Blue Heelers: articles

Terrorists to strike Mt Thomas

The bucolic world of Blue Heelers is about to get a big shake-up in a bid to arrest declining ratings for the Seven network drama.

Terrorists will soon strike in Mt Thomas, the setting of the 11-year-old police drama increasingly under pressure from the Ten network’s Law and Order series.

The changes will also see the departure of long-time cast member Jane Allsop (Senior Constable Jo Parrish) and the return of William McInnes, who will briefly come back as Constable Nick Shultz.

Meanwhile, the show will introduce four new characters played by veteran TV and stage actor Geoff Morrell, NIDA graduate Rachel Gordon, Home and Away’s Danny Raco and newcomer Samantha Tolj.

Series Producer Gus Howard said the time was right for a program shake-up, which will force lead Tom Croydon—played by John Wood—to question his outlook on the world.

“It is a big way of getting Blue Heelers out of what could be regarded as an old fashioned view of the world into, not leading the edge but actually responding to the leading edge,” Howard said.

“Tom Croydon’s character had a world view which was that there should be a just society where the truth can be found and all the cosmological forces could be realigned every day.

“All of the police characters in the show had to conform to his world view and they did, either struggling or fully conforming with Tom’s world view and that was where the drama lay.”

Blue Heelers has been a hit for Seven, receiving numerous Logie nominations and awards and enjoying high ratings of around 1.5 million viewers per episode.

But lately the average has fallen to 1.3 million as viewers turn elsewhere for their weekly crime fix.

Howard said he had felt for some time that the show needed an injection of new life.

“We gave Tom a confrontation with what he had come to regard as pure evil and we had to put him in a position where everything that he had done so far was not going to work any more.

“We did that by introducing a group of people into that community who were so venal that they would do whatever they wanted to do to eliminate the power and the effect of the police.”

In one day, Croydon’s wife is raped and murdered and his police station is blown up, killing an officer who is also a close friend.

“For the first time in probably about eight years I have actually had to think about where the character is going and what he is thinking, why and what he believes in.

“The great thing about acting is that collaborative process of telling stories but it is really very rewarding to be in a situation where the story is about your character and you have to push through all of this emotional stuff,” he said.

“It has been an absolute breath of fresh air for me as an actor.”

Not that having been in every one of the 440 odd Blue Heeler episodes has been boring.

“For 10 years I have looked forward to coming to work so we could have gone along doing that forever and I would have been very happy,” Wood said.

“Any sense of boredom that I have had within the show, I have sort of alleviated over the years by going out and doing theatre.”

For newcomer Samantha Tolj, Croydon’s character change has shifted the dynamics of the whole show.

“Tom was the rock and he is no longer that,” she said.

“Having Tom almost crumpling in front of you, not solid anymore and struggling within himself, changes everyone’s relationship within the room.”

The changes have also impacted on other regular cast members, including Martin Sacks (Senior Detective PJ Hasham) and Paul Bishop (Senior Sergeant Ben Stewart).

“They have all had to deal with who they have looked up to as the father figure within their workplace as someone who you wouldn’t want to have as your father at the moment,” Tolj said.

For Rachel Gordon, who plays Detective Senior Constable Amy Fox, getting a full-time job has been a dream.

“It is just really great to be working in the current climate in our industry, I feel really grateful that I have a job,” Gordon said.

By Jonathon Moran
July 2, 2004