff.



This series has a lot of comic touches and even some science fiction themes such as time travel and artificial intelligence. The are based upon the book of one of my favourite comic SciFi writers: Douglas Adams, who also wrote ‘The HitchHikers Guide To The Galaxy’. Remember May 25th is Towel Day (Towel Day page and the Wiki page). Dirk Gently operates his Holistic Detective Agency based on the "fundamental interconnectedness of all things", which relies on random chance methods to uncover connections between seemingly-unrelated cases. Methods Dirk uses are for example "Zen navigation" (following people or vehicles who look like they know where they are going, in the hope that they will lead somewhere you want to be) or throwing a dart at a board of words to select the direction of his detection. By following up on apparently random occurrences and whims, Dirk discovers connections between seemingly unrelated cases and often produces surprising results.




Space Precinct (1994 - 1995) was created by Gerry Anderson who also gave us Space: 1999, UFO and Thunderbirds. I was at the first presentation at the SciFi Worldcon in Glasgow in 1995 and I was very excited to see the series. It was a mix of science fiction and police procedural that combined elements of Anderson's previous series but with an added dash of Law & Order and Dragnet.



The series is set in the year 2040 where former NYPD detective Patrick Brogan (Ted Shackelford), now a lieutenant with the police force on the planet Altor, and his partner Jack Haldane (Rob Youngblood) must adjust to living in another solar system and investigating crimes being committed by humans as well as aliens. The series was fun to watch and was aimed at the UK as well as the US public. This resulted in its demise. There was/is a fundamental difference in tastes and expectations between the US and UK audiences. The Americans wanted darker adult drama for peaktime screening, the British wanted twinkle-in-the-eye knowing humour. The series had both. The US distributor had claimed to have pre-sold the series across the nation in peak time slots (a necessity to actually finance the series). However, American broadcasters were uncertain what to make of the series that looked on the surface to be aimed at children, yet featured adult-oriented storylines and was usually played straight despite the bizarre storylines and make-up. As a result, Space Precinct was often scheduled in late-night or early morning time slots. It failed to generate sufficient American ratings for a second season to be authorised.




The Thin Blue Line (1995 - 1996) is a comedic series that starred Rowan Atkinson (BlackAdder, Mr. Bean) as inspector Fowler and is set in a police station of the fictional English town of Gasforth near London.



One of the main themes was the rivalry between the uniformed squad led by Fowler (a sort of protagonist figure) and the CID led by DI Grim (often Fowler's antagonist, though they were on the same side of the law). Episodes frequently saw the uniformed branch and CID locking horns over similar, or even the same, issues while having conflicting views or methods of operation. Generally the uniformed section triumphed over the detectives, although not without their own foibles. Oh and @Grumpyclown, this video is full of phrasing.




Line of Duty (2012 - ) with central character DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) is about AC12, an anti-corruption squad.



When, in the pilot, a counter-terrorist police raid kills an innocent man, Arnott refuses to comply with a cover-up. He obviously is the right material for AC12, lead by DSI Ted Hastings. The two series so far deal with police internal investigations that turn out to be complex cases. There is much more than meets the eye. The second series ended in the last minute with a big surprise. But all the actions and activities play out on a human level, I even believe the stories could be true in the UK. As policemen in this series are not always pictured as the best there is, the police refused to cooperate with the producers of the programme. Consequently, the production team were advised both by retired police officers and they also made use of anonymous police blogs. This series is one of my favourites, it really is one of the best things British tv has given us in the last years.




Death in paradise (2011 -) centres on the character of straight-laced British policeman Richard Poole (Ben Miller), a detective from London's Metropolitan Police. He is sent to the fictional Caribbean island of Saint Marie to solve the case of the death of a fellow British policeman.



After solving the murder of his predecessor, he ends up becoming the local police force's new senior detective. This starting premise is repeated in the Series 3 opener, with Humphrey Goodman (Kris Marshall) in turn taking over the position, after investigating the murder of Richard Poole. The environment is a big part of the charm of this series. The island features a volcano, rainforest, sugar plantations, fishing harbour, Vodou religious festivals and an airport. The island is a British Overseas Territory, with 30% of the population is of French descent due to frequent changes of ownership. Personally I was not charmed by the first episodes, but it’s the show that got the most comments I should have mentioned it. They all say it has improved a lot.




Red Riding, in the year of our lord (2009) is a three-part (feature length) series set against a backdrop of serial murders during 1974–1983, including the Yorkshire Ripper killings.



The films follow several recurring fictional characters through a bleak and violent world of multi-layered police corruption and organised crime. Although real-life crimes are referenced, the plot is fiction rather than a documentary or factual account of events. The films mix elements of fact, fiction and conspiracy theory and are notable for a chronologically fractured narrative and for defying neat or trite endings and resolutions. It makes for dark stories that made a deep impression on me when I watched them. I won’t say I had nightmares, but a lot of scenes are imprinted in my brain.




Trial and retribution (1997 - 2009) is about grumpy DCSI Michael "Mike" Walker (David Hayman) and his squad. His female sidekicks in these years are DI Pat North (Kate Buffery, 1997 - 2002) and DCI Róisín Connor (Victoria Smurfit, 2002 - 2009).



The series had 22 feature-length episodes and although I had a crush on Victoria Smurfit, I am not sure the episodes with her were the best ones. But I enjoyed all of them. Every episode is unique, while the plot is often complicated. There is frequent use of split screen, normally three images in one screen. The camera angles used in the split-screen configuration have tended to be used to present the situation from different perspectives, like from the police and the criminal side. In this video we see the side of the police and of a victim.




DCI Banks (2010 - ) The series is based on Peter Robinson's Inspector Alan Banks novels and stars Stephen Tompkinson as DCI Alan Banks.



He is heavily reliant on his team and a great, almost patrician leader. The plot we see in the pilot is an example of the good ones we’ve seen over the years. In the pilot an officer is killed while responding to a domestic disturbance call. His partner subdues the killer who ends up in a coma. When DCI Banks investigates the grisly scene, he discovers it's the home of a serial rapist and murderer. The victims of four open cases are buried in the cellar. The fifth is missing and may still be alive, and Banks is haunted by the desire to find her. DS Annie Cabbot, an openly ambitious woman who becomes his trusted sidekick after the pilot, investigates the police officer who assault the killer after he died from his injuries. An intelligent and interesting case enfolds, especially when it becomes clear that the wife is the former fifth victim.




The last two series might have been part of the posts on the duos or police stations. but for me they just did not fit in as well as the ones in those posts. But they definitely deserved mentioning.

As mentioned in the previous post, the UK police ranks and titles are completely different from other systems and can be found here.


Most of these series (almost all complete episodes) can be found on YouTube.

Next to this post there will be one (or might be, not 100% sure yet if there’s enough to tell) on detective series from my home country: The Netherlands. After that that will be posts on series with a ‘criminal viewpoint’ and series ‘playing in another country than the country they are made for’. If you have any questions or requests, don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments or send me a pm (you can also find a list off all my posts via my profile on that page).

And for my shameless plug: do not forget, there have already been posts in this series on Danish-, Swedish- , Italian-, French-, German-, UK: Popular Duos, UK: Female detectives, UK: Police Stations and Soloïsts, UK: Historical Detectives, UK Non English (and Irish) and on International detective duos and one background article on Does European Law Make Detective Series Different.
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