I've submitted reviews on each series; this overview of the collection draws various themes together. Kavanagh has a complex personality: as an interrogator, he is merciless and awesome; in conference, he is direct and non-judgemental; as a father, he is firm but benevolent; as a husband, he is flawed but loyal. John Thaw has delivered a convincing performance in each of these roles, developing the script character into a likeable leading role (if not always an easy one).
Some viewers may find the Kavanagh format too formulaic: the 'unwinnable' brief; the unresponsive defendant; the cliffhanger trial; the diverting sub-plot; the embarrassing incident involving Kavanagh's rival, Jeremy. But the formula works, and the collection never loses its originality.
Part of this formula relies on the strength of the supporting cast. Viewers will no doubt already be familiar with the regular cast, but some of the visitors are outstanding too: Geraldine James as the razor-sharp interrogator in Nothing But The Truth; Paul Rhys as the eerie murder suspect in Job Satisfaction; Deborah Findlay as the god-fearing mother in Bearing Witness.
Complex moral issues are raised. Should victims of rape have to endure interrogation? Should war criminals be held to account for their distant past? Can a social worker's distant relationship with a teenage client ever be foregiven? These matters are treated sensitively, sometimes leaving open moral answers.
Questions of law are also aired - the priviliged positions of ecclesiastical and military courts; an inadequate trial defence as a ground of appeal; a tort case where the claimant does not request damages.
Some of the episodes work better than others, but the collection forms a cohesive entity of characters and plots. Its value is far more than the sum of its parts.