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Duncan Bell plays Sergeant Dennis Merton

Duncan Bell plays Sergeant Dennis MertonWhen Sergeant Dennis Merton first arrived at Ashfordly police station he swiftly established himself as a stern, stark contrast to the recently departed Craddock. Duncan Bell was initially attracted to playing Merton because of his slightly darker side.

"The character was first presented to me as a man with a dark past," Duncan recalls. "Originally he was going to have a drink problem but that was changed fairly early on. The problem evolved into a difficulty he had with controlling his temper, which I think was more exciting and allowed far greater dramatic possibilities."

Merton arrived in North Yorkshire with a secret. It soon emerged that he had been a far senior officer and had been demoted.

"The main thing about Merton is that he's a workaholic", says Duncan. "He has no life! He's concentrated purely on his career and had climbed the ranks until he was a high flying detective in CID based in Leeds. His temper got the better of him however and after assaulting a senior officer he's been demoted. Ending up in a rural out post, as he sees it, is a terrible blow. He feels as if all of his years of slog have been wasted."

Merton began by taking his situation out on his new staff.

"When we first saw him he was very irritated and taking his situation out on others." says Duncan. "All the cases around him were rather feeble compared to the gritty city crimes he's been used to. From inner city depravation to sweet little problems over lost goats. I don't know how the other police put up with him."

Series twelve sees a far more settled Merton.

"He has settled into rural life and I think he's starting to develop some grudging affection for the characters a rural bobby meets. He's also gained more respect for his colleagues particularly Mike because he's a good cop who gets the job done. I think he worries that Bellamy hasn't got enough drive and alas he carries on the Sergeant's tradition of worrying about poor old Ventress!"

Duncan also feels that a country existence will help Merton get a better perspective on life. We see a far more rounded human emerging as Series twelve progresses.

"His life has been on hold", he says. "His work has been paramount and although we have had evidence that he's had relationships in the past they've been pretty disastrous. At the start of the new series two things happen to him. He has a health scare and starts dating Jenny Latimer. The first thing may lead to him realising there can be more in life and hopefully Jenny will be that 'more'."

Like Merton, Duncan has also found himself settling into his new job.

"I didn't know Yorkshire that well and I love the chance we get to travel around the most delightful places," he says. "It is a bit of a return to my roots I suppose because my grandmother was from Scarborough so I recall childhood holidays in Whitby and Robin Hoods Bay."

One of the highlights of the new series for Duncan has been acting with fellow Scot Lulu, who arrives in Aidensfield as Merton's famous cousin Deborah Vine.

"Lulu was fantastic," Duncan says. "It was great to know that po-faced old Merton actually has show business in the family!"

Duncan Bell played Lt. Col. Phillips in several series of Soldier, Soldier. Other television credits include Where the Heart Is, Hornblower, Life Support, Dr Finlay, A Touch of Frost and several episodes of Taggart. Stage credits include seasons with Cheek by Jowl, the RSC and at the National Theatre, the World Premiere of Ben Elton's Inconceivable at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and The Iceman Cometh in London with Kevin Spacey

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