Monday, 30 September 2013

Monday 30 September 1963

Week three of the new series of industrial intrigue at the Scott Furlong factory, and we're still following the format established by the first two episodes: an essentially standalone tale of conflict between two men embedded in the ongoing tale of Managing Director John Wilder's fight to get the company's new jet on the market before his competitors beat him to it.  So far it's all kept from becoming dull by some great writing (this week the show's editor Wilfred Greatorex - showrunner, as I suppose we'd think of him nowadays - writes the script himself), and especially some fantastic performances.

The conflict this week is between two Scott Furlong employees we're encountering for the first time.  One of these antagonists is Wesley Todd (Ewan Roberts), the tyrannical security chief at the company's Radley Heath head office, who makes life a misery for his staff and just about everyone else.

Loathed by everyone, Todd is nonetheless uneasily championed by Wilder, who commanded him in World War 2.  Todd remains unswervingly loyal to his CO, and in the cut-throat business world he now inhabits this is something Wilder wants to cling on to.

Our second main character this week is the brilliant engineer Gareth Edwards (Aubrey Richards), first seen at the breakfast table with his wife (Julia Jones), who implores him to mend an unspecified rift between them and their university student son.

In his morning paper, a stunned Edwards is reading about the technical difficulties that the Scott Furlong Sovereign is experiencing - it's clear that reporter Peter Ellis has got his information from someone inside the company.  Wilder couldn't be much, well, wilder - and drags Scott Furlong's PR chief Simon Stride (the ubiquitous Geoffrey Chater) out of bed to put a damper of some kind on the story.

And while this is going on, Todd, seemingly for mysterious reasons of his own, is snooping in Edwards' office...

It looks like the leak to the press has come from the engineering department, and Wilder calls in its head, Tom Bancroft, for an ear-bashing.  He's played by Douglas Muir, Steed's boss One-Ten from The Avengers, and it makes a change to see him being given orders for once.

Edwards notices that someone's been in his office, and reports the incident to Todd.  Shocked by the Security Officer's initial indifference and eventual, growled commands for him to "forget about it," he swiftly realises that Todd himself was the culprit.  A nasty scene develops between the two (watched with amusement by chief test pilot Henry "Auntie" Forbes, making a brief cameo appearance this week).

As part one comes to an end, Todd's glowering facial expression tells us he's planning to make things rather difficult for Edwards...

This he does by spreading a rumour that Edwards was behind the leak to the press - initially to louche engineer Jeremy Coles (a very young Geoffrey Whitehead), with whom he pointedly decides to share a table in the canteen.

Coles, like everyone else, has no great fondness for Todd - particularly when the Security Chief offends his vegetarian sensibilities by ordering calves' brains for his lunch (if you ask me, lack of offal is one of the key problems with today's workforce).  He finds Todd's pretend-subtle insinuation that Edwards blabbed to the press hilariously absurd - but it's just this that makes him repeat them to his colleagues, including some who begin to look at Edwards slightly askance.

Todd sets himself to tightening up security at the plant - though this mainly seems to consist of terrorising an unfortunate worker, Willie Hoole (Bill Horsley), who refuses to let security staff see inside his briefcase.  When Todd finally forces him to open it the contents is revealed -much to the security chief's bullying amusement - as a bra.

While this is all going on Edwards, unable to bear the suspicion he's picked up on from his colleagues, has flipped and gone missing.  And it's only now that Tom Bancroft realises how utterly vital the engineer is to the work on the Sovereign it's imperative be completed that day.  When - hours after vanishing - Edwards turns up, he and Todd are summoned before Wilder, where the root cause of the conflict between the two is laid bare - and it could hardly be more 1963.  Todd, obsessed with what he darkly refers to as "troublemakers" was keeping tabs on Edwards long before news of the leak emerged, having discovered from his mysterious "sources" that Edwards' son had joined the Communist Party.

Wilder, who desperately needs Edwards in order to complete vital work on the Sovereign, compels Todd to apologise.  But his mumbled apology isn't enough for the engineer.  Aubrey Richards is sensational as Edwards in this scene, his high-pitched Welsh voice taking on the tones of a fire-and-brimstone preacher as he inveighs against the "police state" that the factory has been turned into under Todd's reign of terror, and bitterly informs the Managing Director of the new respect his disgusting treatment has given him for his son, whose political choices have caused so much suspicion to be levelled at him - and that he intends to welcome the boy back into the family with open arms.  Having got all this out of his system, he promises the work will be finished that evening.

A chastened Todd's left to realise that his position's no longer as secure as it once was: not because of his treatment of Edwards but because, while he was interrogating Willie Hoole, Wilder's car was briefly stopped at the factory gates - something intolerable to Wilder's autocratic sensibility.  And things aren't looking too rosy for Edwards either, as Wilder -horrified that someone so potentially flammable could have become indispensable - orders Bancroft to find someone who could potentially take over from him.  Meanwhile, the source of the press leak is yet to be identified...

As the stars of this episode, Ewan Roberts and Aubrey Richards' names appropriately appear first in the end credits, underneath shots of them glowering at each other.  Patrick Wymark's name's in third place but he makes up for this by just how grandiose his credit is this week.

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