55 Degrees North
BBC 2004 - 2005
Episode 1
TX : 6th July 2004
Director : Andy De Emmony

Synopsis : A new police drama about an ambitious young detective who's relocated from London to Newcastle. Keen to make a good impression, Det Sgt Nicky Cole goes in pursuit of the only remaining witness who can appear at the trial of a major extortionist.

Publicity : Fifty-five degrees north of what, you might wonder. To which I'll have to reply, "No idea". Though I can hazard a guess. Detective Sergeant Nicky Cole (Don Gilet) has a southern accent, and he's working up in Newcastle on permanent night shifts, so presumably the title refers to his geographical relocation.
Actually, there's a lot that isn't explained in this first episode in a new series. Such as: who is the old man who dispenses wisdom while living in Nicky's house? What's the story with the small boy for whom Nicky is guardian? Search me. But at least these are some questions that demand answers, which might take us into uncharted territory in what's otherwise a fairly predictable maverick-fish-out-of-water cop show.

Nicky is a black officer who is immediately, albeit unwittingly, targeted by racist colleagues. In an opening sequence that will doubtless infuriate decent white people across the land, Nicky is stopped for no other reason than he is black and driving a flash sports car. One of the cops deliberately smashes his brake light. The rest of this potentially difficult scenario is similarly heavy-handed. Nicky's (white) colleagues are invariably blinkered and unimaginative, and he of course has a nasty bully of a boss. Nicky, meanwhile, is the only officer with any flair or ingenuity. His only match is the comely form of a Crown Prosecution Service Solicitor (Dervla Kirwan). Gilet does his best with what he's given, and its good to see the Newcastle locations. But 55 Degrees North needs more bite if it's to lift itself out of the routine (Radio Times article by Alison Graham).

Cast :
Nazeer Ahmed (Amit Arroz); Mr Ahmed (Ash Varrez); Mrs Woodley (Anne Orwin); Mr Woodley (Tony Neilson); Imran (Kyl Messios); Liam Connor (Gary Lilburn); Michelle Kerry (Lisa Kay); John (Michael Cuckson); Archie (David Raynor)); Police Officers (Rob Turnbull. Mark Allan, Nick Court); Solicitor (Fiona MacPherson).

Notes :
Episodes were broadcast at 9.00pm on Tuesday nights.

Don Gilet previously played one of the lead roles in Babyfather.

Devla Kirwan earlier appeared in Ballykissangel, Goodnight Sweetheart, and famously, Melvyn Bragg's raunchy serial A Time to Dance.

Newcastle-born actor Andrew Dunn was in Dinnerladies and Holby City as well as being one of Rory Bremner's semi-regular collaborators.

George Harris was one of the original cast members in Casualty, and also appeared in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Black Hawk Down and Flash Gordon. More recently he has appeared in The Long Firm.

Mark Stobbart played Oz's grown-up son Rod in the revived Auf Wiedersehn Pet.

Series writer Timothy Prager has also written for Dangerfield, Two Thousand Acres of Sky, Dalziel and Pascoe and amazingly appeared as an actor in a 1983 episode of The A-Team!

Director Andy De Emmony has also worked on Red Dwarf, At Home with the Braithwaites, Father Ted and Spitting Image.

Darren Morfitt was a regular in ITV's ill-fated Royal Navy series Making Waves.

Episode 2
TX : 13th July 2004
Director : Andy De Emmony

Synopsis : Relocated cop Det Sgt Nicky Cole exposes himself in public while attempting to trap a Newcastle brothel owner involved in a crime ring.

Publicity : Busy Newcastle detective Nicky Cole (Don Gilet) has yet another tumultuous shift or two when he's called to investigate a mysterious-sounding break-in at a student flat, before he pretends to be a punter for a sting operation at a brothel.
Yes, all human life is here in the second episode of this new police series. Gilet is an appealing leading man (and ladies - prepare yourself for some fairly gratuitous shots of him in the buff), but 55 Degrees North must really pick up the pace if it's to mark itself out as being anything different from the TV cop pack.

Things chug along too slowly and there's a lot of repetition. Unfortunately, these scenes tend to involve Dervla Kirwan, who is largely wasted in the role of a Crown Prosecution Service solicitor. Still, 55 Degrees North gives us the chance to see Newcastle at it's best, and it always makes a welcome change to watch anything that isn't set in London or Manchester. But come on, liven things up a bit. And please, no more confrontations with Cole's dinosaur, racist boss; we get the message (Radio Times article by Alison Graham).

Cast :
Nazeer Ahmed (Amit Arroz); Amber (Tracy Whitwell); Mr Humby (David Nellist); Michelle (Catherine Bailey); Kelly (Jenna Renshaw); Alan (Deka Walmsley); Mrs Kliner (Jane Holman); Tina Wilcox (Polly Naylor); Tiffany (Glenna Morrison).

Episode 3
TX : 20th July 2004
Director : Brian Kelly

Synopsis : A shopkeeper's efforts to punish a young shoplifter backfire, and a father's personal protest over access rights to his children causes traffic chaos.

Publicity : In theory, quietly heroic detective Nicky Cole is still on night shifts, but in practice he seems to work around the clock. He's got three cases this week: a drowned woman, a fathers' rights activist causing chaos on a bridge, and an Asian shopkeeper who's caught a schoolboy stealing. Or did he?
You may sense a running theme about parenthood and prejudice, but this drama being thoughtfully written and well-acted, it's not as in-your-face as it might be. Equally, Nicky is still dealing with everyday racism from colleagues, but it's at a level that's just niggling enough to be plausible - a muttered aside, a banana left on his desk and so on.

The trouble is, the tone and pacing of 55 Degrees North are strangely wobbly. Some scenes are full of neat touches, others are gloopy and pointless. Fortunately, Don Gilet as Nicky and supporting actors such as Andrew Dunn are a pleasure to watch, and help to paper over the cracks. But still, you're left wondering: does being a subtle grown-up drama mean everything has to move so slowly? (Radio Times article by David Butcher).

Cast :
Frank Galley (Shaun Prendergast); Rakesh Patel (Kriss Dosanjh); Mrs Patel (Norma Dixit); Police dog handler (Robert Webb); Helen Lockwood (Holly de Jong); Ian Lockwood (Robert Horwell); PC Nugent (John McCraw); Irene Timson (Sue Scott Daveis); Jack Ti mson (Ian Kirkby); Tommy Galley (Baden Burns); Jack Timson Jr (Joseph Butcher); Pathologist (Paul Anthony Barber); Judge (Peter Symonds).

Episode 4
TX : 28th July 2004
Director : Brian Kelly

Synopsis : After a drunken night out, Astel discovers he's hit something - or someone - with his car. Nicky, meanwhile, gets some unexpected attention from Claire.

Publicity :
Four episodes in, 55 Degrees North is as maddening as ever. Superb one minute, cringe-making the next, it's as if it's been written by two different people, only one of whom is talented. It's worth sticking with though, if only for Don Gilet, who is terrific as night-shift detective Nicky. His relationship with lawyer Claire (Dervla Kirwan) is as fractious as ever, which must mean that they'll get it together any minute. When he has to call on her late at night (for work reasons), the omens look promising - until we see she's wearing a type of nightie last seen modelled by Demis Roussos.

Nicky's duties, meanwhile, require him to investigate a road-rage incident alongside the comely Sergeant Brookes (Emma Cleasby, once of Byker Grove). Can't he see she's a far better prospect? These are the good parts of the layer cake. The garlic in the whipped cream is a subplot in which Uncle Errol tries to teach young Matty about his heritage by giving him lectures on the spirit of carnival. It was so corny I groaned out loud (Radio Times article by David Butcher).

Cast :
Nazeer Ahmed (Amit Arrod); David Riedel (Martin McGlade); Desmond Wainwright (Jack McBride); Sheila Wainwright (Pat Dunn); George (Bill Fellows); Mrs Wall (Sharon Percy); Declan Wall (Andy Bates); PC Nugent (John McCraw); Thomas Henderson (Roger Martin); Female dogger (Jacqueline Phillips); Male dogger (Mark Cameron); Young man (Oliver Judge); Clamper 1 (Steve Wraith); Clamper 2 (Matthew Wynn).

Notes : Director Robert Banguera has also worked on In Deep, Down to Earth, The Lakes and Casualty

Episode 5
TX : 3rd August 2004
Director : Robert Banguera

Synopsis : Nicky, under investigation for corruption, discovers the person reported him is the only one who can help clear his name. Convinced Carter wants him out Nicky refuses to go without a fight.

Publicity :
Things get really awkward for Nicky tonight. Last week, you may remember, a sinister stranger offered him an envelope stuffed with cash. He refused, of course - a straighter cop never walked the streets of Newcastle - but even so, rumours surface that he's corrupt. The rumours come via that silver-haired lawyer who was having an affair with Dervla Kirwan's character Claire (not altogether plausibly), until Claire ditched him and took an interest in Nicky. It doesn't help that Claire's the only person Nicky told, so they both look compromised.

Yes, it's messy. And the worst part is, it's Nicky's boss Dennis who has to investigate him. Now, we all know about the cliché of nasty bosses in police dramas but, wonder of wonders, Dennis seems to be a little more complicated. Even so, there are one or two nice awkward exchanges between the two them as they look into some suspicious deaths at a posh nursing home. There are still too many bum notes in the script (the opening scene, for instance, is just daft), but there's sharp dialogue, too, and a few nice surprises. You get the feeling that for this series, the best may be yet to come (Radio Times article by David Butcher).

Cast :
PC Ben Mallory (Alexander Ellis); Ch Supt Baxter (Neil McCaul); Ivan Radic (Philip Benjamin); Patricia Givens (Glynis Brooks); Mr Humby (David Nellist); Stanley Hanson (Ralph Riach); Betty Long (Peggy Shields); Harriet Graham (Rita Davies); Albert Taber (Derrick Eastham).

Episode 6
TX : 10th August 2004
Director : Robert Banguera

Synopsis : Nicky and the team go undercover in a local nightclub to catch a serial date rapist.

Cast : PC Ben Mallory (Alexander Ellis); Lucy Mills (Hannah Barrie); Tina Wilcox (Polly Nayler); Alan Holt (Antony Byrne); Davey (Daniel Newman); Chris (Jim Barclay).

Episode 1
TX : 22nd May 2005
Director : Jon Sen

Synopsis : A second series of cases for DS Nicky Cole, the whistle-blowing detective relocated from London to Newcastle to work the nightshift. Nicky is under pressure to find out who is behind a series of threats to local scientists before Yates makes a quick arrest. Plus Astel and Clark find that they are no match for a gaggle of rowdy Geordie girls.

Publicity : For all its faults, there was something lovable about the first series of this cop-show-with-a-heart. Don Gilet did a grand job as Nicky Cole, a displaced London detective working the night shift on Tyneside, and supporting characters were all sharply drawn. Now, as series two opens, the weaselly DS Yates is acting as Nicky's boss, which creates a bit of friction, and love interest Claire (Dervla Kirwan) has gone tepid following the birth of her baby daughter (by that seedy barrister chap). All the ingredients are in place for the drama to step up a gear, but exasperatingly It just doesn't. There are good lines, but mostly we get feeble scenes and saggy plotting - the main storyline tonight about stem cell research doesn't bear repeating. And why does Nicky keep persuing Claire when the nicer, sexier, funnier Sgt Brookes (Emma Cleasby) is practically throwing herself at him? It's all very baffling (Radio Times article by David Butcher).

The idea of jamming together a cop show and a touchy-feely drama is still bonkers, but at least one half of the equation has flashes of brilliance tonight. For a start, there's a new character to enjoy: a tactless new inspector who throws his weight around like a bull on a bouncy castle. DI Bing (the splendid Mark Lewis Jones) barks orders, forgets names ("Hey you, the scruffy, go with the fat sergeant…") and generally puts noses out of joint. Yates's nose is more wonky than most, since he thought he was getting the DI job. As ever, Nicky takes it all in his stride and pulls off some nifty upward management. If only he could handle frisky lawyer Claire (Dirvla Kirwan) so well: tonight they're at loggerheads over a) whether to prosecute a chronic young offender, and b) whether to have a quickie in an empty office. (Radio Times article by David Butcher).

"Hot Property" A fireball the size of a transit van explodes out of the window, sending an almighty shower of glass jangling across the lawn. Thick black smoke pours from what remains of the front room, and flames crackle irritably in the blackened husk that was nice, apparently, a rather nice bedroom. As four of Sunderland's finest firemen hurry towards the burning building, neighbours look on in open-mouthed confusion. "Is this for the telly?" asks one. "Yeah," replies another, sombrely. "And I'll bet it cost a bloody fortune."
You join us on the freezing, early-morning set of the BBC1 crime drama 55 Degrees North, during preparations for the second series' most dramatic - and, yes expensive - stunt. Filmed in a former home for the elderly, the scene sees DS Nicky Cole (Don Gilet) trapped by falling masonry wile attempting to rescue the residents of a burning apartment block. "Until now, the biggest stunt I've pulled off is getting up at 5.00am for a shoot, laughs Gilet, huddled in his car between takes. "But I'm not scared. It's so cold out here that I'm actually looking forward to it. Bring on the heat!" Although these £20,000 pyrotechnics occupy just a few minutes of screen time, a rigorous, month-long testing schedule has been necessary to ensure that potential accidents are kept to a minimum. "Because of the tests and the fact that everything is controlled, it isn't half as dangerous as it looks," explains special effects supervisor Ian Corbould. "All the windows and doorways are boxed in so that the fire doesn't spread, and we use toughened glass so that it explodes into tiny pieces rather than shards. It's quite safe. Mind you," he adds with a grin, "the fire brigade and paramedics are always on hand - just in case". You'll see the fireball some way into the new series, which returns next week - and it's clear that a burning house isn't the only combustible situation facing Nicky Cole. "He's still holding a torch for Claire Maxwell (Dervla Kirwan)," says Gilet, as the make-up girl daubs soot onto his cheeks. "But he also has lots of dalliances with new ladies. Will it be hot? It'll be scorching!" (Radio Times article by Sarah Dempster) .

Cast :
Raymond Ballard (Ben Bradshaw); Mrs Priestley (Andrina Carroll); Bill Simpson (Ben Enwright); Mr Khan (Kammy Darweish); First Girl (Danielle Davison); Guilty Woman (Vicky Elliot); Solicitor (Cate Fowler); Market Trader (Harry Gallagher); Astel's Girl (Suzanne Heathcote).

Episode 2
TX : 29th May 2005
Director : Jon Sen

Synopsis : A dangerous robber is hitting building societies. When CID track him down and blow his cover, Nicky finds himself in a potentially fatal stand-off.

Cast :
Denise Layton (Charlotte Comer); Gerry (Ian Peck); Mrs Bancroft (Beverley Fox); Mrs Dixon (Felicity Finch); Dispatch Operator (Jane Dixon); Brave Cashier (Jane Ashby).

Episode 3
TX : 5th June 2005
Director : Pip Broughton

Synopsis : When an assault victim dies, a search is on for the two attackers - but which one dealt the fatal blow?

Publicity : I knew this would happen. Nicky fluffed his chance with the lovely Sergeant Brookes, and now Bing, the beefy new Welsh inspector, is chatting her up, though frankly his technique wouldn't win any prizes. Bing's not what you'd call a new man, as one angry tirade at Claire shows. Meanwhile, there's rather a good legal storyline, for once, and Uncle Errol is still giving boxing lessons to young tearaway Michael. "Do I have to listen to your stupid stories?" begs Michael, voicing the fears of millions of viewers. 'Fraid so, Michael: in this series you take the rough with the smooth, but it's worth it (Radio Times article by David Butcher).

Cast :
Irene McGinlay (Elaine C. Smith); Ed Pitley (Deka Walmsley); Philip Jones (Tim Dantay); Michael Watt (Vito Hind); Mrs Bancroft (Beverley Fox); Jeremy Fenwick (Jeremy Swift); Bill Leslie (Alan Gordon); Nigel Harbinson (John Harding); Magistrate (Mary Pickin).

Notes : Elaine C. Smith was a regular in Scottish comedy show Naked Video and its spin-off show Rab C. Nesbitt

Deka Walmsley appeared in the first season of 55 Degrees North in an entirely different role to the one that he plays here

Episode 4
TX : 12th June 2005
Director : Pip Broughton

Synopsis : Claire faces a chilling death threat when she and Nicky become enmeshed in a land-rights case.

Publicity : When a cop show starts, it's meant to grab you by the scruff of the neck. Not 55 Degrees North, where daft opening sequences are a tradition. Tonight's is especially dire, as Nicky helps Claire view some houses, and nags her as if they were an item. Which they're not, because she's a prickly cow and he's spoilt for choice elsewhere. There's Matty's teacher, for instance, with whom Nicky starts flirting unsubtly. Then there's nice Sergeant Brookes, except now she's more interested in the beefy inspector. Love is clearly in the air: even Sergeant Astel, one half of that dozy double act of beat coppers, finds romance, with some help from Bonnie Tyler. Yes, that last storyline is as excruciating as it sounds. In fact, almost every scene tonight has you screaming with frustration that great characters have to serve such lumbering jokes and laughable plots. Where did the spark go? (Radio Times article by David Butcher).

When he was filming Marathon Man, Dustin Hoffman starved himself of sleep for several days so that he's look suitable haggard for the torture scenes. But he had a choice - unlike Dervla Kirwan, star of 55 Degrees North. When the actress discovered she was expecting her first child, the script was amended accordingly, and she's now a stressed mother both on-screen and off. "It's nice to be knackered and to play knackered on screen as well," she says. "I don't need make-up to look like a worn-out new mum, because that's what I am". (Radio Times article).

Cast :
Des (Don Baker); Charles Bellows (Paul Clayton); Elizabeth Purdy (Linda Spurrier); Fergus (David Rolston); Tracey Harden (Katahrine Monaghan); Jack Harden (Craig Heany); Alan (Gary Kitching); Bill (Paul Hamilton).

Episode 5
TX : 19th June 2005
Director : Robert Banguera

Synopsis : Nicky takes the family to Lindesfarne for a peaceful weekend break. But when Errol is arrested on suspicion of murder, the unorthodox detective is determined to ensure local police prove his innocence.

Publicity : Sometimes I want to weep for 55 Degrees North. In many ways, I love it. The characters feel real; the dialogue often provokes a smirk; there's a nice sense of the dirt and compromise that is par for the course, one imagines, in the joyless business of police work. And yet chunks of it are dramatically so feeble, as if they've been rushed onto the screen without anyone stopping to wonder if they add up. Amazingly, for all that, I still look forward to the show every week, partly because there's so much unflashy good acting and partly in the hope that one day, surely, it will live up to its promise. Tonight's episode focuses on an implausible trip to Lindesfarne by Nicky and his gang, on which Uncle Errol gets himself into trouble. As so often, it's Mark Lewis Jones as DI Bing whose sterling performance saves the day. (Radio Times article by David Butcher).

Cast :
DI Simpkins (Phil Cornwell); Jane Deevers (Alice Brown); Janice Powers (Kitty Lucas); Steve Powers (Matt Sutton).

Notes : Phil Cornwell is one of the Dead Ringers team and was also in Stella Street and episodes of The Comic Strip

Episode 6
TX : 26th June 2005
Director : Robert Banguera

Synopsis : A community support officer turns vigilante. Can Nicky trace him before somebody else gets hurt?

Cast :
Irene McGinlay (Elaine C. Smith); Cory North (Scott Cleverdon); Andy Frater (Rod Arthur); Peter Chipstead (Tim Bruce); Mr Ciocarelli (John Levitt); George Bush (Jason Ward); CSO (Jenni Winter); Gruff Man (Peter Charlton).

Episode 7
TX : 3rd July 2005
Director : Susan Tully

Synopsis : Nicky's drug-dealing brother Adam is out of jail.

Cast :
Irene McGinlay (Elaine C. Smith); Jack Dungary (Mike Elliot); Jade (Yasmin Bannerman); Angela Milburn (Tracy Whitwell); Erica Reidy (Rebekah Joy Gilgan); Dermot Ferguson (Oliver Judge); Mrs Bancroft (Beverley Fox).

Notes : Director Susan Tully is a former actress who appeared in both Grange Hill and Eastenders

Karl Collins was a regular in The Bill as DC Danny Glaze

Yasmin Bannerman also appeared in the revived version of Doctor Who in 2005, playing Jabe in the episode The End of the World

Mike Elliot is a DJ on Century FM in the north-east, going by the name of Mike the Mouth.

Episode 8
TX : 10th July 2005
Director : Susan Tully

Synopsis : Nicky faces a race against time to catch two of Newcastle's most notorious crime families, but someone wants him silenced - permanently.

Cast :
Jack Dungary (Mike Elliot); Jade (Yasmin Bannerman); Angela Milburn (Tracy Whitwell); Simon Beecham (Gary Bleasdale); Mrs Bancroft (Beverley Fox); Gavin Woods (Ben Nathan); Probation Officer (Nick Raggett).

Notes :
Gary Bleasdale played Gary Scouser in Harry Enfield and Chums.

Comparisons with Spender are perhaps inevitable for 55 Degrees North, with both series featuring detectives who have moved to the North East following work problems in London and finding themselves working under a surly new boss, and alongside indifferent colleagues. Don Gilet, however, plays a quite different kind of copper than Jimmy Nail ever did.

55 Degrees North is an odd series to get a handle on. On the positive side, it is good to see a new television detective series that is not set in London and it features some very good actors, but on the negative side there is a running theme throughout the series which recycles old prejudices against people from the north as racists. The series would have benefited enormously had this element had been left out of it.

Also odd is the whole business of the relationship between Nicky, Uncle Errol and Matty. Conventional it certainly isn't, and the questions regarding it are not fully answered in this first series. Too many questions are posed, and not enough answered fully, although things do improve somewhat during the second run. In Season One, things are hinted at too regarding Nicky's mysterious missing brother Adam, who we later discover is in prison

Quite possibly the best aspect of the show though is to show off Newcastle, Gateshead and other areas of the north-east - the 55 Degrees of the series' name. All too often television shows concentrate on the same old places that the viewer is used to seeing countless drama series, so it is refreshing to get to see somewhere new. Tyneside has changed incredibly since the days of Spender, and in 55 Degrees North the area looks like a completely different place. The show also frequentlyshowcases the magnificent coastal scenery of
Northumberland, with one episode being almost entirely set on Holy Island.

The series returned a year later, with a move from Sunday nights to a midweek slot and an extra two episodes in the run. The show carried on in much the same vein as the first series, although Nicky and his
colleagues got a new boss in the shape of DI Russell Bing and we
finally got to meet Nicky's drug-dealing brother. The will-they-won't- they relationship between Nicky and Claire is continued too in the
second season, although Claire now has a new baby to deal with as well as her colleague.

A DVD of both seasons was issued in 2006.

Text © Chris Orton, 2005.

Portrayed By
DS Nicky Cole
Don Gilet
Claire Maxwell
Dervla Kirwin
Sgt Rick Astel
Andrew Dunn
Errol Hill
George Harris
DI Dennis Carter
Christian Rodska
PC Martin Clark
Mark Stobbart
DS Maguire
Michael Hodgson
DS Patrick Yates
Darren Morfitt
Sgt Brookes
Emma Cleasby
Sgt Clive Edwards
Ian McLaughlin
Matty Cole
Jaeden Burke
PC Denton
Stephen Anderson
James Wren
Brian Protheroe
Georgina Hodge
Jacqueline King
Adam Cole
Karl Collins (Season
2: 7-8)
Chief Supt Daniel Baxter
Neil McCaul (Season 2: 1-2, 8)
Jocelyn Maxwell
Dearbhla Molloy (Season 2:
Beth Robson
Clare Calbraith
(Season 2: 2, 4-6, 8)
Sam Williams
(Season 2: 2, 4-6, 8)

The series was written by Timothy Prager. The series was produced by Jo Wright (Season 1); Jacinta Peel (Season 2) and Executive Produced by Barbara McKissack, Adrian Bate, Laura Mackie.