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episode listing:
Absent Friends
Sacrifice To Science
Girl Power
The Two Beckett's
Hell And High Water
Pandora's Box
Jewel Control
Twin Geeks
Money Spiders
The Enemy Within

read our other reviews of Bugs -
Series One  Series Two
October 2004 SITE MAP   SEARCH

Bugs: Series 4
cast: Jesse Birdsall, Jaye Griffiths, Craig MacLachlan, Paula Hunt, and Jan Harvey

directors: Gwennan Sage, Brian Grant, John Stroud, and Christopher King

490 minutes (PG) 1997
Revelation DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
Bugs was the BBC's last real attempt to replicate the 'Saturday evening pulp adventure' slot that Doctor Who had made it's own. One part Clancy-esque technothriller to one part family friendly action it lasted four years, but never really lived up to it's potential. Which is a shame because, as this series shows, there was the makings of something genuinely good here. Picking up from the previous year's cliffhanger, the season opens with a two-part story as Ed, Beckett and the rest of the team frantically search for Ros, kidnapped at the end of the third series. Of course, this being Bugs, all is not as it seems...

It's an interesting set up which gives Birdsall's Beckett some much needed emotional background and by the end of the first part has really shaken up the status quo. In fact, this story is one of the series' high points as it constantly pulls the rug out from under character and viewer alike, including an utterly unexpected third act that sets up the rest of the season nicely.

This willingness to take risks is balanced by some at times charming action movie clichés. The moment the laser cutter turns up in Girl Power for example, you know it's going to be used by the end of the episode. Likewise, the moment Ed (Houghton visibly growing into the role this year) and Alex begin working together a lot; it won't be long before unrequited love is in the air.

However, whilst the plots offer a heady cocktail of predictable and chaotic, the production values and tone are resolutely mid-1990s Saturday teatime BBC. Characters hover near death a little too often, the locations and bad guys have a tendency to run into one another and whilst there's a great deal of fun to be had here, especially with Houghton's Ed getting a much-needed promotion, fun is ultimately all the series remains. There's a sense that the cast members and production crew are giving their all but that the series is never really allowed to run at top speed. A huge opportunity was wasted here and as a result, fun as this is, all it reminds you of is what Bugs could have become. Amiable, entertaining - but it could have been so much more.

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