Ivory Tower: The research detectives in search of a clue are back
Continuity announcer: Something most of us thought we would never see happen but they’ve only gone and commissioned a new series of the detective show about universities. But with the chair of the board taking an interest in all things Boris Johnson, and another board member being the brother of the schools minister and a former Tory communications chief, it isn’t all that inexplicable. Now that they aren’t privatising Channel 4 you could always watch the other side.
Chief Inspector Zahawi: Woke, communism… call it what you want. Let’s really turn up the heat in the war on culture.
MD: But I work alone, boss. I’m a strong female lead with a mysterious past that I don’t like to talk about.
Freeman: Lovely to meet you too. Perhaps we could grab a spot of lunch at the Carlton Club. They do a rather splendid eggs benedict there.
MD: Look, just because we’ve been told to work together, it doesn’t mean we need to like it. So, if you don’t mind…
One year later…
1. Int. Freeman enters the department bringing in a perp in handcuffs. He swaggers over to his desk, pushing the reluctant criminal into a chair.
Freeman: There you go Scully, just another wannabe vaccine pusher who won’t be troubling the innovation nation much longer. Read him his rights and book him.
Scully: He ain’t got no rights gaffer. Under the new act he’ll have his passport rescinded and sent straight to Rwanda.
Perp: For massaging clinical trial data?
Freeman: That’s enough from you. They were faked and that’s the end of it.
Scully: Listen George, have you heard the news?
Freeman: I’ve been too busy chasing wrong ’uns to watch telly.
Scully: Zahawi’s out and it’s all change. They’re breaking up the department and setting up an elite science squad.
Freeman: They’ll need an expert to lead it. Someone with years of experience in the field. Someone who has long been overlooked for promotion.
Scully: The new boss is here already.
Freeman: What? Who?
Scully: George, there’s no easy way to tell you this.
Freeman gets up and storms into the chief inspector’s office. He sees MD sitting behind the desk neatly arranging papers.
Freeman: What the actual…?
MD: Oh, I forgot you work here.
Freeman: You have got to be joking.
MD: That does rather accurately describe the quality of your work.
Freeman: But you… you don’t know…
MD: How lucky I am? Yes, it’s my dream job.
MD: Commissioner Sunak has asked me to run the new science squad.
Freeman: But where have you been? Last time I saw you, you were resigning for the good of the nation.
MD: I did. Then I came back. I’ve been over at culture.
Freeman: For how long?
MD: Four months.
MD: Got a lot done, actually.
Freeman: Did you rearrange the filing system? Change the colour of the ring binders to red?
MD: Blue, as it happens. And I’ll be making some changes around here. Starting with…
Freeman: You’re not the boss of me.
MD: I rather think I am, detective inspector Freeman.
Freeman: This is science squad. We do science, we don’t do woke-bashing like the last lot. I hope Sunak told you that.
MD: There’s always a job going as duty sergeant at the UKRI helpdesk over in Swindon.
Freeman: You’d love that.
Scully: Thought you’d like to know, mam. They’ve brought someone in for that European job. They’re holding him in the interrogation room right now.
MD: Thank you Scully. Perhaps you’d like to observe this Georgie, see how a professional does it.
2. Int. Interview room
MD: 10.22am for the tape, chief inspector Donelan and detective sergeant Scully are interviewing. Detective inspector Freeman is present but not talking.
Freeman: For the tape, I’d just like to…
MD: Not talking, not one word.
Solicitor: This is an unusual set-up. Three of you to interview my client.
MD: We’re the science squad. We don’t do usual. Sergeant Scully, proceed.
Scully: If you can look at the bundle, please, photography 22A, do you recognise this?
MD: Put your hand down, George.
Freeman: For the tape, I know what it is.
MD: Not one word.
Scully: Do you recognise this, sir?
Solicitor: You don’t have to answer that.
MD: Yes, he does. Or he can spend a night in the cells to see if that refreshes his memory.
Suspect: Gosh, whiff whaff, crickey blimey, sorry not ringing any of Bozza’s bells.
Freeman: I know.
MD: Another word out of you and you can join him in the cells.
Scully: Photograph 22A, sir, this is the Northern Ireland protocol. Still not ringing any bells?
Suspect: I wasn’t there but if I was all rules were followed.
Solicitor: That’s for the other interview, Boris.
Scully: Let’s turn to photograph 33C. Do you recognise that, sir?
Suspect: Looks like a steak and kidney pie.
Scully: It’s an oven-ready deal, sir. Ring any bells yet?
Solicitor: My client has been helpful enough officer. I think we should call it a day.
MD: I don’t think so. You see we have reason to believe that someone has been passing off a dodgy deal over the Irish border and that is what’s stopping science money coming in.
Suspect: I wasn’t there but if I was all rules were followed.
MD: Commissioner Sunak has been working very hard to clean up this mess. In about nine months’ time, we’ll be…
Freeman: We can’t wait nine months.
MD: Not now…
Freeman: Yes now—we can’t drag this out any longer. It took the Swiss gang 12 months…
MD: Detective inspector Freeman, I am going to have to ask you to leave.
Freeman: We need to go to Plan B now.
Suspect: Are you going to ask about the cake?
Solicitor: Don’t answer that, Boris.
Scully: Answer his own question?
Freeman: We can have Horizon and Plan B while we are waiting. We can have our cake and eat it.
Suspect: That’s what I always say, but no one will believe me.
Solicitor: That’s enough, Boris.
MD: For the tape, interview terminated at 10.34am. You are free to go sir, but please do not leave the country. George, my office now.
3. Int. Chief inspector Donelan’s office
MD: What the hell was that in there? I thought I told you not to speak.
Freeman: It’s a more complicated case than you think.
MD: Go on…
Freeman: It’s not as straightforward as making an association overnight. We’ve got to…
Scully: Sorry to interrupt mam, there’s been a murder.
MD: They’ve not been trying to explain Aria on GB News again?
Scully: It’s pretty brutal apparently, mam.
MD: Right, here’s your chance to redeem yourself detective inspector. Get over there and tell Piers Morgan or Nadine Dorries or whoever will listen to you about the benefits of investing in science.
Freeman: Then perhaps you’ll join me for a late supper at the Carlton?
MD: Maybe… First, I’ve got some looking out of the window and brooding about my mysterious past that I don’t like to talk about to do.
Freeman: OK boss, see you later.
MD: That’s mam to you, detective inspector.
Freeman: Yes boss.
[To be continued]