Stories about the police tend to make good television shows. There’s the potential for action, a good mystery, and real, interpersonal drama. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed several of these shows, including Barney Miller, Columbo, and Hill Street Blues. This drama also translates well into the past as we’ve seen in shows like Gunsmoke or any number of British historical mysteries. That said, police in the future seem less common. They do exist. Notable examples include Constable Odo in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Mr. Garibaldi in Babylon 5, but aside from the occasional episode, the police work is rarely the focus. Some of that is no doubt the fact that science fiction shows tend to focus on frontiers beyond the purview of law enforcement, but what might a science fictional police show look like? As it turns out, Gerry Anderson, creator of Space: 1999 and Thunderbirds, actually did produce a police show set on an alien world called Space Precinct.
Space Precinct tells the story of Lieutenant Patrick Brogan and his partner Officer Jack Haldane who transfer from the New York City Police Department to the Demeter City Police Department on the planet Altor. The planet is a colony world settled predominantly by humans, Creons, and Tarns. A big focus of the show is Brogan’s family life with his wife Sally and two children. Overall, the stories featured a nice blend of action, humor, science fiction, and family drama. It could be a little campy at times, but that was part of the show’s charm. Sadly, the show is not currently available on region 1 DVD or region A Blu-Ray, though you can find some episodes on YouTube. Fortunately, Richard James, who played a Creon police officer named Orrin in the series, has penned two sets of stories set in the world of Space Precinct. Both of these are available as audio books, which you can pick up from Big Finish Productions at: https://www.bigfinish.com/hubs/v/space-precinct
The first of the audio books is based on the unfilmed introductory episode of the series. In the audio book called Demeter City, we meet Lieutenant Brogan while he’s still in New York City. Brogan and Officer Haldane are on the trail of some gun smugglers who seem to be operating from the planet Altor. In the meantime, Brogan’s family see advertisements encouraging visits to the same planet. Tired of life in their small apartment, they try to persuade the Lieutenant to at least take a vacation and visit the planet. Brogan decides to apply for a police exchange program to Altor both to pursue the criminal gun runners and satisfy his family. While on Altor, Brogan and Haldane begin to unravel a criminal network that seems to have its grip on the planet while Brogan’s family do their best to make a life in an orbital habitat. As the investigation continues, Brogan and Haldane discover the biggest threat to their investigation may be within the department itself. All in all, it was a solid story and well narrated by Richard James. However, having watched a few episodes of the series, I found it pretty easy to guess one of the villains. One thing I did like in this story was that it clarified that the 2040 you see on the badge in the opening credits is Lieutenant Brogan’s badge number and not necessarily the year the story is set.
The other Space Precinct audio book at Big Finish is a collection of short stories called Space Precinct: Revisited. There are four stories in this audio book. “Kernel Panic” is told from the point of view of the station’s robot, Slomo, and how he helps the officers thwart a notorious gangster who threatens the 88th Precinct. In “Everything Must Go,” hundreds of people gather for the grand opening of a new orbiting shopping mall – only to find themselves held hostage by a gang of Human Future activists. “Point Blank” tells the story of a politician gunned down. When the weapon is found, there’s no sign of fingerprints or DNA evidence. I really liked that Officers Orrin and Beezle who normally serve as comic relief had a major role in solving this case. Finally, following a routine drugs bust, Officer Castle starts to behave very strangely. After placing Officer Took in extreme danger, questions are asked concerning her conduct.
Each of these audio books have a run time of a little over two hours and I had fun listening to them and learning more about the world of Space Precinct.