I was looking for a format which would offer more than standard TV drama police procedural. The ‘offer more’ part would be the view of a cop outsider from a different society background looking in on ours and his implicit commentaries on it as he went about his work. I knew there was one, one only, Chinese background detective in the Met. He was used mostly as a translator in London CID’s hands-off approach to the considerable Chinese Triad presence in Soho. The continuing background story to hang the series on was a version of the real happenings to a family of a girl I knew. She was from Liverpool and her father was Chinese. In brief, the father had gambled away his restaurant in a game of checkers. He had been paying a sum in ‘protection’ to a couple of local policemen. He went bust but the coppers still demanded their weekly envelope. What they did when the poor man couldn’t pay up was to raid his house and plant drugs in various rooms as they ‘searched’ it. The innocent father was sent to jail as a dealer. At this time my friend and her sisters were convent girls. ‘it destroyed our family completely’. I used the story as the act of the corrupt cop ‘Harley Milner’, and the final focus for Sergeant Ho’s investigation. On a recording of the last episode as he confronts his nemesis the actor David Yip can be seen in tears as he speaks. He knew he was describing an actual event that had ‘destroyed a family completely’.
Why did the Chinese Detective only last two short series? One, because the brilliant schedulers in the BBC put it on opposite the number one show on ITV, Shine on Harvey Moon. Two, because of a change at the top of BBC1. I can’t remember the name, but the job had two possible candidates – I think they were Baverstock and Wenham - and the powers-that-be were unhappy about both. So the new Head of BBC1 was a bloke – he didn’t last long in the job – whose claim to fame we were told was in arranging televised football matches. We were also told that he didn’t like the lower class ethnic content of the series, so off it came. By the usual coincidence there was at that very moment the BBC being accused of not using enough ethnic actors. The BBC cited the Chinese Detective in rebuttal.
The Chinese Detective is available on DVD - BBCDVD 2527.