Character name: Detective Sergeant John Bacchus
Canon: Inspector George Gently
Canon point: 4.2 "Goodbye China". The year is 1966.
Weapons: Two fists, pet.
Abilities/powers: Can understand thick Northern accents for the sake of comedy. I mean: none beyond average human. Pretty good footballer, though...
London, in the sixties, was swinging.
But John Bacchus lives in Northumberland, and despite his groovy mop-top, he's very much an old fashioned Northern bloke. Working class to his bootstraps, he's rough and undisciplined and impulsive and clever. He has it in him to be a really good cop. He also has it in him to be a really good bad cop.
He even plays one in the interview room. John's the sort of cop who questions people with his fists, or at least the threat of his fists, and does so with aplomb. Not, perhaps, any more so than a lot of coppers of his day (he has a mate who threatens suspects with a bullwhip, although according to John he never actually uses it), but he does sort of come off as inappropriately gleeful at the prospect of getting to bash heads. He's particularly fond of protests (and wouldn't you know it? His collar numbers always manage to fall off just before any rioting starts so he can't be reported). John doesn't quite operate on Gene Hunt Interrogation Technique levels, but he's close. His creative cruelty goes further psychologically than it does physically (he makes it a point to tell a suspect whose affair he discovered that he's gone and made friends with his very nice wife, and sends a murderer to the gallows having told him that the boy he tortured to death was his own long lost son because it "wiped the smile off his face", despite it having been a complete lie). He's quite brave out in the field (although some people might call it fool-hardy), and has never met a door he couldn't break down.
By modern days standards, John is corrupt. By 1960's standards he's...slightly corrupt. Some of John's greatest hits include: blackmailing a superior officer into quitting the force (which can be considered kind of him, if blackmail can be considered kind. He had learned the man was corrupt and drove him out rather than charge him, as he had been John's boss for years), soliciting drugs while undercover, accepting a bribe (so as to be able to arrest a suspect for bribery; however a banking error on his part caused him to accidentally spend some of the money), and breaking and entering when unable to secure a warrant (while implying it was not his first time at that sort of rodeo). He's also a fantastic liar, a skill he makes use of in both his professional and his personal life, which he prefers to keep very personal.
For someone who is such a good liar, John is surprisingly naive about and trusting of his superior officers. He's easily impressed by them, and easily lead astray, and then ultimately disappointed when their own lies and criminal tendencies come to light (the one exception being the beyond reproach Inspector George Gently). He believes strongly in solidarity among officers, and is always willing to cover for them if he believes they are breaking the law in the pursuit of justice. He does not, however, stand for that sort of thing when done for personal gain. In John's mind: there's a difference. He always seems to be just on the edge of confusing vigilante justice for law and order. But Gently's approval means the world to John, almost despite himself. Even while he swears he doesn't need anybody telling him what to do, John isn't quite as worldly as he'd like to believe, and he does, in fact, need someone to tell him what to do. While he doesn't always like what Gently has to say, he can't deny that the man has the sort of answers he's searching for, and he trusts Gently with his life. Literally. He allows a gunman to take him hostage rather than a woman because he knows he can safely give Gently the chance to shoot the gunman in the head...from a fairly long distance. It's a very father-son relationship, and something John will look for in others in the absence of Gently.
John is smart, and he has a smart mouth, but he isn't book smart. He considers higher education somewhat useless. This is likely influenced at least partly by jealousy as he could never have afforded University, nor could anyone in his family. He also isn't particularly cultured: poetry, in his opinion, should always rhyme or there's no point to it, and he eats like he's afraid the food might try to get away and speaks with his mouth full. He's rather vain, though. Not so much about his face; he puts that in the way of too many fists, but he's very proud of his Beatles haircut and he futzes with it in every available reflective surface. He also has a taste for slick suits and fast cars. It's a rare occasion when he is not smoking, or smirking. Additionally: he votes Tory, and comes with all of the conservative views associated with said party, although he has been shown to be able to interact and empathize with homosexuals and people of other races on a one on one basis. Sort of like: the ones he knows are alright; they're people. But on the whole they all look alike and have nefarious designs on helpless young lads. George Gently is fond of pointing out that there is no prejudice John has managed to avoid, which always seems to give John pause, as though that isn't how he'd like to see himself, but he can't quite argue against it either.
John has a fairly complicated relationship with women. He has trouble believing men and women can be friends, without one of the parties wanting something more from the other. He's a shameless girl watcher: his head turns every time a woman walks by, and he's the sort to wink at waitresses, but he never attempts to flirt in the interrogation room, and shuts women who do down quickly. He also failed Free Love 101. Which is to say: a very attractive female college student who was big on the movement offered herself to him, no strings attached, and although he was clearly interested in her, and separated from his wife at the time, he turned her down. Life, he explained, is not a game to people like him. However, during his marriage he did his cheat on his wife. It's implied that there were several women he spent time with, but he only admits to having slept with one (Fawn Granger), whom he insisted was "special". Although he lied to her, telling her he was a single plumber, he expressed an interest in keeping in touch with her after she discovered his actual identity, which she declined. John is shown being very sweet in the company of women, and that's likely not an act, just a side of him that would come as a surprise to any suspect he's shoved against a wall and screamed in the face of. It's actually more likely that his "bad cop" routine is the act; the swagger he thinks a tough cop ought to have, and the way a cop needs to be to get respect.
That John does not seem to be able to separate sex from love makes for a particularly interesting insight into his marriage. For a year he painted a picture for George Gently of a loveless relationship: of two young people saddled with a child neither of them wanted, as they didn't truthfully want each other. He made no attempt to portray himself as a dutiful husband, but always portrayed Lisa as cold and neglectful of him, and as unhappy in the marriage as he was. And then Gently ran into Lisa one evening, and she turned out to be a very sweet, loving young woman, very much in love with John. While she had not planned to become pregnant, she didn't feel forced into the marriage at all, as she had seen that as the natural outcome of their courtship, and it is only John's admitting that he does not love her that motivates her to leave him. I imagine John did love her at one time, and may still, but grew resentful of her for "trapping" him. John does not seem to like when events are out of his control.
The resentment John developed for Lisa also had an influence on his relationship with his daughter (Leanne), whom, again, he has admitted was unwanted. During his marriage, he did not seem to spend much time with her or mention her. There was a case of child molestation which apparently kept him up all night, thinking about her, and resulted in his failing the Inspector's Exam he had been studying for for weeks, but it is really only after he and Lisa are separated, and he's only allowed to see Leanne every other weekend that he seems to take an interest in her. He begs to see her on off weekends. He buys her things. He gazes morosely at her photo in bars. When he does have her, he has no idea how to be a father to her, and Leanne is miserable with him.
Despite professing to be unhappy with his wife, he resists agreeing to a divorce for some time. He does eventually grant her one, even with her father, the Chief Constable, pressuring him not to, as the divorce would shame the family. That John not only goes against his boss' wishes, but also makes the show of himself in court that is necessary for the divorce, goes a long way to show that he still cares for Lisa, even if he is no longer in love with her, as what finally motivates him is the idea that Lisa might move on and his daughter might get the sort of father she deserves, even if it is at the expense of his pride.
History: John Bacchus was born and raised in Durham, and attended Anderson Street Grammar School where he was made prefect and considered a suck-up by the popular lads. His parents were working class. His mother died when he was about twenty. He does not have a rocky relationship with his father, but neither do they seem to be particularly close. He joined the police force after completing secondary school. He rose quickly through the ranks to Detective Sergeant, and was well liked by the Chief Constable (Edgar Lilley) until he accidentally knocked up his daughter, Lisa. A shotgun wedding later, John was an unhappily married man with a baby girl on the way. He bought himself a sports car as consolation.
It is during the investigation of the murder of a local biker that John finds himself working with DCI George Gently, one of Scotland Yard's top men, who has followed the trail of the gangster (Joe Webster, responsible for the murder of his wife) to Northumberland. John has hopes that this partnership will lead to bigger and better things, preferably in London, preferably without his wife, but his and Gently's methods clash: Gently doesn't like that John works from hunches, and John thinks Gently is too old and slow. But Gently does see promise in John, though he fears he could easily stray from the straight and narrow. The body count begins to rise, and members of the local force try to warn John off of working with Gently: he's only in town, they insist, to root out corruption, and he's looking to fit John up and take him down. John's not pleased by this, and he and Gently start to shout it out, but end up bonding. When they do track down Webster, John offers to back Gently up if he'd like to shoot him, but Gently's too straight-laced to take revenge. John takes a bit of revenge for him, by convincing Webster that one of his murder/torture victims was his own son. Murder solved and Webster apprehended, John takes a moment to blackmail his previous boss, Inspector Setters, into quitting the force after discovering the man was running a drugs racket and had planted evidence that lead John to nearly charge an innocent man, and release another suspect from custody who was immediately murdered. Then he's off to London, as he's received an invitation from the Met to join a new squad that's taking on organized crime in Soho. Or so he thinks. It turns out, Gently likes the country life, and has decided to transfer to County Durham and take John under his wing. That invitation? Gently's had it redacted and there's nothing John can do about it.
The two continue to work together, and although they still butt heads, they make a formidable detective team, even as John's marriage falls apart. Although he remains ambitious, he begins to mention transferring to London less, and after granting his wife a divorce he stops mentioning it entirely. 1964 becomes 1966 (...literally. The show seems unclear about what happened to 1965), and while John may never convert to Gently's methods, it is becoming less and less likely that he will one day be the most corrupt cop in all of England.
George Gently at wikipedia
Episode recaps on imdb:
3rd person sample:
John feels cold, and he can't for the life of him remember why. It isn't an uncomfortable nippiness, like a window's been left open, or someone's stolen the quilt in the night (and there's no one left to steal the quilt at any rate): it's bone-chilling. It hurts. Something is pressed against his face, too, and he can't seem to make his arms and legs obey.
A thought occurs: he's been in a crash. He'd abandoned the MG which had never done him wrong, for the more reliable Ford in some last ditch effort to show willing, and now the Corsair is in a real ditch somewhere, and the cold is the last thing John will feel before bleeding out. Who knows if they'll ever find him.
That's not right, of course: John knows. Gently will find him. But will he find him alive? That is the question. No matter how good the copper, nobody gets to everyone in time. One of those many unfair aspects of the job; the things that wound you a little more each day.
One of his arms has just moved; he's almost sure of it. Either that's a good sign, and maybe he'll make it through this, or his death is going to take that much longer and be that much more agonizing. He tries to suck more air into his lungs, and the earth shifts under his face. It's damp, and doesn't feel like dirt. Sand, maybe? He manages to turn his head, and then the whole world rolls and he's on his back with the sound of waves crashing in his ears, and the sunlight jamming pins in his eyes. After a moment, he forces himself up on his elbows, and then into something like a sitting position. He presses his palms into the sand to keep his head from spinning and his stomach from bringing up whatever he had for breakfast.
There's no blood.
No car either. Just sand, and sea, and a city with an unfamiliar skyline. It's a shoddy thing too; crumbling and precariously perched. John's dragged himself to his feet somehow, and he digs desperately through his pockets for a smoke: the only thing that can begin to soothe all the wrongness hanging around him. The pack is soaked, of course. Useless. He hurls it into the ocean and calls it every foul word he knows.
John Bacchus knows a lot of foul words.
1st person sample:
[First, there's the familiar krsssssssssh of a police radio. Next, there's a young man on your airwaves. The Geordie accent was once voted the most attractive accent in England, but it's not very attractive the way John is using it. You can practically hear him foaming at the mouth.]
Taylor! TAYLOR! For God's sake, man, pick up your damned radio!
[John breathes raggedly as he looks around.]
Summats...summats happened. Summats gone wrong, and I don't-...
[John can't quite bring himself to admit he has no idea where he is; they'll have too much of a laugh at him later.]
Fine! Bury your face in your tea, you bloody useless lump!
[There's a moment of sulky silence. The next time John speaks, he is straining his rage through his teeth.]
This is Detective Sergeant John Bacchus. If there's anybody out there can hear us, and elects not to respond, I'm going to take that as an open invitation to smack your teeth out of your head when I find you.
Are we clear?