The Bill (ITV1, 8pm)
James May at the Edge of Space (BBC 2, 10pm)

THE Sun Hill cops face one of their trickiest cases as a sixpart storyline kicks off. Outside a busy bar, Sergeant Smith (Alex Walkinshaw) and his officers try to break up a street fight and discover badly beaten Andy Brennan (Jack Deam) lying alone in a nearby alley.

Elsewhere, Sergeant Stone (Sam Callis) investigates a break-in at Oliver Robinson’s (Anthony Flanagan) house, where a watch worth £9,000 has been stolen.

Back at the station, the sergeants realise their cases are connected when the missing watch is found on Andy.

Alex Walkinshaw, who has spent a decade playing Dale “Smithy” Smith, admits he is rather excited about this new story.

He said: “There’s a real moral dilemma for Smithy and how he deals with it or chooses to deal with it – or not to deal with it.

“You have got two simple stories that then collide and become one story, and out of that story we then meet some rather large ‘fish’ – as in criminal terms.

“We are then taken down a whole people trafficking kind of enterprise, which annoys everyone involved. We have got a couple of dead bodies turn up in the back of a lorry; we link those back to this particular family. It spurs Smithy on to try and get a result.”

What are Walkinshaw’s memories of his earliest days at Sun Hill?

“I was a guest before – playing an oik, basically – then they cast me as PC Smith.

It seems like an age ago now,” he says.

“Now he has obviously grown up and matured and developed as a bloke and as a police officer. I think he is a lot more rounded than he was when he first started.”

Is Smithy a fun character to play?

“Oh he’s great fun,” Walkinshaw says.

“Any day I could be doing anything. My character can quite happily stand behind the custody desk and book people in and walk around the offices linking up the stories.

“On the other hand, he’ll coming haring round the corner in a police car, skid to a halt, jump out and get involved in a fight. Every day is a different day and what is nice is that my character seems to be able to jump into whichever situation, whatever scenario.”

Walkinshaw says one of his favourite colleagues has been Roberta Taylor, aka Gina Gold. “He’s not been very lucky as far as love is concerned. The best relationship he has ever had has been with Gina, and that is because it’s based in real friendship,” he says.

What’s been his favourite episode over the years?

“I do not know if I have got a particular favourite because I have been really lucky and I have had so many.

“I really enjoyed the storyline that I have just done, the Conviction one. That was a lot of fun to do. I did a gunrunner storyline, which was great. I have always been really lucky and had lots of very talented actors; guest artists in the episodes that I have been in.”

The Conviction storyline continues on Thursday night.

CONCLUDING the space-themed double-bill, celebrating 40 years since the first moon landings, Top Gear presenter James May follows up his On The Moon programme with this extraordinary one-off documentary.

He boldly goes where few people have gone before as he embarks on a rigorous training regimen at a US Air Force base in California. His final destination? A place the Air Force refer to as the “space equivalent zone” or the edge of space – 70,000ft above the Earth.

However, before he can board the U2 spy plane – the Cold War relic that is still capable of flying higher than any other airplane – which will be his mode of transport, James must prove he is physically capable of surviving the journey.

It might be dangerous, but flying as high as anyone can without becoming an astronaut must surely be worth the risk?