Case Number 06917: Small Claims Court


MPI // 1997 // 400 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Amanda DeWees (Retired) // June 1st, 2005

The Charge

"You tend to lose sight of what it's about, how it all started. It started with a real man or woman, a body whose life has been beaten out of it. That's why we're here. For that man, or that woman." -- Detective Inspector Jack Frost

The Case

Season Five of A Touch of Frost sees this strong British detective series at the top of its form, with four fine episodes that superbly balance suspense, crime drama, pathos, and comedy. If this season has a running theme, it's Frost developing doubt about his profession -- whether because police presence seem to bungle a ransom payoff, or his own judgment about a former offender seems to put others at risk, or an old and trusted colleague is discovered to be corrupt. Frost's personal feelings come to the fore more than usual in these episodes, as he explores romance with different women, finds himself empathizing with suspects that his colleagues condemn, and ultimately makes a serious decision about his vocation based on an emotionally ravaging experience. This season also takes the series' look into less gritty territory when the Denton police squad moves into handsome new quarters -- but that doesn't mean that the inner workings are any tidier, especially when Inspector Mullett decides to start downsizing.

Season Five features four 100-minutes episodes on three discs:

* "Penny for the Guy"
During the costumed hijinks of Guy Fawkes' Day, a boy and a teenaged girl go missing, and a boy's body is discovered. Frost is teamed with brisk Detective Sergeant Liz Maud (Susannah Doyle), whose feminist perspective clashes with Frost's -- and makes her blind to the possibility that a female witness is lying to them. When the ransom handover for one of the kidnap victims goes sour, Frost is forced to attack the case from a different angle and finds himself in a battle of wills with his prime suspect as he races against time to find the kidnapped boy.

It was only a matter of time before Frost was teamed with a feminist partner, and the crackling working dynamic between Maud and the politically incorrect Frost adds vigor to this well-plotted episode. The unusually self-possessed prime suspect creates an effective challenge for Frost, and some tart commentary on the intersection of commerce and philanthropy (in the person of the supermarket mogul who is approached to ransom the kidnapped boy) adds interest. Frost also encounters a woman from his past under new circumstances, who brings the prospect of romance into his life.
Grade: B+

* "House Calls"
An unusual kind of child abuse is taking place: Someone is breaking into homes to give children fake injections. Frost recognizes the modus operandi as being that of a man he once convicted, but he's convinced the childlike soul poses no harm, so he doesn't arrest him. When two children are later murdered and their mother goes missing, Frost's judgment is called into question -- especially by Detective Sergeant Maud. While trying to defend his decision to both himself and others, Frost also attempts to solve the murder of a con artist whose body was found in a coal bunker.

This was one of the few Frost mysteries where I could see the solution ages before Frost cottoned onto it -- in fact, he had to have it spelled out for him in a confession. That made this episode less compelling to me. Likewise, the secondary plot about the con man's murder wasn't very interesting until the end, but then it became both surprising and compelling. Frost also begins a relationship with the delightfully earthy Kitty Rayford (Gwyneth Powell), who probably knows him better than any woman he's previously been involved with.
Grade: B

* "True Confessions"
A philandering wife dies in suspicious circumstances, and Frost recognizes the widower (Anthony Calf) from a previous case: the murder of his first wife, ten years before. As Frost investigates the husband, a young priest (Eoin McCarthy) comes forward with the information that a confession may shed a different light on the identity of the murderer. Frost's attempts to reopen the older murder case unearth heretofore unseen evidence, which ironically results in his being investigated for corruption -- and suspended from the force.

This episode offers an unusual variation on the sanctity-of-the-confessional wrinkle in that the priest (a very athletic, hunky priest with a mane of red hair who drives a motorbike -- definitely putting a new face on the church!) comes forward of his own accord in his desire to help the police, and wants to help as much as is within his power given the restrictions of his vocation. The solution to this mystery is a real surprise and nicely satisfying. The powerful plot line in which Frost comes under suspicion for evidence tampering is excellent, putting Frost head to head with a tough, ambitious female investigator and forcing him to confront the possibility that a trusted former colleague may have been breaking the rules of police procedure. We also get to see a rare glimpse of Mullett's good side when he defends Frost against the accusations of misconduct. This highly charged story line can't help but make the murder investigation pale a bit in comparison.
Grade: A

* "No Other Love"
Frost is joined once again by young Detective Constable Clive Barnard (Matt Bardock, who appeared before in such episodes as "Quarry" and "Deep Waters"). As they investigate the holdup of a meek pawnbroker (Mark Lambert) who appears to know more than he's telling, they stumble upon an elderly woman (Jean Heywood) whose husband's browbeating finally drove her to violence. When the pawnbroker is found dead, Frost and Barnard begin to suspect that his death is related to the peculiar family dynamics of his household.

The main plot of this episode gets off to a slow start, but the secondary plot thread about Olive, the elderly offender, is instantly gripping. Jean Heywood's performance as a woman who has reached the breaking point is delicate and heartrending, and Frost's understanding of her situation shows him at his most compassionate. Once the main plot line gains some momentum, it becomes absorbing, building to a riveting confrontation with a truly chilling character. Warning: Do not read the plot synopsis for this episode on the disc case (and on the Amazon site) -- it contains an unforgivable spoiler that ruins the crackerjack ending.
Grade: A-

After the meaty feature commentary that came with Season Four, it's a particular letdown to have no extras included in this set. Audiovisual quality is very good, however, except for some serious grain in some scenes of "House Calls." Acting is excellent throughout, and David Jason as Frost is superb; see especially his performance in "No Other Love." I think this is the best season yet, and the only reason the judgment score isn't higher is because of the total lack of extras. Despite that drawback, fans of Inspector Frost will find this a very satisfying season to own.

Review content copyright © 2005 Amanda DeWees; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 93

Perp Profile
Studio: MPI
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* English

Running Time: 400 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

* IMDb

* Review of Season 2

* Review of Season 3

* Review of Season 4

* TV Tome