Strangers (1978 TV series)

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.[1] 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.[2]

GenreCrime drama
Created byMurray Smith
Composer(s)Mike Moran
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons5
No. of episodes32 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)Richard Everitt
Producer(s)Mervyn Watson
CinematographyMike Thomson
Mike Popley
Editor(s)David Rees
Running time60 minutes
Production company(s)Granada Television
DistributorITV Studios
Original networkITV
Picture format4:3
Audio formatMono
Original release5 June 1978 (1978-06-05) –
20 October 1982 (1982-10-20)
Preceded byThe XYY Man
Followed byBulman

"... I was sent here to be a stranger in town, a face they didn't recognise ..." - George Bulman

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.[3] 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 the Network imprint as a complete box-set on 19 October 2009.[4]


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.


The first series was shot primarily on videotape, with only location footage shot on film. The second series would feature even more film, with the opening episode The Wheeler Dealers being shot entirely on film, and the final episode, Marriages, Deaths And Births, being shot entirely on film bar the title sequence and a small number of scenes at the police station. From the third series onwards, the entire production moved to 16mm film.

The first series incorporated a number of writers, with only Leslie Duxbury writing more than one episode. He would later contribute one further script for the second series. During series two, series creator Murray Smith came to the fore as the principal writer, having only previously scripted one episode for the first series. Smith went on to write all but six of the remaining twenty-five episodes.



Series 1 (1978)Edit

Episode Title Written by Directed by Original airdate
1"The Paradise Set"Murray SmithCarole Wilks5 June 1978 (1978-06-05)
Arriving in Manchester to work on their new patch as 'strangers' to the local underworld, Bulman and Willis investigate a jewel robbery.
2"Duty Roster"Ivor MarshallOliver Horsburgh12 June 1978 (1978-06-12)
A routine assignment to follow up muggings of a local postman lead Bulman and Willis to a much bigger case, much to Rainbow's annoyance.
3"Silver Lining"Steve WakehamBill Gilmour19 June 1978 (1978-06-19)
Bulman becomes a bookie and Doran gets a job in a tipster's office to uncover a case of race fixing.
4"Accidental Death"Brian FinchNicky Cooney26 June 1978 (1978-06-26)
When a prominent local journalist is murdered, Doran goes undercover as a reporter on his old desk, and Willis becomes a coroner's officer.
5"Briscoe"Leslie DuxburyYvonne Goode3 July 1978 (1978-07-03)
Bulman is assigned to establish whether the suspicious practices of a uniform branch sergeant point to him being crooked.
6"Right and Wrong"Cecil TaylorJ. Bruce10 July 1978 (1978-07-10)
Willis and Doran play man and wife to investigate their neighbour - a prominent local councillor - who is suspected of receiving bribes to initiate controversial new education practices.
7"Paying Guests"Leslie DuxburyQuentin Lawrence17 July 1978 (1978-07-17)
Bulman co-opts Briscoe into lodging with the Parkers, who are assisting him with his enquiries concerning a bank robbery.

Series 2 (1979)Edit

Episode Title Written by Directed by Original airdate
1"The Wheeler Dealers"Murray SmithSally Taylor9 January 1979 (1979-01-09)
With Rainbow growing increasingly frustrated at their unorthodox methods, Bulman, Willis and Doran are on a case involving illegally imported goods. Bulman's head is turned by a lady doctor who is involved in the case.
2"Call of the Wild"Leslie DuxburyBaz Taylor16 January 1979 (1979-01-16)
Bulman goes undercover with a gang to gather evidence for a number of robberies, and finds himself involved in the perpetration of one of them - which unbeknownst to him, Singer is pursuing.
3"Clever Dick"Brian FinchQuentin Lawrence23 January 1979 (1979-01-23)
When a hotshot former colleague of Bulman's comes up from London to take the lead in a counterfeit case, Bulman's annoyance is matched by his curiosity as to why.
4"Friends in High Places"Murray SmithBill Gilmour30 January 1979 (1979-01-30)
Bulman and Willis are on the trail of the attacker of a youth in a hotel public toilet, unaware that there are other interested parties, for other reasons.
5"Marriages, Deaths and Births"Murray SmithCharles Sturridge6 February 1979 (1979-02-06)
When Bulman attempts an arrest of a gangland ringleader, it goes horribly wrong and he finds himself a kidnap victim of the psychopathic criminal.

Series 3 (1980)Edit

Episode Title Written by Directed by Original airdate
1"Retribution"Murray SmithCarol Wilks14 October 1980 (1980-10-14)
The team come under the command of DCS Lambie and a new Inter-City Squad in London, and immediately become involved in arms trafficking in the capital.
2"You Can't Win Them All"Murray SmithBill Gilmour21 October 1980 (1980-10-21)
A fraud investigation gets complicated when Bulman and Willis find that the Foreign Office have interests in one of the individuals involved in the case.
3"Armed and Dangerous (Part 1)"Murray SmithWilliam Brayne28 October 1980 (1980-10-28)
Bulman and Willis are assigned to bring a suspect to London for questioning, however things do not go smoothly.
4"Racing Certainty (Part 2)"Murray SmithKen Grieve4 November 1980 (1980-11-04)
Bulman and Willis go undercover to flush out the murderer of their colleague at a racetrack.
5"Clowns Don't Cry"Murray SmithWilliam Brayne11 November 1980 (1980-11-11)
When one of Bulman's contacts is beaten up, he becomes embroiled in a case which leads to international espionage, and one in which Dugdale is particularly interested.
6"Tom Thumb and Other Stories"Murray SmithLaurence Moody18 November 1980 (1980-11-18)
Bulman disguises himself as a tramp to try and track down a drug smuggler at Liverpool's docks - and finds himself caught in the crossfire of factions within the gang.
7"No Orchids for Missing Blandisch"Murray SmithBill Gilmour25 November 1980 (1980-11-25)
A tip-off leads Bulman, Willis and Bennett to an arms-dealing operation with a hired killer involved to protect interests.

Series 4 (1981)Edit

Episode Title Written by Directed by Original airdate
1"The Moscow Subway Murders"Murray SmithWilliam Brayne25 September 1981 (1981-09-25)
Bulman, now promoted to Detective Chief Inspector, feels frustrated with the office-bound nature of the job, but is soon challenged by an intriguing murder case.
2"The Loneliness of the Long Distance Copper"Murray SmithTristan de Vere Cole2 October 1981 (1981-10-02)
A convict with a score to settle with Lambie escapes from prison.
3"A Dear Green Place"Edward BoydBill Gilmour9 October 1981 (1981-10-09)
Escorting a prisoner from Glasgow to London turns out to be anything but a routine assignment for the squad.
4"Stand and Deliver"Murray SmithBill Gilmour16 October 1981 (1981-10-16)
The Squad is called upon to investigate a modern-day highway robbery.
5"The Flowers of Edinburgh"Edward BoydJonathan Wright Miller23 October 1981 (1981-10-23)
Bulman and Willis head to Edinburgh to investigate a blackmail racket.
6"Soldiers of Misfortune"Murray SmithWilliam Brayne30 October 1981 (1981-10-30)
The squad becomes involved in a conflict between rival groups of mercenaries.

Series 5 (1982)Edit

Episode Title Written by Directed by Original airdate
1"A Much Underestimated Man"Murray SmithKen Grieve8 September 1982 (1982-09-08)
Bulman and Willis are on the trail of a hitman before he reaches his target.
2"A Swift and Evil Rozzer"Murray SmithWilliam Brayne15 September 1982 (1982-09-15)
The squad investigates the kidnapping of a prominent politician.
3"The Tender Trap"Bruce CrowtherBen Bolt22 September 1982 (1982-09-22)
Bulman and Willis investigate a crooked land developer.
4"The Lost Chord"Murray SmithBill Gilmour29 September 1982 (1982-09-29)
The squad visit Cambridge when a number of politicians die in strange circumstances.
5"A Free Weekend in the Country"Bruce CrowtherBill Gilmour6 October 1982 (1982-10-06)
A police officer is murdered during a weekend seminar on urban terrorism.
6"Charlie's Brother's Birthday (Part 1)"Murray SmithRoger Tucker13 October 1982 (1982-10-13)
The squad follow the trail of stolen coffins to uncover a smuggling ring.
7"With These Gloves You Can Pass Through Mirrors (Part 2)"Murray SmithWilliam Brayne20 October 1982 (1982-10-20)
As Bulman faces retirement, the squad closes in on the smuggling gang.


  2. ^ "Strangers & Bulman".
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Strangers - The Complete Series". 19 October 2009 – via Amazon.

External linksEdit