Jerome's first major solo project was this series for the BBC which ran for two seasons, and was a subject that was obviously close to his heart. "I've always felt passionate about animals, so loved the script when it was sent to me," he said when the series was first aired. "I also have family and friends in Northumberland and have a particular affinity with the North East."
Written by Ballykissangel creator Kieran Prendiville, Jerome plays the role of DC Tom McCabe, a Northumberland police wildlife liaison officer. We first meet him on Saturday night in a terraced house in industrial Gateshead, wrestling a very large alligator called Patsy and trying to make sense of her pensioner bedmate, Ray. Most of the time, however, we see Jerome in spectacularly beautiful wild Northumbria battling poachers and dealers and coming to the aid of deer, peregrine falcons, kites, dogs and an injured badger.
Jerome and Prendiville based McCabe's character on real-life Northumbria wildlife officer Paul Henery, who provided information and allowed the actor to trail him on cases.
"Paul was a large inspiration because he was the real thing," Jerome says. "I connected with him right away, understood what's driving him to do the job. It's not really police work, it's a passion with him, trying to keep the animals wild ... he's just passionate about preventing needless suffering.
Henery was keen to heighten awareness to the rackets going on and Jerome became something of a link between the scriptwriters and the policeman. Not so much, it seems, in the first series of Badger.
In April 2000, Craster became the set for BBC TV's Badger. For a week buildings took on new identities and Harbour Cottage was transformed into a local jail complete with bars across the window. The yard was used as the back of a police station.
Pictures courtesy of Dean Richardson
Series 1 Episode Guide
Episode 1 - 'It's a Jungle Out There'
The introductory episode in which we meet DC Tom McCabe, former Marine turned Police Wildlife Liaison Officer, and his side-kick, DC Jim Cassidy.
McCabe and vet Steph Allen raid the council house in which Ray (Brendan P. Healy) lives with his wife and a nine foot alligator called Patsy. McCabe investigates a case of venison poaching, and RSPB Investigations Officer Claire Armitage, who is also married to McCabe's boss, pursues a birds' egg raider. The cases coincide when the 'egger' (Harrison Phillips) is poisoned by the poached venison, exposing the poaching ring.
McCabe discovers he has a nineteen-year-old daughter called Catherine 'Wild' Mannion, of whose existence he was totally unaware until the death of his ex-wife.
Episode 2 - 'I've Got Glue Under My Skin'
While investigating a series of burglaries, McCabe and Cassidy discover a recently stuffed puma, a protected animal, among the hoard of antique booty in criminal's cache. Yet it does not appear on the list of missing antiques from the owner Damon Soames (Stewart Howson), and when challenged Soames denies all knowledge of it.
Meanwhile, Claire is on the trail of a gunman who wounded a rare red kite. The kite is treated at Steph's wildlife sanctuary and, while visiting Steph, McCabe captures the gunman, who is trying to retrieve his prey.
McCabe forces a confession out of the gunman and tracks down the illegal taxidermist, who is waiting to supply a customer with the red kite.
The taxidermist confesses that he is working for the antique dealer who, on the side, is running a highly illegal trade in stuffed protected wildlife.
Tentatively, McCabe and Steph start to deepen their relationship, and McCabe tries to win over Steph's son, Liam. Claire meanwhile does not seem to a approve of their relationship. Wilf moves in with her father, but the atmosphere between them continues to be prickly.
Episode 3 - The World According to Carp
While investigating a shipment of counterfeit money McCabe and Cassidy keep watch on Frankie Moncur (George Costigan), an arrogant local villain who also runs an apparently respectable restaurant. Moncur is aware of their surveillance, and constantly mocks their efforts.
McCabe is excited when he realises that otters are moving back into local water, but infuriated when he finds a dead one in a local fishing lake.
The lake belongs to Moncur who is organizing a fishing competition there. Characteristically, he is cheating by seeding the lake with prize fish stolen from more populated water in the south, in an attempt to raise the reputation of his own water and make it more desirable to the professional competition fishing set.
Meanwhile, McCabe catches Moncur's agent shooting cormorants and poisoning otters, apparently because of their raids on Moncur's fish farm
However, during the competition, Cassidy catches another otter tugging a packet of counterfeit money out of it's holt where it has been hidden by Moncur.
Meanwhile, Claire deliberately sabotages McCabe's date with Steph, but McCabe manages to ingratiate himself with Steph's son Liam.
Wilf and Cassidy already have a long-term relationship with Julia who runs the Goose and Gargle pub.
Episode 4 - Setts, Lies and Videotape
Chris and Jackie Mason (Mark Scott and Chris Connel), two teenage hoodlums, terrorize a council estate and run a protection racket which preys on the local traders, mocking the police when they try to intervene. But when they decide to step into the big time by running a badger bait in a wharfside warehouse, they incur McCabe's wrath.
The badger is supplied by a disaffected building worker whose boss pays him to 'accidently' destroy a badger sett which is inconveniently positioned on a site currently undergoing development. However, the use of Smart Water, a chemical fingerprint agent, helps McCabe to track down all the participants and he and Cassidy raid the badger-baiting site.
Wilf and McCabe decide to go for a fun run in support of Claire's organization, the RSPB. Meanwhile, Claire and David's marriage is in trouble over the question of children, but McCabe's affair with Steph is definitely beginning to pick up speed. His relationship with both her son, Liam, and his own daughter, Wilf, is also progressing.
Episode 5 - McCabe Gets the Horn
Following a seizure of over two million pounds' worth of rhino horn in a London lock-up, McCabe is warned by a friend in the Customs service, who knows that some was missed, to look out for signs of the rhino horn in a Chinese medicine market in the Northumberland area.
At first, McCabe's heavy-handedness alienates Susan Chang (Jaclyn Tse), a Chinese shopkeeper, but she later agrees to help him and leads him to a dealer in the powered horn.
Meanwhile, McCabe and Cassidy are on the trail of stolen laptop computers. When he discovers that Steph has unwittingly bought one of them, McCabe finds himself blamed for it, causing a rift between them.
McCabe's troubles are not over. Claire's niece has allowed the family pet peke to swallow a valubale rare coin from her father's collection, and Claire seems to expect McCabe to talk Steph into operating on the dog to recover it.
Cassidy's growing relationship with Wilf is getting dangerously inflammable, and even Julia is beginning to suspect all is not well.
Episode 6 - Low Fidelity
Unintentionally, McCabe causes trouble in a gamekeeper's home when he gives a lecture to a school class and says that some gamekeepers are killing rare birds of prey on the moors. When a rare hen harrier is actually killed on a local moor, the locals and the school pupils, including the gamekeeper's own daughter, blame Dominic McGuire (Alan William), the local gamekeeper. However, they later discover that it was not the gamekeeper but his ambitious younger deputy who was responsible.
McCabe also faces trouble at home, when Steph discovers drugs in Liam's bed and expects McCabe to handle the ensuing row. But McCabe's attention is distracted by a growing feud on a local housing estate in which a local man, whose garden and car have been vandalized, has taken the law into his own hands and attacked and hospitalized a teenager.
It is not until Liam gives away the source of his illegal drugs that Tom realizes the hospitalized teenager is also the local dealer and was beaten up in a drugs-related incident.
McCabe finally finds out about Wilf's growing relationship with Cassidy, causing him to pick a fight with his partner. The exposed relationship also causes a rift between Cassidy and Julia.
But, when McCabe finally releases the badger he has been nursing back to health into the wild, it brings about a moment of true closeness with his new-found daughter, Wilf.
Series 1 - Credits
Episode 1 - Inside Story
Zelenka, a local factory, is suspected of polluting the enviroment and harming the nearby wildlife. But, just as McCabe is beginning to gather proof of their involvement a bomb goes off, destroying all the evidence against them.
Steph and Claire get increasingly worried about the local wildlife and attempt to find the source of the pollution. Meanwhile, McCabe and Cassidy try to track down the culprit of the bombing with the assistance of Annabel Staunton from the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service).
Aidan Fletcher, an employee at the factory, is persuaded to give evidence against his employers and McCabe and Cassidy promise him police protection. But then Aidan and his family come under attack and are taken from their safe house by the the very people that McCabe thought he could trust.
Meanwhile, McCabe's relationship with Steph is steadily getting more close and they discuss moving in together.
Episode 2 - The Price of a Daughter
A dead badger is dumped into McCabe's now unoccupied badger run and, together with other clues, leads McCabe and Cassidy to believe that Wilf may be in danger. This fear is confirmed when Wilf disappears, kidnapped by Vic Kerrigan who blames McCabe for the death of his own daughter, crippled during a police chase and since died of pneumonia. McCabe races to Wilf's resuce.
Meanwhile, to McCabes fury, Steph's husband, Ralph, turns up and tries to woo his way back into the affections of his former wife and their child. Steph also takes on a new helper - Ray, the man McCabe arrested for keeping an alligator in his bedroom in the first episode of Series 1 - who takes a bird with a broken wing to her and stays to work in the sanctuary.
Episode 3 - Holding On
A violent gang is rustling hill sheep and slaughtering them to sell the meat on the clandestine market. McCabe succeeds in tracking down the rustlers by hiding himself in the van next time there is a raid and guiding the police task force to the illegal slaughterhouse by radio.
A desperate boy brings Steph a wonded racehorse to treat. She discovers that he hopes to nurse the horse back to health and win a trotting race, but his father is dangerously ill and owes money to men who want to take the horse as settlement of the debt. Instead, the boy pays off the debt by racing the recovered horse himself.
Ralph, Steph's lawyer ex-husband, is hired to defend a violent criminal arrested by McCabe, and defeats McCabe in court by a technical trick, which increases the hostility between them. Ralph tries even harder to get Steph back, while the trouble between Claire and her husband is made worse when he finds he's unable to have children.
Episode 4 - Cock o' the Walk
A shepherd's daughter, playing in a ruined pele tower on the moors, is poisoned by a mystery liquid in a lemonade bottle. This has been left behind by a cock-fighting ring who use the tower for their illegal meetings. The girl lies close to death in hospital.
Investigating the poisoning, McCabe and Cassidy are also trying to track down some specialist burglars, and are antagonized by the arrogant attitude of some of the victims. However, the two storylines coincide when McCabe realizes that the victims of the serial burglaries are the same people who attend the illegal cock fights - and that the man who organizes them is also tipping off the thieves about whose houses are going to be empty on which nights.
The rift in Claire's marriage continues to get worse, while Ralph appears to be succeeding in his attempt to win back his former wife and son. When McCabe sees Ralph in Steph's bedroom he jumps to the obvious, but in this case wrong, conclusion.
Episode 5 - Predators
Harrington, the owner of a private collection of dangerous wild animals, reports that his animals - an iguana, a racoon, two wolves and a leopard - have all been released into the countryside. McCabe brings in a professional big-game hunter and, during their mutual pursuit of the animals, learns to respect the man's expertise. They capture the wolves but are hampered by a local farmer and his sons who appoint themselves vigilante hunters and are subsequently attacked by the leopard, forcing McCabe to kill it.
Trying to make up with Steph, McCabe takes an expensive gift to Liam's birthday party, but allows Ralph to needle him into a fight. McCabe knocks Ralph down, and wipes out his chances of a reconciliation with Steph. Claire decides to make a clean break with David and tells him she no longer loves him.
Episode 6 - Flight
Bronco Sullivan, a violent criminal who has been sent to prison after stabbing Cassidy, breaks out to recover his stashed loot and see his daughter. McCabe and Cassidy keep watch on his house but are distracted by a mysterious teenage boy, who brings them an injured bird, and Sullivan's daughter, who tries to throw them off the scent.
Meanwhile, Liam is bullied at school and Ralph's genuine concern makes Steph warm to him. When he takes on the bully's parents and gets beaten up himself, she is touched and they end up in bed together.
Claire leaves both her husband and Newcastle to find a new life elsewhere.
Episode 7 - Finders Keepers
When Boyd, a local fisherman, is found dead after a storm around the Farne Islands, his severe head wounds make the police suspicious. His boat is missing, but his lobster gear is still in his shed and his wife obviously has something to hide. Then his drinking mate, an old beachcomber called Reuben, devoted both to the seals and the islands, goes missing, and McCabe and Cassidy are called in to investigate what looks like a murder. McCabe is certainly glad to be going away, following Steph's confession that she slept with Ralph.
Cassidy tries to get back together with Julia, while McCabe returns from the Farne Islands to talk with Steph and attempt to patch things up.
Series 2 - Credits
Filming Badger also provided a few funny moments for Jerome and the crew....
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