"Woodentop" is an episode of the Thames Television series of one-off plays Storyboard. The programme was originally broadcast on 16 August 1983. It is also the forerunner to the long running British police television series The Bill.
The episode documents PC Jim Carver's first day at Sun Hill Police Station, where he is partnered with experienced WPC June Ackland. It isn't specified how long Ackland has been at Sun Hill, but it appears to have been substantial even at this point as she is highly respected.
The day is an eventful one; the pair's first assignment together leads them to discovering a decomposing woman's body in her bath. Later whilst on patrol Jim encounters a rude youngster (Gary Hailes) and influenced by comments made by older officers at the station decides to clip him round the ear. This action results in him receiving a reprimand at the station from Sergeant Wilding. Fortunately for Carver, the boy's father approves of his son's treatment, and thus no further action is taken.
June Ackland and Dave Litten have been in an on-again off-again relationship, and whenever they cross paths both tend to go silent making other members of their relief uncomfortable. Sergeant Wilding advises Ackland to drop Litten, saying that she can do better.
PC Reg Hollis is also mentioned in this episode. Whilst not appearing on screen, an attempt is made to contact him by radio. When he fails to answer the call, the officer in CAD makes the assumption that he has wandered out of radio range.
Woodentop has an unusual place in the history of The Bill due to the original premise of this being a one-off play. After broadcast, Thames commissioned a further eleven episodes to be shown the following year, under the name The Bill as the show had the potential to appeal to a mass audience.
Although The Bill is clearly a continuation from this episode, the main series contradicts it in a number of ways. For instance, in Woodentop Litten has completed his secondment to CID and is close to securing his place in the detective branch, whereas in The Bill he doesn't gain his CID secondment until halfway through Series One. In addition many central characters in Woodentop - such a Sergeant Wilding and Inspector Deeping - vanish between the pilot and the series.
There are also discrepancies with the naming of some of the characters. In the 2003 live episode of The Bill (made to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of broadcast) had Carver and Ackland again discussing events from the pilot. Carver incorrectly refers to the character of Taffy by the surname Morgan, whereas it's Edwards in The Bill itself.
There are also mistakes made in some the uniforms the cast wore during the episode, for example, in one scene, PC Dave Litten is on foot patrol with PC Jim Carver,and PC Litten's helmet has GR on the helmet badge where it should have had ER, the same that was on PC Carver's helmet. Also the tunics the male officers wore had buttoned down epaulettes, where as they should have just had the insignia placed on the shoulder of the tunic as this is what the Metropolitan Police wore at the time.
Only four of the cast of Woodentop would go on to be regulars in the main series of The Bill: Mark Wingett, Trudie Goodwin, Gary Olsen and Colin Blumenau while a number of characters we re-cast including Roy Galloway.