Star Cops – Little Green Men and Other Martians

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Why has the respected investigative journalist Daniel Larwood (Roy Holder) travelled to Moonbase?  It may have something to do with the persistent rumours that something has been discovered on a recent Mars expedition.  Is there really life on Mars?  Although possibly he’s more interested in a drugs smuggling ring that’s uncovered after a shuttle pilot is killed in a crash.

With Theroux on leave and Nathan soon to depart for Mars, it leaves the Star Cops rather stretched as they try and make sense of the various pieces of the puzzle.  But all this is forgotten when the shuttle carrying Nathan en-route to Mars explodes …..

After a run of four episodes by other writers, Little Green Men and Other Martians saw the welcome return of Chris Boucher.  Roy Holder is perfect casting as the crumpled journalist Larwood whose arrival is greeted with some dismay by Kenzy (the pair of them have history).  It’s implied they had a relationship when Kenzy was younger (Larwood at the time was writing an article about her and her friends).  The article clearly didn’t turn out well – Kenzy was upset to be painted as a student militant, although Larwood counters that Kenzy and her friends weren’t actually as radical as they appeared to be.

As the interest in the Martian finds increases, more journalists start to arrive.  Susan Caxton (Lachelle Carl) has a memorable first meeting with Nathan.  Unknown to him, she enters the office as he’s talking on the RT to Devis.  Colin is transporting two suspects in the drugs case in one of the Moon Rovers and Nathan is happy to play along with Devis’ suggestion that he takes them outside for a walk and leaves them there.  And since they’re miles from anywhere it’s certain they’ll die – so Nathan suggests recording their deaths as spacesuit failures

Afterwards, Caxton asks Nathan if he was joking, although Nathan’s completely unrepentant.  This firmly places him alongside old-school coppers like Jack Regan of The Sweeney who were perfectly happy to put whatever pressure they could on suspects in order to get the information they needed.  For Nathan, the rights of the individuals would appear take second place compared to the misery that drugs cause.  Carl’s first appearance in the episode was via a news report on-screen and many modern viewers would probably instantly recognise her since she had a similar newscaster role in numerous episodes of Doctor Who between 2005 and 2010.

The news that Nathan’s on his way to Mars to set up a new Star Cops base was clearly laying the ground for the projected second series (one that sadly never came).  But if it had, you could imagine this episode might have ended on a cliff-hanger showing the shuttle explosion and Nathan’s apparent death.

As it was, the shock of Nathan’s death doesn’t last very long before it’s revealed he wasn’t on-board the shuttle after all.  But before he returns from the dead it’s quite obvious how his “death” has affected Kenzy.  The increasing affection between the pair of them is also demonstrated earlier on when Nathan leaves for the shuttle.  Nathan, being typically British, offers to shake Kenzy’s hand but she decides she wants a hug instead.

It does seem strange that Nathan tells her he’ll be gone for several years.  If so, why isn’t he taking anybody else with him – how can he establish the Star Cops on Mars all by himself?  This does then seem to be contradicted at the end of the episode when Nathan asks the others if they’d like to come with him and set up the Martian base.

Star Cops had to contend with many difficulties and several of them came towards the end of the production block.  One whole episode, Death on the Moon, was never made to due to industrial action and this episode also had serious problems.  Erick Ray Evans succumbed to Chicken Pox shortly before the story was due to go into the studio, so the script had to be hastily rewritten – with virtually all of Theroux’s lines given to Kenzy.

This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it gave us one more opportunity to see the Nathan/Kenzy partnership in action – surely something which would have been developed even further if the Mars-based series two had ever gone into production.

Although Little Green Men and Other Martians was a complex and confusing story at times, it was still a strong closer to a series that has plenty to recommend it.  Alas, a summer BBC2 slot at a less than ideal time sealed its fate as ratings struggled to reach two million.  VHS and DVD releases (although now long deleted) helped to bring the series to a new generation and whilst the 1987 vision of 2027 is undeniably clunky at times, it’s still a programme which has aged remarkably well and is well worth tracking down.

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