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Z-Cars
Z cars title.jpg
Opening title logo
Format Police procedural
Created by Troy Kennedy Martin
Allan Prior
Starring James Ellis
Brian Blessed
Stratford Johns
Frank Windsor
Jeremy Kemp
Joseph Brady
Colin Welland
Country of origin UK
No. of episodes 799 + 1 Un-broadcast
Production
Running time 25 minutes & 45 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel BBC
Original run January 2, 1962 – September 20, 1978
Chronology
Related shows Softly, Softly
Softly, Softly: Taskforce
Barlow at Large/Barlow
Jack the Ripper
Second Verdict

Z-Cars (sometimes written as Z Cars), with the letter "Z" pronounced "Zed" in the British way, is a British television drama series centred on the work of beat police in the fictional town of Newtown, based on Kirkby in the outskirts of Liverpool in Lancashire. Produced by the BBC and screened on BBC Television (renamed BBC1 in 1964), it debuted in January, 1962 and ran for 16 years until September, 1978. Owing to an administrative quirk, for the first few years it was produced by the BBC's documentary department rather than the drama department.

The programme was created by writers Troy Kennedy Martin and Allan Prior with producer Elwyn Jones, to create a more realistic portrayal of policing than had been seen on British television before. This was in contrast to the BBC's established police drama, Dixon of Dock Green, which portrayed a 'safe' and 'cosy' image of a 'British bobby'.

The main writers included John Hopkins (who also became script editor) and Alan Plater. The writing team created a 'kitchen sink realism' style little seen on British television before. The Z-Cars theme tune was arranged by Fritz Spiegl from the traditional folk song Johnny Todd.

In a 2000 poll to find the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes of the 20th century conducted by the British Film Institute, Z-Cars was voted 63rd. It was also included in the 40 greatest TV shows published in Radio Times in August, 2003.

Contents

Plot

Contrary to belief the name does not come from the cars used: Ford Zephyrs and Ford Zodiacs. In fact the Zodiac was never used by British police. The Zephyr was the standard patrol traffic car (not the same as 'crime car') used by Lancashire and other police forces. The term comes from the call signs allocated by Lancashire Constabulary. Lancashire police divisions were lettered from north to the south. A Division (DHQ Ulverston) was the detached part of the county around Barrow-in-Furness (since 1974 part of Cumbria), B was Lancaster and so on. Letters further into the alphabet were in the south around the Manchester and Liverpool areas. The TV series took the non-existent signs Z-Victor 1 and Z-Victor 2.

The stories revolved around pairs of officers patrolling that week. Riding on changing social attitudes and television, the social realism, with interesting stories, garnered popularity. It was initially less popular with real-life police, who disliked the sometimes unsympathetic characterisation of officers. Being set in the North of England helped give it a regional flavour when most BBC dramas were set in the south.

The one character present throughout the entire run was Bert Lynch, played by James Ellis (though John Phillips as Det. Chief Supt. Robins would reappear sporadically during the show's run - by the end of the series he had become Chief Constable). Other characters in the early days were Stratford Johns (Inspector Barlow), Frank Windsor (Det.Sgt Watt), Robert Keegan (Sgt Blackitt), Joseph Brady (PC 'Jock' Weir) and Brian Blessed ('Fancy' Smith). Also in 1960s episodes as David Graham was Colin Welland, who won an Academy Award for writing Chariots of Fire in 1981. Other British actors who played regular roles in the early years included John Thaw and Leonard Rossiter.

Episodes

Z-Cars ran for 799 episodes. The original run ended in 1965; Barlow, Watt and Blackitt were spun off into a new series Softly, Softly. Z Cars was revived in March 1967 with only James Ellis and Joseph Brady from the original show. The revival was produced by the serials department of the BBC in a twice-weekly soap opera format of 25-minute episodes. It ran until April 1971 (in colour from early 1970) then returned to a regular season pattern of 50-minute episodes for its final years.

Lost episodes

Z-Cars is incomplete in the archives. 1962-5 is reasonably well represented, though with big gaps. With the 1967 revival, material becomes more patchy. 1967, 1969 and 1970 each have small numbers of surviving episodes. The years 1968 and 1971, when the series was shown almost every week, have no surviving episodes. Around half of the total episodes survive.

The original series was one of the last British television dramas screened live regularly — already rare by the time the programme began in 1962. It was felt that this helped immediacy and pace, and episodes were live as late as 1965, despite cameras appearing in shot. Most were videotaped for repeat, but the BBC regularly wiped tapes after programmes exceeded their usefulness, agreements with unions meaning they could only be shown a limited number of times. The space needed to store large videotapes, as well as the expense when they could be re-used, were factors.

However, most episodes were 'telerecorded'. This was a fairly primitive (by today's standards) way of preserving a transmission by filming it (to 16 mm film) from a television screen. Telerecordings could be used for repeats and overseas sales. Although foreign buyers were supposed to return, destroy or forward telerecordings, many were archived and have slowly filtered back to the BBC.

The telerecording of the first ever episode was returned to writer Allan Prior in the 1980s by an engineer who had taken it home to preserve it because his children had enjoyed the programme and he could not bring himself to destroy it. Other early episodes have been returned by broadcasters from countries such as Cyprus and the search for lost episodes of sister BBC programme Doctor Who has also occasionally turned up lost Z-Cars episodes (according to the documentary Doctor Who: The Missing Years, included on the BBC Video DVD release Doctor Who: Lost in Time). Two episodes were returned in 2004 after turning up in a private collection. Colour episodes from the early-1970s are less likely to be recovered, as they were never telerecorded for export.

A list of lost and surviving episodes can be found on the missing episodes web-site. BBC Archive Treasure Hunt is currently seeking missing episodes.

All episodes from the 1975-1978 period are preserved in the archives.

After Z Cars

The spin-off, Softly, Softly focused on the regional crime squad, and ran until 1969, when it was again revised and became Softly, Softly: Taskforce, running until 1976. The character of Barlow (Stratford Johns) was one of the best-known figures in British television in the 1960s and 1970s, and was given several seasons of his own "solo" series, Barlow at Large (later just Barlow) between 1971-75. He also joined Watt (Frank Windsor) to re-investigate the Jack the Ripper murders for a six-part series in 1973. This led to another spin-off, Second Verdict in which Barlow and Watt looked into unsolved cases and unsafe convictions.

Frank Windsor made a final appearance as Watt in the last episode of Z Cars, 'Pressure', in September 1978, with Robins (John Phillips), the Detective Chief Superintendent from the original series who had risen to chief constable. A number of other actors from the early days also made appearances, but not as their original characters.

The theme tune from Z Cars has for many years been used as a march-on tune at football clubs in Great Britain such as Everton FC.

Before Z Cars

In 1961 the BBC broadcast "Jacks and Knaves" as a single series of four episodes. Set in Liverpool and including Leonard Williams (Sgt. Twentyman in Z-Cars), and written by Colin Morris. Although a humorous police procedural, Jacks and Knaves paved the way for Z-Cars as a regional drama about policing.

Cast

(1962-1965 & 1967-1978 / 12 Series / 799 episodes)

  • DCI Charlie Barlow — Stratford Johns (1962-1965 / Series 1-5 / 126 episodes)
  • DS John Watt — Frank Windsor (1962-1965,1978 / Series 1-5,12 / 129 episodes)
  • PC ‘Fancy’ Smith — Brian Blessed (1962-1965 / Series 1-5 / 113 episodes)
  • PC ‘Jock’ Weir — Joseph Brady (1962-1965,1967-1968 / Series 1-6 / 177 episodes)
  • PC/DC/Sgt./Insp. Bert Lynch — James Ellis (1962-1965,1967-1978 / Series 1-12 / 625 episodes)
  • PC Bob Steele — Jeremy Kemp (1962-1963 / Series 1-2 / 34 episodes)
  • Sgt. Percy Twentyman — Leonard Williams (1962 / Series 1-2 / 30 episodes)
  • PC Ian Sweet — Terence Edmond (1962-1964 / Series 1-3/ 78 episodes)
  • WPC Jenny Stacey — Lynne Furlong (1962-1965 / Series 1-4 / 24 episodes)
  • Sally Clarkson (BD Girl) - Diane Aubrey (1962 / Series 1-2 / 24 episodes)
  • DC Glyn Hicks — Michael Forrest (1962-1964 / Series 2-3 / 36 episodes)
  • PC David Graham — Colin Welland (1962-1965, / Series 2-5 / 85 episodes)
  • Sgt. Bob Blackitt — Robert Keegan (1962-1965 / Series 2-5 / 108 episodes)
  • PC Ken Baker — Geoffrey Whitehead (1964-1965 / Series 4 / 29 episodes)
  • PC Taylor — Marcus Hammond (1964-1965 / Series 4 / 20 episodes)
  • Paula Poulton (BD Girl) - Sara Aimson (1965 / Series 4-5 / 23 episodes)
  • DI/DCI Sam Hudson — John Barrie (1967,1968 / Series 6 / 32 episodes)
  • DS Tom Stone — John Slater (1967-1974 / Series 6-9 / 419 episodes)
  • PC Owen Culshaw — David Daker (1967-1968 / Series 6 / 82 episodes)
  • PC Steve Tate — Sebastian Breaks (1967 / Series 6 / 29 episodes)
  • PC Alec May — Stephen Yardley (1967-1968 / Series 6 / 66 episodes)
  • WPC Parkin — Pauline Taylor (1967-1969 / Series 6 / 48 episodes)
  • PC Bill Newcombe — Bernard Holley (1967-1971 / Series 6 / 277 episodes)
  • BD Girl — Jennie Goossens (1967-1971 / Series 6-7 / 146 episodes)
  • DI Todd — Joss Ackland (1967-1968 / Series 6 / 41 episodes)
  • PC Jackson — John Wreford (1967-1968 / Series 6 / 29 episodes)
  • DI Alan Witty — John Woodvine (1968-1969 / Series 6 / 60 episodes)
  • PC Doug Roach — Ron Davies (1968-1969 / Series 6 / 59 episodes)
  • PC Bruce Bannerman — Paul Angelis (1968-1969 / Series 6 / 128 episodes)
  • PC/Sgt. Alec Quilley — Douglas Fielding (1969-1978 / Series 6-12 / 339 episodes)
  • DI/Mr. Neil Goss — Derek Waring (1969-1973 / Series 6-8 / 215 episodes)
  • PC/DC Joe Skinner — Ian Cullen (1969-1975 / Series 6-9 / 219 episodes)
  • PC Reg Horrocks — Barry Lowe (1970-1975,1977 / Series 6-9,11 / 27 episodes)
  • PC/Sgt. Bowman — John Swindells (1970-1973 / Series 6-7 / 40 episodes)
  • DS Cecil Haggar — John Collin (1971-1976,1978 / Series 6-7,9-10,12 / 51 episodes)
  • DC Dave Scatliff — Geoffrey Hayes (1971-1974 / Series 6-8 / 27 episodes)
  • PC Shaun Covill — Jack Carr (1971-1972 / Series 6-7 / 39 episodes)
  • PC Fred Render — Allan O'Keefe (1971-1978 / Series 6-12 / 62 episodes)
  • DS/DI Terry Moffat — Ray Lonnen (1972-1977 / Series 7-11 / 25 episodes)
  • DS Wilf Miller - Geoffrey Whitehead (1972-1975 / Series 6-9 / 22 episodes)
  • DC Jim Braithwaite — David Jackson (1972-1978 / Series 7-12 / 22 episodes)
  • Sgt. Gilbert Chubb — Paul Stewart (1974-1978 / Series 9-12 / 25 episodes)

Others - Dorothy White - Janey Steele (1962-1963 / Series 1-2 / 13 episodes)... John Phillips - DCS/ACC/Chief Con. Robins (1962-1965,1967,1969,1973,1978 / Series 1-4,6-7,12 / 14 episodes)... Virginia Stride - Katy Hoskins (BD Girl) (1962-1964 /Series 1-3 / 18 episodes)... Leslie Sands - DCS Miller (1962-63,1965,1967,1969 / Series 1-4,6 / 12 episodes)... Dudley Foster - DI/Supt. Dunn (1962,1964 / Series 1,3 / 14 episodes)... James Cossins - Sgt. Michaelson (1962-1963 / Series 2 / 11 episodes)... Hilary Martyn - Joan Martin (BD Girl) (1962-1963 / Series 2 / 13 episodes)... Leonard Rossiter - DI Bamber (1963 / Series 2 / 8 episodes)... Sidonie Bond - Betty Clayton (BD Girl) (1963 / Series 2 / 16 episodes)... Kate Allitt - Pamela Earnshaw (BD Girl) (1964 / Series 3 / 12 episodes)... John Thaw - DC Elliot (1963 / Series 3 / 4 episodes)... Kate Brown - Shirley Burscough (BD Girl) (1963 / Series 3 / 16 episodes)... Lynn Farleigh - Ann Fazakerley (BD Girl) (1964 / Series 3-4 / 17 episodes)... Susan Jameson - WPC Nelson (1965,1975 / Series 4,9 / 6 episodes)... Donald Webster - PC Foster (1965 / Series 4 / 8 episodes)... Donald Gee - PC Ray Walker (1965 / Series 4-5 / 18 episodes)... Luanshya Greer - WPC Jane Shepherd (1967 / Series 6 / 6 episodes)... Anjula Harman - BD Girl (1967,1969 / Series 6 / 14 episodes)... Christopher Coll - DC Kane (1967-1968 / Series 6 / 16 episodes)... Doreen Aris - Betty Culshaw (1967-1968 / Series 6 / 8 episodes)... George Sewell - DI Brogan (1967 / Series 6 / 6 episodes)... Thelma Whiteley - Sally Stone (1967,1969-1970 / Series 6 / 8 episodes)... Victor Brooks - Sgt. Potter (1968-1969 / Series 6 / 10 episodes)... William Dexter - D Supt. Oakley (1968-1971 / Series 6 / 6 episodes)... John Livesey - PC Stack (1969 / Series 6 / 15 episodes)... June Watson - WPC/WP Sgt. Lorna Cameron (1970,1973-1975 / Series 6,8-9 / 8 episodes)... Stephanie Turner - WPC Anne Howarth (1971-1975 / Series 6-9 / 14 episodes)... Jerome Willis - Supt./D Supt. Roy Richards / 1971-1973 / Series 6-7 / 4 episodes)... James Walsh - PC Lindsay (1971-1974 / Series 7-9 / 8 episodes)... John Challis - Sgt. Frank Culshaw (1972-1975 / Series 7-9 / 10 episodes)... Gary Watson - DI Fred Connor (1972-1974 / Series 7-8 / 11 episodes)... Nicholas Smith - PC Jeff Yates (1972-1975 / Series 7-9 / 9 episodes)... Kenton Moore - Insp./CI Logie (1972-1974 / Series 7-8 / 4 episodes)... Brian Grellis - DC/DS Bernard Bowker (1974-1978 / Series 9-12 / 19 episodes)... Tommy Boyle - DI Gerry Maddan (1978 / Series 12 / 8 episodes)... Victoria Plucknett - WPC Jane Beck (1978 / Series 12 / 3 episodes).

See also

External links

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