While watching the BBC’s Ripper Street last night I had an epiphany. Matthew MacFadyen’s Inspector Reid is the present-day television incarnation of LAPD Sergeant Rick Hunter of 80s shoot-em-up police procedural Hunter. And Ripper Street’s Homer Jackson character is absolutely the Star Trek: the Next Generation’s Data of the show. Thus Ripper Street is actually an original BBC series whose leads are uploaded from 80s shows. Fan fiction as art form!
But wait! I have evidence.
The case: Ripper Street’s Inspector Reid is Hunter’s Rick Hunter
- Both Reid and Hunter favor natty patterned jackets, frequently in shades of grey. Look at this style: Reid and Hunter.
- Both Reid and Hunter require the assistance and support of feisty attractive brunettes. Reid has Deborah Goren and Hunter has his partner Dee Dee McCall.
- Neither Reid nor Hunter has much of a home life to speak of, generally favoring long work hours over any sort of domesticity. Reid’s drive is explained by a dead child and grieving wife backstory. Hunter is just a quintessential playboy bachelor. Whatever the impetus, both spend inordinate amounts of time wandering the streets in service to the job.
- Reid is a bit of a lone wolf, accompanied by right hand man Sergeant Bennett Drake and trusting few others except Deborah Goren. Hunter is a bit of a lone wolf, accompanied by his right hand woman Sergeant Dee Dee McCall and trusting few others besides her.
- Reid is fond of bucking authority and pursuing cases he has been pointedly ordered to drop. Episode Six ‘Tournament of Shadows’ is a wonderful example of this stubborn streak in action. Hunter is fond of bucking authority and pursuing cases he has been pointedly ordered to drop. The entirety of Seasons 1 and 2 are wonderful examples of this stubborn streak in action.
- Neither man appears to care about career advancement, favoring an exacting sense of justice over social or career climbing.
- Both Reid and Hunter possess a singular focus and lack of empathy or warmth in their dealings with suspects and colleagues alike.
- Neither Reid nor Hunter like waiting around for warrants.
- Reid frequently, often unintentionally, brings trouble to Deborah. Hunter frequently, often unintentionally, brings trouble to Dee Dee.
- There is clear tension and chemistry between Reid and Deborah, leading viewers to wonder how far things will develop. There is clear tension and chemistry between Hunter and Dee Dee, leading viewers to wonder how far things develop.
- Reid frequently relies on information from brothel madam Susan and her prostitutes. Hunter frequently relies on information Dee Dee learns either from prostitute informants or while undercover as a prostitute herself.
- Reid is not above physical intimidation of a suspect under questioning. Hunter is not above physical intimidation of a suspect under questioning.
The case is a solid one and it isn’t a criticism. Hunter remains a nostalgic favorite of mine and the character, while archetypal in many respects, is a compelling one. Hunter operates as a legal vigilante of sorts, pushing the boundaries of what the law can realistically allow while not crossing so far over the line that he himself is permanently morally compromised. He stands for justice against streets gone mad with greed, drugs, and murder. Coming hot on the heels of the infamous Jack the Ripper murders, Reid faces similar chaos on his streets. Having failed to catch the Ripper, Reid appears determined to rein in the city’s decay any way he can so as to prevent another unsolvable spate of crimes. He too stands for justice, straddling the line between the legal and the moral and pushing for some union of both.
The second case: Ripper Street’s Homer Jackson is Star Trek: the Next Generation’s Data
In order for anything to truly ever go wrong onboard the USS Enterprise NCC 1701-D, certain things had to fail in fairly predictable order: the shields, the transporters, and Data. When dealing with an android adept at 24th century technology, it was nigh on impossible to have a situation arise that he couldn’t solve. This would prove a boon for the Next Generation in external dealings with hostile aliens, unfamiliar weaponry, previously unheard languages, etc. Data served as a sort of indestructible Encyclopedia Brown for the crew. It made disaster-on-board episodes tough to kickstart until Data was somehow neutralized, however. Hence, I believe, why Beverly became the keeper of his off switch secret. Handy plot device, that. If left to function ‘within normal perimeters’, however, Data could do it all.
Homer Jackson is the 19th century’s answer to Data. Inspector Reid managed to lay claim to the one man who has, by 19th century standards, quite literally done it all. Jackson is, by turns, a Pinkerton man, a surgeon, an undercover operative, a lauded ladies’ man, adept at blood analysis, a coroner, a sharp-shooter, an expert in infectious disease (detection and prevention), a highly effective physical fighter, an analytical thinker, skilled at interpreting trace evidence, able to dismantle an active bomb, an explosives expert, and seems to possess a near-miraculous regenerative ability. In terms of forensic evidence detection and analysis, he appears able to perform the job of six CSIs and their entire team of lab rats solo. He also does autopsies. And co-runs a brothel. While gambling. And spying on Russians. And fighting. And hiding another identity. If Data lost his ethical programming, he would be an android version of Homer Jackson. Homer Jackson may well be the morally bankrupt bastard love child of Data and Wolverine. He’s that effective.
Ripper Street, this isn’t a criticism. I love you so much for your madcap devotion to 80s icons. Don’t ever stop doing what you’re doing.
- Corinne Simpson