Stark – NYPD Blue – tape 1615

First on this tape, it’s the first episode of Stark, the dramatisation of Ben Elton’s debut novel about environmental collapse and corporate greed.

Ben Elton plays CD, a wannabe activist and a typically farty Elton protagonist. Elton doesn’t write Mary Sues he writes Farty Bens.

Ben Elton

Deborra-Lee Furness plays Chrissie, an investigative reporter. She was brilliant in the Australian rape drama Shame. She’s investigating why a cabal of businessmen have gathered in California.

Deborah Lee Furness

Colin Friels plays Sly Morgan, an australian media magnate, clearly intended to be a young, attractive Rupert Murdoch. He’s been summoned to attend the meeting of business people.

Colin Friels

John Neville (last seen as Baron Munchausen only a few days ago) is DeQuincey, the head of the business cabal, who needs Morgan to buy up a large piece of land in the Australian Desert from the Aboriginal owners.

John Neville in Stark

Jacqueline McKenzie plays Rachel O’Donahue, who wants to do something but doesn’t really know what.

Jaqueline McKenzie

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 8th December 1993 – 21:25

In episode 2, Rachel and CD try to find out what’ going on at Bullen’s Creek, where Sly Morgan is supposedly building a leisure centre, but to which there are tankers driving carrying missile fuel. Rachel confronts Sly at his yacht, pushes him into the infected seawater, so naturally he spends the rest of the episode trying to find her again, because she’s apparently so irresistible.

Rachel and CD pick up a couple of hippies. Zimmerman is a former soldier, played by Derrick O’Connor.

Derrick O'Connor

Walter is played by Bill Wallis

Bill Wallis

Chrissie the reporter has her flat burned, and her informant murdered, then she’s sacked from the newspaper, so she travels to Australia to dig deeper into the story. But the Stark Conspirators are on to her. Luckily, when her plane arrives near Bullen’s Creek, CD and Zimmerman are there, watching the airport, and somehow Zimmerman can tell she’s on their side, so he tries to rescue her from the thugs detaining her, and they all get arrested.

The storytelling here is very woolly. It’s not much more than a collection of scenes, without a strong through line.

BBC Genome:BBC Two – 15th December 1993 – 21:25

Before the next episode there’s a trailer for The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb. Then a trailer for At Home with Vic & Bob.

Then, the concluding episode of Stark. Zimmerman escapes with Chrissie, but leaves CD and Walter locked up. Rachel gets a job at Sly Morgan’s construction site, which is useful because he’s looking for her. When she finally confronts him, he tells her the whole thing – the Stark Conspiracy is to set up a new community on the moon, because the Earth is dying. And he wants to take her with him.

But Morgan hasn’t been told the whole truth, and doesn’t know about the thousands of container ships carrying toxic waste. When he learns the full extent of the conspiracy, he suddenly has a change of heart.

This isn’t a particularly good serial. I don’t think it was wise to cast Ben Elton – he’s not a comfortable actor, and his stand-up persona is too familiar for him to be convincing. Jacqueline McKenzie does her best with a part that doesn’t seem to want her to do much more than look good in a tight dress, and have the male cast fall in love with her. The best actor here, aside from John Neville’s serpentine, practically moustache-twirling villain turn, is Derrick O’Connor, much more often cast as the evil heavy, his performance here as the chilled-out action man Zimmerman is the best thing about the show, and it makes me wish he was cast as a hero more often.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 22nd December 1993 – 21:25

After this, there’s a strange short performance of a magic trick by John Lenahan, not related to any programme as far as I can see.

Then recording switches and there’s the end of Survival.

Then, ‘New to Channel 4’ it’s NYPD Blue.

I’ve said before that I never got into this show, but I’ll watch the first episode, just in case it hookes me. It’s a good start, as it features the great Daniel Benzali, A Bochco alumni from the first series of Murder One.

Daniel Benzali

Also appearing, after his appearance a few days ago in LA Law, is David Schwimmer.

David Schwimmer

And the plot of this episode has Dennis Franz trying to put away a local gangster, who’s played by the actor who played Dennis Franz’s brother in Die Hard 2.

Robert Costanzo

Franz gets shot about six times by this gangster, so I guess he won’t be appearing in the rest of the series.

In this episode, both male leads get a sex scene. And, oddly, both their sexual partners are colluding in their potential murder.

After this, there’s Short Stories: Readers’ Wives. A documentary about the couples who submit pictures to the Readers’ Wives sections of porno magazines.

The tape ends during this programme.


  • trail: Time Team
  • trail: Cutting Edge
  • Sinutab
  • Bird’s Eye Southern Fried Chicken
  • Nissan
  • trail: Home Improvement/Roseanne
  • trail: One Man’s War
  • Mail on Sunday
  • Bird’s Eye Healthy Options
  • Kellogg’s Corn Flakes
  • Radio Times
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Citroen AX
  • Toyota
  • Time Out chocolate bar
  • News of the World
  • Turkey
  • The Leeds
  • trail: Undercover Britain/Karachi Kops
  • trail: Time Team
  • Peugeot 106
  • RAC
  • News of the World
  • trail: Roseanne/Home Improvement
  • trail: Walk on the Wild Side


  1. The Ben Elton novels I’ve read are more soapboxing than actual stories; this doesn’t come off on in print or film.

    “Shame” was remade for US cable TV – for Lifetime (!) with Amanda Donohoe in the Deborra-Lee Furness role. I’ve seen both the original and the remake. As it was for Lifetime in the 1990s rather for HBO or Showtime, it’s softened a bit ***SPOILER*** the ending’s a bit less open in the Lifetime version, but the initial rape victim still get killed in the climax.

  2. Ben Elton neglected to credit the celebrated spoof documentary Alternative 3 from the 70s which is basically where the whole “rich move off the doomed planet Earth” idea came from.

  3. Stark’s certainly painted in very broad strokes, but it always struck me as a neat little serial distinguished by fine performances from Neville, Friels, Wallis and Mackenzie, and some beautifully offbeat direction by Nadia Tass. And BTW – for this teenager, yes, Mackenzie was indeed irresistible!

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