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Ultimate Force is a British television drama series that was shown on ITV, which deals with the activities of the fictional Red Troop of the SAS (Special Air Servicemarker). The programme started in 2002 and four seasons were produced.


It was co-created by Chris Ryan, a former British SAS soldier who was a member of the famous Bravo Two Zero patrol during the 1991 Gulf War, with the show produced by Bentley Productions. As well as his behind the scenes role, Ryan appeared as a SAS soldier in the first series of the show playing Blue Troop leader Johnny Bell.

The show features British television star Ross Kemp as its central character, the hard-boiled Staff Sergeant Henry 'Henno' Garvie. The show was a star vehicle for Kemp, who had been lured away from the BBC to ITV with a multi-million pound contract. Kemp appeared in every episode of the four series.

Domestically, the change of format seemed to produce diminishing returns for ITV; series three was abruptly taken off air by the network midway through the run, only to return a few weeks later. The show was then moved to Saturday night at 9 pm. A similar fate awaited series four, which was pulled after just two episodes. The three remaining episodes of series 4 were not originally shown on ITV, but shown on ITV4, in January and February 2007. The main ITV network showed the remaining three episodes of the series over a year later, starting on May 18, 2008 at 9pm, and finishing on June 1, 2008. A DVD of the fourth series was released on 25 September 2006 in the UK. There will not be a fifth series, partially because of the low ratings - hence the cutting of series three and four midway through their runs - and also because many of the stars are now in other acting jobs or otherwise. Ross Kemp is running a series of documentaries following the progress of British Army troops in Afghanistanmarker; meanwhile both Sam Callis and Christopher Fox are amongst the cast of ITV's police serial drama The Bill.


The main characters include:

Out of the original cast of Series 1, only two characters lasted through until Series 4; they are Staff Sergeant Garvie and Colonel Dempsey, the third longest running character is Corporal Louis Hoffman, who first appeared in Series 1; in the episode entitled: Natural Selection. On the other end of the scale however, the shortest running character would be Corporal Sam Leonard - whose only appearance was in Series One Episode One, after tragically being shot down in an armed stand off with bank robbers.

Episodes list

Series 1

  1. The Killing House - Lives are in danger when Red Troop is called in to take command of a bank siege. It is at this point that unfortunately Red Troop loses Corporal Sam Leonard, shot in the leg by one of the X-Rays, Alex's brother. Sam was a man down, shot in a corridor, but having had it drilled into him by Henno, Jamie leaves Sam to die and carries on and finishes the job. Alex can't come to terms with it and it begins the friction between new recruits Alex and Jamie - But who will last the distance?
  2. Just A Target - The SAS are scrambled to uncover an anti-globalist sniper suspected of carrying out an assassination attempt on a prominent European banker. Jamie is considered the man for the job and sent in to the thick of the action. Jamie is deeply embroiled with the enemy as he covertly infiltrates them and offers his services as a crack shot. They're happy as they have a fantastic man to see through their masterplan, but will Jamie blow his cover or actually assassinate the man ?
  3. Natural Selection - Ten hopeful SAS recruits face their toughest challenge yet, a three-day combat survival course. When two soldiers are found murdered, the hunt is on for the killer. This episode also sees the introduction of Corporal Louis Hoffman, the third longest serving character after Henno and Dempsey.
  4. Breakout - Red Troop is called to a pharmaceutical laboratory after three Chechens break into an area where scientists are working on a vaccine for a deadly form of anthrax.
  5. The Killing of a One-Eyed Bookie - Jamie, while impersonating politician Bill Gracey, is dramatically ambushed and kidnapped by terrorists in Northern Ireland. Against orders, Henno and Pete ensue chase.
  6. Something to do with Justice - Henno and Twamley are kicked out of the regiment for disobedience. Under Johnny Bell's (Chris Ryan) command, the others are sent on a classified mission to Bosnia to 'lift' wily war criminal Glasnovic who has many doubles (like Saddam Hussein), the only problem being that Glasnovic's henchmen are being trained by the newly decommissioned Henno and Pete.

Series 2

  1. Communication - A ship docks at Southampton with a suspicious crew. Jamie and Henno sneak on board to plant a tracker, but the operation goes wrong and they are forced to kill a man with Caroline caught in the cross fire while making their escape. To make matters worse it later becomes known to Red Troop that the very well armed members aboard the ship were French Special Forces.
  2. Mad Dogs - The firefight against French Special Forces aboard the Dowager Joan has left Jem dead and Caroline in a coma, while the rest of Red Troop face a full judicial inquiry that could land them in jail. The only way out is for one of them to resign - alas Captain Dotsy Doheny does the honourable thing and resigns, as he was the commanding officer on the day.
  3. Wannabes - Red Troop targets a hard-right group of suicide bombers who are responsible for blowing up a nightclub and a café. The leader of the group is a sinister racist man who is taught a painful lesson by Pete Twamley, with Ricky in tow. The main manipulator with the group who co-ercises the suicide bombers is an attractive school teacher, who uses her feminine charms to lure the male students she teaches into her trap.
  4. The List - An unofficial black bag heist is offered to Red Troop to steal a list of terrorist targets from a virtually impenetrable vault. If they are caught, the SAS will disown them. Red Troop wonder how to do it, and there is one simple answer, to intercept a safe cracker during the midst of a burglary and blackmail him into assisting them to break in one of the most secure vaults in the UK.
  5. What In The Name of God... - Red Troop is called to a siege at a religious commune where Gulf War veteran Omega is holed up with his disciples after shooting dead two police officers.
  6. Dead is Forever - The SAS face losing their leader when Dempsey is taken captive while protecting the Overseas Development Minister in a Top Secret visit to Tbilisi, Georgia.

Series 3

  1. Deadlier Than The Male - Red Troop are propelled from a tragic shootout in Iraq to a plane hijack in London, as terrorists fighting for a free Tibet threaten to blow up a passenger flight to Hong Kong. The opening dramatic scene sees the death of Corporal Jamie Dow, Corporal Ricky Mann and Sergeant Pete Twamley. Captain Caroline Walshe and Pru Banks also leave the show, apparently dropped from Red Troop by Dempsey. Back at Hereford the selection process is coming to an end, and new recruits are desperately needed as Red Troop is depleting in numbers. The new group of recruits are a very promising crowd, however to Dempsey's disgust, one of them is a woman (current policy in reality is that women are not allowed in the SAS). Becca aims to be the first woman to pass selection. When the terrorists ask for a female pilot, Henno decides to put the wannabe trooper in the front line.
  2. Never Go Back - Red Troop is caught in a vicious confrontation between rival forces in Zimbabwe during an unofficial visit to a farm owned by Dempsey's cousins Alex and Sarah Du Preez. Henno and the team face overwhelming odds when brutal leader Colonel Gagmandawe and his soldiers surround the farm. Their only escape is through a crocodile-infested river - but the battle is far from over.
  3. The Class of 1980 - Henno comes face to face with Al Qaeda when terrorists seize the Italian Consulate. The notorious Al Djouf threatens to blow up a truck using his mobile phone, unless all prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay are released. The SAS attacks and mobile networks are shut down, but Al Djouf has friends on both sides - and the clock is ticking towards an explosion in the capital.
  4. Weapon of Choice - The SAS is sent to Chechnya to find rebel leader Movzar Mazayev. Henno mistrusts Russian Special Forces agent Vasily who is assigned to help them. The soldiers close in on Movzar's fiery sister Sapiyat but intelligence officer Kathy is taken hostage. In this conflict where political ideals and personal tragedy overlap, can Red Troop bring down their targets and rescue Kathy?

Series 4

The fourth and final series of Ultimate Force started on Saturday 29 April 2006 on ITV1 although only the first two episodes were shown. Series 3 had been similarly affected by ITV scheduling. The R2 DVD set of Series 4 was released in the UK on 25 September 2006, making the last three episodes of this series available to viewers before their network premiere. The DVD cover bears a red sticker stating "DVD exclusive, three unseen episodes". The remaining three episodes were eventually shown on ITV4 in 2007 and then on ITV on Sundays, starting 18 May 2008 at 9pm.

  1. Changing of the Guard - With newly appointed Captain Fleming in place, Red Troop are dispatched to a former Soviet state in a race to save the kidnapped daughters of a British diplomat. As the rest of the troop track the armed rebels through dense forest, an injured Henno is left behind at base where he comes to suspect there is a mole amongst them...
  2. Charlie Bravo - Red Troop fly to Colombia to train a hopless contingent of local soldiers for an upcoming assault on a cocaine factory. Without warning, the mission is brought forward and Henno begins to suspect a hidden agenda. Will Red Troop be able to save this shambolic platoon from certain death?
  3. The Dividing Line - Red Troop are drafted in with their American counterparts to apprehend an infamous Al-Qaeda terrorist in the White Mountains of Afghanistan. Tensions run high as the troops battle for control. Can they overcome their rivalry in time to stop the terrorist before he implements his co-ordinated attacks against the West? This episode features the Hunt for Hassan.
  4. Violent Solutions - Red Troop monitor a suspected weapons dealer Griffin who leads them into an armed stand-off with an East End drugs gang. When the gang hijack a tour bus, Becca places herself in the line of fire. Can Red Troop stop the hijackers before Becca's true identity is revealed?
  5. Slow Bomb - When a routine security check on a nuclear power plant goes disastrously wrong, Red Troop find themselves hunting the mercenaries responsible for stealing a canister of radioactive Cobalt 90. As London is shut down, Red Troop race to stop the detonation of a dirty bomb and the certain devastation of the capital. With the seconds ticking away can Henno disarm the bomb and save the capital?


Ultimate Force's DVD sales in Britain for 2005 have reached US$700,000 in terms of sales when the show's 2nd season was released, with both regular and limited edition sets at the TV Top 10 Charts. Ultimate Force has also been aired in 120 countries, ranging from Europe to Southeast Asia.


Criticism of Ultimate Force originates from the departure of no less than six established cast members and co-creator Chris Ryan at the end of Season 2. Whether this is a result of the cast wishing to leave or ITV axing them is unknown.

Most notably Jamie Draven, whose character’s development appeared to be an integral part of the series, was sorely missed when he was killed off in the opening sequence of Season 3. Other storylines continuing from Season 2 were also discarded such as any repercussions of Henno’s (Ross Kemp) murder of Captain Macalwain (Richard Armitage) at the climax of Season 2 and Pete Twamley’s (Tony Curran) continued recovery from the shooting in Season 1’s finale. Lucy Akhurst and Alex Reid also left the show at the end of Season 2 with little in the way of an explanation in Season 3.


Country TV Network(s) Series Premiere Weekly Schedule Alternate Title
United Kingdom ITV4 Thursdays 9:00pm
Argentinamarker FX Wednesday 11.00pm
Dominican Republicmarker FX Wednesday 11.00pm
Australia1 ³ Channel Seven
Channel 7 HD

Saturday 10.30pm (UK.TV)

Francemarker NT1
France 44
September 8, 2005
July 1, 2008
Thursday 08:00pm
Tuesday 08:00pm
Italymarker AXN
7 Gold
February 6, 2007
November 12, 2008
Tuesday 09.00pm
Wednesday 11:15pm
Republic of Irelandmarker TV3 Thursday 09.00pm
Japanmarker WOWOW S.A.S.: 英国特殊部隊²
New Zealandmarker TV ONE
Icelandmarker Sjónvarpið Víkingasveitin
Polandmarker Tele 5 Komandosi
United States BBC America September 25, 2007 Tuesday 09:00pm

  • 1 Originally aired on the Nine Network, though sporadically. Only the first four episodes of Season 1 aired. The Seven Network then bought the rights to show Ultimate Force, but started at Season 2. Season 2 episodes were shown on the weekly schedule of Wednesday at 10:30pm.

  • ² Title means S.A.S.: British Special Forces.

  • ³ Also being aired on the UK.TV channel via Australian Pay TV networks.

  • 4 With slight changes in the episodes order, due to French TV regulation for youth protection : some episodes considered as too violent can't be aired before 10:00pm. E.g. Series 3 ep2 has been aired in the middle of Series 1, at 10:45pm after two episodes of Series 1.


Diana Harris, Ultimate Force, Batsford Books 2002, ISBN 0-7134-8812-3(2): SMH
  1. Ultimate Force Introduction. Retrieved on January 1, 2008.
  2. ALL3MEDIA International Press Release on February 7, 2005. Retrieved on January 1, 2008.
  3. NO ENDER COMEBACK FOR ROSS. Retrieved on January 1, 2008.
  4. SHELLEY: ITV'S DISASTER SHOULD BE NO SURPRISE. Retrieved on January 1, 2008.
  5. ALL3Media International Press Release on September 2004. Retrieved on January 1, 2008.

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