Blue Lights – Review

Worth seeing: as a compelling piece of police drama that's as emotionally gripping as it is technically proficient
Featuring:Hannah McClean, Joanne Crawford, John Lynch, Katherine Devlin, Martin McCann, Nathan Braniff, Richard Dormer, Sian Brooke, Abigail McGibbon, Andi Osho, Art Campion, Dane Whyte O'Hara, Gerard Jordan, Jonathan Harden, Matt Carver, Matthew Forsythe, Michael Shea, Nabil Elouahabi, Packy Lee, Valene Kane
Key crew:Gilles Bannier, Carol Moorhead, Adam Patterson, Declan Lawn, Fran Harris
Channel:BBC iPlayer, BBC1
Length:58 minutes
Broadcast date:27th March 2023


At a Belfast police station, a group of probationary officers are out on patrol with their more experienced colleagues.

As if becoming a police officer isn’t tough enough, on the streets of Northern Ireland, there’s the added threat from sectarian violence, death threats and the potential for bombs under their cars each morning.

But with issues in their personal lives, difficulties with their training and the feeling that their bosses are protecting a ruthless local drugs gang from arrest, there’s never a dull moment for a young police officer in Belfast.


At a time when the government is publicising a big rise in police numbers, along comes a show that is likely to put anyone off a career on the beat.

Anarchy on the streets and politics at the police station add to the threat of violence – targeted as much, if not more, towards the police than rival criminal gangs.

And in Belfast – the added menace of sectarian tensions that still simmer beneath the surface of every misdeed.

At police HQ, the writers of Blue Lights, Adam Patterson, Declan Lawn and Fran Harris, do a remarkably quick and effective job of developing likeable – and unlikeable – characters, with hints at their back stories and signposts to their strengths and weaknesses.

At the same time, they introduce an interesting range of criminals – from jumped up gangsters looking to make a name for themselves to pragmatic old-timers, walking a tight-rope that allows them to maintain their wealth and status.

The actors universally deliver on the requirements of the script, feeling constantly believable – whether we’re meant to like them or not.

Over a modest six episodes, there’s perhaps too few officers dealing with too much plot, unfolding over too little time, as many of them are still completing their police training or dealing with other issues in their personal lives – from terrorism to racism.

But the narrative constantly keeps you on the edge of your seat with high-octane thrills and drama, bowling along at a brisk pace. And it won’t even occur to you until after a shocking denouement eventually allows you to catch-your breath that perhaps some of the story-telling was just a little compacted and convenient.

When something is this emotionally gripping and technically well structured and delivered, it can be forgiven the odd dramatic short-cut.

One of the most compelling pieces of TV you’re likely to see this year.