Evenin' all: BBC to put 'Dixon of Dock Green' back on the beat after 30 years

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With a chirpy "evenin' all", he would step from the mist to reassure the nation that law and order were safe in his dependable hands.

With a chirpy "evenin' all", he would step from the mist to reassure the nation that law and order were safe in his dependable hands.

Now, after an absence of 30 years, Dixon of Dock Green is polishing his boots for a return to the beat.

The series - which ran for 21 years and was a Saturday night staple - is being revived by the BBC for a series based on the original scripts.

It will feature BBC golden boy David Tennant, who has just been cast as the new Doctor Who and was recently seen in the title role of the BBC3 drama Casanova, as Dixon's sidekick, PC Andy Crawford. The eponymous hero, PC George Dixon - immortalised by Jack Warner - will be played by David Calder, who co-starred in ITV's Bramwell.

The revival, for a series of six Radio 4 programmes beginning next month, follows the return to TV of other fondly remembered shows such as Quatermass and Doctor Who in recent months.

Dixon's return was welcomed by Peter Byrne, who starred as PC Crawford in the TV series from 1955 to 1976. "I think it's ideal for radio. Jack was always very miffed that it never made it to radio all those years ago," he told The Independent on Sunday.

Dixon's first incarnation was short-lived. He appeared in the 1949 Ealing movie The Blue Lamp and was shot dead 20 minutes into the film by Dirk Bogarde. But his heroic demise on the job and the way he exemplified the honest British bobby struck a chord with the audience, and the film's writer, Ted Willis, was asked to resurrect the character with six scripts for a BBC police drama to replace Fabian of the Yard.

Dixon's realistic portrayal of the life of the ordinary beat cop - based on the real-life testimonies of policemen - made it an instant hit, and it ran for 22 seasons, transferring from black and white to colour in 1969.

By the mid-1970s, however, when the ageing Dixon was confined to desk duties, it was deemed to look staid compared to hard-hitting action shows such as The Sweeney, and he was eventually retired.

The Radio 4 series has used early scripts created by Ted Willis but revamped to make them chime with a modern audience. Sue Rodwell, scriptwriter for the series, said: "I watched a lot of old Alastair Sim black and white films while I was doing it to get a flavour of the time. If you read the scripts, it was quite innovative. When it was first on it was a really new look, the mundane day-to-day life of police officers and the crimes they would deal with. I think I have managed to retain the atmosphere."

The series producer Jeremy Howe said: "We've taken the period charm, the stories and that geniality but cranked it up to make it more of a 2005 pace. I loved watching it as a kid. I've got a real affection for it."

Peter Byrne, who opens in My Cousin Rachel at the Theatre Royal Windsor tomorrow, said: "In a way it wasn't really about the police; it was about ordinary people who do an extraordinary job."

He believes the series - and Warner, its star who died in 1981 - were under-rated by many. "Various people have said the series was a bit cosy and the BBC seemed to be a little ashamed of it. Jack was one of the biggest names of his day, but he was on the cover of Radio Times only once and that was with the rest of us."

Dixon then and now

'The Roaring Boy' (1955) script by Ted Willis

Beale: "Get back!"

Dixon: "You know what you'll get for this?"

Beale: "I should worry. Just let me warn you, copper. If you make one move, I shall plug you - and then I'll do for her as well. Two bullets - one for each of you. One step and you'll both be for it."

'The Roaring Boy' (2005) adaptation by Sue Rodwell

Dixon: "Come on, son."

Beale: "Don't call me 'son'."

Dixon: "Just come along with me nice and quietly."

Beale: "You put your hand on me again, copper, and I'll shoot it off."

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