The Coppers (Played by Patrick Malahide)

Back in July we covered some of the London gangsters Patrick Malahide has played.  Well, this time around we’ll discuss the guys on the right side of the law:  The Coppers!  Mr. Malahide is just as likely to play the person making the arrests as he is to play the guy under arrest, and that is one of the many reasons we admire him so much.

D.I. Brennan | D.S. Chisholm | Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn | Assistant Commissioner Henry | An Honorable Mention | The Top Guv

Admin:  My coppers are….

D.I. Brennan
(“Amnesia“, 2004)

Style of Copper

...with the "dad" glasses on.

D.I. Brennan, hands on copper.

D.I. Brennan is a very hands on guv.  He doesn’t just sit at a desk demanding status reports from his subordinates.  Brennan is far more likely to get out there and do a bit of investigating himself.  He brilliantly defies the “your job is on the line” trope, despite the fact that some of his officers’ jobs actually are on the line, by lending massive support to those he respects and trusts.   With his compassion, daring and intuitiveness,  he’s the sort of copper who could carry his own show.  A “D.I. Brennan” spinoff would have been excellent.

What Is His Average Day Like?

Doing a little b&e... just as a sort of hobby...

Breaking and entering is just a normal part of the job, right?

His average day is…complicated.  It is awfully hard trusting your officers when you’re kind of suspecting one (or maybe even two) of them of murder.  That is why he has to be such a hands on Inspector.  He never knows when he might have to do a little breaking and entering into one of his sergeant’s homes, looking for any possible evidence that might clear him of or suggest his guilt of murdering his missing wife.  But, being evidently prepared for such uncertainties, he has the skills of a master lockpick.  If he wasn’t fighting the good fight, he’d make a stellar cat burglar.  His preparedness also comes through via his sensible pair of wellies as they search for D.S. Stone’s wife.  He’s ready for any eventuality.

Who Is His Watson?

D.C. Reid, not the most trustworthy of Watsons.

He doesn’t have the best Watson, I’m afraid.  He’s stuck with the somewhat weaselly D.C. Reid (Brendan Coyle) who suspects the emotionally shattered D.S. Mackenzie Stone (John Hannah) of having killed his wife.  Stone’s wife that is, not Reid’s.  Later we learn, much to the old-school Brennan’s disgust, that Reid had been having an affair with lady in question before her disappearance.  Brennan frowns upon blokes who sleep with their best mates’ wives.  Anyway, it all throws something of a spanner in the works when Brennan realizes his Watson might actually be closer to his Moriarty.  Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.  By the end of drama, Stone is fully exonerated (his wife wasn’t dead after all, hooray) and Reid is shown for the louse he is.

Is He a People Policeman?

...and wondering what happened to Dean/West after he jumped.

Brennan really does care about his team.

You better believe he is.  He isn’t the slightest bit afraid to get entrenched in the private lives of his officers if that is what it takes.  He isn’t nosy or controlling or anything nor does his concern stem from micro-managing.  He genuinely sees them as men and women who sometimes need his help.  It is almost a paternal type of concern but not in a condescending or sickly sweet sort of way.  That is not to say he treats everyone with kid gloves.  He has no problem grilling D.C. Reid and letting him know what he thinks about his behavior.  Again, though, unvarnished honesty is sometimes part of being a people person….or rather policeman.

How Does He Unwind?

Wellies with a business suit! Just the thing for a search operation.

He’s always up for a nice trek in the woods.

Something about his being always prepared makes me think of the Boy Scouts.  I bet Brennan is a dab hand at tying expert and complex knots.  He knows and has practiced them all, I’m sure.  He’s got to keep those fine motor skills honed and sharpened for his next breaking and entering activity, after all.  He also probably enjoys long treks through woodland and trails.  Maybe he does a spot of fishing as a way of further practicing those knot tying skills.  And I bet he knows where all the poisonous mushrooms and hemlock grow and all the likely areas where poorly disposed of bodies might be quickly located.  Trust D.I. Brennan to unwind in a way that contributes to his work skills.

What Does He Have for Tea?

...and running into a spot of difficulty. Rude word alert!!

You don’t achieve these levels of concentration on cheap stodge.

I don’t think he goes for too many stodgy carbs, and  I didn’t notice a wedding ring on his finger.  That with his potentially chaotic hours make me suspect Brennan seldom has any sort of homely or traditional tea.  He probably has something light but fueling.  Grilled salmon garnished with lemon would probably be his ideal evening meal.  Like Sensitive Skin‘s Leonard Richards, Brennan has to keep his brain sharp and well fed.  As for tea the beverage, he strikes me as an Earl Grey man.  The caffeine plus that zesty citrus kick will help keep him alert and ready for whatever tricky endeavors his career may throw up for him.

D.S. Chisholm
(“Minder“)

Style of Copper

He’s not usually this cheerful, but I like this picture.

An old-school London through-and-through detective who is a bit old fashioned even by old-school standards. He takes great pride in knowing all the goings on around his “patch”, although it also depresses him somewhat. He takes his job very seriously, and it can even be argued that he is essentially married to it. But, he always has that wistful dream of doing something grander and more important than dealing with the more petty crims (if they are even notorious enough to be considered petty) who foul up his regular beat.

What Is His Average Day Like?

Keeping tabs on the Winchester regulars.

He gets in (probably early) to the station where he reads up on all the reports and cases before heading out to that den of thieves known as the Winchester where he grills his nemeses Arthur Daley and Terry McCann on their always near-certain involvement in the case. Then he gets all excited, thinking he’s finally going to be able to stick something concrete on them, but it ends in frustration all while wrangling his partner D.C. Jones and (yet another) nemesis D.S. Rycott. What’s with all these nemeses? He must have an enemies list to rival Nixon’s.

Who Is His Watson?

Jones might not be the best Watson, but he and Chisholm have the best chemistry.

The amiable and laid back Welshman D.C. “Taff” Jones. Jones isn’t much of a Watson really, since half the time he couldn’t care less about the case at stake. But, he does seem to have a certain fondness for his guv’s dry sense of humour. I think if Chisholm wasn’t such a witty guy, Jones would be fair in hating him, but it seems to be the drollery that keeps Jones reasonably loyal. Well, that and other potential guvs (D.S. Rycott and the one-off D.S. Soames) are far, far worse. Interestingly, while Jones isn’t exactly a very good Watson, he is an incredibly good partner for Chisholm. Their undeniable chemistry really lends a massive dose of class to whatever episode they are in. I don’t know if that is down to the writing (which is really good, don’t get me wrong) so much as it is down to the brilliance of Patrick Malahide’s and Meic Povey’s acting and obviously natural chemistry. They steal every single scene they are in and could very easily have worked a spin-off show together with no problem whatsoever.

Is He a People Policeman?

Patrick Malahide as DS Chisholm in Minder

“I am a people policeman.”

Well, he says he is. 😀 Okay, Chisholm doesn’t have the best people skills out there, and he finds a lot of the “people policing” to be a load of codswallop. But, he’s not as callous as all that. The writing in Minder isn’t always all consistent, so Chisholm sometimes varies between being confident and hapless. However, for the most part, he knows how to deal with the various characters he encounters. He shows sympathy and pity for the gentle natured drunkard Incapable that I find sweet. But, he also knows when he’s dealing with pond-life and isn’t afraid to do a bit of minor roughing up or make a direct threat in order to get the information he requires.

Intimidates the mousey grass.

He is also the only person who actually understands Daley enough to know that he’d never take his own life over a tax matter in Arthur is Dead, Long Live Arthur, proving he has a better grasp on the old dodger than even his supposed best friend Terry McCann.

So, while the general consensus might be that Chisholm isn’t a people policeman, his social skills are pretty appalling, he certainly understands people better than he is ever given credit for.

How Does He Unwind?

I think he’d like to take it home.

The truth is, he probably doesn’t. We know that Chisholm lives in a rather spartan apartment and doesn’t have much of an actual social life. His job is pretty much the whole of his existence. But, he does seem to have a thing for gadgets, car models, and helicopters. I base that on the episodes: Life in the Fast Food Lane, High Drains Pilferer, and An Officer and a Car Salesman. So, I think in his spare time he makes a few models himself, not many though because he doesn’t seem to have a lot of display space. He also strikes me as a heavy reader as he sometimes shows flashes of having a very good education in history and law. I think he is very self-educated man and keeps up with all the police journals in addition to his non-fiction history books. As for fiction, he probably enjoys everything from Agatha Christie to Biggles. Yeah, he definitely has to be a reader.

What Does He Have for Tea?

“Another cup of tea, love, if you please!”

I have a feeling Chisholm loves carbs and all sorts of baked goods. Pies, meat sandwiches, biscuits and cream cakes are probably among his favorites when he can get them. But, as a bachelor who likely doesn’t have the best baking skills, he probably makes do with small pies and sausage rolls. And you know he drinks English breakfast black tea with plenty of milk and sugar. He’s got to keep that stoat-like energy up somehow.

RF:  And my coppers are…

Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn
(“The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries“, 1992 – 1994)

Style of Copper:

Alleyn: a Gentleman Detective, through and through

Alleyn: a Gentleman Detective, through and through

Alleyn is a Gentleman Detective, through and through.  He even comes by the “Gentleman” part naturally, since his brother is a baronet and his family has many connections with the gentry.   However, while he’s known and accepted by the gentry and speaks their language, one gets the impression he’d rather avoid the lot of them as much as possible.  He seems to enjoy the company of Inspector Fox and Agatha Troy (Belinda Lang) far more than that of any of his brother’s crowd.  He also worked his way up through the ranks to get to chief inspector, seemingly refusing to trade on his name or connections.

What Is His Average Day Like?

He doesn't have many "average days" on the job.

He doesn’t have many “average days” on the job.

Being a Chief Inspector, he’s gotten past the point of run-of-the-mill stuff and usually gets called in on higher profile cases, frequently involving an exotic murder of some sort.  He’s also frequently required to travel to various parts of the U.K. or even overseas, with the result that his best girl, Agatha Troy, is never quite sure how long he’ll be away or when he’ll be back.  A lot of his cases also seem to involve art, art forgeries, poisonings of various types, and at least one murder by cigarette case.   And that’s when he’s not being seconded to MI6 for top secret missions to Egypt.

Who Is His Watson?

Fox mother-henning his guv

Fox mother-henning his guv

That’s easy… Inspector Br’er Fox (William Simons) is Alleyn’s right-hand man.  They make an unlikely duo; Fox is stolid, quiet, and unassuming for all of the fact he makes a formidable presence, and comes from a working-class background, while Alleyn is stylish, upper-class, and just a bit flashy.  But Alleyn would be lost without Fox to bounce ideas off of, or without Fox’s unflappability in the face of strange events and danger.  Fox also understands Alleyn better than anyone else, with the possible exception of Troy.  When no one else can get his guv to slow down and take care of himself, Fox can.  Together they make a highly effective pair.

Is He a People Policeman?

Wishing he wasn't a baronet's brother

Wishing he wasn’t a baronet’s brother

He is, although not in the same way that Fox is.  In Ngaio Marsh’s books, Fox usually goes to glean information from the “below stairs” staff (Alleyn mentions his ability to charm female staff several times) while Alleyn deals with “above stairs”.  In the series, they both talk to just about everyone, although Alleyn makes better headway with aristocratic suspects because they’re more likely to talk to him than the middle-class Fox.  But Alleyn himself seems to be nearly without snobbery.  In fact, he’s highly embarrassed any time his brother’s title gets mentioned.  BUT…  all of this being said, Alleyn is highly experienced at reading all kinds of people, and knowing when they’re trying to hide something from him.

How Does He Unwind?

Relaxing in the sun with Troy

Relaxing in the sun with Troy

Unfortunately, murders always seem to happen just as Alleyn is about to go off on vacation, or else they happen while he’s on vacation, coincidentally in the very same spot.  But he does seem to enjoy traveling (especially with Troy), and going by the fact he had waders with him in “Dead Water“, he might’ve been preparing for a spot of fishing.   We also see him enjoying a nice massage and sauna in “Death at the Bar“.  So it’s not that Alleyn doesn’t know how to unwind, just that he frequently gets interrupted.

What Does He Have for Tea?

Hashing out clues with Fox at the pub.<br>Note teacup versus pint.

Hashing out clues with Fox at the pub.
Note teacup versus pint.

Alleyn and Fox seem to frequent a lot of pubs when they’re out on the job, so I suspect Alleyn has a liking for pub fare – I’d guess probably the classics like fish and chips or shepherd’s pie and the like.  While Alleyn is equally at home donning black tie for a fancy dinner (or white tie for an even fancier one), it certainly seems like he enjoys hanging out with Fox and Bailey and/or Troy more than any of his aristocratic acquaintances.  After eating a dainty, fancy dinner, he probably stops somewhere for fish and chips afterwards.

Assistant Commissioner Henry
(“The Secret Agent“, 1994)

Style of Copper:

Assistant Commissioner Henry in his natural environment.

Assistant Commissioner Henry in his natural environment.

Assistant Commissioner Henry (no first name given, alas) is another Gentleman Detective, rather like Alleyn, although we get the impression he had an interesting career while he was in Africa.  But like Alleyn, he’s very modest and unassuming about himself.  He’s not the type to attract a lot of attention, but he is the type to think things through very thoroughly.  He won’t act until he’s made up his mind – but once he does, he doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty investigating things for himself.

What Is His Average Day Like?

Hobnobbing with the nobs in white tie

Hobnobbing with the nobs in white tie

Oh, you know…  dealing with the Home Secretary, tracking anarchists, dealing with international espionage from Russian embassy officials, thwarting attempts to destabilize the British government… the usual thing.  He also has to deal with the occasional remorsefully tearful anarchist, extracting a confession from them before he can head to a society party at the behest of his wife, Annie (Fiona Mollison).  Henry has married up in the world, but he seems pretty adept at moving in Annie’s social circles.  If anything, she’s a bit resentful that he’s more interested in work than he is in being with her – which is understandable, since they’re newlyweds.

Who Is His Watson?

Discussing anarchists with Chief Inspector Heat

Discussing anarchists with Chief Inspector Heat

Inasmuch as Henry has a Watson at all, that would be Chief Inspector Heat (Warren Clarke).  Heat is a much rougher, working class sort who has come up through the ranks and doesn’t appear to have much use for toffs like Henry.   We also get the impression that Heat could be rather bent if he thought it was convenient; Henry is so new on the job that he doesn’t yet command Heat’s loyalty or his respect.   Henry has to work hard to dissuade Heat from going after a suspect merely because he killed a policeman (or was involved in killing a policeman somehow)  decades earlier.  Henry prefers to follow the evidence rather than following the “old boys’ code” to solve the crime.  So… Heat might be Henry’s Watson, but they certainly don’t trust each other very much and it’s a reluctant partnership.

Is He a People Policeman?

Comforting a tearful anarchist

Comforting a tearful anarchist

As an Assistant Commissioner, Henry is dealing with higher profile cases and answering to higher levels of superior officers than your usual constable.  Nonetheless, we do get some hints that Henry can be a remarkably good people policeman.  He’s gentle and very sympathetic to Verloc (David Suchet) while extracting information about who’s directing anarchist activity in London; he even offers his handkerchief to Verloc when the latter becomes overwrought and tearful.  Henry’s manner is more like a parent dealing with a child who’s made a huge mistake rather than a dangerous anarchist.  Actually, he realizes Verloc is far out of his depth in today’s world, and he seems more sorry for him than anything else.

How Does He Unwind?

He's a workaholic, much to his wife's disappointment

He’s a workaholic, much to his wife’s disappointment

We don’t see too much of Henry unwinding, but one suspects he’d probably end up going to a lot of concerts and/or parties at Margaret, the Duchess of Chester’s (Janet Suzman) place, at the behest of his wife.  He’s well-bred enough that he could fake being interested for a few hours, but I suspect he’d probably be much happier at home, in front of his own fire sipping whisky, on those rare evenings when he didn’t have to work late.  Annie and Agatha Troy have it in common that they find it difficult to pry their husbands away from their work.

What Does He Have for Tea?

Nothing like a cuppa after thwarting international espionage

Nothing like a cuppa after thwarting international espionage

Henry has probably become used to having very fancy high teas since he married Annie, with little cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off and dainty little pastries.   But I suspect he’d probably prefer some good, hearty scones with clotted cream and jam, along with some piping hot tea (no cream), or maybe a slice of pie or cream cake.  Like Chisholm, I get the feeling Henry probably burns up his carbs pretty quickly.  He likely couldn’t get scones like that in Africa, either.

Honorable Mention: Berkshire Sarge
(“Armchair Theatre” “Dying Day”, 1982)

“There’s no conversation on it. It’s been torn from a commercially produced cassette entitled, ‘Mantovani Swings: An Easy Beat Arrangement of Musical Memories from the Thirties’.”

DS Chisholm and DC Mellish must have country cousins.

Admin:  We don’t know much about this fellow other than he absolutely dreads seeing Mr. Skipling’s desperately earnest face each day.  I love his attractive Berkshire accent, broad sideburns, and dry sense of humour.  He certainly has to have something of a sense of humour to deal with Mr. Skipling, who is the world’s worst witness, on a regular basis.  About the only thing I can ascertain is that he is a pretty good “people policeman” when it comes to dealing with (what seems to him) an obvious nutter.  He is fairly patient (although his patience is strained to a breaking point) and really wishes Mr. Skipling would seek psychiatric help.  But, “Dying Day” isn’t going to be one of those stories that ends happily, so whatever skills Berkshire Sarge may have in dealing with the awkward public will ultimately be of no use whatsoever.  One can just hope he was able to go home to a cozy cottage and forget that Mr. Skipling ever existed.  He’s far too appealing to have to worry about the likes of Milquetoast Gandalf you know.

He puts up with a lot in the course of his day.

He puts up with a lot in the course of his day.

RF:  The Berkshire Sergeant is remarkably patient and forebearing, given all he has to put up with, but that doesn’t stop him from having some of the best sarcastic dialogue ever.  Even though he thinks Mr. Skipling is a nutter (and he doesn’t hesitate to say it), he nonetheless investigates Skipling’s claims thoroughly; it’s just unfortunate for Skipling that everything seems to confirm that he is a nutter.  We get the impression that the Berkshire Sarge has seen it all in the course of his career and tells some great stories over a pint or two down at his local.

And the Top Guv Is?

Chisholm putting those people skills to work.

Admin: Well, they are all top cops as far as I’m concerned, but if pressed to choose, I’d go for D.S. Chisholm.  Cheerful Charlie never fails to entertain, is constantly stealing every single scene he is in, and is just an all around delightful character.   Anytime I watch him, I always find myself wondering about what he does when he isn’t on the beat.  When you find yourself wondering about what a character does beyond his or her allotted screentime, you are clearly dealing with a genuinely interesting and well played character.  And do I ever wonder about Chisholm.  Yep, he’s the cop for me.

RF's choice: the one and only Alleyn

RF’s choice: the one and only Alleyn

RF:  Agreed that they’re all top cops and it’s a tough choice.  Chisholm has that quality of his appearance screaming “*COP*!!”  just when you look at him from across the room (or street), even when he’s not currently engaged in work, and it certainly would be fascinating to find out more about his personal life – like, if he has one.  😉  But I’m going to have to go with… Alleyn.  For sheer style, panache, warmth, humour, and the fact he’s such a vast improvement on the Alleyn of Ngaio Marsh’s books, he’s the top cop for me.   Add in the touch of romance in his relationship with Troy and his wonderful partnership with Fox, and that just seals the deal.

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