The first step towards turning an idea into a commission involves selling it to the programme makers. The pitch takes the form of a short premise, intended to give a flavour of the piece and stress those elements that make it suitable (ideally unmissable) for the series concerned. Here are two versions of my premise for the Blue Murder episode Crisis Management, the first preceded by a few notes and questions to myself (by way of demonstrating process), and the second written after consultation with and suggestions from the programme editors.
CRISIS MANAGEMENT PREMISE 1
*killers the same or not.. a prob?
*The army/military background – time sensitive so can adjust what they’re doing, but is this likely to cause problems?
*Adding a sister and a sexual element to the motivation for Ben to try and stop his mum going and leaving sis at the mercy of Mark TURTON
*JANINE and TIM. Can he stay the night? How far should I take it?
Night. A low rise, neat and tidy, middle income housing estate on the edge of the city. A young man in Army uniform jogs into view, stops at a house and rings the bell. It’s answered by a fit, down to earth, 30-something Lancastrian woman. From the young man’s respectful salute and greeting, we gather she’s also a soldier, his superior. The exchange is friendly: “You sure this is ok, Sarge?”. “No problem”.
In the city centre, JANINE is keeping a small promise to herself, and taking a couple of hours out to meet a friend for a drink. She’s arriving at a modern bar café, except she’s also just getting a call on her mobile – her friend is caught in traffic. She gets a drink at the bar and finds herself being mildly chatted up by the good looking, 40-something bloke next to her. He’s also waiting for someone who hasn’t turned up. TIM FAIRHEAD. Single. He works in health and safety. They exchange some pleasant banter. He asks what she does for a living. A moment’s hesitation, then she tells him she’s in crisis management.
The young soldier is leaving his Sergeant’s house. He’s borrowing her car for 24 hours and he’s very grateful. She dismisses it – in the circumstances it’s not a problem. The young man gets into the car, waves goodbye, and drives off.
The Sergeant returns to the washing up. A sudden deep thudding thump – like an explosion outside – stops her.
Sirens are going as residents from nearby houses gather near a T junction and the Sergeant appears, and stops dead. Her car is in flames, crunched at an angle into a concrete wall. FIRE OFFICERS are trying to put out the blaze. A man in uniform, a friend, Bombardier MARK TURTON, appears at her shoulder. “You alright?” JACKIE shakes her head. “That’s my car, Mark. And young Mike Blatt was driving it.”
JANINE and TIM are enjoying a second drink. There’s an easy, shared sense of humour and mutual attraction – maybe JANINE’s thinking she doesn’t mind if her mate doesn’t turn up at all – and then her phone rings. TIM is wry, understanding – she’s clearly got a crisis to manage. JANINE scribbles her mobe number on a drinks mat. Call me sometime? And she’s gone.
The victim – dead on arrival at hospital – is MIKE BLATT (24), a young trooper in the 4th Royal Lancastrian Regiment (Royal Artillery), which is 2 weeks away from deployment on active duty to Afghanistan. He’s also a husband and father of two. The estate where he crashed is married persons’ accommodation, owned by Cranwell Edge barracks, home of the 4th Royal Lancastrian, a mile or so away. Fire investigators have already found evidence that the car’s steering system had been simply but effectively sabotaged.
The owner of the car is Sgt. JACKIE HOLROYD, also of the 4th Royal Lancastrian, also due to deploy in two weeks. She’s a single parent with a moody, disengaged, 16 year old son, BEN, who’s off to live with his (civilian) father in Edinburgh for the duration.
So who sabotaged the car, and why? And who was the intended victim, Trooper BLATT or Sgt. HOLROYD? Early investigations throw up some interesting perspectives on modern Army life as well as a couple of old-fashioned possible motives. MIKE BLATT, it turns out, had been mixing marriage with serial adultery. TRACEY DUFF (18), a difficult young trooper from the Quartermaster’s office with a rep for trouble, was the latest of a string of young girls to be ditched by him. Like most of the regiment, she had the mechanical skills to sabotage the car. And JANINE discovers she’s not the only ‘gunbunny’ under 21 who thinks BLATT got what he deserved. So was it TRACEY and/or friends making a point? Or could it have been BLATT’s new troop leader, 2nd Lt. Rosie PARR? She’s struggling to impose herself as commander of an AS90 (an armoured tank gun), rumoured to be using drugs to keep up with the challenges of command, and may have crossed with BLATT over it.
In contrast, JACKIE HOLROYD seems to be quietly in control of the challenges, and JANINE takes to her quickly. She’s wry, honest, funny, loves her job, and has obviously coped with a lot in bringing up her son on her own while pursuing an Army career. It inevitably gets JANINE thinking – again – about the whole issue of career v children. JACKIE tells her she can think of plenty of people who might have wanted to give her a scare – Army life’s a bit like that – but she can’t think of anyone who would want to really harm her… except maybe CLAIRE TURTON. CLAIRE’s the wife of her old friend Bomb. Mark Turton. CLAIRE is fragile, on anti-depressants after the birth of a child, and naturally anxious about the imminent deployment, as well as very jealous. Since women began joining combat units, JACKIE explains sympathetically, it’s really difficult for ‘Army wives’, whether they’re men or women. The kind of bonding that men and women soldiers experience, especially in action together, is very threatening to partners left at home. JACKIE tells JANINE that she and MARK shared a bad time in Bosnia a few years back, and that makes them closer than an affair ever would. That’s all there is to it. But CLAIRE doesn’t believe them.
JANINE doesn’t take so easily to Troop Sgt. Major Jayne PETTIGREW (41), a buttoned up, tough, old school NCO with a reputation for ruthlessly ‘beasting’ anyone she regards as a ‘biff’ – i.e. not pulling their weight. PETTIGREW is obstructive, misanthropic and appears to despise her subordinates, including BLATT, almost as much as she despises civilians. When PETTIGREW is found beaten to death in scrubland on the artillery park, JANINE quickly discovers that many of her subordinates felt the same about her.
There are plenty of surprises as well as frustrations in store for JANINE as she and the team delve into the closed world confines of a local regiment poised to fly to a war zone. The soldiers she will encounter are mostly young people, trained up, pumped up, and fired with fear, so the atmosphere on base is running hot, full of suppressed emotion and anticipation.
But JANINE’s biggest surprise initially is LISA announcing the arrival of a Redcap major, who is impatient to liaise with the murder team’s SIO. The major, it turns out, is good looking TIM FAIRHEAD. Both he and JANINE are embarrassed, but quick to see the irony of their mutual, failed deception. TIM admits he was interested and didn’t want to blow the encounter in the first three minutes – not everyone loves a soldier these days. JANINE tells him she doesn’t think soldiers are to blame for what governments get up to, and admits that she lied because being a copper is sometimes like being a doctor. You can’t avoid being collared, saddled with peoples’ problems to solve.
For now, however, they’ve got murders to solve. TIM will be JANINE’s guide, interpreter and occasional bulldog on base, and this may put RICHARD’s nose out of joint a bit. JANINE will find she likes TIM more rather than less as she gets to know him better – and this may increase RICHARD’s discomfort.
But JANINE’s probably too busy to notice for now. She’s focussed, as ever, on getting her bearings in this new territory, parting the curtains on Army life, and starting to think laterally about the links between the two murders. Long before she can prove it, JANINE stops believing that these murders are about beasting, or performance drugs, or professional rivalries, or the imminent terrors of war – eventually she’ll realise that they’re about childcare.
BEN HOLROYD may look like a big shambling teenager who doesn’t give a flying *** about anything, but actually he’s still a scared child who can’t cope with the idea of his mother going to war and getting killed, and his whole life being rearranged to suit this outcome. Outwardly, he’s barely noticed the preparations, but inwardly he’s panicking. He’s been driven to some extremely stupid, as well as lethal actions as a result. But given the tragic motives, and JANINE’s inevitable empathies, proving it may in the end feel like a bit of a Pyrrhic victory for her.
RICHARD, meanwhile, has nothing to worry about where TIM is concerned, whatever he thinks. JANINE will be wry about it afterwards, but she may have a moment of serious self pity over the fact that the only man she’s seriously liked in a long time is about to go and risk – or end – his life on the battlefield. This is a non-starter for JANINE. Her family deals with enough crisis management as it is… so much as she’d love to say yes to taking it further…
The kicker to the story:
BEN is passing the pavilion two days after being told by his sister that MARK TURTON took her to the pavilion on an excuse and tried to touch her. He sees the car; he sees his sister’s jacket on the back seat. He thinks TURTON is again trying to assault his sister; he approaches, rattles the locked door and shouts to get him to come out; as TURTON appears, he whacks him over the head hard… and again… and again…then he hears a female voice, not his sister’s… calling, out… he turns over the body: it’s not TURTON. He rummages quickly, nicks his wallet, presses 50p into PETTIGREW’s hand, and runs…
CRISIS MANAGEMENT PREMISE 2 (in notes)
Evening. JANINE is getting a few hours to herself and meeting a friend for a drink, except the friend is held up. JANINE meets TIM FAIRHEAD, an attractive man of about her age who says he’s in health and safety. JANINE tells TIM she’s in crisis management. JANINE’s finding herself enjoying TIM’s company when she gets a call from SHAP – there’s a body just been found…
The location is a recreation ground – a sports field with small pavilion at one end – on the edge of the city. RICHARD tells JANINE that the field is owned by the Army – it forms part of a housing estate for married soldiers who work at Cranham Edge Barracks, a couple of miles away.
The victim is a soldier – TSM FRANK PETTIGREW (37) of Alexandria Battery, 4th Regiment Lancaster Royals, based at Cranham Edge, but due to deploy on active service to Afghanistan in a matter of weeks. His body was found near the door of the pavilion by a couple of kids – young teenagers out having an illicit cigarette. From the extensive blood pooling, it’s fairly certain he was attacked where he fell. The back of TSM PETTIGREW’s head has been bashed in violently. He has no wallet on him – so the motive could initially look like robbery – but oddly, he also has a 50 pence piece clutched in his closed hand. The door to the pavilion is locked.
JANINE meets APT (Physical training) SGT. MARK TURTON (35) – a bright, brisk, pleasant, experienced married soldier, who lives on the estate, coaches local sports teams and is in day-to-day charge of the recreation ground. TURTON is puzzled as to why TSM PETTIGREW would be at the sports field at night at all. (JANINE will think, but not say in front of TURTON, that she quickly suspects an illicit assignation of some kind). JANINE asks for TURTON’s keys. She wants to look inside the pavilion.
All is tidy and shipshape. Nothing out of the ordinary. But RICHARD spots part of a footprint, with possible blood in it, on the wooden/lino floor. JANINE orders everyone out and a full forensics search of the interior as well as outside.
If PETTIGREW did get inside the pavilion, TURTON has no idea how he had keys. There are only two sets. One is in TURTON’s possession at all times. The other is kept by a local retired man and part time groundsman. BUTCHERS is delegated to check with him. JANINE now asks TURTON if PETTIGREW was married – answer is yes – and if it’s possible he was meeting a secret lover. TURTON seems a bit thrown by the idea. No, he says. PETTIGREW was a traditionalist, a man of old fashioned values. A forensics officer reports finding a partial,fresh car tyre print in blood, a few feet from the door of the pavilion. JANINE orders analysis of the tyre tread. If they can pin down a make on the car, and even perhaps a year, they might be able to find a match.
JANINE and RICHARD chat over possibilities: did whoever PETTIGREW was meeting kill him? Or was there a third party present. And was the murder pre-meditated or not? JANINE’s current instinct, partly based on the ferocity of the attack, is that it wasn’t coolly pre-meditated..and that it wasn’t a mugger – who not just run with the wallet? Why stay to make sure the guy was dead? – all of which suggests that PETTIGREW was killed by someone other than the person he had arranged the meeting with… which means that the person he’d arranged to meet is a possible witness to murder, and she or he is out there somewhere…
At which point, TIM FAIRHEAD turns up, now revealed as Redcap MAJOR FAIRHEAD. There’s embarrassment and amusement – and some instant bonding – in the realisation of their mutual deception. RICHARD observes JANINE and TIM together, and finds his jealousy instantly pricked. There’s something about the body language and the shared laughs that makes him feel excluded…
TIM tells JANINE and the team that PETTIGREW was a traditional Sergeant Major in many ways: tough, occasionally vindictive, but mostly fair. JANINE wants to know who he hadn’t been fair to recently – who might have had a grudge. TIM says there are a couple of people he can think of, although he is seriously sceptical about whether either would have contemplated murder. TIM says he’ll arrange to make them available for interview in the morning. Meanwhile (to Richard’s annoyance) TIM goes with JANINE to give the bad news and talk to PETTIGREW’s wife, GERALDINE (40). GERALDINE, who’s quite shy and nervy, insists she can’t think of anyone who would want to kill her husband, and is terribly upset, naturally. But JANINE also picks up on something else – a kind of distracted edginess… as if GERALDINE knows something she’s not saying. JANINE also briefly notes a mark on wall where something – a painting or mirror perhaps – has recently been removed.
Next day. As JANINE arrives at the Barracks to interview the soldiers mentioned by TIM the previous evening, he is there to escort her in and give her some more background about the regiment, and the imminent deployment. She’ll find the atmosphere quite intense, he explains. Everyone’s got huge amounts to do – everything from live firing exercises and Afghani language classes, to writing wills and saying goodbye to their families. Tensions and passions are running high. He warns JANINE to expect a lot of testosterone. JANINE will be amused by this. She reminds him she works with (mostly male) police officers every day… testosterone city…
JANINE can’t help but be impressed as TIM takes her inside one of the gun and vehicle hangars on the artillery park, to meet some of the young men and women who man and maintain the huge guns – AS90s – housed inside. The atmosphere is busy, concentrated but cheerful, and AS90 commander, 2nd Lt. ROSIE PARR, appears to be calmly in control. She’s impossibly young, at 24, new to the command, tall and sporty but quite feminine in her manner, and JANINE is impressed as she briefly describes her job, and the role of the AS90 post- deployment.
Lt. PARR quickly dismisses any idea that she and TSM PETTIGREW had a row at the estate sports field that ended in murder. She appears to have a solid sounding alibi. She admits that they didn’t really see eye to eye about anything. She also admits she’d felt resentful and angry at his regular attempts to show her up in front of her Troop. He was good at disguising it, she says, but he was very against women in front line roles in the Army. He believed a woman’s place was in the home. But that doesn’t make him unique round here, she says wryly.
Uniform patrol finds PETTIGREW’s car, parked on the estate but in a cul de sac about five minutes away from his home. No sign of anything unusual inside.
The lab reports that they have a likely make and model for the tyre tread found at the field. LISA is given the job of locating all cars of that make registered to soldiers on the base, and photographing the appropriate tyre on each car for forensic comparison.
Next JANINE meets SGT. JACKIE HOLROYD. BEN moody and nervous. JANINE takes to JACKIE big time. Asks what will happen to kids. JACKIE says she’s lucky. MARK and SHIRLEY TURTON, who live next door and are very old mates (and are childless) will look after them. Like uncle and auntie. Both are brilliant with the kids. Known them all their lives etc.
She recounts a couple of tales about the r. . PETIGREW caught BEN on base smoking grass with Gunner TRACEY DUFF, and taught them both a nasty lesson by calling the cops and having them blood tested. They weren’t charged, but letters to school – serious black mark on BEN’s record at school and at home. Hard for JACKIE, a single parent, full screw VM. FAIRHEAD can’t see JACKIE doing anything stupid – but BEN?
BEN is asked. He says he cycled straight home. Or walked or whatever. His sister BETHAN confirms he got home at XXX. They are latch key kids.
Then to see TRACEY who denies any wrongdoing, but tells them she saw GERALDINE with a bloke in a pub in the centre of town, and they were looking ‘dodgy’. Is GERALDINE ‘pad shagging’, or was she, perhaps even paying for a hit.
They go to GERALDINE and ask her about the man in the pub. She denies ever being there.
They go to the pub and talk to the bar staff. The man turns out to be a loan shark.
GERALDINE now reveals she has a spending/internet gambling problem. Started on PETTIGREW’s first tour. She fantasised buying him out of the Army and getting a safe haven retirement. Life has been difficult. They have been desperate not to lose the house. Her husband had told her the day before he died that he was hoping to get hold of some money, but he didn’t say how or who from. Was he selling secrets? Or what?
They match tyre prints in blood to MARK TURTON’s car. TURTON is the only driver. His wife, SHIRLEY doesn’t drive.
They go to confront TURTON. TURTON insists he didn’t even go to the field yesterday. Their match must be wrong. He can prove he didn’t even take his car into work that day, and didn’t leave the base till eight o’clock. JANINE points out that, given the estimated time of death was nine, he could have come home, taken the car out and got to the sports field in time. TURTON insists someone else must have stolen and used his car. This is an outside possibility, but for now they have to consider TURTON the prime suspect… but don’t know why.
SHIRLEY is questioned about the car. Did she notice if it was parked outside her house that evening? She doesn’t know. She doesn’t take much notice. But again, JANINE has a feeling that SHIRLEY isn’t saying all. the feeling she’s his
SHAP asks some neighbours. One remembers seeing it wasn’t there, at seven-ish.
SHIRLEY TURTON to JANINE and admits the truth. SHIRLEY was there with PETTIGREW, having an affair. Her marriage very loveless. She had lost a baby years ago. They had never really recovered as a couple. Jackie’s kids had become their surrogate kids… but MARK had never really wanted her again. She’d taken it for years… she’d bumped into PETTIGREW one day in town.. he’d opened up about his problems, she about hers… and that was it.
They always met at night at the pavilion on nights when her husband had evening duties at the barracks (she’d had the key copied). They’d used TURTON’s car to move around, because if anyone had seen it, they would have assumed it was MARK. They thought they were being clever. They had a story worked out in case they were spotted and everything.
SHIRLEY describes what happened on the night. They were just ‘finishing’. They heard a shout and someone rattling the doors. They waited in silence and listened. When they thought the person had gone, PETTIGREW went to look. SHIRLEY heard another shout. She was frightened, and called out. She thought it might be her husband. Perhaps he’d found out. Finally she plucked up courage and went to find PETTIGREW – to discover him dead on the ground between the door and the car. She panicked, and drove the car home. She had no idea who did it. Her only fear is it was her husband.
They question TURTON again. He insists he didn’t know, so why would he attack PETTIGREW. They take voluntary DNA samples to match with something found on the body. It’s not a match to TURTON.
They find a witness who saw MARK TURTON somewhere he says he was at a crucial time. It’s not TURTON…
They have a briefing update. JANINE needs some ideas.
If anyone had seen the car they would’ve assumed it was MARK…
Keeps ringing in JANINE’s ears…
She has an epiphanous moment. Was TURTON perhaps not the perpetrator but the intended victim…? Maybe the killer also thought that the person coming to the door was TURTON, not PETTIGREW?
But if so why? Unlike PETTIGREW, MARK TURTON is popular. All seem to like him. TURTON himself is non plussed. Unless it’s the manager of the kids footy team they beat last week…
RICHARD invites JANINE out for a post-work bite, but she tells him she’s going out with TIM.
They have a good evening. JANINE admits she’s surprised how easy it is to be with him. Maybe they kiss. Maybe he stays the night.
Next morning, JANINE, TIM and the kids are getting to know each other. A bit awkward but cheery. TOM thinks TIM is ‘really cool’. ELLY likes him too. RICHARD doesn’t though. He arrives. Not happy. Sunday’s over… they’re both needed at work…
ROSIE PARR has been found dead, hung on wall bars, hanging by skipping rope. A suicide?
She was in the gym, working on her fitness before the off.
Her TSM and her troop is reticent. JACKIE HOLROYD is more open. ROSIE had problems coping. Didn’t quite fit in. Tough business being a woman and a soldier. Maybe in the end she couldn’t face the challenge of doing it for real. JANINE meets BEN and SARAH HOLROYD. She’s surprised and admiring even more. They swap teenager moans. JANINE leaves thinking about things…
Then they discover that ROSIE had loads of amphetamines and pain killers in her system.
And they hear that she was strangled first, then strung up.
Why now, when they are all focussed on war and deployment. Is it someone who really didn’t want her to go? Or scores to settle.
JANINE points out unlikely premeditation. Anyone cd have come in… the skipping rope was there… the killer is improvising… heat of the moment killing… doesn’t exactly narrow the field, but…
Who had she had run ins with? TSM PETTIGREW (male?); MIKE BLATT (hard nosed squaddie with a lot of influence; CATHY WATERS, the highly jealous young wife of v attractive Bomb. WATERS, the loyalest of PARR’s troop (SHE WAS IN THE SWIMMING POOL AT THE TIME, and had opportunity therefore; CAPTAIN XXXX (female, Irish, tougher than the men type). JACKIE points out ROSIE tried to do it her way – and J admired her for it – but it was a tough path. She trod on TSM’s toes a lot; tried to tackle her head on.
They talk to APT SGT. MARK TURTON, JACKIE’s neighbour and best mate, about the drugs in her system. TURTON admits that soldiers use drugs for performance, and to get over injuries etc. Especially now, they needed to pass fit for duty, and TURTON admits that ROSIE had problems, physically. Back, knees etc. Where do the drugs come from? Is it possible there’s a motive there? TURTON doesn’t know. He names TRACEY DUFF – she’s the scallywag of the battery. Always in trouble. Could be her who’s supplying…
TRACEY is defensive n stuff…
(MEANWHILE… BEN and SARAH know TURTON knows, and possibly killed ROSIE to stop her speaking.
TURTON knows that SARAH at least has told someone – not her mum… BEN and or ROSIE. Poss not BEN yet.