Making Waves is a British television drama series produced by Carlton Television for ITV. It was created by Ted Childs and chronicles the professional and personal lives of the crew of the Royal Navy frigate HMS Suffolk. The series remained in development hell for several years and was first broadcast on 7 July 2004. However, due to low ratings it was removed from the schedules after only three episodes, the remainder of the series going unaired on television.
The series starred Alex Ferns as Commander Martin Brooke and Emily Hamilton as Lieutenant Commander Jenny Howard. The frigate HMS Grafton stood in for Suffolk and additional filming took place around HMNB Portsmouth with the full co-operation of the Royal Navy. A limited edition DVD of all six episodes was released in December 2004.
In August 2002, the Royal Navy appointed Lt Cdr Kevin Fincher as project officer for the series; he would acquire the necessary ships, locations and personnel as well as advising the production team on and off set. Throughout pre-production Fincher negotiated a legal agreement with Carlton, whereby a financial recovery was made for anything they used that was taxpayer-funded. This included use of ships, fuel, and personnel. Another clause gave the Royal Navy a share of any royalties from the series, including advertising revenue and sales.
The series producers scouted Portsmouth in 2002 for ship locations. Potential main settings HMS Marlborough and HMS Dryad were put aside in favour of HMS Grafton and filming commenced on 24 March 2003 with 30 actors and 60 crew moving onto the ship for the shoot. Alex Ferns arrived two days earlier than the rest of the cast to settle in, and made a trip to Yeovilton to meet Harrier pilots, while Emily Hamilton prepared for her role by shadowing Vanessa Spiller, XO of HMS Kent. The series was directed by Matthew Evans and Nigel Douglas and was shot on digital DV cameras. The production staff filmed approximately three hours of footage on every 12-hour day, editing it using Avid systems in the production offices at the naval base.
Other vessels made cameos in the series; filming took place around and aboard HMS Victory for scenes in episode two, and aerial footage of HMS Invincible and HMS Gloucester was done for the war games scenes in episode four. HMS Lindisfarne appeared for the funeral scenes in episode five. Health and safety regulations required that Grafton was shadowed at all times by a support vessel during filming at sea, in the event of a member of the production team falling overboard.
Location filming lasted until 26 June 2003 before post-production was completed in London, and the series was delivered to ITV in August 2003 for broadcast in the autumn schedules, though it would be held back for several months. A special preview screening of episode one was held aboard HMS Richmond on 13 February 2004, while the ship was in Aberdeen on a recruitment and promotional tour of the UK. It was also premiered onboard HMS NORTHUMBERLAND during the same month whilst at the Excel London Boatshow and was attended by much of the cast and crew.
Commander Martin Brooke (played by Alex Ferns) is the son of a car mechanic and his naval background is based on piloting, rather than commanding a ship. He is assisted by Lt Cdr Jenny Howard (played by Emily Hamilton), who is initially his temporary XO, but eventually accepts Brooke's offer to stay on the ship. Lt Cdr William Lewis, the Marine Engineering Officer (played by Ian Bartholomew), is the superior of Charge Chief Marine Engineering Artificer (CCMEA) Andy Fellows (played by Steve Speirs) and Lewis's refusal to give the engines full maintenance regularly infuriates him, though not as much as LMEA Dave Finnan (played by Paul Chequer) who has just had a baby with his daughter Teresa (played by Chloe Howman). New Operator Mechanic Rosie Bowen (played by Joanna Page) settles in to her first posting and attracts the attention of OM Mickey Sobanski (played by Lee Turnbull), who is contemplating his future in the Navy after an incident in the first episode.
The second episode introduces the new navigating officer Lt Sam Quartermaine (played by Adam Rayner) and a subplot involving his relationship with LMA Anita Cook (played by Angel Coulby) runs through the series and is eventually discovered by Lt James Maguire, the principal warfare officer (played by Stephen Kennedy). Terry "Buffer" Duncan's (played by Geoff Bell) career is in jeopardy when an accusation of assault is thrown at him in the third episode, while leading regulating officer Liz Wilson (played by Diane Beck) develops an unreciprocated crush on Bowen. Leading chef Art Francis (played by Lee Boardman) must successfully prepare dinner for the captain and crew before it is stolen or ruined by steward Tim "Scouse" Phillips (played by Darren Morfitt).
Writing in The Guardian a fortnight later, ITV head of drama David Liddiment defended the decision, stating that the network had planned to let Making Waves profit from The Bill's (the lead-in) high ratings at a time when BBC One Wednesday night ratings were suffering, but the series just "wasn't good enough" to hold an audience. Ted Childs later responded that Making Waves had received little publicity compared to Channel 4's ratings smash Supernanny, which aired opposite his series, and that because that programme had ended its run, the ratings for the last three episodes might have improved. He went on to question why ITV had spent £5 million on a series they knew would not be a hit. Making Waves had been another in a line of expensive series which had been cancelled because they performed below ITV's expectations in the ratings, following Sweet Medicine and Family the previous year.
The cancellation of the series also drew criticism from the Royal Navy, with a source telling The Sun that it was "a kick in the teeth to our sailors". In its end-of-year review, ITV described the series as having "quality and distinctiveness" but failing "to find a mass audience".
The Scotsman dismissed it as little more than a six-part recruitment video, comparing scenes of refugees being lifted to real advertisements that showcased the Navy's role in humanitarian crises, and concluded that the drama was a "collection of clichés and stilted dialogue". The Independent on Sunday compared the series to the sea-based soap opera Triangle and noted "an overdependence on claustrophobic interiors". However, the series was wryly praised for casting Alex Ferns instead of Ross Kemp in the lead role, bucking the trend of recent ITV military series and commented on the difficult timeslot the series had been given. Over two years after the series was pulled, Alex Ferns admitted that it was formulaic, but blamed its failure on the constant rescheduling.
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