New Scotland Yard from London Weekend is a rather strange police procedural drama. Made in the early 1970s, it was part of the company's early drama output, and it was a really good idea that, on the evidence of the first series, wasn't given the attention and thought it deserved. Set in what we have to assume is part of the Yard's major crime unit (this is never really explained), the officers deal with the usual array of nasty criminal activity - murder, kidnap, arson, gangland goings-on - and is led by Detective Chief Superintendant John Kingdom, assisted by Detective Inspector Alan Ward. Kingdom is played by veteran actor John Woodvine, who tries his best in the role, but to me seemed to give a strangely under-powered performance. For such a senior officer, Kingdom is very hands-on, and even allowing for the passage forty years, I can't really believe that he would have had such an intimate role in each case; dramatic licence I guess, but it's not the only thing that stretches credibility in the show. Kingdom and Ward have an odd relationship, sometimes spiky and acrimonious, and at other times warm and supportive, but this uneven tone to the characterisation didn't seem to work.
Despite scripts by some top-notch writers of the day (Tony Hoare, Don Houghton, Robert Banks Stewart), and some skilful direction, the material and stories and really hampered by the slow pace and limits of television production at the time. The ideas on show here demonstrate the genesis of seminal works such as The Sweeney, which was able to fully respond to the need for face-paced action and movement when dramatising stories like these. It's a lesson that fellow London ITV contractor Thames learnt much earlier, when it moved Special Branch from a slow, studio-based approach, to the faster, action-orientated 16mm film deployed by Euston Films. New Scotland Yard could really have benefitted from this technique, as I got somewhat weary of the seemingly endless explanatory (and at times overly theatrical) dialogue and detailed focus on the characters' back-stories.
As you would expect, some episodes are better than others; I particularly enjoyed Memory of a Gauntlet and Shock Tactics, but some of them simply don't reward the effort of watching. If you do buy this, look out for some early screen performances from some up and coming television greats - future Harvey Moon, Kenneth Cranham (in what must have been one of his earliest TV roles), Robin Ellis, and Alun Armstrong.
The series must have done something right though, as according to the IMDB it ran, with some format and personnel adjustments, for four series. If Network release the other series, I am not sure I'll be buying them...as I say, there was just too much hard work involved as a viewer. Still, it's probably a relatively important example of the development of television police dramas, but unlike its contemporaries such as Special Branch or The Sweeney, doesn't have very much to say and I can see why it's largely been forgotten.