Friday, 7 March 2014

Saturday 11 January 1964

To recap: our intrepid time time travellers have given an emphatic thumbs-down to Dalek hospitality by undressing one of their hosts and chucking him (it?) in a corner.  Next, it's a futuristic spin on the classic dressing-up-as-a-Nazi routine as Ian clambers into Dalek drag and mounts an escape attempt with his companions in tow.  It's not long before they encounter one of the genuine mutants, who Ian manages to half-convince with his story of taking the prisoners to see "the council".  Either this is a thumping good guess about how the Dalek city is governed, or he's been told about it off-screen (perhaps the Dalek who brought the tea liked to have a rant about parking charges and inconsistent bin collections).  Sensing that the Dalek's not entirely convinced, Susan goes off on one of her patented hysterical fits (I love her little wink to her chums to show she's pretending - we could do with seeing more of this cheeky side).

The Dalek lets the travellers pass, but there are others who manage to see straight through the ruse.  As our heroes reach the lift which could mean their escape from the city the floor beneath Ian's metal casing is magnetised so he can't move, and what's more his lid can't be budged.

With the Daleks burning their way in, Ian insists the others go up in the lift without him.

Soon the Daleks are in, and turn their firepower on the stolen capsule.  Its destruction looks highly impressive, but it turns out to be empty, Ian having got out and into the lift just in time.

High up in the building the travellers can see right across the city, and they notice the Thals heading to meet the Daleks in response to the invitation Susan signed last week.  Having by this time all decided that the Daleks are an unequivocally bad lot, the Doctor's certain the Thals must be walking into a trap.  Thanks to the Daleks' mastery of soundproofing, he and his friends' attempt to warn the Thals is not a success - on the plus side, it does look absolutely hilarious.

The party turn their attention back to saving themselves - with the Daleks ascending in the lift, what can stop them? Well how about a convenient abstract sculpture, dropped down the lift shaft? Plaudits must go to William Russell, Jacqueline Hill and Carole Ann Ford's attempts at making it look like this big chunk of polystyrene is really, really heavy.

The sculpture puts the lift out of action, giving Barbara, Susan and the Doctor time to escape.  Ian valiantly volunteers to stay behind and warn the Thals of their impending doom.  Alydon, having heard about the Daleks from Susan, wionders if they might not be as chummy as all that, but Temmosus berates him for suspecting their neighbours of anything other than the best intentions.

Just how bad the Daleks' intentions are becomes apparent in a spectacularly tense scene with the Thals entering the city, the machine-clad mutants hiding in the shadows.  The Dalek prop, so often used out of context for comic effect, has never been as genuinely scary as here, with a close-up of a Dalek's middle section showing its gun twitching in anticipation of the Thals' advance, as if licking its lips.'s a moment even the comical appearance of the blond-wigged actors portraying the Thals can't spoil (perfectly-coiffed Philip Bond is not wearing a wig for the role of Ganatus, which rather makes everyone else's look more obvious).

Temmosus makes a grandstanding speech about the historic significance of the Daleks and Thals coming together in friendship, and then they're upon him, the idealistic Thal leader becoming the first person we ever see exterminated by a Dalek.

Ian's warning comes at almost the exact moment the Daleks open fire.  It's too late for Temmosus, but it helps to avoid a wholesale slaughter as he and the remaining Thals rapidly flee.  The effect of a metal wall warping under a Dalek's firepower as it misses Ian is thrilling stuff.

Alydon, unable to get away for the moment, disguises himself as one of the Daleks' beloved sculptures.

The camera's grim survey of the carnage wrought by the Daleks is somewhat undermined by the humour to be had from the sight of a bloke in PVC trousers prone over a table with his bum in the air (who hasn't been to a party like this?).  The sight of what appears to be a stack of loo rolls among the spread laid out for the Thals also invites speculation about the Daleks' lavatorial habits that it's probably best not to dwell on.

While Ian's been caught up in the above rigmarole, his companions have been having a lovely time in the jungle with the Thals who stayed behind (they seem to have made the TARDIS the focal point of their camp).  The Doctor's absorbed in a collection of historical records that stretches back half a million years and tells the tale of how the Daleks and Thals came to be where they are today.

This includes pictures of what the Thals and the Daleks looked like before the nuclear disaster that left Skaro in its current state.  Ian marvels at "the original Dalek" but what it looks like is kept from us, just the same as with its latter-day descendant.

Ian has a chat with the survivors of the Dalek attack, and is astonished to find that they have no intention of fighting back.  They're so against the notion of fighting (in fact, they're quite aggressive about how much they don't want to fight), that even if the Daleks managed to leave their city and invade the Thal encampment they'd just run away (come to think of it, considering the Daleks have powerful weapons and they don't that just seems like common sense).  Ian tries to convince them to stick up for themselves (I wonder if he filled in for the PE teacher occasionally), but the Doctor convinces him it's not really their problem.  They'll be off and leave the Thals to their own devices...

...except they don't have that all-important fluid link that took them to the city in the first place, the Daleks having taken it from Ian when they questioned him.  Without it, the travellers will be stuck on Skaro forever.  That'll teach you not to carry a spare, Doctor...

The Ambush is perhaps the most thrilling 25 minutes I've yet featured here.  In the last few weeks Doctor Who's got over the dip inevitably brought about by three weeks of cross cavemen into the adventure serial par excellence, and it's easy to see why by this point the show, and in particular its current antagonists, was exercising such a grip on the imaginations of Britain's children.

The attitude of the nation's children to tonight's next show has not gone down in history, though it was popular enough with their elders to keep it running for a good few years.

Tonight's Sergeant Cork gets off to an alarming start with the sight of a semi-clad Edward Woodward.  He appears in the role of Austin Carew, a radical politician having it away with Lady Emily Ormsby (Sally Home, wife of a political opponent.

Her husband's arrival is imminent, and as Austin sneaks out of her room he's seen by the clearly very upset Kate Carstairs (Diane Clare).

Next thing we know, Sergeant Cork and Bob Marriott are summoned to investigate the theft of the famed Ormsby diamonds.  It's an old-fashioned country house mystery, which means Cork gets plenty of opportunity to vent his dislike of the upper classes ("It is customary for gentlemen to knock", Lady Ormsby huffs at one point as he barges his way into a room.  "You should know by now, Ma'am", he responds, "That I am a policeman").  The Case of the Ormsby Diamonds lacks the searing social comment of similar previous episodes, but benefits greatly from the characteristically urbane dialogue of Julian Bond, which the superb cast deliver at almost His Girl Friday speed.

The suspects: Sir Geoffrey Ormsby (Noel Johnson) himself - could he be after the insurance money for the diamonds?; Sir Geoffrey's dull-witted brother Evelyn (Hugh Latimer), dominated by his shrewish wife Dora (Madi Hedd), who's consumed with jealousy of the brother who inherited all the family's loot; Lady Ormsby, Austin Carew and Miss Carstairs.

Latimer and Hedd are especially great as the poor relations; the shot of a disconsolate Evelyn seeking comfort from a lookalike bloodhound really deserves to be a greetings card.

Halfway through, the wonderful Geoffrey Bayldon pops up as Mr Menzies, insurance investigator, handwriting expert and autograph hunter, also on the trail of the diamonds ("M-e-n-z-i-e-s Mingis", he tortuously explains.  "C-o-r-k Cork!" barks the short-tempered detective).  He's a great character who deserves to be used again in future episodes.

After receiving an anonymous note telling him to arrest Cardew, Cork heads to the politician's rooms, where he discovers a left luggage ticket for the station near the Ormsby residence.  Upon investigation the case in question turns out to contain the diamonds.

Mr Menzies identifies the left luggage ticket as being in the same hand that wrote the note to Cork, suggesting an attempt to frame Cardew.  The sergeant dispatches his constable to interview the man who can provide an alibi for Sir Geoffrey: the Prime Minister, with whom Ormsby dined on the night of the theft. "Remember, he is a public servant!", Cork instructs a terrified Marriott.  Menzies seizes the opportunity to get a gem for his, ahem, son's autograph collection.

Eventually Sir Geoffrey's revealed as the culprit, having lied about the time he returned home from his date with the PM.  Having walked in on his wife and her lover asleep, he framed Cardew as revenge.  As he confesses the camera slowly homes in on Noel Johnson's face till it's uncomfortably close.

A fun episode, if not a particularly memorable one.

Next tonight, The Arthur Haynes Show - clearly very much assured of its popularity at this stage, it no longer features any opening theme, relying on the applause of a wildly enthusiastic studio audience over a brief animated title.

Tonight's opening sketch is very much Haynes-by-numbers, relying on the well-established setup of Arthur annoying Nicholas Parsons in a train carriage: "You buy a first class ticket but it doesn't stop people getting bothered, does it? Does it?"

Parsons is a surgeon, on his way to an important operation.  Arthur tries to draw him into conversation about Your Life in Their Hands, a documentary series showing what happens in the operating theatre.  Nicholas hasn't been on it.  "Why? Aren't you good enough?" Arthur's baffled by the fact that the surgeons on the show keep their masks on throughout.  "He's not gonna get famous that way, is he?" It's not long before Parsons is reduced to a gibbering wreck.

To make things worse, Arthur strips off in the hope of getting an examination.  He's puzzled by Parsons' refusal: "What's the matter, are you afraid you ain't gonna get your money? I'm fully paid up on the National Health!"

While we reel from the sight of a topless Arthur Haynes we move on to a brief vignette with Arthur as a policeman knocking on Parsons' door, after being involved in some kind of fight.  After downing several brandies proffered  by his host he announces he's there to talk to him about his dangerous dog.  It's pretty weak, but what makes the sketch interesting is how it links to the show's musical act by panning across Parsons' desk.

An unusually current act for the show to feature, at the time of broadcast the Dave Clark Five were at number 2 in the hit parade with "Glad All Over," which they mime to here alongside their previous hit, a cover of the Contours' "Do You Love Me".  Drummer Dave Clark takes centre stage, which in a way is fair enough, as the group's named after him and he's by far the prettiest.  On the other hand, having the lead singer, keyboardist Mike Smith, off at the corner of the stage is a bit disorientating.

Lastly we visit the police station in the company of tramps Arthur and Dermot, who've come to report the theft of their hard-earned fourpence (Arthur earned it by singing and dancing in the town centre to the gramophone they keep in their pram for eight hours).  The best thing about a visit to a police station in any 60s TV show is always the posters, and there's a great pair here, aimed at cyclists and dog owners.

Downright odd to 21st century eyes is the sight of Dermot blithely having a fag in a police station (note also that the wall calendar shows the date of the show's transmission.

Arthur's deeply offended by Sergeant Parsons' lack of interest in his missing money.  It's all down to prejudice against the poor, of course: the police didn't waste any time trying to track down the great train robbers, and the loss of fourpence is just as significant to Arthur as the loss of £4,000,000 is to the banks.  More so, in fact: he can't just print more money like they can.  Haynes and Parsons manage to crack each other up over Arthur's temporary inability to pronounce "CID".

Finally Parsons is convinced into sending a man down to the mission hall where the money was stolen after Dermot recognises a Wanted photo of one of the great train robbers.  He recognises that fella: it was him that stole the fourpence.  Parsons gives them a pound to make them go away (if they really had shopped one of the great train robbers you'd think they might get a more significant reward than that), and they grudgingly leave the station.  Outside, Dermot realises it wasn't the mission hall he recognised the bloke in the picture from, it was the picture of him outside the station.  Oh well...

At one point during the sketch, Parsons asks Arthur if he's informed the vicar of the theft.  Arthur vents his exasperation at what's become of the clergy: "I asked him to put a curse on him, and he wouldn't do it!" He might have been better off consulting one of the priests in our next programme...

The Bishop of Winnipeg (David Bauer) is in London, with his ever-present attendant Sister Johnson (Lois Maxwell).  Not at all a well man, he pays a visit to eminent Harley Street physician Mr Beardmore (Tony Steedman), to find out how long he's got left.  The bishop begins to disrobe prior to examination... but why, exactly, is he carrying a gun?

The answer to this question is swiftly revealed by John Steed.  The bishop is not a real bishop at all, but the head of Bibliotec, a "commonwealth Mafia" who many years ago hit on an ecclesiastical front as a good way to divert the suspicions of customs officers.  It doesn't always work, as in the case of the Reverend Harbottle, a senior member of the organisation who's been nabbed on entering the UK: Steed's summoned Cathy to the airport to help out.  The vicar's collar is kept in a box concealing a round of ammunition, while the gun itself is hidden in a prayerbook.

They also discover a doll, which Cathy (she used to collect them) identifies as a rare and valuable German antique.  Its head's loose, which Steed encourages Cathy to have seen to.

A doll's hospital, with tiny body parts strewn all over the place, is a guaranteed macabre setting.  This one's made even more creepy by Laurence Bourne's direction, the otherworldly performance of Grayson Hall lookalike Rosemarie Dunham as its proprietor, Gerda, and hulking Frank Maher as Gerda's husband Hasek.

By accident or design, Cathy seems to have brought her doll to people who know just what to do with it: Gerda clearly recognises the doll as in some way significant, and once Cathy's left it with her, Hasek swiftly smashes its head in.

A little while later, Cathy finds Hasek in her flat, giving her drawers a good going through, though he runs off when she enters fight mode.  Not long after that, she receives a phone call from Gerda, requesting £20,000 for the doll's repair.

Meanwhile, Bibliotec are holding a major conference - in a shabby school classroom during the holidays.  Members from throughout the commonwealth are present.  The joke is that these supposed clergymen (such as frequent Avengers guest star Kenneth J Warren as Fingers the Frog, vicar of Tooowoomba) are, in contrast to the dignified bishop, obvious crooks, but as the point of the conference is to decide on the bishop's successor it does rather make you wonder how the organisation will carry on without him.

As Sister Johnson carries out the collection - of the assembled clerics' firearms, she's surprised by the entrance of a new gang member, Reverend John Steed - sent instead of the indisposed Reverend Harbottle.

Steed's a hit with his fellow clergymen, and in response to equestrian-themed chaffing about his surname from Reverend Harry (Harry Landis), makes up the rather alarming nickname for himself of Johnny the Horse.  Harry passes him a native fertility symbol...

...which in a short while he whittles down to proportions he feels more comfortable with.

Steed meets up with Cathy to compare notes in the school's tuck shop, where he sucks on some brandy balls and she rather lasciviously gets to work on a sherbet fountain.

When she comes to see him later on, Harry and Big Sid (John Cowley) are present, so they pretend that she's his moll.  And just to make things more convincing...

It looks like a straight fight between Big Sid and Fingers the Frog to replace the bishop, with Steed's support courted by the Big Sid camp. It all proves immaterial, though: while the Bibliotec members sleep in the classroom (the organisation's rules say they can't live the premises until the conference is over), the blackboard slides back to reveal a machine gun-wielding Sister Johnson, who mows them all down.

Steed survives (with an injured leg), and is patched up by Mr Beardmore, who's far from ignorant of the inner workings of Bibliotec.  In fact, the doll's head turns out to have been full of microfilm containing secrets divulged by some of his more high profile clients.  He and Sister Johnson (revealed to be the bishop's lover as well as his nurse) are now plotting to take over Bibliotec: hence the massacre (casting Miss Moneypenny as the would-be head of an international crime syndicate is a pretty inspired touch).

The couple at the dolls' hospital are also involved in Sister Johnson's plans, as they reveal to Cathy after she finally gets the chance to beat up Hasek... is Fingers, who escaped before the shooting but ends up shot dead by the bishop in a concluding bloodbath which also sees Steed dispatching Beardmore, and Cathy seriously wounding Sister Johnson.  On being shot, Lois Maxwell totters all over the set in an entertaining but eventually exasperating manner that works as a metaphor for the episode itself.  Excellent - and wonderfully bizarre - in parts, The Little Wonders finally suffers from being a seriously over-egged pudding.

Finally, something a bit more sober.  Tonight's episode of Espionage is notable chiefly for being an early script by Larry Cohen, at this stage in his career a jobbing TV writer but destined to become one of the most distinctive voices in sci-fi and horror cinema of the 70s and 80s as writer-director of films like It's Alive, God Told Me To, Q - the Winged Serpent and The Stuff.  There are no killer babies, Aztec gods or hermaphrodite alien messiahs here, but there's an uncomfortably thought-provoking piece of drama that seems to be heavily influenced by the moral nightmares of The Twilight Zone.

Fritz Weaver stars as Richard Keller, acclaimed author of The Germans, a book seeking to explain what it was in the psyche of the German people that led them into the clutches of Nazism.  Having been resident in England since 1944, he's returned to his homeland to receive an honour for his anti-Nazi achievements during the war.  But as he rehearses his big speech, paying tribute to the German people's resilience in recovering from the horrors of Nazism, a young man (Mark Petersen), the very image of the ideal Aryan youth, sneaks into the auditorium and shoots him.

At the bedside of the critically injured Keller, doctor explains to nurse who Keller is, and what he was due to be honoured for: betraying his country.

Apart from brief exchanges between doctor and nurse, the rest of the episode takes place in Keller's head, a maze of flashbacks within flashbacks.  He remembers his journey to Germany by plane, where he hallucinated his recently deceased wife (Sylvia Kay) asking for his promise never to return to Germany, for his own peace of mind.

He remembers back to the war, when he was part of a top secret anti-Nazi contingent within the German high command, led by Field Marshal Von Elm (Joseph Furst), who chose him to carry the group's declaration of peace to England.  And he remembers his recent visit to the elderly Von Elm, also a recipient of the medal he's come to have pinned to his chest, but now deeply embittered, and viewing the government' honouring of those who were on the "right side" as simply an attempt to distract from continuing war crimes trials.  The makeup Furst sports as the older Von Elm doesn't make him look much older, but it does make him look badly scarred - a sign of the fate he suffered from staying behind in Germany when Keller took up residence in England.

As Keller briefly returns to consciousness the face of the nurse reminds him of his sister Ilsa (Rosemary Rogers) , who he's also paid a visit on this unhappy return home.  As bitter in her own way as the Field Marshal, she didn't give him much of a welcome.  He received a much warmer greeting from his bedridden mother (Catherine Lacey, one of my favourite actresses)...

...but the mood is soured by his mother's compulsion to reveal that after he left Germany, for the sake of Ilsa and her baby son, she denounced him to the Gestapo, accusing him of all sorts of terrible crimes: "I called you a degenerate.  I cast doubt upon your manhood.  I cited instances where you had corrupted young boys."  Her testimony saw Keller sentenced to death: "You were convicted in absentia and I stood there and applauded the verdict."  It's the immense mental strain resulting from this that keeps her bedridden, and she tells her son that the shame that consumes her means she's unable to attend his ceremony.

Reeling from all this, Keller is lambasted by his sister. Rather than guilt, she feels nothing but anger for the book her brother wrote condemning Germans trying to live their everyday lives as collaborators.  She brings him face to face with the uncomfortable fact that those acquiescing to Nazi rule included his nearest and dearest: "You remember the Jewish tailor on the corner of the street? I watched them take that whole family away one night.  They threw them into the back of a cart, like collecting refuse.  And I stood there on the corner and watched.  And do you know what I was thinking? I was thinking, I owe that tailor 12 marks.  Now I can forget about it."

Richard's nephew Ernst (Michael Wolf) is rather more pleased to see his uncle.  He introduces him to his interestingly close friend Tod, a "super-patriot" who condemns England as a decadent country, who we recognise as the young man who'll later shoot Richard.  The choice of the German word for death as his name is as significant as the choice of Richard, with its distinct German and English pronunciations, for the protagonist.

That evening, Richard and Ilsa attend a concert, with Ernst and Tod playing violin.  As the music plays, it's drowned out for Richard by the sound in his head of a Nazi rally.  Eventually he stands up and screams for it to stop, much to the bemusement of his fellow audience members.

Running outside, he apprehends a thief trying to steal from a car.  He hands the young man over to the police, whose brutal treatment of him triggers a flashback to the violence meted out against Jews during the war.

Richard's mind drifts back to his hospital bed, where he's visited by the shades of his wife, his sister and Harry Forbes (Nigel Stock), the British officer who questioned him when he brought his message of peace, and later went into business with him.  Forbes here is the voice of British society, holding Richard in contempt even as it proudly trots him out all over the media as a tame German.  It forces Richard to confront uncomfortable questions buried in his mind: did he choose a Jewish wife in order to try and prove something? 

The figment of Ilsa reads a passage from Richard's book, condemning those who "stood and watched" as Hitler took power.  "I did something!" Richard protests.  "Of course you did, you're a national hero" says Harry, mock-soothingly, before delivering the devastating truth of what Richard did to help his country: "You took a ride in a plane."

"I was an anti-Nazi!" Richard insists.  "Yes, old boy," responds Harry.  "In 1944.  But what were you in 1934?" As Richard dies, condemned to run through corridors in an op art hell, he realises his crime: he's cast those who acquiesced as a formless other, without ever admitting that he was as much to blame for what happened as anyone.

Powerful stuff indeed.  Some light relief now, with a glance at the pop charts.  The Beatles are still hanging on to the number 1 spot, but leaping an impressive 10 spaces to number three, here's the Swinging Blue Jeans (with a cover of an American number the Beatles were performing live the previous year).

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