Monday, 13 October 2014

Tuesday 13 October 1964

While Giles Farmer takes a look at young Billy Cartwright's hand, Les Large bandages up a man who's sadly unable to voice his gratitude as he's not being paid to speak.

The same is true of the glum-looking lady in the wheelchair below.

Giles and Les rendezvous and Les asks after Lena Hyde - he's had a letter from the police telling him he may face charges for dangerous driving, and that they'll be obtaining a statement from her.  Giles cautions Les to put a halt to his burgeoning friendship with Ms Hyde: if she presses charges it'll all end in tears.

Lena gets another visit from Gerry Frobisher, brandishing a bunch of flowers so extravagant that it puts actor Basil Henson off his lines when he talks about his chances of being elected: "I say don't count on it till all the returns... backed."  Lena's tendons have been operated on and she's feeling much better.  She confesses that she feels sorry for Les, but Gerry's adamant she should sue him for everything she can get (he's clearly jealous of the doctor).

Consultant Mr Drummond (Kenneth Keeling) comes to look at Billy's finger stumps, which have become badly infected.  Giles thinks Billy's kept quiet about the intense pain he's feeling in the hope of being released from hospital sooner.  He's concerned about Billy's father, who seems to have disappeared.  He and Billy have conflicting stories about where they live, and Billy's promised his father not to tell where they lived previously.  It's a rum do.

In his private ward, Leon Dorsey's recovering nicely from his ear operation, and it's time for the splendid Mr Arnott to grandly remove his bandage.

Dorsey's beginning to cheer up a bit, but that's quickly spoiled by Arnott and Dr Grant rowing about what's to be done with Barbara Dodge's donation to the hospital.

Giles and Mr Drummond are awaiting the results on Billy's wound from the path lab, which is the fiefdom of the hospital's oldest and most fearsome doctor, Tabitha Chalmers, who works to her own indiosyncratic timetable.  Giles astonishes Drummond by revealing he knows Chalmers well due to his personal interest in pathology, and might be able to get her to speed up a bit.

Alec Grant tries once again to discuss the Dodge donation with Leon, but the patient is saved when he's shooed away by physiotherapist Miss Clark.

Les has found out that Lena intends to discharge herself from the hospital, and tries to make her reconsider as he's concerned about her mysterious headache.  She insists that she's needed for the final stage of Gerry's election campaign, convinced that she can be the difference as to whether he wins or not.  Les grudgingly accepts her decision.

Sandy Maclean's just finished the first stage of her oral exams, and seeks out Jane Beattie to compare notes with.  Sister Ransome's thunderous initial reaction to the pair of them gasbagging is eventually supplanted by her better nature, and she lets the pair clock off for a bit.

Billy Cartwright receives a visit from the terrifying Dr Chalmers (Anne Blake), who can't remember Giles' name, despite his insistence that they're good friends.  It turns out Billy was having an adverse reaction to penicillin.

Giles insists to Les that Lena leaving the hospital is the best thing that could happen to him: if she experiences any further ill effects of the accident then, having discharged herself, she won't be able to blame them on him.

Sandy and Jane's next orals are administered by Drummond and Grant respectively.  Sandy does fantastically well, Jane doesn't.  Grant's natural bluntness doesn't put her at her ease: "Well you didn't know very much about that one, did you?"

Billy's feeling lonely, and gets a hug from Sister Ransome.

Finally, Grant gathers together the hospital's senior consultants, or at least those he considers "responsible" (ie prepared to back his bid to be chair of the medical committee) to discuss the donation.  Turns out they're not as responsible as he'd hoped, as another row about the best way to spend the money breaks out...

...only to be silenced by Dr Chalmers.  She's had enough of the endless childish bickering and has decided, as the senior member of staff, to appoint herself acting chair of the board in order to knock some sense into her colleagues.

Will anyone dare argue? Find out on Friday.

Now, a new show for Tuesday nights.  Or is it an old show? It's what TV people today would probably call a reboot.

The original incarnation of Danger Man, broadcast from 1960 to 1961, was a series of half-hour adventures for American Interpol agent John Drake.  Version 2.0's episodes have been increased to an hour in length and Drake, still played by Patrick McGoohan, now works for British Intelligence department M9.  Also, Drake himself is now English (McGoohan's transatlantic upbringing meant he was easily able to slip between accents, making him the Gillian Anderson of his era), the enormous success of two James Bond films in the interim having made British spies trendy.  Indeed, while the version of Danger Man with Drake as an American didn't sell to the US, the 1964 version (renamed Secret Agent and given an extremely catchy theme song) was a huge success across the pond.

One of the key names on the credits of the new Danger Man is that of script editor Wilfred Greatorex, otherwise known as head honcho on The Plane Makers (which, incidentally, is back next week).  While hugely exciting as secret agent adventures, Danger Man's episodes feature a degree of cynicism and moral ambiguity that's less like Bond than the work of Len Deighton or John Le CarrĂ©, and very similar to that found in Greatorex's boardroom drama.

Tonight's episode was the ninth to be made, but is a perfect choice to introduce us to the new Danger Man, with a brilliant script from Donald Jonson that denies us any moral certainties, exciting direction from Charles Crichton and an A+ guest cast.

Our story takes place in Beirut, where, once his secretary Mary Wilson (April Wilding) says goodnight, civil servant John Brett (Peter Copley), responds to a notice in the paper by copying some official documents (the demonstration of an early 60s photocopier is fascinating), then surreptitiously passing them to a man in a bar.  Said man is then gunned down before he gets a chance to pass them on.

Edwin Astley's theme tune, jolly and sinister at the same time, takes us to London, where John Drake pulls up outside the offices of the travel firm that's really a cover for M9 (Drake's choice of vehicle, a Mini, marks him out as more modern, and more of a real person, than Bond).

Drake receives his orders from the Admiral (desiccated Peter Madden), not an avuncular grump like M but almost openly hostile toward his subordinate.  The feeling's clearly mutual.  Brett's subterfuge has been discovered, and Drake's being flown out to Beirut to find out who he's passing his information to.  The agent's anxious to ensure he'll have a full team working with him: "I sometimes think you overestimate my capabilities, Sir." "You need have no fear of that," his boss snorts back.  Drake will be working alongside Jo Dutton, the widow of an agent who now runs British intelligence in Beirut herself.

I want to pose like this for all future photographs.

On his arrival in Beirut, Drake, posing as an official from the Board of Trade, finds a party laid on for the great and good of the British community to welcome him.  He meets Brett and Ms Wilson, and is buttonholed by the dotty Mrs Curtis (Joan Hickson), hoping to cast him as the lead in her production of Love from a Stranger.  He declines, meaning she'll have to make do with Embassy secretary Willie Harris (Aubrey Morris).

Drake also meets journalist Edwin Archer (Howard Marion Crawford), so drunk he's forgotten that he's the host, his wife Catherine (Patricia Driscoll) and, finally, Jo Dutton (Maureen Connell), who he swiftly gets outside to discuss business.  She reveals that she doesn't have any agents to spare for him (there's a real sense of espionage as a dreary business bogged down in bureaucracy in Jo's resentment at her lack of resources compared to London-based agents).

Jo suggests Drake approach local security chief Attala (Anton Rodgers) to see if he can spare any men.  Drake does so, still in the guise of Board of Trade man - one who completed an intelligence course at a local training centre.  Attala's appalled by this vision of British amateurism: "What will you do in this modern world?" Attala summons a couple of agents to work with Drake, and the first thing they do is throw him to the ground to see if he's had any unarmed combat training.  Drake, still playing the bumbling bureaucrat, professes horror at the very idea.

Attala's men place a camera and listening devices in Brett's office (they bribe the cleaner, which is apparently standard practice), and they and Drake sit back and watch what he gets up to.

Having seen Brett give a package to a man, they follow his contact and apprehend him.  Attala interrogates him but learns nothing, so Drake and Dutton decide to go and see Brett and ask him upfront about the matter.

To their surprise, Brett claims to be working for British intelligence: his contact is Edwin Archer, who he believes to be in charge of the British operation in Beirut.  Willie Harris has important work he needs Dutton to do, and makes it plain to Drake he thinks he's in the way.  Dutton refuses to compromise her position by calling Archer to come and see her, so Drake decides to pay him a visit himself.

Drake claims he has a story he wants to split with Archer, and the pair agree to meet that evening while his wife's at the rehearsal for Mrs Curtis's play.  In the meantime, Dutton's dredged up information showing that Archer was an M9 agent who was dismissed as unreliable during the war, and classified as a security risk in 1950.  When they meet that evening, Archer knows immediately what Drake's come to see him about: "What is it about our profession that rubs off on the personality? Do bank clerks recognise each other when they meet, or schoolteachers, or grocers? I must say, the 1960s model is very different from the 40s."

Archer claims to have been saving up Brett's information: he decided Mrs Dutton was doing a terrible job as intelligence chief and that he could do much better.  But he refuses to go with Drake to the authorities.

Drake suddenly attacks Archer, and two foreign heavies appear to restrain him.  He's proved that Archer's working for the other side, but will he be able to share the information? The way Patrick McGoohan calmly sits in his chair puffing at his cigar as he's threatened is wonderful - he's far cooler than any Bond.

There's an extremely unpleasant bit as one of Archer's henchmen holds Drake down while the other edges ever closer to his eyeball with a lit cigarette.

Happily, he's saved by the arrival of Mrs Archer, who's brought Mrs Curtis and Willie over for drinks I love the way little Hitler Willie becomes a cringing lapdog at Mrs Curtis' beck and call, and the eccentric matron's surprised but rather pleased glance at the two burly men is wonderful.

Drake escapes by accepting Mrs Curtis's offer of a lift, but tells her he needs to get out of the car as he's forgotten something - his car.  Cue much bemusement.  Drake returns to the Archer residence and ambushes the foreign agents, making short work of them (with a little help from Attala, who arrives in the nick of time).

Archer is apprehended and put by Attala on a flight to Baghdad.  Before the plane leaves a fellow passenger, Drake, renders Archer unconscious and, posing as a doctor, informs the stewardess (Lynn Taylor) that he's had a stroke and will need to be taken to hospital.

Kept prisoner by Drake and Dutton, Archer confesses everything on tape, and offers his whole spy network in exchange for his freedom.  The uniquely rumpled Crawford is superb as the former idealist who has been transformed by circumstances into a man more than willing to sell his principles to the highest bidder: "I don't think I did wrong, really.  At that time, idealism seemed a little stupid - East or West, nothing to choose between them.  They're both making a bit of a hash of the world."  London authorise the exchange, and Archer hands over his list of contacts.  He's actually rather happy about the way things have worked out, convinced that he'll be able to carry on doing exactly the same as he was before, only for different masters: "Yesterday's enemies, tomorrow's friends, and vice versa."

Ivor Salter, one of the most ubiquitous bit-part players in British film and TV of the 60s, is wonderful as Bertrand, the monolithic agent sent from London to pick up Archer.  Drake's not impressed by his intention to "talk terms": "If he was some poor, miserable little crook you'd have nailed him by now."  "Well that's life, isn't it old man?" responds Bertrand, uninterested in Drake's moral outrage.  But it turns out no terms are going to be talked after all: as Bertrand drives Archer off, the former enemy agent realises they're going in the wrong direction.   There's a close-up of the car wheel, eerie electronic music, and a crash.

On hearing of Archer's death, Mrs Dutton accuses Drake of responsibility for the crash.  As startled as anybody else by the turn events have taken, he goes to see the grieving widow, informing her that her husband was a British agent working on an important job with him.

The Admiral, who has a habit of playing menacingly with a fearsome paper knife, is deeply unimpressed that Drake broke cover to Mrs Archer.  "I could have killed her," snaps Drake, offering an alternative course of action.  He demands to know why Archer was killed.  "Drake," chides the Admiral, "You're forgetting yourself."  "I wish I could forget," Drake bitterly responds.

The Admiral reveals that Archer is to receive a posthumous award.

Yesterday's Enemies, both exciting and deeply thought-provoking, is magnificent TV, and bodes very well indeed for the new series of Danger Man.  Come back next week for another one.

1 comment:

  1. Tuesday October 13th 1964,ATV-ITC Drama Series Danger Man starring the late Patrick McGoohan as The British Secret Agent John Drake until Friday January 12th 1968 with the one-hour episodes also the half-hour episodes from 1960-61.

    Filmed at MGM & Shepperton Studios made in Black & White also in Colour.

    The First Episode,Yesterday's Enemies with guest stars April Wilding,Anton Rodgers,Peter Madden,Joan Hickson,best remembered in The British Movies with The House Across The Lake alongside The late Sidney James and The Carry On Movies and Maureen Connell.

    Danger Man is The Great Spy Drama Series from Sunday September 11th 1960 to Friday January 12th 1968 made by MGM-Shepperton Studios for ATV-ITC Production with The 86 Episodes filmed in Black & White also in Colour.

    The Star of The Show icon is the late Patrick McGoohan as John Drake in The ITV Drama Series Danger Man.

    Terry Christie.