Star Cops – Other People’s Secrets

secrets

Living in an enclosed environment, like the Moonbase, can be highly stressful for a number of reasons.  Recognising this, Krivenko has invited Dr Angela Parr (Maggie Ollerenshaw) to the Moon.  Dr Parr is a psychiatrist who is working on a project about space psychology.  From Krivenko’s point of view it will allow Moonbase personnel to talk about any psychological problems they may be suffering from and Dr Parr will gain valuable research material.

But not everybody welcomes the idea of strangers snooping into their private lives.  Kenzy, in particular, is violently opposed to meeting a psychiatrist.  So when Nathan insists that all of the Star Cops have attend a meeting, it’s fair to say that Kenzy’s not best pleased.

But maybe Dr Parr has come at just the right time, since Moonbase has been suffering from a series of niggling technical breakdowns.  At first it just seems like wear and tear, but the increasing regularity causes Nathan to wonder if it’s deliberate sabotage.  Hooper (Barrie Rutter) is the highly overworked senior maintenance man who appears to be cracking under the strain of keeping the base operational.  Could he be responsible?

Also making a visit is safety inspector Ernest Wolffhart (Geoffrey Bayldon), who’s far from impressed with what he sees.  And when a major incident causes a decompression of Moonbase, there’s a real danger that lives will be lost.

Other People’s Secrets is the episode of Star Cops that most resembles Moonbase 3 (this is a compliment by the way!).  Because Star Cops was a more wide-ranging series (it made frequent trips back to Earth as well as several off Moon excursions) it lacked the claustrophobic nature of Moonbase 3.  In the earlier series it did seem that each week somebody was going to crack under the strain of living and working in such an unnatural environment.

This theme, full of dramatic potential, is developed quite well here.  There are several suspects as Nathan and Theroux hunt for the saboteur, but it’s not really a whodunnit as the guest cast is rather limited.  Barrie Rutter is very beardy and perpetually angry as the maintenance wizard Hooper.  He tends to vent his anger on the nearest available target, which in this case is his unfortunate assistant Beverley Anderson (Leigh Funnell).

Star Cops never really had a reputation of attracting familiar names as guest stars, but Other People’s Secrets is an exception as Geoffrey Bayldon (Catweazle himself) gives a lovely performance as Wolffhart.  Bayldon provides us with a good character study of a man who appears to live for his work (he’s already past retirement age, but he’s still working).  When we learn that he’s a widower, this seems to make sense – although it later becomes obvious that Wolffhart is a flawed man who shouldn’t be working in Space.

I wonder if the inclusion of Dr Parr was a tribute to Moonbase 3‘s own Dr Helen Smith?  I’d love to think that it was a genuine homage, but it’s probably just a coincidence, although they are similar characters in several ways.  Perhaps the most ironic similarity is that both of them find it impossible not to get involved with their subjects – Dr Smith had several dalliances, whilst Dr Parr is shocked to discover Colin Devis is amongst the Moonbase crew (they used to be married).

When the Moonbase decompression accident occurs, everybody has to find shelter in the nearest room, which is then sealed tight.  With only a limited oxygen supply, there’s nothing that the occupants can do except wait to be rescued.  Although Devis, who finds himself locked up with his ex-wife, has another idea.  “Fancy a game of hide the sausage?” he memorably asks her.

It’s perhaps predictable that Nathan and Kenzy find themselves trapped together, but sex isn’t on their minds (or at least it isn’t on Nathan’s).  Instead, in a key piece of character development he tells her about his father.  Nathan’s father worked as a computer salesman and was the best that the company, Recondite, ever had.  But it later became clear that he was stealing blueprints from his company and eventually he was caught by a keen young copper.  It’s never explicitly stated, but the inference is that it was Nathan who arrested his own father.  Both Calder and Newton are once again excellent in this scene.  Calder has the bulk of the lines but it’s Newton’s reactions that really help to sell the intensity of what we see.

Easily the best of the non-Boucher scripted episodes, Other People’s Secrets is memorable for several reasons – most notably the Nathan/Kenzy heart-to-heart but also for the fine guest appearance of Geoffrey Bayldon.

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