The Commander (TV series)

The Commander

DVD cover
Genre Crime drama
Created by Lynda La Plante
Starring Amanda Burton
Matthew Marsh
Nicholas Jones
Christopher Robbie
Tristan Gemmill
Mark Lewis Jones
Paul Brightwell
Poppy Miller
Thomas Lockyer
Pip Torrens
Anthony Valentine
Monica Dolan
Nadine Marshall
Connie Hyde
Niall MacGregor
Sian Brooke
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 5
No. of episodes 16 (list of episodes)
Producer(s) Lachlan Mackinnion
Running time 90 mins (Series 1-3)
60 mins (Series 4-5)
Production company(s) La Plante Productions
Original network ITV/STV/UTV
Original release 16 February 2003 – 12 November 2008
External links

The Commander is a British crime drama, broadcast on ITV1, starring Amanda Burton as the principal character, Commander Clare Blake. The series first broadcast on 16 February 2003, and a total of five series were produced over a five-year-period, with the last episode airing on 12 November 2008.[1]

The series focuses on Blake, the leader of an elite murder squad in London. Throughout the series, Blake has two main sidekicks. Matthew Marsh starred in the first four series as DCI Mike Hedges, and following his decision to quit the role, he was replaced by Mark Lewis Jones, who appears in the final two seasons as DCI Doug James.

The series has been released on DVD in the UK via Contender Entertainment Group and Acorn Media UK. In the United States, all six series have been issued in two double DVD sets, again via Acorn Media.[2]


The Commander focuses on Clare Blake, a rather inept leader of an elite murder squad based in London, who allows her interpersonal relationships to cloud her judgement, and on several occasions, make bad calls which are detrimental to the investigation. Midway through the series run, Ofcom and ITV received many complaints from viewers over Blake's willingness to sleep with suspects so that evidence can be gained from them - exemplified in her relationship with murderer James Lampton (Hugh Bonneville). Many viewers said that as much as the story was fictional, such action was so far out that it could not possibly considered believable or true to life.[3]


Episode list

Series 1 (2003)

The series began with a one-off feature-length story broadcast in two parts in February 2003. Only known as The Commander for television broadcast, it did not carry an official title until the joint DVD release of series one and two in 2005. The episode gained enough viewers for two more stories to be commissioned. The other investigating officers in this episode are DCI Mike Hedges (Matthew Marsh), DCS Les Branton (Nicholas Jones), DAC Edward Sumpter (Christopher Robbie), DI Ken Miles (Tristan Gemmill), DS Brian Hall (Paul Brightwell) and DC Carol Browning (Poppy Miller).

Episode Title Written by Directed by Viewers
Original airdate
1"Entrapment (Part One)"Lynda La PlanteMichael Whyte8.38m16 February 2003 (2003-02-16)
Commander Clare Blake has risen to the top of her profession in the male-dominated Metropolitan Police Service, and is now the head of the serious crimes unit. Some years previously, she arrested James Lampton (Hugh Bonneville) for the murder of his beloved girlfriend. He was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment, but has since been released on parole and has now become a successful author with a best-selling book based on his time in prison. Blake believes that Lampton is a reformed character, and begins to warm to his charms. However, Blake's colleagues, especially DCI Mike Hedges, believe that Lampton is responsible for another murder - and set out to prove his guilt.
2"Entrapment (Part Two)"Lynda La PlanteMichael Whyte7.94m17 February 2003 (2003-02-17)
Things become complicated when Blake and Lampton become intimate, and the question arises whether he is being honest with her, or whether he is simply a master manipulator. Meanwhile, DCI Hedges and his team find themselves under investigation as Blake and her murder review team investigate the police shooting of Lionel Cripps, who was shot to death by an SO19 team following an armed stand off at his house. When Blake discovers that Cripps was a big-time police informant, she and her team set out to find out who is really responsible for Cripps' death.

Series 2 (2005)

The second series of the The Commander was first broadcast in 2005. The series was released on a joint DVD in 2005 with the first series. The same roster of characters appear in the second series as the first, with slight changes to the cast. Thomas Lockyer takes over the role of DI Ken Miles, Pip Torrens takes over the role of DCS Les Branton, Ron Donachie takes over the role of George Hart, and Anthony Valentine takes over the role of DAC Edward Sumpter. Carol Browning (Poppy Miller) is also promoted to DI.

Episode Title Written by Directed by Viewers
Original airdate
1"Virus (Part One)"Lynda La PlanteCharles Beeson7.43m10 January 2005 (2005-01-10)
Six months on, Commander Blake is still dealing with the aftermath of the James Lampton case. Not only has he pleaded not guilty to the murders for which he is accused, but his revelations mean that Blake will have to testify about their sexual relationship in court. With the added news coverage, Blake finds that the sister of one of Lampton's victims, Angela Thornton, is now stalking her. In a separate case, a computer hacker has gained access to online medical records at St. Barnaby's hospital, and changes information in patient's medical records resulting in the death of two patients: one with a severe allergy to nuts and the other with a severe allergy to penicillin.
2"Virus (Part Two)"Lynda La PlanteCharles Beeson6.02m11 January 2005 (2005-01-11)
Blake's own sister Sarah, who is terminally ill with cancer, moves in with her, but finds that her many personal affairs are too much to bear. Meanwhile, The hacker threatens to kill another patient every 24 hours if he doesn't receive a grand total of twenty million pounds. Enlisting the help of DI Ken Miles of the Computer Crime Unit, Clare puts her own personal issues aside and tries to find out who is responsible for the death of the two patients.
3"Blackdog (Part One)"Lynda La PlanteCharles Beeson5.80m17 January 2005 (2005-01-17)
Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Blackton (David O'Hara), known as 'Blackdog', who has a well-deserved reputation for pursuing corrupt police officers, is called into the Met to re-open the investigation into the police shooting of Lionel Cripps. Having been working on the case at the time of her affair with James Lampton, Blackton is also forced to review Commander Blake's relationship with the accused. Although a coroner's enquiry found no fault in Cripps' shooting, Blake raised doubt as to DCI Mike Hedges' role in the investigation and the possible editing of the CCTV footage of the incident to remove footage of person or persons unknown.
4"Blackdog (Part Two)"Lynda La PlanteCharles Beeson4.75m18 January 2005 (2005-01-18)
The case takes a particularly awkward turn when one of the armed officers, Graham Warner, who fired the shot that killed Cripps, is himself found dead in a local park. Concerned that DCI Hedges has been assigned the case, Blake focuses on removing all evidence of her encounter with Lampton. With the trial fast approaching, there is great concern as to the adverse publicity that will result. Blake enlists the help of old colleague George Hart to retrieve crucial evidence.

Series 3 (2006)

The third installment of the series was first broadcast in 2006, again in the form of one feature length story, split into two parts. Series three has never been released on DVD in the United Kingdom, having been broadcast between the release of the first DVD set released by Contender, and the second released by Acorn Media UK who only acquired the rights in 2007. Monica Dolan joins the cast as DC Pamela Hayes, following the departure of DI Carol Browning. DCS Les Branton does not appear in the series.

Episode Title Written by Directed by Viewers
Original airdate
1"Blacklight (Part One)"Lynda La Plante and Simon de WaalTristram Powell6.47m27 March 2006 (2006-03-27)
A psychiatric patient, Reginald Aitken (Nickolas Grace), who has been hospitalised for the past eight years, manages to escape from hospital. The same night, a seventeen-year-old girl, Sadie Carr, Commander Blake's god daughter, goes missing from a night club. Reginald is discovered holding the girl's body and covered in her blood. Reginald is thought to be the killer as his fingerprints are found on the murder weapon, however, the body of an earlier victim is uncovered, and it is proven that at the time of her murder, he was locked up in the hospital.
2"Blacklight (Part Two)"Lynda La Plante and Simon de WaalTristram Powell6.50m3 April 2006 (2006-04-03)
DCI Hedges gets unsolicited help from an aristocratic and unorthodox (but actually quite intuitive) DI from Amsterdam, Count Eric Van Hauten, who is investigating three similar cases in Amsterdam. Commander Blake is warned by DAC Sumpter to take a less hands-on approach to the case, but after letting Van Hauten stay at her flat, Blake becomes determined to uncover the killer's identity before he kills again.

Series 4 (2007)

The fourth series of The Commander was first broadcast in 2007, in the form of three separate stories each broadcast in two parts. The entire series was released on DVD in 2007 by Acorn Media UK, becoming the last series to be released on DVD in the United Kingdom. This series introduces two new characters to the cast: DCI Doug James (Mark Lewis Jones), and DC Alison Goody (Nadine Marshall), leaving Amanda Burton, Anthony Valentine and Brian Hall as the only remaining original cast members. Les Branton also makes a return to the series, this time however played by the original actor, Nicholas Jones.

Episode Title Written by Directed by Viewers
Original airdate
1"The Devil You Know (Part One)"Lynda La PlanteAshley Pearce6.87m8 July 2007 (2007-07-08)
When DCI Janet Chambers (Connie Hyde) goes into labor, Commander Clare Blake takes charge of the investigation into the death of a two-year-old girl found on the site of a now abandoned psychiatric institute. The girl has been dead for several years, but her body had been stored in a tightly sealed drum and is well preserved as a result. She also has a cross branded onto her chest. The pathologist's report is inconclusive, so the team start to check medical records of former patients.
2"The Devil You Know (Part Two)"Lynda La PlanteAshley Pearce6.28m15 July 2007 (2007-07-15)
Eric Thornton and John Littlewood figure prominently in hospital files, but when it's confirmed that Littlewood has died, the police focus all their effort on Thornton. A dark history of mental problems and violence related to them, Thornton stands out as the prime suspect in the girl's murder, but when his own mother (Celia Imrie) is murdered in cold blood, James isn't convinced that Thornton is responsible for either death.
3"The Fraudster (Part One)"Lynda La PlanteDavid Caffrey5.93m22 July 2007 (2007-07-22)
Donald Griffith is a fraud in every respect. Not only is he cheating on his wife - with both his personal assistant and his firm's caterer - he has defrauded his clients out of millions of pounds. He is arrested at his firm's Christmas party, but is soon released on bail. He knows he will go to jail for fraud and has few options. When he is found the next day floating in his swimming pool, the police must determine if it was suicide, or whether his wife, one of his mistresses or an irate client did him in.
4"The Fraudster (Part Two)"Lynda La PlanteDavid Caffrey5.32m29 July 2007 (2007-07-29)
Assistant Commissioner Les Branton, whose sister lost all of her investments, asks Commander Clare Blake to take charge of the investigation. When the autopsy reveals that he did not drown, the police know they have a murder investigation on their hands. Initially, the police's efforts are focused on the three-way love triangle between his wife, assistant and caterer, but are not sure whom, if any, instigated Donald's murder.
5"Windows of the Soul (Part One)"Jane ProwseJane Prowse5.52m5 August 2007 (2007-08-05)
Commander Clare Blake is called back from holiday to investigate the apparent murder of Father Thomas Martin, who was stabbed to death with twenty-nine stab wounds in his church. He was well respected in the community, and had been instrumental in calming the local community after serious rioting some five years before. Thugs - reformed or otherwise - constantly surrounded him as he also ran a drop-in centre and a boxing club. There are rumours of child abuse as Father Thomas seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time with children.
6"Windows of the Soul (Part Two)"Jane ProwseJane Prowse4.90m12 August 2007 (2007-08-12)
The police focus on Denny Wade, an ex-con who had stabbed his wife over fifty times and was sent to prison for eight years - but the key piece of evidence is found in events that occurred before the riots even took place. Clare warns Doug to stay well clear of the investigation following his revelation of heavy involvement in the rioting, following the innocent death of an eighty-year-old woman.

Series 5 (2008)

The fifth and final installment of the series was first broadcast in 2008, in the form of three separate episodes comprising one story. Abduction becomes the second series of The Commander not released on DVD in the United Kingdom. The series also introduces a further new cast: DS Matt Newton (Niall MacGregor) and DC Marion Randell (Sian Brooke), who join Amanda Burton, Anthony Valentine, Mark Lewis Jones and Paul Brightwell, whose character DS Brian Hall has been suspended from the force.

Episode Title Written by Directed by Viewers
Original airdate
1"Abduction (Part One)"Lynda La PlanteGillies Mackinnon5.78m10 November 2008 (2008-11-10)
DAC Sumpter asks Commander Clare Blake to take charge of the investigation when Joan Hall, mother of former DS Brian Hall, is found beaten to death in her own home, and Brian is accused of the murder. When his prints are found on the murder weapon and his blood also found at the scene, Clare believes it to be an open-and-shut case, but DCI James refuses to accept that his former colleague could ever be responsible for such a crime. Meanwhile, James' wife Zoe goes into labour, but an argument with a fellow-to-be proves to be the action which begins a chain of terrifying events, when his new baby is abducted from the maternity ward.
2"Abduction (Part Two)"Lynda La PlanteGillies Mackinnon5.52m11 November 2008 (2008-11-11)
Clare begins to feel the pressure of two high-profile yet deeply personal cases coinciding. The investigation to the abduction of James' baby leads to the mothers at Zoe's maternity classes, while Brian Hall still has no recollection of what happened on the night of his mother's murder. As he becomes resigned to the fact that he may have killed her, an incident in prison spurs him to remember a crucial development. But can he persuade an already deflated James that he is telling the truth? A supervised trip to the murder scene convinces Hall that there was someone else in the room when he discovered his mother's body.
3"Abduction (Part Three)"Lynda La PlanteGillies Mackinnon6.33m12 November 2008 (2008-11-12)
Acting on instinct, Clare digs deeper only to find that the truth is more shocking than any of them could have imagined. The investigation into James' missing baby leads Clare to Fiona George, a fellow mother at Zoe's maternity classes. However, her judgement proves to be her downfall, as she commits a desperate act in a bid to reunite James with his baby. As the consequences of Clare's actions bite, rookie DC Marion Randall's hunch leads her to the real abductor. Clare is tested both personally and professionally - but has she gone too far this time?
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