The opening scene of Sea Patrol jumps right into the action as the crew of HMAS Hammersley are about to board an illegal fishing vessel. Guns are aimed, decisions are made, shots are fired. There’s no mucking about with backstory here.
And with loaded pistols aimed, McCune’s Kate McGregor is struggling to perform her job efficiently against the putrid smell of the fisherman’s catch. The audience is compelled to consider the dilemmas and knife-edge decisions that our navy face as part of their day at the office.
From here the show moves toward the personal lives of its central characters. Kate is new to the Hammersley but hints at some former emotional involvement with Commander Mike Flynn (Ian Stenlake). Insert unresolved sexual tension now? Maybe, maybe not.
Others in the Hammersley crew include Jeremy Lindsay-Taylor, Saskia Burmeister and Josh Lawson. Stenlake’s character isn’t afforded much character development in the opening episode, but Lindsay-Taylor looks like he will be a force to be reckoned with as the cocky “Buffer.”
As the episode progresses, our characters face a medical emergency and a sea rescue. Some scenes are clunkily-handled with expository dialogue, contrasting the opening scene that expect the viewer to get up to speed.
This is a big budget, aerial shot, Queensland coast, pounding-music drama. The sweeping aerial shots and vistas all look terrific in Sea Patrol and will appeal instantly to a nation of coastal-dwellers.
As storytelling Sea Patrol opens very traditionally, drawing upon rock-solid lessons learned from genre dramas such as Water Rats or even Patrol Boat. Dramatic jeopardy, some white-knuckle action, a little romance and character development, just a dash of humour. The huge Hammersley cuts through the water like Nine charting the safest of smooth-sailing waters.
The first episode in the hands of Blue Heelers’ co-creators finds the choices quite broad, aiming for the biggest possible audience. What might it have been as a raw, grainy, docudrama verite? Wildside on a boat? Blue Murder or Phoenix at sea? Who knows…
Creative choices aside, Sea Patrol is proudly glossy and aspirational. It is an assured and confident genre piece that deserves a big audience and much-needed hit for the Nine Network.
Sea Patrol premieres 8:30pm Thursday July 5 on Nine.