Star Cops – Trivial Games and Paranoid Pursuits

trivial

After firing the American Star Cop Kirk Hubble, Nathan isn’t exactly flavour of the month with the U.S. government.  Paying a visit to the American Space Station Ronald Reagan, Nathan admits to Commander Griffin (David Benzali) that he’s not sure whether he’s now regarded as the anti-Christ or just anti-American.  To Griffin, the two are pretty much interchangeable.

Nathan’s diplomatic overtures to Griffin aren’t helped by his obvious dislike of the man and the later arrival of Pal Kenzy is yet another complication.  Both Griffin and the Star Cops have been contacted by Dilly Goodman (Marlena Mackey) who tells them that her brother, Dr Harvey Goodman, working on the Ronald Reagan, has gone missing.  But Griffin, and his subordinate Pete Lennox (Robert Jezek), claim there’s no record of him ever having stepped foot on the station.  Nathan and Kenzy have to form an uneasy alliance in order to uncover the truth.

It’s fair to say that Star Cops painted various nationalities with a rather broad brush – clearly demonstrated here by Commander Griffin.  He’s an incredibly xenophobic, resolutely patriotic American, with no time for anybody else’s point of view (and holding, of course, a particular hatred for the Russians).  Because it’s such a two-dimensional character, it’s lucky that director Graeme Harper was able to cast a good actor – Daniel Benzali.

Although born in Brazil, Benzali later carved out a successful career in American television (he’s probably best known for playing Ted Hoffman in the first series of Murder One).  Benzali is able to bring some much needed depth to the cigar-chomping cliche that is Griffin and this makes the sparring between him and Nathan much more palatable.

It’s obvious right from Nathan’s arrival at the Ronald Reagan that he’s not a welcome visitor.  His shuttle is allowed to dock at the furthest port away from the living quarters and there’s nobody to meet him when he steps onto the station.  Griffin’s attitude is that he can find his own way, since he’s a detective.  Characteristically Nathan isn’t perturbed by these slights and when he eventually reaches civilisation he’s greeted by Lennox who seems surprised he didn’t lose his way.  “Did you expect me to?” asks Nathan.

The conflict between Nathan and Griffin is at the heart of the episode and it’s certainly much more interesting than the crime (the disappearance of Harvey Goodman).  What’s particularly entertaining about their verbal jousting is how so much is left unsaid – the inferences are clear, but the specifics are rarely spelled out (at least not until the end).

The arrival of Kenzy is greeted with very different emotions by Nathan and Griffin.  Nathan might have had to take her back on the force after she saved the day at the end of episode three, but he’s kept her strictly office-bound and given her nothing more exciting to do than filing.  So when he realises that Threoux’s sent her out to join him, with details of Dr Goodman’s disappearance, to say he’s far from pleased is a considerable understatement.

Griffin, on the other hand, couldn’t be more delighted to see her and it doesn’t take a mind-reader to understand the reason why.  Nathan’s also keen for the two of them to spend some quality time together – that way he can tap the Commander’s computer to find out if there’s any information on the missing Dr Goodman.

Back on the Moon, the new Moonbase commander Alexander Krivenko (Jonathan Adams) arrives.  Viewed with suspicion by some, especially Devis, he seems fascinated by all aspects of police procedure and is keen to treat the Goodman disappearance as a test case.  Judging by some of Devis’ dialogue, it would seem that in the Star Cops universe, the repressive polices of the Soviet Union are still alive and well – although Krivenko is an open and straightforward man.  But it’s not surprising that the likes of Commander Griffin view him with extreme disfavour.

Slight though the mystery part of the episode is, the interactions of Nathan/Griffin and Nathan/Kenzy make this well worthwhile.  This was the first of Graeme Harper’s four episodes and there’s some nice directorial flourishes – for example, the shots of the viewscreen as seen from behind the screen.

Not the best that the series has to offer then, but solid nonetheless.

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