Skip to content

Classic TV Crime: Strangers – S01 E05 – Briscoe


Bulman is assigned to establish whether the suspicious practices of a uniform branch sergeant point to him being crooked.


Strangers is a British television crime drama series, principally written and created by Murray Smith, first broadcast on ITV on 5 June 1978. The series, featuring the characters of Detective Sergeant George Bulman (Don Henderson) and his assistant Detective Constable Derek Willis (Dennis Blanch), was a spin-off from the 1976 TV series The XYY Man, adapted from the novels of Kenneth Royce . The series was first suggested by Granada Television executives, who in 1977, outlined their plan to devise a new series to feature the regular characters of Bulman and Willis.

The series began life as a fairly standard police drama, with Bulman positioned as its eccentric lead. The series’ premise centred around a group of police officers, including Bulman and Willis, known as ‘Unit 23’, who are brought together from different parts of the country to Manchester to infiltrate areas and investigate crimes that familiar local detectives could not. Five series were broadcast, with the final episode airing on 20 October 1982. Following the series, a further spin-off, simply entitled Bulman, ran for two series on ITV. The series follows Bulman, again played by Don Henderson, as he continues to dabble in private detective work after retiring from the police force. All five series of Strangers were released on DVD via Network Distributing as a complete box set on 19 October 2009.

Initially, the ‘Unit 23’ team consisted of Bulman, Willis and WDC Linda Doran (Frances Tomelty). Their local liaison was provided by Detective Sergeant David Singer (John Ronane), while their superior officer was Detective Chief Inspector Rainbow (David Hargreaves). Despite being based around a comparatively small team of detectives, a regular feature of the programme in its early years was that few episodes featured the entire team, with most using just two or three of the regulars in any major role. The second series, shown in early 1979, introduced the character of WDC Vanessa Bennett, played by Fiona Mollison, who replaced the outgoing Frances Tomelty. David Hargreaves would also depart the show following this series.

For the third series, Bulman, Willis, Bennett and the newly promoted Detective Inspector Singer became members of the ‘Inner City Squad’, under the command of Detective Chief Superintendent Jack Lambie (Mark McManus). The basic premise was similar, but rather than covering just the north west of England, the team’s remit now extended to the whole country. By the fourth series, Bulman had also gained promotion to Detective Chief Inspector. This series also re-introduced the semi-regular character of William ‘Bill’ Dugdale (Thorley Walters), a member of the British Foreign Office and Secret Services who would become involved when there was a political or intelligence aspect to the investigation. His role was not necessarily to help the detectives; that would only happen when it was in the government’s interest for them to succeed.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: