the subject of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) is taken more seriously
and enthusiastically in the United States than in the United Kingdom. Ufologists
in the States tend to support the idea that the UFOs are visitors from
outer space, in the U.K. psychological and sociological explanations are
preferred for these sightings.
This is reflected by the way the media in these countries have represented UFOs and ufologists. In the States ufologists are played as hero investigators as in the case of Fox Mulder in The X-Files, or we even get real ufologists played by film stars (e.g. Richard Gere plays John Keel in The Mothman Prophecies; Francois Truffaut plays Jacques Vallee in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and in the same film you even get a glimpse of the late UFO investigator, Dr. Hynek).
This situation came to mind when viewing the 'Close Encounters' episode of A Touch of Frost (screened on ITV1 on March 3, 2003, at 9pm). The opening sequence has a young ufologist, Laurence Burrell, watching the night sky near Denton Quarry. Strange lights come towards him but they resolve into the headlights of a jeep. Men wearing motorbike helmets - giving them an alien appearance - get out of the vehicle and start wrecking and setting fire to the buildings and equipment in the quarry. In the chaos a quarry worker is hit and killed by an iron bar.
Laurence goes to the Denton police babbling about alien abductions, implants, CIA plots and Majestic 12. Not being a ufologist familiar with these topics Detective Inspector Frost laughs at him and ignores him. When the murdered man is found Laurence is promptly regarded as a prime suspect and locked up in the Denton police station cells.
Laurenceís parents reveal that heís autistic, so he is an expert on UFOs and astronomy, but he takes everything as literally true and has no social skills.
There is a sub-plot about newcomers getting their homes burgled, and an associated case of a missing boy. Through his powers of deduction, and not a little cunning, Frost finds the boy. It transpires that his Father, who works for a removals company, has made a profitable sideline tipping off the burglars.
Through the aid of a local journalist Frost discovers that the owner of the quarry is in dispute with a former business colleague. When the quarry owner is found dead in his wrecked car, Frostís dullard colleagues are led to believe itís an ordinary road accident. With his sharp little eyes Frost soon sees that the car was pushed off the road. His investigation leads to the jeep driven by the vandals at the beginning of the programme, and it becomes clear that Laurence was not responsible for the murder at the quarry.
In the meantime, Laurence escapes from his police cell and itís not long before heís plundering the explosives shed at the quarry. With this track record he should be a secret agent rather than a ufologist. Like any self-respecting villain he climbs to the top of a rickety tower. It is down to Frost to defuse this potentially explosive situation...
This episode recycles virtually every element of previous Touch of Frost episodes, Frost:
a. Talks someone out of a hostage situation.The only thing missing from this episode is a sub-plot where Frost falls in love with someone but is unable to sustain the relationship due to his police work that dominates his life.
The UFO angle is no more sensible than the holes in the rest of the story. For example, Laurence easily escapes the police station and as easily gets hold of the explosives, which makes you wonder if he had help from the aliens after all. Certainly aliens could have helped with this script.
Jason as Inspector Frost is a cross-between Dixon of Dock Green
and Columbo. Joe Joseph in The Times (4 March, 2003) describes
him as looking Ďsomething between a harassed school caretaker and the man
the mortgage company sends round to value your house before deciding how
much to lend you. Ď As Frost he might look like a shabby pensioner looking
for fag-ends in the gutter but Jason is always worth watching.
I would like to thank Linda Green who runs the highly recommended Theatre, Musicals and Actors Web for this list.
A Touch of
Jack Frost: David Jason
A profile of David Jason can be found at: Theatre, Musicals and Actors Web .
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