The BBC is billing The Interceptor as the new Spooks, but in truth it really badly wants to be the British version of The Wire. However, if you take a good look at moody, taciturn Special Agent Marcus ‘Ash’ Ashton (O-T Fagbenle in his first real UK TV lead), don’t you start getting a whiff of Jack Regan’s Brut aftershave? Yes, there’s no mistaking it; this series may have supporting female roles in crack squad leader Valerie (Lorraine Ashbourne) and slinky field operative Kim (played by Aussie Anna Skellen – Parade’s End, Outnumbered), but in many other ways it is a real throwback. Take away the four-wheel drive vehicles and replace them with an exhaust-belching old Ford Granada and it is The Sweeney reborn. Right down to some of the risible dialogue – all it lacked was someone yelling: “Leave it out, Guv!”
While staking out a bottom-feeding dealer in their car, Ash and colleague Tommy actually start channelling Regan and Carter.
Ash says: “We’ve been spinning the same drums as we were 10 years ago. I just wanted to nick someone bigger.”
“You can’t get to the big guys,” says Tommy.
“Nah, not like this,” broods Ash.
Yep – Ash is a knock ’em down, no-nonsense maverick cop (well, actually customs officer) with a dark secret in his past (is his dad a killer?), who prefers to let his fists do the talking.
When Ash and his squad screw up a tailing operation by an elite high-tech surveillance team, its boss Val spots her old junior Ash and decides to recruit him to her new outfit. God alone knows why, because on this showing – a pursuit of a chubby rookie drug mule – Ash and Tommy couldn’t stop a pig in a passage.
Later, their Keystone Kops routine turns serious when Tommy, having doomed himself with the TV equivalent of a “When I get home I’m gonna…” speech, gets on the wrong side of their mark (Paul Kaye in full psycho mode) and ends up badly mashed in a car crash.
Ash is now suspended, but is approached by Val’s No.2 and offered a job. Neglecting to tell his fearful wife Lorna (lovely Jo Joyner) about this, he ambles over to Val’s HQ.
As one to bash heads together, Ash obviously expresses no enthusiasm for the new-fangled high-tech surveillance gear used by the elite UNIT – Undercover Narcotics Intelligence Team (hang on, isn’t that the military outfit The Doctor hangs out with?). He just wants to hit psycho-boy for crippling Tommy. One supposes the writer, Tony Saint, wanted to sex up this cross between a drugs squad and HM Customs & Excise to make it look like an American Drug Enforcement Agency/ATF hybrid. But in The Wire McNulty and Co used unassuming, discreet premises; UNIT’s gaff looks the size of an air hangar.
Actually, with his boisterous proclivities Ash should have stayed with Customs then this would have been a successor to Anita Bronson’s The Knock – a really rather decent ITV drama (1994 to 2000) about customs officers. After all, they have more powers than most police forces – they can certainly kick your door down without a warrant.
Anyway, in this perfunctory and pretty plot-free scene-setting episode, against all common sense Ash plays himself into the organisation. He is promised that if he can keep his hands off the minnows, the drug barons can be brought down softly, softly catchee monkey-style. And he even scores a desk job for poor Tommy.
Amid the hokey dialogue and shiny new TV faces and more seasoned ones, it was something of a joy to see one of the best scenery-chewers in the business, Trevor Eve, playing a Mr Big. Waking The Dead’s Boyd may be gone, but he’s not forgotten; he’s just on the other side of the law.
For our interview with O-T Fagbenle go here
For our interview with Trevor Eve go here