Reports reach the Task Force that bricks have been pilfered from a building site. It’s a pretty trivial sort of crime but it still catches Barlow’s attention, especially when Jean Watt tells him that one of the builders, Wheeler (John Hammill), has been visiting houses in the area, touting for business. Is Wheeler using pilfered materials in order to do a spot of moonlighting? Snow, Evans and Barlow all examine the ins ands outs of the building trade.
Like Alan Plater’s other series two scripts, Ground Level doesn’t feature any serious crime, but then a great deal of police work is concerned with the mundane and routine, so this isn’t a problem. But if it’s an Alan Plater script you should expect some very decent dialogue, and he doesn’t disappoint here.
He writes particularly well for Jackson, Evans and Snow. The barbed relationship between Evans and Jackson is maintained (Evans asks Jackson if he’s aware that it’s a lovely day. Jackson answers in the negative and with mock surprise Evans tells him that he would have expected this important information would have been filed away already).
Terence Rigby is also well treated, especially during the scene where Snow interviews Mrs Arnold (Mary Hignett). Mrs Arnold, a well-spoken elderly lady, reported the theft of the bricks but is somewhat vague with details, meaning that the long-suffering Snow has to use every ounce of his self control to stay polite. A decade or so later Plater would again write for Rigby, this time in The Beiderbecke Affair and The Beiderbecke Connection. Was Rigby cast because Plater remembered him from his Softly Softly days I wonder? And since I tend to connect Mary Hignett with the very Yorkshire Mrs Hall she played in All Creatures Great and Small, her cut-glass accent here came as a little surprise.
Laker (Alec Ross) is in charge of the building site, but isn’t at all bothered when Evans tells him that some of his supplies might have been stolen. In a job this size it’s mere pinpricks and not something he’s prepared to get worked up about. This sticks in Evans’ craw a little – for him, theft is theft – but if Laker isn’t concerned, what can he do?
Although Barlow does suggest that everything – even trivial affairs like this – should be checked because they might lead to bigger things, it’s probably best not to expect any shattering revelations from this episode. Barlow does get the chance to get out and about though – visiting the building site, posing as a prospective buyer – where he talks to the foreman Logan (Glyn Owen).
Ground Level is inconsequential in plot terms, but there are far worse ways to spend fifty minutes.