A TOUCH OF FROST — THE COMPLETE SERIES — SERIES 1–15
This is a classic in many ways that has lasted some seventeen years. And the classic has become a cult in a way. When we think of police series in Great Britain, we think of Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, and William Frost. If you want to just enjoy any British detective story you have to know those classics I have just quoted and “A Touch of Frost” is at the top of the list ex aequo with the others. It’s a tie that enables you to enter other criminal worlds, other police styles, and enjoy the differences, the progress, the transcending improvement at times, and you may also shed one or two tears when you think the cult-classics were better on this or that detail.
The series has a few particular characteristics. The first one being that episodes are long, and some cases might run over two episodes. Those episodes, or those cases, are real police work, hence not only one crime and one investigation, but several crimes and several investigations at the same time and some episodes manage to bring together two or three crimes together, to find a subtle though criminal connection.
The second characteristic is that the private life of only William Frost is mixed up in these crimes in these episodes. The private life of other cops is practically absent. That makes every episode a slice of William-Frost-aka-Jack-because-Jack-Frost’s real life. Even the private life of the criminals and the people around them, witnesses, accomplices, family relatives, even friends are kept within discretion and just the scrutiny needed for the investigation.
That’s where the last case, in two episodes, is different since it launches William Frost into retirement but in such a way that the last scene is a police scene. It is the farewell of William Frost to his constant associate George who lies peacefully in his casket waiting for his funeral. This is in fact not even connected to any criminal case at stake in the episode but to a private episode in William Frost’s personal life, or what his life is going to be after his retirement. That is very sad and maybe poignant in a way since instead of a wedding we get a funeral.
The cases in Denton are set in a real setting, in a real city and they deal with real people confronted to real life, the difficulties any life contains, the difficulties the world at large projects into any local situation with immigrants, at times refugees, wars of many sorts in the distance like the Falklands, and that’s what makes this series interesting. We can see over these seventeen years the future taking form. Of course, the producers did not know that they were showing what was going to cause the main crisis in modern British history that was to happen in 2016. But it is present all the way, from beginning to end. The squalid, at times extremely unjust, unequal and unfair situations that were building up some resentment against circumstances that could not be rejected or avoided were so obvious that we could feel the steam coming up, and yet no matter what happens we cannot go back, we cannot reinstate fox hunting, we cannot reinstate dog fights, we cannot do what used to be done thirty-five years ago and stop the Eurostar.
I just wonder if at times there is not such nostalgia in some episodes, some older characters, nostalgia for the time there were no computers and everything was committed to one’s memory and to the files that were filed up in filing boxes in the archive room, with a watchdog there that knew exactly were the files of any case of the last twenty-five years or so were. And yet computers arrived, digitalization arrived just the same way as women also arrived with their way of doing things that was so strange at times for William Frost, aka Jack.
If you really watch these episodes like that you will maybe even be nostalgic in your turn and not homesick really but past-sick, and there is nothing wrong about it, except if this nostalgia for the past becomes the ruling principle for the future. William Frost is a real artist as for that: he can regret the past and yet he assumes and confronts the present just as if it were the only thing he had ever known.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU