14th July 2004

The country comfort cop show mutates from blue to black

And so it begins. Last week’s explosion at the Mount Thomas nick signalled the start of a Blue Heelers makeover so radical that it may cause a bigger outcry than when the Brits began lo killThe Bill. As Tom Croydon (John Wood) regains consciousness in hospital, he gazes into the face of an old Heeler, Det Sgt Nick Schultz (William Mclnnes), back in town to investigate the bombing. And the bad news starts coming: Jo Parrish (Jane Allsop)and simple Clancy (Michael Isaacs) have died in the blast, and Tom’s wife, the Reverend Grace Curtis (Debra Lawrance), is missing.

Two new police officers arrive in town, Sgt Mark Jacobs (Geoff Morrell), whose authority throws Ben Stewart (Paul Bishop) into a tizz, and Det Amy Fox (Rachel Gordon), who remains largely ignored.

In the confusion of these arrivals, settling into new preimses and trying to discover the identity of the bomber, no-one except Tom is concerned at Grace’s unexplained absence. Eventually he staggers out on his own search, making a hideous discovery that the entire Mount Thomas force, plus reinforcements, have overlooked.

Out with the old camaraderie, and in with the new-unfamiliar faces, grieving, bickering, envy and gloomy makeshift headquarters. But the greatest shock of all is the Tom turnaround. With one baleful eye staring from his bandages, the former built-for-comfort boss becomes bitter, vengeful and, possibly, murderous.

Trust me, this is only the start of radical changes to the veteran series. They could well prove too much to cop.