Acorn Media // 2011 // 589 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // September 20th, 2012
"He's responsible for a world-class collection of fossils." -- Brian Lane,
talking about an expert at a natural history museum.
"Just like me." -- Sandra Pullman, talking about Brian Lane and the other detectives on her UCOS team.
They might not know the changes in the Underground routes or the latest Internet sensations, but the ex-coppers on the UCOS squad know their way around a long-dormant mystery. They're also willing to take on dangerous criminals to save the day, something that factors into the cliffhanger at the end of New Tricks: Season Eight.
Season Eight includes two guest stars who have regenerated their way out of Doctor Who.
In New Tricks, Sandra Pullman (Amanda Redman, Demob) leads Jack Halford (James Bolam, The Beiderbecke Affair), Brian Lane (Alun Armstrong, The Mummy), and Gerry Standing (Dennis Waterman, Minder) into action.
New Tricks: Season Eight features ten episodes on three discs.
* "End of the Line" -- The plumber arrested for robbery isn't guilty, but his DNA matches that of a vagrant murdered on the Underground. Naturally, the carriage where the murder took place is still in use fifteen years later, so the UCOS squad takes a look.
Peter Davison (Doctor Who) is a suspect.
* "Lost in Translation" -- A fingerprint expert wants to know who killed her brother, a police translator. Gerry cooks up romance with his culinary class instructor -- but there's an added ingredient.
* "Old Fossils" -- A coroner's suspension for negligence reopens the case of a fall victim at a natural history museum who might have had a push or a bump. Gerry thinks he has a valuable fossil.
* "Moving Target" -- Gerry isn't interested in a study on older men in the workplace, but he is interested in the attractive young woman conducting it. She's more interested in her brother's hit-and-run accident several years ago, though.
* "Object of Desire" -- Sandra reunites with an old flame (Paul McGann, Doctor Who) while working on an antiques-related case. Brian and Gerry debate whether classic toys are more valuable than more traditional antiques.
* "Setting Out Your Stall" -- UCOS looks into a murder that may be linked to a rapist. Meanwhile, Sandra helps a young woman reunite with her lost family, even as she bickers with her own mother (Sheila Hancock, who has also guested on, you guessed it, Doctor Who).
* "The Gentleman Vanishes" -- Despite official pressure, UCOS investigates the disappearance of a professor and his cold fusion secrets from a train at an emergency stop. Jack asks The Ghost Doctor to help track down another pseudonymous hacker.
* "Only The Brave" -- Tracking down a killer who got away could help prevent a murder, since revenge will be the initiation for a biker gang's latest prospect. UCOS is chased off the case -- until an information is attacked.
* "Half Life" -- As budget cuts threaten to kill off UCOS, a website keeps the unsolved murder of a mechanic with no past alive. Meanwhile, Brian tries everything to deal with insomnia -- including hypnotherapy.
* "Tiger Tiger" -- A bloodstain suggests that a tiger mauling victim might already have been dead. As Jack is about to be commended for bravery, he takes off alone to confront possible killers.
The opener, "End of the Line," gives Alun Armstrong and James Bolam chances to shine. Armstrong's Brian Lane befriends a homeless woman after helping her fend off an attacker. Just as he's beginning to understand what homeless people face, he's attacked himself by a trio of homeless men -- who steal his beloved coat (if you've seen New Tricks before, you know Brian's reluctance to part with things). Adding to the dramatic twists, the cops who find him take him for a homeless man and don't treat him so well; when their mistake is discovered, they chide him for his alcoholic past. Bolam's Jack Halford trembles because he hasn't ridden the Underground since his wife's murder years ago, but he's assigned to ride the Circle Line to check the timing of the stops. Armstrong plays things loud and funny, reacting to everything with heartfelt outrage, while Bolam handles Jack's fears with quiet grace.
Later, Amanda Redman's Sandra Pullman gets to show dramatic chops as she tries to patch things up with her estranged mother, handles a case involving an old romantic interest, and deals with doubt about her work. Dennis Waterman's Gerry Standing gets mostly comic relief bits this season, but a romance that takes on a surprise twist (to Gerry, anyway) shows the grumpy ex-copper as surprisingly cheerful and optimistic.
Until a surprise in the final episode, New Tricks: Season Eight bounces along on a comfortable familiar path; even Brian Lane's shabby coat is restored at the end of the opener. Cases pop in, and Sandra sends the guys out. The cases seem to always bring up comic complications and personal issues for the UCOS team. All is resolved at episode's end, usually with a dramatic confession in the basement interrogation room. It's a procedural with often-intriguing plots, but the characters stick out a bit more.
As usual, the DVD transfers of the recent production are excellent: standard def 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, Dolby 2.0 Stereo, and one behind-the-scenes featurette on foley artists and other sound matters from a previous season.
If you've watched New Tricks in past seasons, you might notice that Season Eight seems a bit gorier than in past years. There's a lot of fake blood, and one episode shows body parts that haven't been attached for quite some time.
I can't say New Tricks is groundbreaking; it just isn't. I can say it's good, though. Returning viewers will love this season. I'd recommend starting earlier for newcomers, since the stories play on the characters' established backgrounds and personalities a lot (and you can pick up some of the back seasons on Amazon.com for under $20, as I write). It helps if you've seen Brian's coat a lot, and know how much he loves it.
And the show is still going strong, with Season Nine currently in production.
No new tricks, but no guilt, either.
Review content copyright © 2012 James A. Stewart; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Acorn Media
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 589 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated