|Series:||Ashes to Ashes|
Sergeant Viv 'Skip' James is a fictional character of BBC One's science fiction/police procedural drama Ashes to Ashes. The character is portrayed by Geff Francis.
Police Sergeant Viv James (Geff Francis) first appears in series one of Ashes to Ashes working in Fenchurch East Police Station as a custody officer. His responsibilities mainly involve prisoners and cell management, auditing and middle-managing a group of PCs, but he has also joined in with at least one riot control operation. He appears to be attached to CID rather than the station as a whole, referring to DCI Hunt as 'Guv' and working very closely with them the majority of the time, as well as socialising with them and joining in with their shenanigans off-duty. James is a well-spoken, polite West Ham FC fan and despite his outwardly calm demeanour, very sociable; Gene Hunt described him as, "the quiet centre of things. The middle of the wheel."
Viv is one of the more 'by-the-book' officers in Ashes to Ashes. He takes his job very seriously. During episode seven, Shaz Granger is stabbed, and in retaliation, Gene Hunt allows Chris Skelton and Ray Carling to violently assault Hollis, her attacker, while he is cuffed and in police custody. Viv, present with the arresting officers, pleads with Gene to make Chris stop, and eventually receives an apology from his DCI.
During episode six of the third series, James enters HM Prison Fenchurch along with his uniformed colleagues, in order to quell a major prison riot, and on their retreat he is left behind and taken hostage by those inside. Prior to his taking part in storming of the prison, Viv tried to speak privately with Gene, but they were repeatedly interrupted by Jim Keats. It is later revealed that he arranged with Jason Sacks, the orchestrator of the riot, to bring in a firearm in return for another prisoner confessing to the crime his nephew is being held for, allowing his release. Sacks broke his end of the deal, trapping Viv in prison, drowning in his dishonour and shame. During the episode, James is shot in a failed plan to spring his cousin, after promising his aunt he would; he stressed to Ray that he only betrayed CID for his aunt's sake. It is for this and other reasons that Gene is prepared to forgive James when he later dies of his wounds, though Hunt does not realise that Viv was 'helped' into death by Jim Keats in a manner similar to the undercover WPC from earlier in the series.
Viv's death was used by Keats as a part of his long game to turn the Fenchurch East CID team against DCI Gene Hunt , and to corrupt them into joining his 'department' (Hell). This attempt eventually proved unsuccessful, and Hunt persuaded Alex, Ray, Chris and Shaz to pass on to Heaven, though it is thought that Viv probably ended up in Hell.
In Series 3: Episode 6, Viv was killed when he, Ray, and Chris were taken hostage by Jason Sacks during the riot at HM Prison Fenchurch. When Viv tried to tackle Sacks, the villain knocked him the ground and shot him in the leg. The riot is put down, but too late to save Viv. After being shot again by Jason Sacks, and as he lies dying, he is found byDCI Jim Keats, who feigns making an attempt to help him, but instead finishes the job himself. When the rest of the team arrives, Keats claims that Viv was already dead when he got there. Gene tells the rest of the team to say that Viv was killed in the riot, without revealing his true role in it, believing that Viv's heroic death makes up for his moral transgression earlier in the episode.
In the finale, Chris mentions a dream he had of Viv surrounded by flames. Given the episode's revelations about the characters all being in an afterlife, who Keats is, and how Viv died, the implication is that Viv has ended up in Hell. Additionally, what looks like a distorted person burning can be seen in the flames imposed on Viv's portrait at his funeral in the penultimate episode of Series 3. Finally, as Viv's coffin is to pass into the crematorium during the funeral, the curtains fail to close. In what initially appears a comic moment, Gene struggles to close them but then whispers an apology to Viv.