010 Police Procedural – New
We were really spoiled this quarter for new police procedurals in the Crime Down Under series. I really like Australian radio dramas, because you get a completely different world which has to be created in sound—this is accomplished by performances, music, sound effects, and the writing itself. I’ve only heard a handful over the years, but I wish they would make more. I have admired Richard Dillane since the mini-series John Adams and had no idea he could sound completely unrecognizable as a big, macho Australian named Hal Challis in The Dragon Man. The title refers to the fact that Challis remodels an old plane called the Green Dragon as a hobby. The story starts with a teaser of a woman on a lonely stretch of road calling the equivalent of AAA and being scared out of her wits by an approaching motorist. This stretch of road in rural Australia has seen a number of women being abducted, and one has been discovered raped and murdered. This, sadly, is this woman’s fate, and it’s up to Challis and his colleague Ella Destry (Penny Downie) to try to find the murderer and stop him. He believes he is much smarter than the police (and everybody) and hence he kills because he has a chip on his shoulder and because he knows he can get away with it. It’s nearly Christmas, and therefore as it’s in Australia it’s really hot. The killer sends voice-disguised recordings on a USB stick to a Welsh radio journalist Tessa (Mali Harries) who is romantically involved (or would like to be) with Challis. The local force includes Murph the Surf, a good copper. Another copper, Van Halden’s (Mark Little), story was so beautifully acted; what a shame it had to end the way it did. Written by Garry Disher and adapted by D.J. Britton, it also starred Jordan White, Fiona Marr, Carrie Goodensen, Dan Hunter, Lafrida Hayes, Bill McKenzie, and Samuel James. It was directed by Alison Hindell.
Perhaps even better was Prime Cut by Alan Carter, adapted by Adrian Bean. DSC Philip “Cato” Kwong (Andrew Leung) has been exiled from the detective fast track—he had been on all the recruitment posters as the golden boy for multiracial Australian policing—and was now assigned to the Stock Squad with a Welsh detective (Stock Squad goes after stolen and maimed cattle in Western Australia). Andrew Leung was fantastic as Cato, Australian to the core, a non-Chinese-speaking policeman called “chink” by various Australian characters. In fact, Leung is nominated in the BBC Radio Drama Awards for Best Newcomer, and I think he should get the award. In this play, Richard Dillane played Cato’s boss, a real jerk and racist in the bargain (like several of the characters in this story). Cato was his own worst enemy, a fact brought home by his reunion with Tess (Christine Stephen-Daly), a policewoman he slept with then abandoned in his younger days. Their relationship is thorny, to say the least. I liked that aurally, Cato was indistinguishable from all the other Australians; it was just the constant reference to his race, as well as a throwaway line from Cato, that marked him out as “other.” The story involves a corpse nicknamed Flipper, an unidentified male corpse picked apart by sharks. And before you ask, no, Cato is not named after Kato in The Green Hornet.