Socialist Worker

Line of Duty: Is this corruption thriller a drama for our times?

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2309

Lennie James plays DCI Tony Gates in the BBC’s new series

Lennie James plays DCI Tony Gates in the BBC’s new series

The police are corrupt. That is the simple premise of the new BBC thriller series Line of Duty.

It is set in a fictional anti-corruption department run by zealous Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar).

The department’s focus is on charismatic Detective Chief Inspector Tony Gates (Lennie James), whose unit returns the best crime figures in the Metropolitan Police.

The programme swipes at a world where crimes are solved because they are easily solved. The cops are set up to meet targets and pile on convictions to keep the arrest rate high.

Gates appears to be an exemplary police officer, a hard-working family man. But there are catches. He is clearly too good to be true.

The question is just how bad he is. He is having an affair with a woman who gets him to help cover up a minor traffic offence.

Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) ends up investigating Gates, after Gates refuses to make up an account of a shooting on an anti-terror raid.

The opening sequence that shows the raid is a powerful and promising start to the five part series. The rotten reactionary nature of the cops is on view.

The first episode opens up the possibility that beyond the prejudice and the tendency to close ranks, there is deeper corruption.

There was a little too much staring out of windows to indicate thinking. But it’s impressively acted and scripted.

If the collection of cop show staples—the old cop, the addicted cop etc—develops to be as nasty as they first appear, the series might just be a fitting police drama for the times.

Line of Duty starts on BBC2 on Tuesday 26 June at 9pm

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Tue 26 Jun 2012, 17:32 BST
Issue No. 2309
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