Ultimate Force

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This article is about the British television series. For the Action film with the same title, see Ultimate Force (film).
Ultimate Force
Ultimate Force.jpg
Ultimate Force
Format Action, Drama
Created by Rob Heyland
Chris Ryan
Starring Ross Kemp
Tony Curran
Jamie Draven
Alex Reid
Miles Anderson
Christopher Fox
Sam Callis
Heather Peace
Theme music composer Rick Wentworth
Composer(s) Rick Wentworth
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 4
No. of episodes 21
Production
Producer(s) Ian Strachan
Running time Season 1
1 x 74 minutes
5 x 48 minutes
Season 2
6 x 48 minutes
Season 3
4 x 70 minutes
Season 4
1 x 94 minutes
4 x 70 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel ITV, STV, UTV
Original run 16 September 2002 (2002-09-16) – 1 June 2008 (2008-06-01)

Ultimate Force is a British television drama series that was shown on ITV, which deals with the activities of the fictional Red Troop of the SAS (Special Air Service). The programme started on 16 September 2002 and four series were produced.

Background[edit]

It was co-created by Chris Ryan, a former British SAS soldier who was a member of the famous Bravo Two Zero patrol during the 1991 Gulf War,[1] with the show produced by Bentley Productions.[2] As well as his behind the scenes role, Ryan appeared as a SAS soldier in the first series of the show playing Blue Troop leader Johnny Bell.

The show features British television star Ross Kemp as its central character, the hard-boiled Staff Sergeant Henry 'Henno' Garvie.[1] The show was a star vehicle for Kemp, who had been lured away from the BBC to ITV with a multi-million pound contract.[3] Kemp appeared in every episode of the four series.

Domestically, the change of format seemed to produce diminishing returns for ITV; series three was abruptly taken off air by the network midway through the run, only to return a few weeks later. The show was then moved to Saturday night[4] at 9 pm. A similar fate awaited series four, which was pulled after just two episodes. The three remaining episodes of series 4 were not originally shown on ITV, but shown on ITV4, in January and February 2007. The main ITV network showed the remaining three episodes of the series over a year later, starting on 18 May 2008 at 9pm, and finishing on 1 June 2008. A DVD of the fourth series was released on 25 September 2006 in the UK.

ITV then announced there would not be a fifth series, partially due to low ratings - hence the cutting of series three and four midway through their runs - whilst many of the stars moved onto other projects. Ross Kemp went on to host a series of documentaries following the progress of British Army troops in Afghanistan, whilst both Sam Callis and Christopher Fox joined ITV's police serial drama The Bill.

Cast[edit]

Season 1 cast of Ultimate Force. From left to right: Sergeant Pete Twamley, Corporal Ricky Mann, Corporal Jamie Dow, Staff Sergeant Henry "Henno" Garvie, Corporal Alex Leonard and Corporal Jem Poynton.

Only two characters survived all four series of the program: Staff Sergeant Garvie and Colonel Dempsey. Garvie is the only character to appear in every episode. After this, the third longest running character is Corporal Louis Hoffman, who first appears in Series 1 Ep 3 passing the selection course. He then became a main member of Red Troop from the start of Series 2 onwards. In series 1 and 2 the core of the cast remained relatively stable, with only a small number of changes. However between Series 2 and 3, a major change in the cast occurred. Of the main 6 members of Red Troop at the end of Series 2, only Garvie and Hoffman returned for Series 3. Jamie Dow, Pete Twamley and Ricky Mann are all killed off at the start of Series 3. Disguised body doubles are used for the death scenes, as the actors did not return for the series. Captain Caroline Walshe also does not return for Series 3, with Dempsey saying he reassigned her after the deaths. This meant an influx of new characters at the start of Series 3, which again remains largely stable for the reminder of the shows run. A large number of plotlines were left unanswered, most notably, the killing of Macalwain by Henno, the conflict in the Twamley's marriage, and the murder of Jamie's step dad, hinted to as killed by Ricky Mann.

Main Red Troop members[edit]

Character Actor Appearances Notes
Staff Sergeant Henry 'Henno' Garvie Ross Kemp Series 1-4 Red Troop SNCO and the only character to appear in all episodes
Corporal Louis Hoffman Christopher Fox Series 1 Ep 3, Series 2 - 4 Passes S.A.S selection in Series 1 Ep 3. Becomes main character from Series 2 onwards
Corporal Jamie Dow Jamie Draven Series 1 - 2 K.I.A at the start of Series 3 Ep 1. Actor does not return for Series 3, a body double was used for the death scene
Sergeant Pete Twamley Tony Curran Series 1 - 2 K.I.A at the start of Series 3 Ep 1. Actor does not return for Series 3, a body double was used for the death scene
Corporal Ricky Mann Danny Sapani Series 1 - 2 K.I.A at the start of Series 3 Ep 1. Actor does not return for Series 3, a body double was used for the death scene
Trooper Becca Gallagher Heather Peace Series 3 - 4 Passes S.A.S selection in Series 3 Ep 1, joins Red Troop for the remainder of the show
Corporal Dave Woolston Louis Decosta Johnson Series 3 - 4 Joins Red troop in Series 3 Ep 1 for the remainder of the show
Corporal Jem Poynton Elliot Cowan Series 1 - Series 2 Ep 1 K.I.A in a shoot out with French special forces in Series 2 Ep 1
Corporal Alex Leonard Sendhil Ramamurthy Series 1 Leaves the army at the end of Series 1, partly due to the death of his brother in Ep 1
Corporal Ed Dwyer Liam Garrigan Series 3 Passes S.A.S selection in Series 3 Ep 1 and joins Red Troop. K.I.A between Series 3 and 4 in unknown incident, buried at the start of Series 4
Corporal Finn Younger Jamie Michie Series 4 Joins Red Troop at the start of Series 4

Officers[edit]

Character Actor Appearances Notes
Colonel Aidan Dempsey Miles Anderson Series 1-4 Commanding Officer of 22 Regiment. Only character other than Garvie and Hoffman to appear in all 4 Series
Captain Caroline Walshe Alex Reid Series 1 - 2 Character does not return for Series 3, reassigned by Dempsey
Captain Dotsy Doheny Jamie Bamber Series 1 - Series 2 Ep 2 Resigns to take the fall for the incident with French special forces in Series 2 Ep 1
Captain Ian Macalwain Richard Armitage Series 2 Ep 2 - Series 2 Ep 6 Replacement Red Troop Commander. Killed by Garvie at the end of Series 2
Captain Patrick Fleming Sam Callis Series 4 Red Troop Commander in Series 4

MI5 attache[edit]

Character Actor Appearances Notes
Box 500 Tobias Menzies Series 1 Character does not return for Series 2, replaced by Pru Banks
Pru Banks Lucy Akhurst Series 2 Character does not return for Series 3, replaced by Kathy Crampton
Kathy Crampton Hannah Yelland Series 3 Character does not return for Series 4, no replacement

Other appearances[edit]

Character Actor Appearances Notes
Staff Sergeant Johnny Bell Chris Ryan Series 1 Guest appearances by show's co-creator as Blue Troop SNCO
Sergeant Sean Smith Derek Horne Series 2 - 3 Blue Troop SNCO in Series 2 Ep 5 and Series 3
Trooper Sam Leonard Anthony Howell Series 1 Ep 1 Red Troop member K.I.A in the first episode
Corporal Mick Sharp Laurence Fox Series 1 Eps 3 & 6 Passes selection course in Series 1 Ep 3, then joins Red Troop for one mission in Series 1 Ep 6
Laura Twamley Jackie Morrison Series 1 - 2 Long suffering wife of Pete Twamley

Cast evolution by series[edit]

Series 1 Series 2 Series 3 Series 4
Red Troop Henno Garvie Henno Garvie Henno Garvie Henno Garvie
Pete Twamley Pete Twamley Louis Hoffman Dave Woolston
Ricky Mann Ricky Mann Dave Woolston Louis Hoffman
Jamie Dow Jamie Dow Becca Gallagher Becca Gallagher
Caroline Walshe Caroline Walshe Ed Dwyer Finn Younger
Jem Poynton Louis Hoffman
Alex Leonard Jem Poynton (Ep 1 only)
Sam Leonard (Ep 1 Only)
Mick Sharpe (Ep 3, And 6 only)
Commanding Officer Dotsy Doheny Dotsy Doheny (Eps 1-2) Patrick Fleming
Ian Macalwain (Eps 2-6)
Regiment Commander Aidan Dempsey Aidan Dempsey Aidan Dempsey Aidan Dempsey
MI5 Attache Box 500 Pru Banks Kathy Crampton

Episodes list[edit]

Series 1 (2002)[edit]

# # Title Directed by Written by UK Viewers
(millions)[5]
Original airdate
1 1 "The Killing House" Diarmuid Lawrence Rob Heyland 6.36 16 September 2002 (2002-09-16)
Lives are in danger when Red Troop is called in to take command of a bank siege. It is at this point that unfortunately Red Troop loses Corporal Sam Leonard, Alex's brother, shot in the leg by one of the X-Rays. Sam was a man down, shot in a corridor, but having had it drilled into him by Henno, Jamie leaves Sam to die and carries on and finishes the job. Alex can't come to terms with it and it begins the friction between new recruits Alex and Jamie - But who will last the distance?
2 2 "Just a Target" Tom Clegg Rob Heyland 5.79 18 September 2002 (2002-09-18)
The SAS are scrambled to uncover an anti-globalist sniper suspected of carrying out an assassination attempt on a prominent European banker. Jamie is considered the man for the job and sent in to the thick of the action. Jamie is deeply embroiled with the enemy as he covertly infiltrates them and offers his services as a crack shot. They're happy as they have a fantastic man to see through their masterplan, but will Jamie blow his cover or actually assassinate the man?
3 3 "Natural Selection" Tom Clegg Rob Heyland 6.59 25 September 2002 (2002-09-25)
Ten hopeful SAS recruits face their toughest challenge yet, a three-day combat survival course. When two soldiers are found murdered, the hunt is on for the killer. This episode also sees the introduction of Corporal Louis Hoffman, the third longest serving character after Henno and Dempsey.
4 4 "Breakout" Tom Clegg Rob Heyland & Julian Jones 6.75 2 October 2002 (2002-10-02)
Red Troop is called to a pharmaceutical laboratory after three Chechens break into an area where scientists are working on a vaccine for a deadly form of anthrax.
5 5 "The Killing of a One-Eyed Bookie" Tim Leandro Len Collin 6.51 9 October 2002 (2002-10-09)
Jamie, while impersonating politician Bill Gracey, is dramatically ambushed and kidnapped by terrorists in Northern Ireland. Against orders, Henno and Pete ensue chase.
6 6 "Something to Do with Justice" Tim Leandro Rob Heyland 4.90 12 October 2002 (2002-10-12)
Henno and Twamley are kicked out of the regiment for disobedience. Under Johnny Bell's (Chris Ryan) command, the others are sent on a classified mission to Bosnia to 'lift' wily war criminal Glasnovic who has many doubles (like Saddam Hussein), the only problem being that Glasnovic's henchmen are being trained by the newly discharged Henno and Pete.

Series 2 (2003)[edit]

# # Title Directed by Written by UK Viewers
(millions)[5]
Original airdate
7 1 "Communication" Tom Clegg Rob Heyland 6.43 18 June 2003 (2003-06-18)
A ship docks at Southampton with a suspicious crew. Jamie and Henno sneak on board to plant a tracker, but the operation goes wrong and they are forced to kill a man with Caroline caught in the cross fire while making their escape. To make matters worse it later becomes known to Red Troop that the very well armed members aboard the ship were French Special forces.
8 2 "Mad Dogs" Tom Clegg Rob Heyland 6.13 25 June 2003 (2003-06-25)
The firefight against French Special Forces aboard the Dowager Joan has left Jem dead and Caroline in a coma, while the rest of Red Troop face a full judicial inquiry that could land them in jail. The only way out is for one of them to resign - alas Captain Dotsy Doheny does the honourable thing and resigns, as he was the commanding officer on the day.
9 3 "Wannabes" Tim Leandro Len Collin 6.15 2 July 2003 (2003-07-02)
Red Troop targets a hard-right group of suicide bombers who are responsible for blowing up a nightclub and a café. The leader of the group is a sinister racist man who is taught a painful lesson by Pete Twamley, with Ricky in tow. The main manipulator with the group who coerces the suicide bombers is an attractive school teacher, who uses her feminine charms to lure the male students she teaches into her trap.
10 4 "The List" Jeremy Webb Len Collin 5.89 9 July 2003 (2003-07-09)
An unofficial black bag heist is offered to Red Troop to steal a list of terrorist targets from a virtually impenetrable vault. If they are caught, the SAS will disown them. Red Troop wonder how to do it, and there is one simple answer, to intercept a safe cracker during the midst of a burglary and blackmail him into assisting them to break in one of the most secure vaults in the UK.
11 5 "What in the Name of God" Tom Clegg Rob Heyland 16 July 2003 (2003-07-16)
Red Troop is called to a siege at a religious commune where Gulf War veteran Omega (Conor Mullen) is holed up with his disciples after shooting dead two police officers.
12 6 "Dead is Forever" Tom Clegg Rob Heyland 6.63 23 July 2003 (2003-07-23)
The SAS face losing their leader when Dempsey is taken captive while protecting the Overseas Development Minister in a Top Secret visit to Tbilisi, Georgia.

Series 3 (2005)[edit]

# # Title Directed by Written by UK Viewers
(millions)[5]
Original airdate
13 1 "Deadlier Than the Male" Richard Holthouse Rob Heyland 5.34 8 January 2005 (2005-01-08)
Red Troop are propelled from a tragic shootout in Iraq to a plane hijack in London, as terrorists fighting for a free Tibet threaten to blow up a passenger flight to Hong Kong. The opening dramatic scene sees the deaths of Corporal Jamie Dow, who had "half his face ripped off". Corporal Ricky Mann who had "fourteen rounds in his back and he didn't see where they were coming from" and Sergeant Pete Twamley who they put "sandbags in his coffin because there wasn't enough to fill a mess tin". Captain Caroline Walshe and Pru Banks also leave the show, apparently dropped from Red Troop by Dempsey. Back at Hereford the selection process is coming to an end, and new recruits are desperately needed as Red Troop is depleting in numbers. The new group of recruits are a very promising crowd, however to Dempsey's disgust, one of them is a woman (current policy in reality is that women are not allowed in the SAS). Becca aims to be the first woman to pass selection. When the terrorists ask for a female pilot, Henno decides to put the wannabe trooper in the front line.
14 2 "Never Go Back" Richard Holthouse Rob Heyland 5.33 15 January 2005 (2005-01-15)
Red Troop is caught in a vicious confrontation between rival forces in Zimbabwe during an unofficial visit to a farm owned by Dempsey's cousins Alex and Sarah Du Preez. Henno and the team face overwhelming odds when brutal leader Colonel Gagmandawe and his soldiers surround the farm. Their only escape is through a crocodile-infested river but the battle is far from over.
15 3 "The Class of 1980" Tim Leandro Len Collin 5.17 22 January 2005 (2005-01-22)
Henno comes face to face with Al-Qaeda when terrorists seize the Italian Consulate. The notorious Al Djouf threatens to blow up a truck using his mobile phone, unless all prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay are released. The SAS attacks and mobile networks are shut down, but Al Djouf has friends on both sides and the clock is ticking towards an explosion in the capital.
16 4 "Weapon of Choice" Tom Clegg Len Collin 4.37 7 May 2005 (2005-05-07)
The SAS is sent to Chechnya to find rebel leader Movzar Mazayev. Henno mistrusts Russian Special Forces agent Vasily who is assigned to help them. The soldiers close in on Movzar's fiery sister Sapiyat but intelligence officer Kathy is taken hostage. In this conflict where political ideals and personal tragedy overlap, can Red Troop bring down their targets and rescue Kathy?

Series 4 (2006 & 2008)[edit]

The fourth and final series of Ultimate Force started on Saturday 29 April 2006 on ITV1 although only the first two episodes were shown. Series 3 had been similarly affected by ITV scheduling. The R2 DVD set of Series 4 was released in the UK on 25 September 2006, making the last three episodes of this series available to viewers before their network premiere. The DVD cover bears a red sticker stating "DVD exclusive, three unseen episodes". The remaining three episodes were eventually shown on ITV4 in 2007 and then on ITV1 on Sundays, starting 18 May 2008 at 9pm.

# # Title Directed by Written by UK Viewers
(millions)[5]
Original airdate
17 1 "Changing of the Guard" Mark Roper Charlie Fletcher 4.08 29 April 2006 (2006-04-29)
With newly appointed Captain Fleming in place, Red Troop are dispatched to a former Soviet state in a race to save the kidnapped daughters of a British diplomat. As the rest of the troop track the armed rebels through dense forest, an injured Henno is left behind at base where he comes to suspect there is a mole amongst them...
18 2 "Charlie Bravo" 4.35 6 May 2006 (2006-05-06)
Red Troop fly to Colombia to train a hopeless contingent of local soldiers for an upcoming assault on a cocaine factory. Without warning, the mission is brought forward and Henno begins to suspect a hidden agenda. Will Red Troop be able to save this shambolic platoon from certain death?
19 3 "The Dividing Line" Laurence Moody Alan Whiting 3.82 18 May 2008 (2008-05-18)
Red Troop are drafted in with their American counterparts to apprehend an infamous Al-Qaeda terrorist in the White Mountains of Afghanistan. Tensions run high as the troops battle for control. Can they overcome their rivalry in time to stop the terrorist before he implements his co-ordinated attacks against the West? This episode features the Hunt for Hassan.
20 4 "Violent Solutions" Mark Roper Rob Heyland 3.80 25 May 2008 (2008-05-25)
Red Troop monitor a suspected weapons dealer Griffin who leads them into an armed stand-off with an East End drugs gang. When the gang hijack a tour bus, Becca places herself in the line of fire. Can Red Troop stop the hijackers before Becca's true identity is revealed?
21 5 "Slow Bomb" Laurence Moody Charlie Fletcher 4.03 1 June 2008 (2008-06-01)
When a routine security check on a nuclear power plant goes disastrously wrong, Red Troop find themselves hunting the mercenaries responsible for stealing a canister of radioactive Cobalt 90. As London is shut down, Red Troop race to stop the detonation of a dirty bomb and the certain devastation of the capital. With the seconds ticking away can Henno disarm the bomb and save the capital?

Sales & Distribution[edit]

Ultimate Force's DVD sales in Britain for 2005 have reached US$700,000 in terms of sales when the show's 2nd series was released, with both regular and limited edition sets at the TV Top 10 Charts.[2] Ultimate Force has also been aired in 120 countries, ranging from Europe to Southeast Asia.[6]

Broadcasters[edit]

Country TV Network(s) Series Premiere Weekly Schedule Alternate Title
United Kingdom United Kingdom ITV
CBS Action
Thursdays 9:00pm / Sundays 9:00pm
Argentina Argentina FX Wednesday 11:00pm
Sweden Sweden Viasat Crime Friday 9:00pm / Saturday 9:00pm
Dominican Republic Dominican Republic FX Wednesday 11:00pm
Australia Australia1, 3 Seven Network
Seven HD
BBC UKTV


Saturday 10:30pm
France France NT1
France 44
8 September 2005
1 July 2008
Thursday 8:00pm
Tuesday 8:00pm
Hungary Hungary Viasat 3 Terrorkommandó
Italy Italy AXN
7 Gold
6 February 2007
12 November 2008
Tuesday 09.00pm
Wednesday 11:15pm
Republic of Ireland Republic of Ireland TV3 Thursday 9:00pm
Japan Japan WOWOW S.A.S.: 英国特殊部隊2
New Zealand New Zealand TV ONE
Iceland Iceland Sjónvarpið Víkingasveitin
Poland Poland Tele 5 Komandosi
United States United States BBC America 25 September 2007 Tuesday 9:00pm
Serbia Serbia TV Avala 1 May 2010 Saturdays 2:15pm Krajnja sila
  • 1 Originally aired on the Nine Network, though sporadically. Only the first four episodes of Series 1 aired. The Seven Network then bought the rights to show Ultimate Force, but started at Series 2. Series 2 episodes were shown on the weekly schedule of Wednesday at 10:30pm.
  • 2 Title means "S.A.S.: British Special Forces".
  • 3 Also being aired on the UK.TV channel via Australian Pay TV networks.
  • 4 With slight changes in the episodes order, due to French TV regulation for youth protection: some episodes considered as too violent and can't be aired before 10:00pm. E.g. Series 3, Episode 2 has been aired in the middle of Series 1, at 10:45pm after two episodes of Series 1.

References[edit]

Diana Harris, Ultimate Force, Batsford Books 2002, ISBN 0-7134-8812-3 (2): SMH

  1. ^ a b Ultimate Force Introduction. Retrieved on 1 January 2008.
  2. ^ a b ALL3MEDIA International Press Release on 7 February 2005. Retrieved on 1 January 2008.
  3. ^ NO ENDER COMEBACK FOR ROSS. Retrieved on 1 January 2008.
  4. ^ SHELLEY: ITV'S DISASTER SHOULD BE NO SURPRISE. Retrieved on 1 January 2008.
  5. ^ a b c d "BARB's multichannel top 10 programmes". barb.co.uk. Retrieved 12 November 2009.  (select ITV1, and view the relevant weeks starting 6 Oct - 12 Oct 2008 to 5 Jan - 11 Jan 2009. No episode aired on 17 Nov - 23 Nov 2008)
  6. ^ ALL3Media International Press Release on September 2004. Retrieved on 1 January 2008.

External links[edit]