New Tricks: Deep Swimmer

“It is a goodly life that you lead, friend; no doubt the best in the world, if only you are strong enough to lead it!”

Kenneth Grahame


I don’t think I can be bothered with New Tricks any more.

Deep Swimmer, the third episode in the latest series, sees UCOS investigating the death of an activist apparently killed by his own bomb. New evidence has resurfaced in the form of the usual typewritten note, this one announcing that the man’s death was murder not terrorism. This is just about believable until it transpires that the dead man was actually an undercover spy who may or may not have been killed by his spymasters for breaking his cover.

Oh please. I don’t believe this for a second. As one of the team notes later on, “This is Greenham Common, not the IRA.” It seems highly unlikely that the Special Branch would actually blow up an undercover officer on what appears to be a relatively low-risk case for being a bit indiscreet. It is not as if the security of nations depends on this guy.

Also, why is UCOS investigating this in the first place? Why? It’s not an unsolved murder. Special Branch knows what happened. Why don’t they just file it under the Official Secrets Act and tell everyone to move on? It all seems like a massive waste of police time, not to mention a waste of my time.

Not only is this a fundamentally unbelievable scenario, it’s also a badly thought through, deeply unoriginal story. Think of any spy story cliche you can and it’s here: the spy who goes native; the woman who unwittingly falls in love with the spy; the Other Spy who tries to talk the first spy out of whatever fantastically stupid plan he has come up with now; the spy who fakes his death. Then think of every Murder Mystery cliche you can, and they’ll all be here too: the suspect who makes a mysterious phone call just after the police leave, accompanied by some Bad Music; the garrulous sub-character who’s too free with information; the creepy stalker following the vulnerable woman; the endless infodumps. It’s very, very boring. The acting doesn’t help, either. There’s no-one genuinely engaging here, just recycled versions of old Murder Mystery archetypes.

It’s clear the scriptwriters have seriously run out of ideas when they’ve just shoved together a bunch of tropes from two already over-populated genres. While it’s okay to run out of ideas – there are, after all, only so many times you can recycle the same plot before it starts to get old – it’s not okay to keep a dead series running. Can we just stop with the New Tricks now, please. It’s not funny and it’s not engaging any more. Nor is it remotely mysterious.

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