Friday, 29 August 2014

Saturday 29 August 1964

Alas, this week's Doctor Who episode is one of the many that are missing from the BBC's archive.  Unlike with the vast majority of other programmes with similar gaps, though, soundtrack recordings exist for all Doctor Who's lost instalments.  So that means we're able to get some idea of what the episode was like, at least.  For the DVD release of this story, the soundtracks to the missing episodes were accompanied with animation.  Clearly a lot of work went into it, but it's marred by some dodgy likenesses and the curious decision to liven up talky scenes with huge close-ups of characters' eyes and mouths, something that you certainly don't see much of in the episodes that still exist visually.

The episode's called The Tyrant of France after Robespierre (Keith Anderson), before whom the Doctor, still in the guise of a Regional Officer of the Provinces, is brought by Lemaitre.  Never one to shy away from confrontation, the Doctor happily gives his opinion that the whole reign of terror thing is a terrible way to run a country (I get the impression this is no longer his favourite period in history).  Robespierre turns out to have several screws loose, living in perpetual fear of the enemies he sees in every corner (in fairness, he probably does have quite a few).

Meanwhile, at Jules' house, Susan's still ill, and Barbara learns that her new admirer, Leon, isn't viewed very favourably by Jules' sister Danielle.  There's some good news, though, as Jules and Jean have found Ian (who's not over-chuffed about the fact they knocked him out and put a hood over his head to bring him to their HQ).  Jules confirms he's the man Ian's cellmate sent him to look for, but he's no idea why as he's never heard of Webster or the elusive James Stirling.  Jules suspects that Leon, who "moves in a very wide circle) could be the English spy.  At Conciergerie prison, the tailor's handed the Doctor's ring over to Lemaitre and confirmed his suspicions that the old man's a fraud.

Susan's getting worse, and the physician won't come to Jules' house, so she and Barbara have to go and see him (he's played by a very young Ronald Pickup).  After the consultation the physician follows the tailor's lead by heading straight to the prison to announce he's found some escaped prisoners.  Susan and Barbara are recaptured and returned to Conciergerie, where at least they're reunited with the Doctor.

Jules establishes that Leon isn't Stirling, but he appears to have a lead and Ian heads off to meet him, only to find himself surrounded by soldiers.  Leon's a traitor and Ian's been caught in a trap...

Next tonight a programme that, happily, does still exist.

We're in the grim surroundings of a Victorian prison, where kindly warder Jackson (Kevin McHugh) is trying to make life easier for inmates including a distressed young boy, Terry Martin (Valentine Ashley), who he offers some chocolate...

...which is rapidly snatched away by brutal Chief Warder Holland (Bernard Bresslaw), who's got no time for mollycoddling the scum in his charge.  Bresslaw was yet to appear in a Carry On film at this time, but was still mainly associated with the role of lovably dim-witted Popeye Popplewell in The Army Game, so his casting as a sadistic prison officer may have come as a bit of a shock to some viewers.  He's brilliant.

Major Manning, the governor of the prison (HMP Lewes), is played by John Wentworth, with rather better groomed facial hair than when we saw him last as the Abbé Faria in The Count of Monte Cristo.  He's supportive of Jackson's more lenient method of dealing with the prisoners, but finds Holland too formidable a character to overrule.

But, ironically, when a riot breaks out, it's gentle Jackson who's seriously injured by being thrown from the gallery.

At the Yard, Sergeant Cork's moved by a visit from Bert Fouldes (Alex McDonald), who's just been released from prison after serving five years for breaking into an abandoned building to sleep, the victim of an over-zealous judge determined to make an example of him.  His prison experience has left him the broken shell of a man, and Cork rails against the system that did it to him: "Our prison system is the worst in the world.  They send people from Russia to study our methods and even they go away appalled" (it's another brilliant script from Cork's finest writer, Julian Bond: "I've far too much conscience to make a good politician," Cork tells his superior at one point.  "Far too much conscience to make a good policeman").

With remarkable timing, Superintendent Rodway announces that Cork and Marriott are being sent to Lewes prison to investigate the Jackson case.  Marriott's bemused by the splendour of Major Manning's apartments in comparison to the horrific conditions the inmates live in.

As Cork and Marriott go to interview the suspects (against Holland's wishes they get to interview them one-on-one in their cells), Major Manning is informed by the grotesque prison chaplain (John Garrie) - a man moved to fury by the discovery that the prison library housed a copy of Madame Bovary - that Jackson has died.  The investigation is now into a murder.

The first prisoner Cork and Marriott interview is Aubrey Drummond (John Moffatt, later Radio 4's Poirot), a former actor and ongoing ham.  He insists he had nothing against any of the warders, though the same can't be said for the Padre: "The man can't help being physically repulsive, but he's intolerable socially as well as being a thorn in my agnostic side."  Drummond thinks it more likely that, with Holland due to retire and Jackson favourite to replace him, one of the other warders killed him to prevent a drastic regime change.

Marriott goes alone to interview cheeky chappie Gafy Carter (Leslie Dwyer), who, for the price of a cigar, reveals his own thoughts on the matter, which almost exactly echo Drummond's.

The third suspect, Bartlett (Tony Beckley, who, like Leslie Dwyer, previously appeared in Cork as another criminal) seems an especially likely one, having a history of violence.  But he claims he wouldn't have done anything to jeopardise his release in three months' time, and also points the finger of suspicion at the warders.

It comes as a surprise to everyone when Drummond suddenly confesses to killing Jackson.  Cork and Marriott don't believe him, and they're right - his plea for clemency having just been rejected, he's simply looking for a way out, even if it's at the end of a rope.

Cork's suspicious of Warder Toms (Richard Klee), but, as the man quite reasonably points out, it's a bit of a stretch to suppose you'd kill a man just because you don't agree with his methods.

Holland represents the voice in society (as loud now as it was in the 1880s or the 1960s) that scorns anything but the harshest treatment for wrongdoers.  For him Cork's yet another hand-wringing liberal happy to preach from a distance to those on the ground ("You really want it to be one of us, don't you?").  He admits he hated Jackson, who was only able to earn praise for his attitude toward the prisoners because there were a load of unthanked warders maintaining discipline.  "Humanitarians? I'm sick of 'em".

Cork attempts to force the killer to come forward by pricking his conscience, having the chaplain announce during his sermon that Drummond has confessed.

It doesn't work, so Cork thunderously accuses young Terry Martin of the crime.  Unable to see the kid suffer (and disgusted at Cork for involving a child in such a dirty trick), Bartlett confesses that he killed Jackson.

The episode comes to a powerful conclusion with Major Manning revealing himself as a man who's been haunted by the inadequacies of the prison system since presiding over his first execution, but feeling powerless to do anything about it (John Wentworth muddles a few of his words, but in this context it actually seems pretty appropriate).

The Case of the Wounded Warder is Cork doing what it does best, using the prism of the Victorian era to reflect concerns just as appropriate to the time it was made.  And just as appropriate now.

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