Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Wednesday 11 September 1963

Jock Weir and Fancy Smith are on patrol when Jock notices someone prowling around inside a house with a flashlight.  Investigating, they find milk bottles lined up outside the door (it must be very inconvenient for the police that so few people have milk delivered these days).  They break in and search the house, eluded by a stealthy, shadowy figure.  Eventually the figure proves not quite so stealthy when it tumbles down the stairs in an attempt to escape.

That's a stuntperson, of course - when apprehended by Weir and Smith, the mysterious figure turns out to be... Judi Dench!

Dench gives a beguilingly energetic performance (complete with generic Northern accent, of course) as a strange, impish creature who drives the officers to distraction with her smart-aleck answers to their interrogation ("Where do you live?" "I don't... don't you think that's an interesting answer?").  She only eventually cooperates in the mistaken belief that they'll leave her alone.  Her name's Elena Collins, she's been homeless since acrimoniously leaving her parents (the dialogue implies she's a teenager, though Dench was 28 at the time), and breaking into the houses of people on holiday for somewhere to live.  All this, of course, just earns the furiously protesting Elena an enforced trip to the police station. As she and her escorts leave the house, there's a strange, lingering shot of the milk bottles, smashed by her flailing feet.

Jock and Fancy arrive at the station with their charge as PCs Lynch and Graham (James Ellis and Colin Welland) are struggling with a similarly difficult character, the sinister, mocking Kenneth Harvey (Peter Woodthorpe, who has one of the most remarkably expressive faces I've ever seen), who's on a charge of loitering with intent.

As Sergeant Watt struggles successively with Elena and Harvey, Jock and Fancy pay a visit to the girl's disapproving parents (Peter Claughton and Lala Lloyd).  They're pure Victorian melodrama, the stern patriarch only inviting the policemen in because "Public spectacle is something I've no wish to encourage".  The visit proves a dead end: Mr and Mrs Collins have entirely disowned their daughter for her wayward behaviour and wish to know nothing about her

Accompanying Elena as she appears before the magistrates, Fancy begins to take a shine to her.  But he's not the only one: bumping into each other on their way in and out of the dock, Elena and Harvey share a moment.

Elena's put on parole, and there's clearly something on her mind.

Later, Fancy's at the local coffee bar, failing to impress the birds with his offers to provide them with music: "What do you fancy then, the Beatles?"

His attempts at chatting up the cashier are interrupted when Elena comes in sporting a nasty black eye.  She's not keen to chat to Fancy about the cause, but it quickly becomes obvious when Ken Harvey appears, and cautions Fancy against talking to his bird.  Fancy, who's developing a troubling obsession with the girl, is aghast at learning she and Harvey are a couple.  Only a swift intervention from Jock stops the pair coming to blows (by the way, I'm highly intrigued by what a Milk (Special) might entail).

After Fancy's ushered out by his partner, Harvey shows us just what a nasty piece of work he is: "Little girls should be seen and not heard!"

Jock cautions Fancy about his growing obsession with Elena and determination to save her from Harvey's slimy clutches, insisting he's just interested in her because "she's a nice bit of stuff" - which at any time would seem a peculiar way of describing Judi Dench.  He thinks Elena and Harvey are both low-lifes who deserve each other.  This fails to put Fancy off, though, and on learning that Elena's gone missing from the hostel where she was meant to be staying while on parole he takes the massively unwise step of bunking off duty to visit Elena's parents out of uniform to implore them to take an interest in their child.  It's a dead end, of course, and when the rogue officer finally tracks Elena down he gets his face spat in for his trouble.

Elena mocks Fancy's interest in her by contemptuously offering to have sex with him if he'll let her go.  The episode ends with him facing the crushing revelation that Elena wasn't just staying in those empty houses: she was helping Harvey rob them, and Elena pleading guilty in the dock.  The end credits play out over a still of Fancy and Elena that raises the question of who the episode's title refers to.

Made for Each Other's a powerful episode on its own merits, though to modern viewers the thought of Brian Blessed being sexually obsessed with Judi Dench has a fascination all of its own.  What makes it especially compelling, though, are the top-notch performances from Blessed, Woodthorpe, and especially the episode's leading lady.  Clap her, she's Dench.

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