Water Rats: articles


Better friends than lovers…

Colin Friels' departure from Water Rats this week solved the longtime debate as to whether Frank and Goldie should sleep together.

Although Frank Holloway (Colin Friels) sails off into the sunset and off television screens in Water Rats this week, the tear-stained farewell may not be the last we see of the rough-and-ready Sydney Water Police detective.

Water Rats executive producer Ted Roberts, who wrote Colin's final episode, admits killing Frank off in a final bloody showdown with the criminals he devoted his life to putting behind bars would have been an eye-popping way to boost the show's audience.

But, despite the temptation, Ted believes he has good reason for holding back on the action and opting for a softer, more emotionally suspenseful send-off.

"There has always been this lingering thought that one of these days he might come back," Ted says. "You don't throw Colin Friels on the scrap heap. If there's a chance of getting him back, then you hold on to it. I'm not going to kill him."

In what was thought to be a clever casting coup several years ago, Water Rats secured the services of the acclaimed film actor to play a lead role in a then brand new weekly television drama that would follow the lives of Sydney's water police.

A mixture of taut drama, Sydney's scenic harbor locations and a talented ensemble led by Colin and Catherine McClements, as Frank's detective partner Rachel "Goldie" Goldstein (together above right), put Water Rats on it's way to success. It became an audience favorite, often finishing in the top 10 most-watched programs each week.

But the punishing schedule of working 10 hours a day, at least five days a week finally became too much for Colin after a cancer scare in the latter part of 1998.

"He was going through his post-op problems, having therapy and the whole bit and he was absolutely exhausted and just asked for an out," Ted says. "The main reason he left the show like this is a lot of strain."

Catherine admits that after working with Colin for three years, she could not help but be moved when they filmed their final scenes together.

"It was always going to be upsetting—it was really quite emotional for me," she says.

"We didn't talk a lot together and we didn't spend a lot of time together. We just had something which was a bit more of an undercurrent in out friendship, which I think made it read on screen. There was something between up [sic] which sort of connected us. It was great."

While audiences may mourn the loss of Colin Friels, his departure came as a mixed blessing to those behind the scenes who have had to deal with the escalating sexual tension between Frank and Goldie.

While they were losing a Logie award-winning star, they had an easy out when it came to finally deciding what to do with the sexual chemistry that was brewing between the stars.

"We'd been playing with it for more than three years, so it was starting to wear a bit thin," Ted admits. "You are constantly asking yourself, 'How long can we keep this going?' and, 'How long can we keep cheating the audiences?'.

"on Moonlighting, when they finally put Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd together after years of sexual tension, the whole show just fell apart.

"It was a bit of a worry for us, so it was a relief because we had the problem (of whether Goldie and Frank should ever fall into bed together) removed for us (when Colin asked to be released from the show)."

Catherine—who says that in the end their characters "were much better friends than they would have been lovers anyway"—now looks forward to new plot twists and turns with the addition of new detectives played by Steve Bisley (who reprises his role of Goldie's short-lived romantic fling Detective Jack Christey next week) and Aaron Pedersen (who joined recently as the enthusiastic Detective Michael Reilly).

"There's a new nature to the whole show because there's now three of us," Catherine says.

"The dynamics (between Goldie and Christey) are going to be much different because a lot has already happened between them in the past. Their relationship is going to be much more up-front."

The direction Steve and Aaron's characters will take is being carefully guarded, but Ted reveals that he will not replace one sexually unfulfilled partnership with another.

"I don't want to give too much of it away, but at the moment there will be a sort of old bull, new bull relationship between Aaron's character and Steve's character," Ted says. "We'll be able to balance the two of them off against each other for quite some time.

"We've got some plans for Aaron, in which his character has a relationship which is fraught with danger. Because of that his attention is diverted away from Goldie, who he really sees as a mentor kind of person who is superior to himself.

"Of course, Goldie doesn't really like that thought and that in itself creates a great dynamic for them. We can sort of read into Goldie's attitudes towards Michael Reilly's romance that she's not totally pleased and that she may even be a tad jealous."

However, it will not be all smoke and no romantic fire, according to Ted. In fact, Water Rats fans can get ready for things to get red hot.

"The big thing is going to be between Christey and Goldie," he says. "That's where the heat and the sex is going to come from."

Heat and sex are words that have not readily been identified with the action-filled Water Rats in the past.

Ted says that although the idea of replacing Colin filled him with some dread, the show is now back on solid ground with entirely new plot lines to be explored.

"Replacing Colin was really tough, but I think we've achieved it now," he says.

"The stuff that I'm seeing with Bisley and Aaron is just fantastic. They both bounce off Catherine in different ways. It brings a whole new dynamic to the show."

By Shane Sutton
April 1999
TV Week