Strangers - The Complete Series 1 [DVD] 
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Spinoff series from The XYY Man featuring two detectives from that series in another job. Detective Sergeant George Bulman and Detective Constable Derek Willis (Dennis Blanch) are transferred to Unit 23 - a special squad based in the North of England but charged with handling the cases normal units cannot handle up and down the country. Episodes include: 'The Paradise Set', 'Duty Roster', 'Silver Lining', 'Accidental Death', 'Briscoe', 'Right and Wrong' and 'Paying Guests'.
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Contemporary series such as "The Sweeney", "The New Avengers" and "The Professionals" found favour with viewers through their pacey direction and action. Yet this first season of "Strangers" is a surprisingly laid-back affair. It clearly lacked the budget, production values and directorial panache of these other shows. So what has it got going for it?...
Essentially these early stories are character-driven. The interaction - in turns pithy and light-hearted - between the leads is what propels the narrative. Of particular note is Det-Con Linda Doran, a woman ahead of her time, pressing on with her police career, unafraid to get stuck in, jousting with the villains and commanding respect from most of her male peers, particularly Det-Con Willis. Frances Tomelty shines in the role, somehow imbuing it with real flair and yet utter naturalness - she is a joy to behold... and, to be honest, the best reason to catch this set...
The other cast members don't disappoint, though. Dennis Blanch and John Ronane are solid and likeable as Willis and Det-Sgt Singer respectively. David Hargreaves nicely underplays the ineffectual Det-Insp Rainbow. Lastly, of course, the much-missed Don Henderson as Det-Sgt Bulman, gruff but sympathetic and ever-so-slightly eccentric.... traits the actor would build upon as the series progressed through its five years.
The plots in these early episodes are pretty standard fare, with the team investigating jewel thieves, fraud in the horse-racing fraternity, the suspicious death of a local journalist and a town councillor suspected of accepting bribes. Each story demonstrates the logical methodology of good old-fashioned, competent police detective work.
Anyone expecting a rival to "The Sweeney" is going to be disappointed -you'll have to wait until the third season until the action, comedy and eccentricity really start to kick in! What we have for the moment is a series finding its feet and establishing its characters. In some ways the evolution of "Strangers" mirrors that of "The Avengers".
The presentation across the DVDs is acceptable. There has been no restoration work performed and some of the filmed sequences show their age. In the main this is not a problem but the opening Granada logo and title sequence look quite battered on a few of the episodes - I can only assume they have been sourced from transmission copies (indeed the episode "Briscoe" suspiciously runs to around four minutes shorter than the others - although Network's packaging claims all episodes are complete). Those scenes shot on videotape exhibit faint vertical colour banding but are otherwise mostly free of flaws. Sound quality is fine throughout.
The series goes from good to superb as the seasons progress. Network DVD have released all five seasons now and are about to release the spin-off series 'Bulman'. Can't wait for that. Network are to be commended for their commitment to making available classic series that may not have wide commercial appeal but are landmarks in TV history.
As it turns out, this was one of my better gambles. And that is saying something given that this was a first viewing of a series that is now over 30 years old.
What you get is a collection of relatively light detective stories; it's good drama with clever touches of humour and some of the dialogue shared between Bullman, Willis and Doran is extremely amusing at times.
You'll need to wait for series two if you're looking for an action series though; whilst the usual running, jumping and car chasing isn't entirely absent, this is more of a studio bound, dialogue driven series and the emphasis is accordingly on interplay between characters. In terms that it has a combination of a relatively slow pace, but slightly eccentric twists to the storylines and sub-plots, I found that this was enjoyable in much the same way as the very early episodes of Van Der Valk.
I'd have to agree with the previous reviews that the series took a while to get off the ground properly, but by the time you get to the final two episodes, 'Right and Wrong' and 'Paying Guests', which are both are blinders, the series had really found its feet. You can even have great fun spotting the soap stars of yesteryear - even if you can't remember the names, a lot of faces will be familiar to anyone who watched Emmerdale Farm or Coronation Street in the 70s and 80s.
It doesn't quite get full marks, but this is mostly because the picture and sound are not restored versions; accordingly, quality throughout is extremely variable. It's not dreadful by any means, but the lack of consistency is irksome. However, the bonus of an episode of New Scotland Yard is a nice touch. In terms of physical presentation however, the packaging and artwork is up the usual Network DVD standards.