Woodentop (The Bill)

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Woodentop Title.jpg
Opening title card for Woodentop
Genre Police procedural
Created by Geoff McQueen
Starring Mark Wingett
Gary Olsen
Trudie Goodwin
Peter Dean
Robert Pugh
Colin Blumenau
Jon Croft
Gary Hailes
Colin McCormack
Chris Jenkinson
Richard Huw
Paul McKenzie
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 1
No. of episodes 1
Executive producer(s) Lloyd Shirley
Location(s) London, England
Running time 50 mins.
Original network ITV Network
Picture format 4:3
First shown in 16 August 1983 (1983-08-16)
Original release 16 August 1983 (1983-08-16)

"Woodentop" is an episode of the Thames Television series Storyboard, which includes a series of one-off plays on different themes. The episode was originally broadcast on 16 August 1983. Woodentop became the forerunner to long-running British police television series The Bill, which went on air 14 months later and continued for 26 years. The name woodentop is a colloquialism for beat policemen who traditionally wear helmets; the nickname is itself an allusion to the Children's TV series The Woodentops.


Jim Carver reports for duty at Sun Hill police station.
Jim Carver's first foot patrol, alongside June Ackland.

The episode documents PC Jim Carver's first day at Sun Hill Police Station, where he is partnered with experienced WPC June Ackland. It isn't specified how long Ackland has been at Sun Hill, but it appears to have been substantial even at this point as she is highly respected. The day is an eventful one; the pair's first assignment together leads them to discovering a decomposing woman's body in her bath. Later whilst on patrol Jim encounters a rude youngster (Gary Hailes) and influenced by comments made by older officers at the station decides to clip him round the ear. This action results in him receiving a reprimand at the station from Sergeant Wilding. Fortunately for Carver, the boy's father approves of his son's treatment, and thus no further action is taken. June Ackland and Dave Litten have been in an on-again off-again relationship, and whenever they cross paths both tend to go silent making other members of their relief uncomfortable. Sergeant Wilding advises Ackland to drop Litten, saying that she can do better. PC Reg Hollis is also mentioned in this episode. Whilst not appearing on screen, an attempt is made to contact him by radio. When he fails to answer the call, the officers in the station make the assumption that he has wandered out of radio range.[1]


Thames Television transmitted Woodentop as part of its Storyboard anthology series of one-off dramas.[2] It was written by Geoff McQueen, a writer who had genre experience after writing episodes of LWT's The Gentle Touch. Woodentop stood out from run of the mill police dramas of the time for a number of reasons including the use of hand-held cameras and natural lighting as well as the use of naturally sounding dialogue. The show created a realistic portrayal of modern-day policing, and there was nothing like it on television at the time, a fact which was actively exploited by the programme's makers.[3]

Inconsistencies with The Bill[edit]

"Woodentop" has an unusual place in the history of The Bill due to the original premise of this being a one-off play. After broadcast, Thames commissioned a further twelve episodes to be shown the following year, although only eleven were produced due to industrial action, under the name The Bill as the show had the potential to appeal to a mass audience. Although The Bill is clearly a continuation from this episode, the main series contradicts it in a number of ways. For instance, in Woodentop Litten has completed his secondment to CID [4] and is close to securing his place in the detective branch, whereas in The Bill he does not gain his CID secondment until halfway through Series One. In addition many central characters in "Woodentop" - such as Sergeant Wilding and Inspector Deeping - vanish between the pilot and the series. Deeping does gain one mention in Series One, in the episode "It's Not Such a Bad Job After All", where Ackland is informed that he is coming to meet her on the scene of a suicide - a later radio transmission, however, reports that Sgt. Bob Cryer is to meet her instead. Although Wilding is not mentioned following Woodentop, he shares several characteristics with Sgt. Cryer - including a position as the "father figure" of the Sun Hill relief, and an apparently tumultuous relationship with Roy Galloway, whom both Cryer and Wilding refer to as a "bloody superstar". In the first episode of Series One, "Funny Ol' Business - Cops and Robbers", Galloway and Cryer make apparent reference to the events of Woodentop in regards to Jim Carver. Galloway suggests that it is Cryer who requested the favour, further suggesting that Cryer and Wilding are in fact the one character, and that, like PC Taffy Morgan (later Taffy Edwards), Jack Wilding's name has merely been changed to Bob Cryer. There are also discrepancies with the naming of some of the characters. In the 2003 live episode of The Bill, made to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of broadcast, Carver and Ackland discuss events from the pilot, whereupon Carver incorrectly refers to the character of Taffy by the surname Morgan, a name that was dropped for the series proper in favour of "Edwards".[5] There are also mistakes made in some of the uniforms the cast wore during the episode, for example, in one scene, PC Dave Litten is on foot patrol with PC Jim Carver, and PC Litten's helmet has GR on the helmet badge where it should have had ER, the same that was on PC Carver's helmet. Also the tunics the male officers wore had buttoned down epaulettes, whereas they should have just had the insignia placed on the shoulder of the tunic as this is what the Metropolitan Police wore at the time. Only four of the cast of "Woodentop" would go on to be regulars in the main series of The Bill: Mark Wingett, Trudie Goodwin, Gary Olsen and Colin Blumenau, while a number of characters were re-cast, including Roy Galloway.[6]

Production team[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Introduction
  2. ^ Tibballs, Geoff (November 2003). The Bill: The Official History of Sun Hill (1 ed.). Carlton Books. ISBN 978-1-84442-667-6. 
  3. ^ http://www.offthetelly.co.uk/drama/cops.htm
  4. ^ "The Bill Season 1 Episode 7". OVGuide. OVGuide. Retrieved 16 June 2010. 
  5. ^ "Storyboard: Woodentop Episode Summary on TV.com". TV.com. TV.com. Retrieved 16 June 2010. 
  6. ^ Colin Blumenau
Preceded by
Notable storylines Succeeded by
Evacuation (1988)