Hello all. I hope you're having a celebratory Babycham (I know I am - just the one before moving on to the Cherry B), as it's the 200th post at TV Minus 50. Yes, I know, I'm surprised I haven't packed it in yet too!
This week, a character we've never seen before (actually one of the scientists from Jupiter, with a beard stuck on), whose job is to look at the sun all day (must go for the eyes a bit, I would've thought) notices an explosion taking place.
The upshot of the explosion is an uncomfortable rise in temperature on Earth and, especially, on Venus, where the president is contacted by a certain Dr Duncan, head of a research lab on Ganymede. Duncan's a very odd-looking character: from the front he looks like a pale-eyed Desmond Tutu; in profile he just looks utterly bizarre. It's a shame that the first Space Patrol character to have fairly dark skin should turn out to be a total rotter: Duncan and his fellow Ganymede colonists are unhappy with the conditions on the moon, so the scientist sent a freighter of barillium (whatever that might be) into the sun in order to heat things up on Earth and Venus and blackmail those planets into making Ganymede a nicer place to live. As the Venusian president sums up: "What a disaster! Earth and Venus at the mercy of a mad scientist!"
On Earth, Colonel Raeburn approaches Professor Haggerty about the crisis, asking him the rather vague question "Do you know a scientist called Duncan?" Fortunately Haggerty knows exactly who he's talking about: Duncan's a former employee of the professor who was sacked after he tried to steal one of Haggerty's inventions. As such, Haggerty is far from his biggest fan. Raeburn reveals the new information that Duncan wishes to be "dictator of the galaxy", and has hi-jacked a convoy of barillium freighters, meaning he can now cause another 40 solar explosions. Something must be done.
Raeburn wants to send troops to apprehend Duncan, but General Smith thinks it'd be a better idea just to blow the whole Ganymede colony up. Raeburn's worries about killing innocent colonists are all quickly assuaged by the general's insistence that they're probably all just as bad as Duncan (I imagine this is pretty much what happened with the war in Iraq).
But Raeburn suggests they try one more thing: sending Larry Dart and his Galasphere crew out to Ganymede for peace talks with Duncan. The seemingly sensible objection that it might be better to send actual diplomats for that kind of job is countered with Raeburn's secret plan to have the astronauts sabotage the freighters while they're at it. On arrival, Larry and Husky go for a chat with Duncan, while Slim sneaks off (the usual rule that one person needs to stay on the ship seems to have been forgotten this week) to neutralise the barillium threat and trip over guards.
Slim sets the robot control on the freighters to send them back to Earth, leading to his imprisonment alongside his shipmates.
But Professor Haggerty has an idea: he's invented a device which will make the freighters explode before they reach the sun should Duncan send them in that direction. Once the devices are fitted the freighters are sent back to Ganymede. After Raeburn refuses to meet any of Duncan's demands the villainous scientist aims the whole lot at the sun, and the colonel and Professor Haggerty watch contentedly as they all blow up long before reaching it.
Troops are sent out to Ganymede to arrest Duncan for his crimes, his attempts to escape the planet foiled by his own henchman, who's less than impressed with the way things have worked out.
Explosion in the Sun is the last episode in the present run of Space Patrol, but don't worry, it'll be back in a few weeks.
Now for tonight's Saint, an episode packed with incidental pleasures. As Simon drives around London being patronising about female drivers ("Bless 'em!") we get a good look at a rather splendid Guinness ad.
An interior shot of Simon's car reveals the alarming fact that the street behind him is entirely still: there's even a man who appears frozen in the act of walking...
Strangely, the apparent halting of the world behind Simon is not at all commented upon - instead we plunge straight on with Simon nearly colliding with a car being driven by surly chauffeur Julian Glover (this was before Glover's nose job, and his then-bulbous conk gives him a bit more of a thuggish look than he'd possess in later years). The chauffeur, Hilloram, is employed by Countess Morova (Dawn Addams, London's most famous society hostess (Simon surreptitiously nicks one of her gloves from the back seat). Although they've never met, she and Simon recognise each other immediately thanks to their mutual fame:
That evening the countess gives a party for the crustiest of London's upper crust, and afterwards we learn that she, Hilloram and butler Sanders (Ronald Ibbs) are all crooks: while the countess entertains the nobs, Hilloram pops out and nabs their jewels. On this particular occasion he's brought back some spectacular diamonds but had to knock out a troublesome butler - much to the countess's disgust: she hates violence and remembers all too well the occasion when Hilloram sent a night porter to an untimely end.
While they're examining their loot, Simon turns up with the glove (which he insists the countess dropped). She invites him and before you know it they're off out dancing the night away. Simon confesses that both the glove and the car accident were intentional, and reels off a series of robberies he knows she was involved in. She attempts to justify her life of crime by explaining that her late husband left her penniless, but he claims that all he's interested in is joining her gang.
The countess (Audrey to her intimates) is instantly smitten with Simon, but gives him a test to prove himself. When she accompanies an aristocratic couple to the theatre, he's dispatched to go and empty their safe. From the brief glimpse we see of it we can deduce that the play they've gone to see is a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream that was staged at the Old Vic in 1957, with Coral Browne as Titania and a concealed Frankie Howerd (whose instantly recognisable voice was not one I ever expected to hear in The Saint) as Bottom.
The robbery's a success (far more of a gentleman than Hilloram, Simon just locks the butler in a cupboard), but on his return home Simon finds Inspector Teal waiting for him, positively glowing at the opportunity to arrest his old adversary. The discovery that the call about the burglary from a strangely well-informed neighbour was from Simon himself dims him a bit. Simon explains that he's inveigled his way into Audrey's gang to bring them to justice: not because of any interest in reuniting toffs with their treasures but because he knew the porter Hilloram killed, and wants justice on behalf of his grieving wife and children. In exchange for the opportunity to carry on with his plan, Simon tells Teal that Sanders will be leaving for Amsterdam with the jewels the next day. Here, for anyone interested in such things, is some vintage airport signage, as well as a rather splendid Welcome to Britain poster seen behind the inspector as he sends his men off after the dodgy butler.
Hilloram sees the men going after Sanders, and realises they're the police. He voices his concerns to a dismissive Audrey, then makes an ill-advised attempt at ravishing her. She's now hopelessly in love with Simon, and Hilloram's consumed with jealousy.
However, they all need to work together (along with a shifty Frenchman named Jacques, played by John G Heller) on Audrey's latest scheme: a yacht trip with three super-wealthy couples who will, during the course of the voyage, be relieved of their most valuable possessions (she's made up a story about a party invitation from Princess Grace of Monaco to ensure they bring their best jewels).
Simon goes ashore for a bit to meet up with a friend, Dickie Tremaine (David Sumner) - who he catches in the middle of chatting up a rather unresponsive French girl. Simon engages Dickie's help in catching the gang.
Here's a close-up of David Sumner (not to be confused with the lead character in Straw Dogs), for no reason other than that he's the most handsome actor we've seen round these parts in a good while.
Hilloram, trailing Simon, spies on his conversation with Dickie: "Who's he?" he bluntly asks Simon when the Saint spots him. " A friend." "Oh?" "Yes, some people do have them."
It's not easy to have any sympathy for the three couples Audrey plans to rob, as they're all ghastly. Sir Edras and Lady Levy (Gerald Young and Edith Saville) won't shut up about their tedious family; Lord Braden (Michael Gover - strangely uncredited, as is Clare Kelly as his wife) is a a right-wing bore, while Lady Braden's a miserable alcoholic (not surprising really); George Ulrig (Stuart Saunders) is a hopeless hypochondriac, while his much younger wife May (Anne Sharp) never does anything but gripe.
The plan to rob this rotten lot involves a drug which will be put in their coffee after dinner one night aboard ship, rendering them helpless, with Audrey explaining to them after they awaken that they were all the victims of pirates, while Hilloram heads to Italy with their ill-gotten gains.
Hilloram is overjoyed to learn that his suspicions of Simon were right: and that Sanders has been arrested in Amsterdam. Audrey, on the other hand is devastated, and decides to move the jewel theft forward so any capture Simon's got planned will be thwarted.
The following night, the guests all collapse after their coffee, with Simon having been slipped the drug as well. Unfortunately Audrey's also had it, Hilloram having decided to get revenge for her throwing him over. But, as always, the Saint is one step ahead, only pretending to be drugged, and having signalled to Dickie to come aboard and help early. Together they make short work of Jacques and Hilloram, with the latter ending up plunging overboard to a watery grave.
I should like to point out that the way Simon and Dickie then admire the beauty of the unconscious Audrey is downright creepy.
Simon sees that the guests get their jewels back (though all have to make a hefty charity donation), and doesn't let on that Audrey was behind the theft, instead relieving her of all her own jewels except for those which will raise her enough money to start a new life in South America.
It's an especially fun episode of The Saint, though really I would have like something with more of a celebratory feel for my 200th post. Those schedulers in 1964 were damned inconsiderate, I say.