Monday, 22 July 2013

New Scotland Yard

‘New Scotland Yard’ is a police procedural programme which ran on ITV from 1972 to 1974. It’s a programme that I can distinctly remember watching as a really quite small kid, perhaps because, although it seems fairly restrained now, there was an inventive and sadistic quality to the violence perpetrated – an element of the unusual that scored my squishy young brain. In the episode 'Shock Tactics', for instance, a man kills his wife by sneaking up behind her in a gorilla mask and literally scaring her to death. In other episodes, an ex-SS officers is stabbed with his ceremonial dagger, and a woman's corpse is found in a trunk in the bedsit she used to share with her retarded husband. I also remember an episode where a number of long dead bodies were found bricked up behind a wall, but I haven't tracked that one down yet.

The show stars the great, stone faced John Woodvine as the rose growing Detective Chief Superintendent John Kingdom and John Carlisle as his assistant / adversary, Detective Inspector Ward. Ward is a know all, whereas Kingdom knows all - which inevitably leads to an interesting dynamic (in later series, Ward has been busted down to Sergeant). They are called in to deal with the big cases – the murders and scandals – which Kingdom, after ascertaining the facts, usually solves using a blend of calm intelligence and adherence to routine. The crimes they investigate are varied, which makes the show unpredictable – and uneven - but, when it's good, it's great. 
Woodvine and Carlisle were replaced for the final series, which I haven’t seen, and the show was cancelled after that. In the end analysis, 'New Scotland Yard' was simply not action packed enough, and the leisurely pace was matched by a reflective, sometimes mournful tone, which wasn't what people wanted from their Saturday night telly. 

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