New Tricks
Series 3

Starring: Alun Armstrong, James Bolam, Amanda Redman and Dennis Waterman
Acorn Media
RRP: 24.99
Certificate: 15
Available 14 May 2007

Detective Superintendent Sandra Pullman heads up UCOS (The Unsolved Crime and Open Case Squad) solving previously unsolved crimes and murders. Pullman is backed up by her team, Gerry Standing, Brian Lane and Jack Halford, all three retired ex-policemen and all three no longer in the first flush of youth.
Series Three finds the incongruous group investigating a teacher's mysterious car crash death; a murder involving misappropriated Trade Union funds; violent dog killings, witchcraft, warring ice cream bandits and arson...

Series Three of New Tricks consists of eight episodes spread over three discs. The episodes include:

Lady's Pleasure: A classic car, in which five years ago a teacher was murdered, is due to be returned to the victim's husband. The murder case is reopened when it comes to light that the dead woman may have had a secret lover. A clue soon leads the UCOS team to the home of a male prostitute. Pullman, who worked on the original case, insists on going after the dead woman's husband for the crime as he had plenty of motive and showed little emotion at the time of his wife's death.

Dockers: The mysterious death of Joe Walsh, General Secretary of the Crane Driver's Union, whose body was found in the Thames in 1975, is reinvestigated. At the time of his death, Walsh stood accused of stealing money from the union's account. The team find themselves at the centre of a political minefield, with suggestions of misappropriated union funds, MI5 involvement and a union leader whose threats of strike action were gravely threatening the national interest.

Old Dogs: When a serial dog killer starts stalking local parks, mimicking an unsolved string of murders from several years ago, the team are reluctantly forced into taking on the case. Surely it's a cut and run case - the main suspect hates dogs with a passion and works in a local abattoir. This episode also has fantastic guest appearances by Richard Briers and Frances De La Tour.

Diamond Geezers: When vicious criminal Chopper Hadley arrives back in the UK to attend his father's funeral, the UCOS team are keen to question him about a murder that took place years earlier. The clock is ticking as it soon becomes apparent that Hadley is booked on a plane leaving the country in a week, and as he is selling off his UK properties, this could be the last chance they have to arrest him. Desperate measures are used and Brian is sent undercover to get Hadley once and for all.

Wicca Work: A young woman insists that the suspicious death of a local librarian years ago was part of a witchcraft ceremony. The team is drawn into the world of magic and the supernatural as they try to get to the bottom of what really went on in the witches coven.

Bank Robbery: Ray Cook, a legendary criminal has turned prime time celebrity. The team wants to re-interview him about a notorious bank job which left a cashier dead. Cook is the chief suspect, but was he responsible, or is he as innocent as he claims? This episode also sees guest stars from Gareth Hunt and Steven Berkoff (as Cook). I still don't understand why Berkoff has an acting career. I've never seen him act believably to this day. Here, he camps up his role like a bad pantomime villain.

Ice Cream Wars: The team are on the case of the ice cream bandit, an armed robber who's targets were the ice cream vans of two feuding ice cream manufacturers in the mid 1990s. The battle between the two families erupts into violence, so UCOS decide to track down the bandit and stop the conflict once and for all.

Congratulations: Pullman struggles to keep the boys in line as their chequered pasts begin to be revealed. Halford is determined to nail a vicious criminal who has so far eluded him and in doing so he puts himself in grave danger. Standing receives a surprise visitor who may or may not be his daughter. Pullman is increasingly frustrated and weighs up an opportunity that could end her time in UCOS. Kevin Whately makes a great cameo appearance in this episode, as does Hannah Waterman - who, ironically plays opposite her real dad (Dennis Waterman's).

The idea to take an old acting icon, who is better known for playing friendly characters, and turn them into the villain is clever (and unexpected) the first time the producers use it. However, once they've played that trick once, it's a shame they try it again. It's very much a case of fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me - as George W Bush famously failed to quote.

Extras include a Behind the Scenes featurette (20 mins) which thankfully has optional subtitles. I say thankfully, because the sound is so bad in places that it's difficult to hear what is being said. There are also filmographies for the main cast as well as a picture gallery.

While the Behind the Scenes featurette didn't offer much in the way of interesting information, it did reveal that Susan Jameson (who plays Esther Lane, the wife of Brian) is in real life married to James Bolam. Also, I couldn't understand why the extras weren't on the final disc. Disc one and two contain three episodes (with disc one containing the extras) while disc three only has two episodes. I thought, bearing in mind that there are some mild spoilers on the Behind the Scenes featurette, that it would have made much more sense to have included the extras on the final disc.

Despite that slight moan, this is a great collection of a fantastic BBC series. Certainly one worth adding to your collection.

Pete Boomer

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