Bergerac: Complete Series 7 Review
I've taken to watching Midsomer Murders in recent weeks. Granted, I've come somewhat late to this series of gentle country thrillers, thereby missing out on the several hundred murders that have already taken place, but as recent episodes don't seem to have changed the format any from earlier ones, I doubt I've lost out anything. There is the surprise that anyone's actually left alive but John Nettles, having cheated death as successfully as Bill and Ted, carries on regardless, solving as many murders per annum as the entire roster of coppers in Scotland Yard, doing so with a relaxed and easygoing charm. He'd post your letters for you, prune your roses and uncover the identity of the nasty who slaughtered your entire family with a Paraquat-flavoured risotto.
John Nettles is surely the best reason to watch it. Over the years, he's been an honest presence on television, not only in Bergerac and Midsomer Murders but also...well...he's not been in much else, has he? Still, that's probably for the best as we've never seen him tumbling into bed alongside Kate O'Mara, acting pissed in The Arches or attracting so much media attention as to make the gossip columns. He's also avoided falling into voiceovers for loans companies, no-win-no-fee solicitors and private clinics specialising in breast augmentation and vaginoplasty. He has sidestepped any association with loan sharks, retired gangsters and terrorists. British society would surely be forever dented were he ever to be found with child pornography on his home computer, to stand as a candidate for the British National Party or with a score of eastern European ladies destined for the Nettles Massage Parlour in the back of a Nettles Haulage truck. I suspect he's as decent a man as Jim Bergerac and that's very decent indeed.
Series 7 of Bergerac begins in much the say way as all previous series. The theme has changed very slightly once again but, as I wrote in the review of series six, the titles are still the familiar blending of the show's title and an outline of the island of Jersey. Otherwise, the show is the same as ever, with Jim (John Nettles), Charlie (Terence Alexander) and Barney (Sean Arnold) spending more time together than do many married couples and folding together business and crime so gently as to draw in an audience of millions every Saturday night. And I use the phrase 'folding in' carefully. To say that business and crime mix would be to create the impression that life in Bergerac's Jersey is a good deal more frantic than it actually is.
There are a total of nine episodes on this release, eight of which run to the usual length of fifty minutes, or thereabouts, with the final episode being the series special and running to ninety-eight. All these episodes are described below:
Sea Changes: A man fights to haul a metal drum out of the waters around the Jersey shore. However, there is a crack in the side of the barrel and out of it seeps what appears to be a very unpleasant chemical. Within minutes the sailor is dead, leaving Bergerac little to go on but a photograph of a young woman, a body and a barrel of toxic pesticide. Against his wishes, he's partnered with an enthusiastic but naive young WPC and sets off to uncover the mystery of who's smuggling chemicals onto the island. Unsurprisingly, Charlie Hungerford has some involvement but few trust Jim's hunches when his main informer turns out to be a crusty old seadog with a history of enjoying his rum perhaps that bit too much.
Natural Enemies: "We've got a neighbourhood watch!", an irate local shopkeeper tells Bergerac after being threatened by a gang of London teenagers. "St Hellier's got a town clock!" says Jim Bergerac, none too pleased at the thought of vigilantism in Jersey. What with their ripped jeans, their sleeveless T-shirts and their picking up a charity collecting tin to shake at Charlie Hungerford, they're a bad lot but Bergerac has some sympathy for them. Rather than locking them up in the cells for the night, or simply deporting them back to the mainland, he visits Dr Gardiner (Susan Penhaligon), the psychologist who had arranged for their stay on the island. She comes in very useful in another case that Bergerac is investigating, that of someone phoning Charlie accusing him of a murder many years before.
Tangos in the Night: With a title like that, I was rather hoping for a cameo performance from the Fleetwood Mac of the Nicks'n'Buckingham years but it wasn't to be. Not even a Little Lies or a Big Love on the soundtrack. Instead, it is, with a feeling of disappointment that ought to be evident, actually about dancing, or rather a dance instructor who has been accused by her client, a wealthy Jersey socialite (Pepe Mendoza, played by Stephen McGann, who's about as Spanish as the Liverpool Echo, but all is explained as things go on!), of stealing her diamonds. Things are made much more difficult by the arrival of a gang of girls calling themselves the Rat Pack, who are led by the opportunistic Rita Smith (Hetty Baynes). Jim, though, has his own dance problems what with Susan having entered the two of them in a dance contest. He'd much rather be picking potatoes.
The Other Woman: Charlie Hungerford finds a body on a golf course. That doesn't seem like it ought to be an everyday occurrence. Or it may be, given that I've never actually been on a golf course other than to drunkenly break in and go joyriding in a golf cart, which isn't the sort of thing that Charlie Hungerford would get up to but he does discover this particular corpse whilst trapped in a bunker while playing the eighteenth hole. Unfortunately, this investigation gets rather too close to home for Jim Bergerac. It seems as though the deceased, Graham Hawkesworth, was having an affair, with this other woman settling nicely into the part of prime suspect. Only that, in this case, the other woman is Susan!
Weekend Off: Perhaps it's that television never caught up with Bergerac on his days off but he looks much like a man whose last weekend off came shortly before his studying for the Jersey equivalent of O levels. Due some leave after a dozen years working for the Bureau des Etrangers, Bergerac finally plans a weekend away but Barney has other plans. With a French electronics expert arriving in Jersey for a security conference, Jim's weekend away is put on hold when the special branch officer who was due to act as escort calls in sick. Bergerac doesn't take long to discover that the Anton Charet he has in his car is not the real Anton Charet (James Faulkner), who is, at that very moment, being kidnapped by terrorists.
When Did You Last See Your Father?: When the ferry docks, the body of a young girl, Miss Sylvia Gildred, is found in a cabin. She's unconscious but alive. Thanks to a conviction for car theft when he was fifteen and his fingerprints all over the victim's luggage, the prime suspect is scrap dealer Tom St Clements (Tom Radcliffe). But the more Barney puts pressure on Jim to arrest St Clements, the more Bergerac resists, moreso when the local press accuse the Bureau des Etrangers of looking stupid. However, the name of Toby Lamaire (Benedict Taylor) keeps cropping up, a bit of a toff who Bergerac takes an almost immediate dislike to. And so did I but blame that on watching Barriers!
Old Acquaintance: Just as a little bit of sun brightens the dullest of days so any old episode of Bergerac becomes immeasurably better when Philippa Vale makes an appearance. Spotted at the airport by Charlie and explaining away her visit by explaining how she'd never let a first-class stud pass her by - who could she mean? - she offers sanctuary to a Canadian athlete whose life is in danger. Whilst there, he's promising to write an expose on drug abuse in the sport but there are some who would rather he remain quiet. Elsewhere and though it may or may not be connected to the arrival of Miss Vale, Jim and Susan break off their relationship.
Trenchard's Last Case: In flashback, a man lies in a hospital bed while a concerned-looking nurse shakes her head. That can't be a good thing. Cut to the present and to ex-Chief Superintendent Trenchard holidaying on the island. Claiming to be there solely for the fishing, Trenchard's last case is his investigation of a young couple who he believes were responsible for an incident that left his former partner disabled. But when the investigation turns to harassment, Bergerac begins to take notice of events. Meanwhile, Barney's back in uniform and Jim rents a boat.
Second Time Around: The series seven special, broadcast on Boxing Day 1989, gives us a novel murder...handcuffing a man to a large piece of patio furniture and then throwing him and it into a swimming pool. That the killer was holding a handgun at the time makes it all the more surprising. But there's method, means and motive to David Mason's (David Schofield, who actually looks even more terrifying in a pair of smoked aviator sunglasses than normal) actions and it's all to do with a bank job eight years ago. But with Charlie in hospital, Jim's mind is elsewhere and Willy's no replacement.
And that's our lot. Obviously, Old Acquaintance is the highlight but it's not a bad lot of episodes. Things get better nearer the end of the series when we see less of Louise Jameson. Her Susan is as miserable as the flu and Jim's a whole lot better without her. Indeed, Bergerac may never have looked happier than when, arm in arm, Philippa Vale leads him off to the first of the seven bedrooms that they will, it is suggested, christen that day. It's the least that he deserves after, at this point, seven years of crime-fighting and, with Midsomer Murders, how many more years of the same that lay ahead of him.
This is almost identical to what I wrote when reviewing two earlier series of Bergerac but it's as true now as it was then. This seventh series of Bergerac looks fine but there is always the feeling that 2 Entertain didn't actually do very much to bring this to DVD. All nine episodes have fitted onto three discs but there's nothing to say that they've been crammed onto these discs. However, the picture is still fairly soft and lacking in detail. Granted, this may be evident of looking back with rose-tinted glasses but I would imagine that Bergerac looked sharper on its original broadcast than it does here. However, it's no worse than the DVD release of the first series and on a par with how Bergerac has appeared when repeated in mid-afternoon slots.
The audio tracks are on much of a par with the video. On the whole, they're better than they were on series six, when a couple of episodes had the soundtrack boosted to such an extent that it was distorted, but there's still some noise in the background and other than the dialogue, little to note otherwise. Finally, there are subtitles, which are of the quality that one normally associates with 2 Entertain. Even the Banarama song that plays out in the disco in Sea Changes has been subtitled. Fair play to whoever had to had to scour the pages of the Smash Hits of '88 for the lyrics to that, Roachford's Family Man and Terence Trent D'Arby's Sign Your Name.
There are no extras on this DVD.