|Created by||Troy Kennedy Martin
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||12|
|No. of episodes||803 + 1 un-broadcast|
|Running time||25 minutes & 45 minutes|
|Original run||2 January 1962 – 20 September 1978|
|Related shows||Softly, Softly
Softly, Softly: Taskforce
Barlow at Large/Barlow
Jack the Ripper
Z-Cars or Z Cars / / was a British television drama series centred on the work of mobile uniformed police in the fictional town of Newtown, based on Kirkby, Merseyside. Produced by the BBC, it debuted in January 1962 and ran until September 1978.
The series differed sharply from earlier police procedurals. With its less-usual Northern setting, it injected a new element of harsh realism into the image of the police, which some found unwelcome.
Z-Cars ran for a total of 803 episodes, of which less than half have survived. Regular stars included Stratford Johns (Detective Inspector Barlow), Frank Windsor (Det. Sgt Watt), James Ellis (Bert Lynch) and Brian Blessed ("Fancy" Smith). Barlow and Watt were later spun into a separate series Softly, Softly.
The name Z-Cars relates to an imaginary ‘Z’ Division of the local constabulary. The theme tune was based on a traditional Liverpool folk song, and was adopted by Everton Football Club as its official anthem.
Origin of the title
The title, contrary to popular belief, does not come from the cars used, as in Ford Zephyr and Ford Zodiac. In fact, the Zodiac was never used by British police, whereas the Zephyr was the standard patrol traffic car (not the same as "crime car") used by Lancashire and other police forces. The term comes from the radio call signs allocated by Lancashire Constabulary; Lancashire police divisions were lettered from north to the south, "A" Division (based in Ulverston) was the detached part of Lancashire at the time around Barrow-in-Furness, "B" Division was Lancaster, and so on. Letters further into the alphabet were in the south around the Manchester and Liverpool areas. The TV series took the non-existent signs Z-Victor 1 and Z-Victor 2.
Concept and principal characters
The stories revolve around pairs of officers patrolling that week. Riding on changing social attitudes and television, the social realism, with interesting stories, garnered popularity. It was initially less popular with real-life police, who disliked the sometimes unsympathetic characterisation of officers. Being set in the North of England helped give it a regional flavour when most BBC dramas were set in the south.
The one character present throughout the entire run was Bert Lynch, played by James Ellis (though John Phillips as Det. Chief Supt. Robins would reappear sporadically during the show's run – by the end of the series he had become Chief Constable). Other characters in the early days were Stratford Johns (Inspector Barlow), Frank Windsor (Det. Sgt Watt), Robert Keegan (Sgt Blackitt), Joseph Brady (PC "Jock" Weir) and Brian Blessed ("Fancy" Smith). Also in 1960s episodes as David Graham was Colin Welland later a screenwriter. Other British actors who played regular roles in the early years included Joss Ackland. Although he played no regular role in the series, future Monkee Davy Jones appeared in three episodes.[vague]
Z-Cars ran for 803 episodes.
The original run ended in 1965; Barlow, Watt and Blackitt were spun off into a new series Softly, Softly. It was revived in March 1967 with only James Ellis and Joseph Brady from the original show. The revival was produced by the serials department of the BBC in a twice-weekly soap opera format of 25-minute episodes. It ran until April 1971 (in colour from early 1970), then returned to a regular season pattern of 50-minute episodes for its final years.
The Z-Cars theme tune was arranged by Fritz Spiegl and Bridget Fry from the traditional Liverpool folk song "Johnny Todd". (Many sources credit Spiegl only, and some Fry only, but the end-of-programme credits listed them both.)
It was released on record in several versions in 1962. Johnny Keating's version (Piccadilly Records, 7N.35032) sold the best, reaching #8 on the Record Retailer chart and as high as #5 on some UK charts, whilst the Norrie Paramor Orchestra's version, on Columbia DB 4789, peaked at #33. A vocal version of the theme, using the original ballad's words, was released by cast member James Ellis on Philips Records; this missed the charts.
In a 2000 poll to find the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes of the 20th century conducted by the British Film Institute, Z-Cars was voted 63rd. It was also included in television critic Alison Graham's alphabetical list of 40 "all-time great" TV shows published in Radio Times in August 2003.
The song in Spiegl and Fry's arrangement is also used as the anthem for English football club Everton and is played at every home match as they walk onto the pitch at Goodison Park. It is also occasionally used by their local rivals Tranmere Rovers for their home games at Prenton Park stadium, on the other side of the Mersey. The tune is also used as the march-on anthem at Watford F.C. home games.
The spin-off, Softly, Softly focused on the regional crime squad, and ran until 1969, when it was again revised and became Softly, Softly: Taskforce, running until 1976. The character of Barlow (Stratford Johns) was one of the best-known figures in British television in the 1960s and 1970s, and was given several seasons of his own "solo" series, Barlow at Large (later just Barlow) between 1971–75. He also joined Watt (Frank Windsor) to re-investigate the Jack the Ripper murders for a six-part series in 1973. This led to another spin-off, Second Verdict in which Barlow and Watt looked into unsolved cases and unsafe convictions.
Frank Windsor made a final appearance as Watt in the last episode of Z-Cars, "Pressure", in September 1978, with Robins (John Phillips), the Detective Chief Superintendent from the original series who had risen to chief constable. Jeremy Kemp, Brian Blessed, Joseph Brady and Colin Welland also made guest appearances in the episode, but not as their original characters.
Z-Cars is incomplete in the archives. The period 1962–65 is reasonably well represented, though with big gaps. With the 1967–71 sixth series, when the programme was shown almost every week, material becomes more patchy. Of the 416 episodes made for this series, only 108 survive: a few episodes each from 1967, 1969, and 1970, but there are no surviving episodes at all from either 1968 or 1971. About forty percent of the approximately eight hundred total episodes are preserved.
The original series was one of the last British television dramas screened live regularly – already rare by the time the programme began in 1962, a preference of the series' producer David Rose. It was felt that going out live helped immediacy and pace, and episodes were still not pre-recorded as late as 1965, despite cameras appearing in shot. Most were videotaped for repeat, although the tapes were normally wiped. However, most episodes were telerecorded, resulting in the episodes surviving.
The telerecording of the first-ever episode was returned to writer Allan Prior in the 1980s by an engineer who had taken it home to preserve it because his children had enjoyed the programme and he could not bring himself to destroy it. Two episodes were returned in 2004 after turning up in a private collection. Colour episodes from the early 1970s are less likely to be recovered, as they were never telerecorded for export.
BBC Archive Treasure Hunt is currently seeking missing episodes. All episodes from the 1975–1978 period are preserved in the archives.
(1962–1965 & 1967–1978 / 12 Series / 803 episodes)
- DCI Charlie Barlow – Stratford Johns (1962–1965 / Series 1–5 / 126 episodes)
- DS John Watt – Frank Windsor (1962–1965, 1978 / Series 1–5, 12 / 130 episodes)
- PC "Jock" Weir – Joseph Brady (1962–1965, 1967-1968 / Series 1–6 / 165 episodes)
- PC/DC/Sgt./Insp. Bert Lynch – James Ellis (1962–1965, 1967–1978 / Series 1–12 / 565 episodes)
- PC "Fancy" Smith – Brian Blessed (1962–1965 / Series 1–5 / 113 episodes)
- PC Bob Steele – Jeremy Kemp (1962-1963 / Series 1–2 / 34 episodes)
- Sgt. Percy Twentyman – Leonard Williams (1962 / Series 1–2 / 30 episodes)
- PC Ian Sweet – Terence Edmond (1962–1964 / Series 1–3 / 78 episodes)
- DC Glyn Hicks – Michael Forrest (1962–1964 / Series 2–3 / 36 episodes)
- PC David Graham – Colin Welland (1962–1965, / Series 2–5 / 85 episodes)
- Sgt. Bob Blackitt – Robert Keegan (1962–1965 / Series 2–5 / 108 episodes)
- PC Ken Baker – Geoffrey Whitehead (1964–1965 / Series 4 / 29 episodes)
- PC Taylor – Marcus Hammond (1964-1965 / Series 4 / 20 episodes)
- Paula Poulton (BD Girl) – Sara Aimson (1965 / Series 4–5 / 23 episodes)
- PC Ray Walker - Donald Gee (1965 / Series 4–5 / 18 episodes)
- DI/DCI Sam Hudson – John Barrie (1967, 1968 / Series 6 / 32 episodes)
- DS Tom Stone – John Slater (1967-1974 / Series 6–9 / 431 episodes)
- PC Owen Culshaw – David Daker (1967–1968 / Series 6 / 82 episodes)
- PC Steve Tate – Sebastian Breaks (1967 / Series 6 / 34 episodes)
- PC Alec May – Stephen Yardley (1967–1968 / Series 6 / 68 episodes)
- WPC Parkin – Pauline Taylor (1967–1969 / Series 6 / 58 episodes)
- PC Bill Newcombe – Bernard Holley (1967–1971 / Series 6 / 292 episodes)
- BD Girl – Jennie Goossens (1967–1971 / Series 6–7 / 146 episodes)
- DI Todd – Joss Ackland (1967–1968 / Series 6 / 40 episodes)
- PC Jackson – John Wreford (1967–1968 / Series 6 / 32 episodes)
- DI Alan Witty – John Woodvine (1968–1969 / Series 6 / 62 episodes)
- PC Doug Roach – Ron Davies (1968–1969 / Series 6 / 60 episodes)
- PC Bruce Bannerman – Paul Angelis (1968–1969 / Series 6 / 128 episodes)
- PC/Sgt. Alec Quilley – Douglas Fielding (1969–1978 / Series 6–12 / 345 episodes)
- DI/Mr. Neil Goss – Derek Waring (1969–1973 / Series 6–8 / 226 episodes)
- PC/DC Joe Skinner – Ian Cullen (1969–1975 / Series 6–9 / 222 episodes)
- PC Reg Horrocks – Barry Lowe (1970–1975, 1977 / Series 6–9, 11 / 29 episodes)
- PC/Sgt. Bowman – John Swindells (1970–1973 / Series 6–7 / 40 episodes)
- DS Cecil Haggar – John Collin (1971–1976, 1978 / Series 6–7, 9–10,12 / 51 episodes)
- DC Dave Scatliff – Geoffrey Hayes (1971–1974 / Series 6–8 / 27 episodes)
- PC Shaun Covill – Jack Carr (1971–1972 / Series 6–7 / 39 episodes)
- PC Fred Render – Allan O'Keefe (1971–1978 / Series 6–12 / 65 episodes)
- DS/DI Terry Moffat – Ray Lonnen (1972–1977 / Series 7–11 / 25 episodes)
- DS Wilf Miller – Geoffrey Whitehead (1972–1975 / Series 6–9 / 22 episodes)
- DC Jim Braithwaite – David Jackson (1972–1978 / Series 7–12 / 22 episodes)
- Sgt. Gilbert Chubb – Paul Stewart (1974–1978 / Series 9–12 / 25 episodes)
- DC/DS Bernard Bowker - Brian Grellis (1974–1978 / Series 9–12 / 19 episodes)
- Dorothy White – Janey Steele (1962–1963 / Series 1–2 / 14 episodes)
- Frank Hawkins - Sgt/Insp Barnes (1962–63 / 20 episodes)
- John Phillips – DCS/ACC/Chief Con. Robins (1962–1965, 1967, 1969, 1973, 1978 / Series 1–4, 6–7, 12 / 14 episodes)
- Virginia Stride – Katy Hoskins (BD Girl) (1962–1964 / Series 1–3 / 18 episodes)
- Lynne Furlong - WPC Jenny Stacey (1962–1965 / Series 1–4 / 24 episodes)
- Ken Jones – DC Bob "Lofty" Smithers – Police Photographer (1962–64 / / Series 1-3 / 8 episodes)
- Dudley Foster – DI/Supt. Dunn (1962, 1964 / Series 1, 3 / 13 episodes)
- Leslie Sands – DCS Miller (1962–63, 1965, 1967, 1969 / Series 1–4, 6 / 12 episodes)
- Diane Aubrey - Sally Clarkson (BD Girl) (1962 / Series 1–2 / 24 episodes)
- James Cossins – Sgt. Michaelson (1962–1963 / Series 2 / 11 episodes)
- Hilary Martyn – Joan Longton (BD Girl) (1962–1963 / Series 2 / 13 episodes)
- Leonard Rossiter – DI Bamber (1963 / Series 2 / 8 episodes)
- Sidonie Bond – Betty Clayton (BD Girl) (1963 / Series 2 / 16 episodes)
- John Thaw – DC Elliot (1963 / Series 3 / 4 episodes)
- Kate Brown – Shirley Burscough (BD Girl) (1963 / Series 3 / 16 episodes)
- Kate Allitt – Pamela Earnshaw (BD Girl) (1964 / Series 3 / 12 episodes)
- Lynn Farleigh – Ann Fazakerley (BD Girl) (1964 / Series 3–4 / 17 episodes)
- Susan Jameson – WPC Nelson (1965,1975 / Series 4,9 / 6 episodes)
- Donald Webster – PC Foster (1965 / Series 4 / 8 episodes)
- Luanshya Greer – WPC Jane Shepherd (1967 / Series 6 / 6 episodes)
- Anjula Harman – BD Girl (1967, 1969 / Series 6 / 15 episodes)
- Christopher Coll – DC Kane (1967–1968 / Series 6 / 20 episodes)
- Doreen Aris – Betty Culshaw (1967–1968 / Series 6 / 8 episodes)
- George Sewell – DI Brogan (1967 / Series 6 / 6 episodes)
- Thelma Whiteley – Sally Stone (1967, 1969–1970 / Series 6 / 8 episodes)
- Victor Brooks – Sgt. Potter (1968–1969 / Series 6 / 10 episodes)
- William Dexter – D Supt. Oakley (1968–1971 / Series 6 / 6 episodes)
- John Livesey – PC Stack (1969 / Series 6 / 13 episodes)
- June Watson – WPC/WP Sgt. Lorna Cameron (1970, 1973–1975 / Series 6, 8–9 / 8 episodes)
- Jerome Willis – Supt./D Supt. Roy Richards (1971–1973 / Series 6–7 / 4 episodes)
- Stephanie Turner – WPC Anne Howarth (1971–1975 / Series 6–9 / 15 episodes)
- James Walsh – PC Lindsay (1971–1974 / Series 7–9 / 10 episodes)
- John Challis – Sgt. Frank Culshaw (1972–1975 / Series 7–9 / 13 episodes)
- Gary Watson – DI Fred Connor (1972–1974 / Series 7–8 / 11 episodes)
- Nicholas Smith – PC Jeff Yates (1972–1975 / Series 7–9 / 9 episodes)
- Kenton Moore – Insp./CI Logie (1972–1974 / Series 7–8 / 4 episodes)
- Tommy Boyle – DI Gerry Madden (1978 / Series 12 / 8 episodes)
- Victoria Plucknett – WPC Jane Beck (1978 / Series 12 / 3 episodes)
- Dennis Barker (25 March 2003). "Fritz Spiegl: Witty musical polymath and broadcaster". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
- Alison Graham, "Take the Big TV Challenge!" Radio Times (30 August–5 September 2003), 16–21. Citation on p. 21.
- "Everton's Origins: Z-Cars Theme". ToffeeWeb. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
- "Chairman on Z-Cars return". Watford Football Club. 23 April 2005. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
- Richard Down and Christopher Perry, The British Television Drama Research Guide, 1950–1997, with Full Archive Holdings, second revised edition (Bristol: Kaleidoscope Publishing, 1997): DZ1–DZ5. ISBN 1-900203-04-9.
- Z-Cars at the Internet Movie Database
- Encyclopedia of Television
- British Film Institute Screen Online
- BBC Treasure Hunt
- "Z Cars Missing Episodes". Archived from the original on 2012-07-29.[dead link]