Out of the Blue – Series Two, Episode Six

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The team investigate the death of a fourteen year old prostitute called Justine Painton (Caroline O’Hara) ….

We’re pitched straight into the action. It’s late at night and in a run down part of town, Justine’s body is discovered. With a plastic bag over her head and rope marks on her wrists it seems that natural causes can be ruled out.

The officers stand around cracking weak jokes in the time honoured fashion (anything to take their minds off the actuality of the present situation). A brief moment of levity is provided when Becky sets the record straght about her night of limited passion with Lew (she knows that he would have already spun them his version of events). The only problem is that he hasn’t said a word ….

Justine’s mother, Fran (Siobhan Finneran), maitains a shrine to her daughter at home. Numerous school photos and beauty pagent trophies act as reminders of the girl she was, not what she’d become. Wasted potential (Becky and Warren view the cleaned up girl on the mortuary slab and Warren mentions how beautiful she was) is a theme of the story.

Family-man Ron finds the case a little hard to deal with. It’s not dificult to understand why (girls the same age as his daughter leading a dissolute life). One of Justine’s friends, Kirsty (Sarah Jane-Potts), tells him and Marty that Justine embraced life on the streets wholeheartedly. Is this the truth or simply an obfuscation? And what precisely did her mother know about her daughter’s new life?

One very striking moment occurs when Kirsty is speaking about Justine. The scene is overlaid with photographs of a younger Caroline O’Hara, which serves as an effective counterpoint between the past and the present.

It’s a remarkable coincidence that Richard Shaw (Pip Donaghy), the father of Warren’s ex-girlfriend Lucy, knew Justine intimately (he took bondage photographs of her). He offers to share his information, provided the police can arrange a meeting with his estranged daughter. Warren knows precisely where she is, because he’s been keeping tabs on her (mmm, a touch obsessive).

Local celebrity, boxer Vinnie Harper (Adam Kotz), was involved with Fran. But was he also intimate with Justine? The big guns (DI Temple and Lew) are wheeled out for a pulsating interrogation as we see Vinnie hauled over the coals.

Although Caroline O’Hara (making her screen debut) has very limited screentime (after all, her character is dead when we first see her) Justine still permeates every part of the story. Her death means that she’s robbed of her own voice, so others have to ascribe her with motivations and fill in her character for us.

Although answers are provided, justice is harder to come by. This was one of the strengths of Out of the Blue, a series which never felt obligated to pretend that life was fair. One of the final scenes – in which a distraught Lew makes this point to a resigned Temple – could be seen as a setup for the third series which never came. Would series three have finally been the point where Lew went too far?

We’ll never know, but while Out of the Blue never became a mainstream success, twenty years on it stands up as a flawed – but fascinating – series.

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Out of the Blue – Series Two, Episode Five

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Three homeless people (one of them played by the highly recognisable Andy Devine – who would later appear as Shadrach in Emmerdale) are poisoned after a seemingly good Samaritan offers them a drink of champagne laced with prescription tranquillisers.

Temple’s mildly curious, but doesn’t regard it as much more than a sick joke.  It’s a sign of the times that the office only seems to have one computer and – as the victims use it to put together an identikit picture of their well-heeled poisoner – Temple gripes about the expense.  “Have you any idea how much that computer takes out of my budget? It’d be cheaper to hire Walt Disney”.

Temple’s given some good lines in this one.  A few minutes later he asks Becky and Warren exactly what they’re going to do.  “Put out an All Points Alert for Burlington Bertie?”  That’s a rather obscure reference which – back in the pre-internet nineties – would probably have perplexed a section of the audience.

Elsewhere, Bruce, Lew, Marty and Ron go in mob-handed to tackle Gibbs (Peter Jonfield), who appears to have a shop full of stolen goods – although annoyingly none of his stock appears to be on the stolen property register.  By racially taunting Bruce, Gibbs successfully manages to get under his skin – making him all the keener to nail him, although it also might serve to make him more reckless.

This subplot somewhat moves into the background once it’s discovered that Jackson (Devine) has been attacked again, only this time he’s dead.  Is it connected to the previous poisoning?  The descriptions of the suspects indicate not and the fact that one of them had red hair gives Marty the chance for a droll comeback.  “That’s handy, I’ve been looking for an excuse to arrest Mick Hucknall”.

They trawl the drug rehabilitation centres for clues, which sees Lew and Tony take diametrically opposing views on their usefulness.  It’s no surprise that the humanitarian Tony believes they help to prevent crime as well as getting people back on the straight and narrow whilst the more cynical Lew begrudges the fact that his taxes are used on such people.

Bruce has been operating on a tight-fuse for a while.  And after Warren makes an offhand remark (wondering if his obsessive nature is a family trait) Bruce takes it as a dig directed at his father and fisticuffs ensue.  This creates a nice sense of tension which, together with Lew’s off-kilter personality, means that the team have never been more dysfunctional.

Another soap favourite, Maggie Jones (Blance Hunt from Coronation Street) makes a brief appearance as Joan Palmer.  Bruce wants Joan to identify the property from Gibbs’ shop as hers, but when she’s unable to do so Bruce is once again frustrated.  Emma Bird, who also would have been a familiar face at the time (she’d played Maxine during the 1992/93 run of Casualty) makes an impression as Nikki, another of the poisoned down and outs.  She’s an actor who seems to have slipped off the radar, as her last screen credit (an episode of Liverpool 1) was all the way back in 1999.  And the eagle-eyed might spot a young Benedict Wong making a brief appearance as a wages clerk.

The team arrest a suspect, Eamon Timmer (Simon Tyrell), for Jackson’s murder.  He’s very talkative before the tape starts rolling (“I killed Jackson Hanley! I did it. And I’ll kill every tosser in this room”) but doesn’t say a word after the red light goes on.

Although none of the plots really engage, the interactions between the team (especially the continually wise-cracking Marty) helps to keep the interest levels up.  The final scene is especially intriguing. After Becky’s attempt to console Warren (still smarting over the end of his relationship with Lucy) comes to nothing, she winds up in bed with Lew.  Her post-coital expression makes it plain that she realises what a terrible mistake it was ….

Out of the Blue – Series Two, Episode Four

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Danny Caswell (David Prosho) makes a stand against local drug dealer Tommy Defty (Neil Stuke). But when Danny’s house is trashed and his car is torched he wonders if talking to the police was the best option. Meanwhile, Tommy continues to taunt the police, convinced that he’s untouchable.

This episode’s cold open is very effective. A typically bleak, run-down estate is the venue as Lew and Bruce rush over to Danny’s house. It’s not just the damage that’s disturbing as the imagery (stickmen hanging) is plainly designed to intimidate. But although Danny’s not scared off, the CPS, in the form of Barbara, decide that they haven’t good enough evidence to proceed.

Warren caustically refers to the CPS as “Couldn’t Prosecute Satan” whilst Marty has his own unique take on how they might deal with Tommy. “I could take me Black and Decker round his house and drill his arse”.

Danny and his wife, Diane (Kate Rutter), cooperated with the police and got nothing for their pains – except a burnt car, a trashed house and the enmity of Tommy’s crew. It’s not really a great advert for working with the police. A frustrated Danny later vandalizes Barbara’s house and when questioned by Temple angrily tells him why. “You’ve given up on us. You’ve pulled the ladder up after you”.

Lew’s off-kilter personality comes to the fore when he and Bruce question Tommy’s mother, Mrs Defty (Barbara Ewing). He fingers her drying underwear and lays a delicate hand on her shoulder. Later, he breaks into her bedroom for a chat ….

Lew’s mind games are effective, if unconventional (and no doubt illegal). He knows that Tommy’s mother, just like everybody else, lives in fear of him – so needling both her and him might be the way to chip away at his hard shell. Ewing (best known for Brass) is effective whilst Stuke (who has gone on to enjoy a considerable career) is excellent value as the cocky drug-lord.

The loose cannon that is Lew is the motor which drives this episode along. Mrs Defty sums it up well. “Tommy scares me right enough, but you scare me more”.

Warren’s relationship with Lucy seems to have hit an impasse after she starts chatting to Tommy at a nightclub (despite Warren telling her not to). This might be good news for Becky, who seemed a little perturbed that Lucy and Warren were becoming serious. It’s doubtful that Lucy and Becky will ever be friends though, especially after Lucy spits in her face.

When Lucy – an unstable person if ever there was one – declares that she’s heading off to be with Tommy it adds another complication to the story. Warren and Becky go riding to the rescue, which involves them planting drugs on Lucy so they can extract her without making Tommy suspicious.

Another strong story which features a victory of sorts, although the collateral damage also has to be taken into account.

Out of the Blue – Series Two, Episode Three

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Terry Forrest (Thomas Craig) is the victim of a male rape. Chris Mannings (Fine Time Fontayne), a gay man who lives on Terry’s estate, becomes a suspect ….

An unusual topic to cover, the episode isn’t graphic but the aftermath of the assault resonates throughout. Unsurprisingly there’s some unreconstructed views offered by the team, notably Marty. When Temple tells him and Ron to hit the gay clubs to look for leads, he mutters “better get that frock ironed Ron”. Ron seems to find the case particularly distasteful. Becky tells him to think of it as an assault, rather than a rape, but this doesn’t seem to help.

Ron later explains his problems to Temple. “It’s just that if it’s a lass who’s been raped, then I can tell her that she’s safe, that I’m there to protect her. I looked at Terry Forrest today. What can I say to him. What can I offer him?”

When Mannings’ naked, battered body is dumped outside the police station, it’s obvious that the locals have dished out their own brand of summary justice. One of Forrest’s friends, Kevin Ryan (Karl Draper), seems to be implicated in the attack, but he denies it.

There are plenty of parallels to be found in real life with this sort of knee-jerk vigilante action, but the question here is whether Mannings is actually guilty. The wonderfully-named Fine Time Fontayne (unsurprisingly not the name he was christened with) impresses as Mannings as does Thomas Craig as Forrest.

As the story continues, there are varying degrees of empathy to be found. Lew, on hearing the news of Mannings’ beating, decides there’s little they can do to help the gay community ward off further attacks unless they “supply an armed guard for everybody on the estate with a Judy Garland album”.

It’s also an interesting wrinkle that Becky is the one who voices the opinion that Forrest might not have been raped after all – possibly it was consensual sex which then turned violent. It wouldn’t have been surprising, had this been a female rape, to hear the male officers express a similar viewpoint, so there’s an obvious irony at work here.

We eventually learn the identity of Forrest’s attacker. Given that the story had only given us a few possibilities it doesn’t come as a complete surprise, but the scene where the rapist offers his plea of self-justification is another nicely done moment.

Although the various personal traumas of the regulars – Marty’s marriage problems, Warren’s tense relationship with Lucy – are still bubbling away, for once they’re reduced to background noise as the policework dominates.

Out of the Blue – Series Two, Episode Two

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Zamwa Sidikki, owner of a minicab business, is discovered bludgeoned to death, a blood-covered baseball bat nearby. Racial or personal? That’s what Temple and the others have to discover.

Since Sadikki wasn’t the most popular of men there’s no shortage of suspects, such as his estranged son – Rafi (Raji James) – who had a falling out with his father several months ago. Gareth Chester (Neil Boorman), the only white driver employed by Sadikki, also seems to be a strong suspect. But possibly Sadikki’s daughter, Yasmin (Rina Mahoney), might hold the key.

Warren continues to let his lower regions rule his head as his relationship with Lucy continues. He thinks nothing of nipping away during the middle of the day for a moment of passion with his attractive, if flaky girlfriend. This flakiness is on show after she flashes him (and a delighted elderly passer-by) from her bedroom window.

It’s fair to say that his colleagues aren’t terribly sympathetic about Warren’s conquest. Bruce succinctly sums up their mood. “He’s been going off at us for years about respecting womankind. And then it turns out that kid Warren is just another copper who can’t keep his toolbox in his trousers”.

He’s not the only one with personal concerns though. Marty and his wife have decided to adopt (a storyline which bubbles away in the background for the remainder of the series) whilst Bruce’s father, Andy (Oscar James), suffers a paranoid attack.

James, instantly recognisable thanks to his three year stint on EastEnders, makes an immediate impact here. Andy, currently living with his daughter, comprehensively smashes up her kitchen, although it’s clear that he’s not responsible for his actions.

The tricky subject of mental health would have been a fruitful one to tackle over the course of the series, but it’s somewhat glossed over since this episode is the only time we meet Andy. But even given this, Lennie James has a couple of decent scenes as Bruce attempts to come to terms with his father’s illness.

Although Sidikki’s murder is never that engrossing a mystery, the script still clips along at a nice pace, helped no end by the dialogue. One of my favourite moments occurs when Marty, who can always be relied upon, loses his patience with a suspect. “I can always tell when you’re lying ‘cos your lips move. We are not being paid to stand around here listening to you feeding us your tripe and bollocks. Do we look like Richard and Judy?”

Out of the Blue – Series Two, Episode One

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A baby is snatched from the bus station and a major incident is launched.  But things turn out to be more complicated than they first appear ….

After a new title sequence we’re thrust straight into the action via a cold opening.  The reason for all the rushing about quickly becomes obvious, but despite the best efforts of everybody there’s no sign of the child.  It’s interesting that Jim ‘Lew’ Llewyn (David Morrissey) isn’t given a proper introduction (Lew has obviously been a member of the team for some time) but this probably works to the series’ benefit.  Showing Lew finding his feet might have worked dramatically, but it also would have slowed the main story down.

But although Lew seems to have fitted in well, bantering easily with the likes of Marty, a slightly discordant note is struck by Temple.  A brief throwaway comment from him makes it plain that he has little love for his latest recruit.  The reason will become a little clearer as we work through the second series.

Joanne Player (Keeley Forsyth) and Matt Pearson (Paul Nicholls) play the young couple who may not be telling the whole truth.  Both Forsyth and Nicholls were at the start of their careers with only a handful of credits prior to this (both of them had appeared in The Biz, for example).

When a witness later suggests that when they saw Joanne and Matt the baby wasn’t with them, the story veers off into a different direction.  Temple orders the floorboards at their flat to be lifted up, although Marty comments that if they were organised enough to concoct a fake story of abduction, it’s unlikely they’d be stupid enough to shove the child under their floorboards.

Love is in the air.  Tony is going out with a widow, a fellow member at his local church.  Since Bruce has decided that Tony may be a little out of practice with women, he decides to give him the benefit of his advice – although it seems that Bruce is more concerned with winding the anxious Tony up.

Meanwhile, Warren meets Lucy Shaw (Nicola Stephenson) for the first time.  To begin with it doesn’t appear that a relationship is on the cards, since she’s simply a witness in an investigation.  Her father, Richard Shaw (Pip Donaghy), is accused of taking bondage photographs.  Although he strenuously denies it, as time goes on his true colours are revealed.

Donaghy gives a chilling performance as a seemingly innocent family man.  But his one-on-one interview with Becky provides us with clear evidence that there’s more to him than meets the eye (although since he’s done nothing illegal he can’t be charged).  Shaw will return in the final episode, whilst his daughter features throughout.  When Warren learns that a distraught Lucy doesn’t want to return home, he takes her under his wing.  I have to say that the sight of Darrell D’Silva’s naked backside, as Warren and Lucy become intimately acquainted, was something of a surprise.

Even this early on it seems obvious that their relationship is doomed.  She seems to be vulnerable and unstable, which suggests that Warren’s simply taking advantage of her.  The sensible thing would be for both of them to walk away, but since both are flawed characters it’s not that simple.

Marty remains in fine form.  On spying a teenager defacing a Missing Persons poster with a marker-pen, he gives the young lad a taste of his own medicine by drawing a pair of glasses and a beard on his face!  Quite how Marty manages to get away with these sort of things is anybody’s guess, but I daresay a certain section of the audience would have approved of his brand of rough justice.

Although the main story is pretty bleak, there’s the odd moment of levity.  Lew stops a man, Phil Draper (Jim Millea), who’s acting suspiciously.  After Lew asks him to open the boot of his car, he reacts in horror as a sheep jumps out and beats a hasty retreat down the road.  Phil coolly suggests that the sheep must have already been there when he bought the car.

The ending might not come as too much of a surprise, but Nicholls and Forsyth are both effective.  Overall, another strong episode and  it provides a more than decent opening to the second series.