Unexpected celebrity this week is behind the camera. Yes, Piers Haggard CBE, director of Blood On Satan’s Claw, Callan, Quatermass and many others, is slumming it in Demeter City. Perhaps that’s why this is a more-than-usually serious episode, to wit:
The story starts out powerfully, with a gang of neo-fascists targeting Xyronite migrants. Five minutes in, we’ve witnessed three deaths, two of them children, and some very credible social dynamics as citizens of Demeter City waver between compassion for refugees and poverty-driven xenophobia (the leader of the gang even trots out, yes, the “they’re taking your jobs” line).
Before you can say, “what’s happened to my Space Precinct?” though, the story shifts focus, and it becomes all about Brogan’s bounty-hunter ex-girlfriend turning up on the trail of the fascist leader, and we’re back into tedious territory as Haldane gets the hots and Mrs Brogan gets jealous. She’s getting sexually harassed, er, chatted up by one of her workmates as well, and just once I’d like to see someone on Space Precinct have a healthy relationship.
I think perhaps this encapsulates Space Precinct, and what’s right and wrong with it. On the positive side, it is genuinely trying to be a serious cop story in space, dealing with problems like racism, exploitation, child abuse, even global capitalism. The worldbuilding is credible; the alien races are at least on a par with Babylon 5 in backstory terms (and arguably better developed than the equivalents were in B5 after only one season). On the other, it nearly always manages to trip up that serious side with some nonsensical subplot, cringeworthy sexism, and/or annoying characters either regular or one-off.
Finally, it’s a winter-set episode, and the model team are plainly having a delightful time doing tiny little snow-covered cityscapes.