What was it about?
A novel blend of police procedural and time travel drama, BBC One’s Crime Traveller saw Detective Jeff Slade and police science officer Holly Turner solve crimes and catch the bad guys using Holly’s time machine (a futuristic desk, basically). Written by author and script writer Anthony Horowitz (the Alex Rider books, Foyle’s War), you can pretty much sum up the entire premise of the show as ‘Wibbly-wobbly, Crimey-wimey’.
The rules of time travel were set out in the opening episode and were mercifully straightforward, with the two most prominent being that you could only travel to the past (anything from a few hours to a week), and you had to be back at the machine before the moment you used it to time travel, else you’d be forever trapped in the dreaded Loop of Infinity.
The inevitable ‘We have to be back at the machine in 12 minutes!’ was a cheap bit of sci-fi to induce some extra tension to proceedings, but it worked.
Who was in it?
Casualty and EastEnders star Michael French was maverick detective Jeff Slade. You knew he was a maverick because while everyone else wore a suit he constantly wore a camel-coloured suede jacket, and exasperated his boss, Sue Johnston (The Royle Family), by disobeying orders.
He was joined by Chloe Annett, who played the savvy scientist Holly and who you may know better as Red Dwarf‘s Kochanski.
There was never a truly ‘wow’ moment in the show, but bad-guy Marlowe being trapped in a Loop of Infinity at the end of the series finale is a scene that tends to stand out in fans’ minds.
Likewise Jeff using the time machine to place a bet on a horse, only to find his ticket has been wiped blank by the time paradox it has created. Oh, and although in one episode a police telephone box can be seen, don’t get your hopes up. The Doctor meeting Jeff Slade is purely the stuff of fan-fiction.
Time sort of conspired against Crime Traveller. With the brief feature-length resurrection of Doctor Who the previous year still fresh in people’s minds it was unfairly compared to the grand-daddy of time travel shows. Critics hated it, Horowitz admitted he found it difficult to write, and so it ran for only eight episodes, with the final episode airing on 19th April 1997.
As a final nail in the coffin, less than a month after it ended a far more inventive and better written crime-solving show would appear: Jonathan Creek.
Unfortunately Crime Traveller looks destined to remain a rose-tinted cult memory. It’s rarely repeated on UK screens (you stand more chance of catching it on an overseas network these days) but you can buy the complete series on DVD.
Though fondly recalled by those who’ve seen it, a return to our screens in any form looks unlikely. Horowitz has moved onto far bigger projects, such as currently writing the next Tintin movie and being a superstar author, and French and Annett don’t need the cash.
If you really want it back, head over to the Crime Traveller fansite and sign the petition to bring it back. While you’re there you can also read some of the Crime Traveller fan-fiction, take a quiz on Michael French, and then maybe reassess your priorities in life.
What are your memories of Crime Traveller? Let us know below…