Monday, 27 October 2014

Tuesday 27 October 1964

It's Tuesday, which means there are three shows on tonight's schedule, beginning with another trip to Oxbridge.

Lena Hyde's still suffering an agonising headache, but all things considered she's quite chipper.  She receives an out of hours visit from Gerald Frobisher before his departure on a business trip to Brussels.  He's still determined that Les Large must pay for the accident that put Lena in hospital.

Things are looking increasingly black for poor Les.  Still feeling guilty for not forwarding on his insurance reminders, Michaela Davis offers to pay his fine, but Les is worried he could be facing a prison sentence for dangerous driving - and there's still the question of whether Frobisher will convince Lena to sue for personal damages.

Lena makes it clear to Frobisher that she doesn't want Les punished any further.  "You're obsessed by this boy," Frobisher mutters, jealously.  Concerned about leaving Lena alone where Les can get at her, he reaffirms his own claim on her by snogging her and telling her he loves her.   She doesn't seem overcome with joy.

Frobisher confronts Les about his relationship with Lena.  Michaela's attempt at eavesdropping is intercepted by the ghastly Peter Bacon, who comes out with a terrible laboured joke about her being a Russian spy.  Bizarrely, she agrees to go for a drink with him.

Frobisher threatens to get Les struck off for making passes at Lena.  Les firmly ushers him out, and when the door's open the highly embarrassed Bacon (whose taken over Michaela's position listening at the keyhole) tumbles in.  Michaela ponders to Jane Beattie over whether maybe Bacon's not so awful after all (goodness knows what's prompted that, but it seems like the first sign of some kind of mental health crisis to me).  Jane's more concerned with her exam results, due any minute.  And lo and behold, here they are: and Jane is now a brand new Staff Nurse.

Sister Ransome's just enjoyed lunch with matron, and over coffee she expresses her fears over the new shift system: she's personally sceptical of it, and she's Matron's closest friend.  She's happy to give it a go on her ward ("I'll try anything once, you know that" she says.  Hmm), but she thinks experimenting with the system on the wards ruled over by Matron's most implacable foes, Sister MacNab and Sister Doughty, is a terrible idea.

And indeed, while Sister Doughty's grudgingly willing to try out the new system, Sister MacNab is convinced she's been picked on for previously making a fuss about night duty, and intends simply to send in a report saying the system didn't work.

Les admits a new patient, an attractive young journalist whose confusing use of different titles prompts a marvellously bathetic dialogue exchange: "Professionally I'm Miss Brown, officially I'm Mrs.  I'm a widow."  "I'm sorry." "How could you know?" "Well, it's written down here."  There's even more confusion: "Actually my name's Dalrymple-Browne.  With an E.  Though I never use the E and I've dropped the double-barrel."  After feeling queasy and being told by her doctor to take an aspirin, she fainted in a supermarket.  And she can't stop coughing.

Hilary Tindall gives a very showy performance as Amanda Brown, building up her part with all manner of tics, possibly in the hope there might be some casting agents watching.

Louise Mahler pops in very briefly for a quick chat with Sister MacNab, possibly just to let us know she still exists.

The always unpredictable Sister Ransome is all smiles on handing over Jane's Staff Nurse belt buckle, but warns her that she still needs to buck her ideas up a bit.  Jane's not conspicuously overjoyed on discovering she'll be staying on Ransome's ward.

Jane is congratulated by Rex Lane-Russell, who builds her hopes up yet again by inviting her out to celebrate her new role.

Amanda Brown behaves even more strangely than before on being placed in a bed next to Lena Hyde, her facial expression a worrying mix of unbridled lust and psychopathic rage.

Les finally gets a chance to talk to Lena, and tells her that all was OK on her EEG, she just needs to stay in hospital and rest.  It seems she was just suffering from flu mixed with the after-effects of trauma.  Lena assures Les that he doesn't have to worry about Frobisher and then, to Les's initial alarm but subsequent delight, she offers to perjure herself for him by saying she remembers the car he swerved to avoid...

Next tonight, Danger Man, which has a striking new title sequence, the previous still photograph of Patrick McGoohan being replaced by negative footage of the man himself walking toward the camera.  It's creepy stuff.

Last week's Danger Man was disappointingly mundane, something which certainly can't be said about tonight's offbeat instalment - though it immediately deploys mundanity to intriguing effect by having John Drake trail after a man who finally enters... a Citizens Advice Bureau!

Drake interrupts the man, Fuller (Peter Jesson),  as he hurriedly packs his bags at the back of the bureau, and hoiks him off to M9 HQ, where he's subjected to interrogation.  He was defecting to the East, where he was due to take up a position as an "advisor".  He claims to know nothing more about it, and Drake thinks he's telling the truth.  The Admiral appraises Drake of the situation: 757 people have defected, and while some of these have been high-profile cases, 400 of them have just disappeared without trace.  Drake's assigned to take over Fuller's identity and defect in his place to find out what's going on.

Flying out to the appointed spot, the new Fuller is abandoned aboard a train, where he eventually discovers two fellow passengers, both English.  Randall (Glyn Owen) is a chippy electrician, heading to the East in the hope of being employed in a more rewarding role as an explosives expert.  Janet Wells (Catherine Woodville) is a librarian who's going out to join her boyfriend, who's already defected, and she's already feeling that she's made a mistake.

The three of them disembark from the train in the middle of nowhere, and are understandably stunned by the surreal vision of a Routemaster bus trundling down the road to pick them up.

If that's not bizarre enough, the bus drops them off in Hamden, a place which, in every particular, looks just like a New Town in England.  They're greeted by the polite but inevitably sinister Mr Richardson (Peter Arne).  In response to the question, "We're not back in England, are we?" He's initially enigmatic: "Geography is a matter of physical illusion, lines on a map, words on a signpost.  It's this that gives a place its identity.  After all, you are where you recognise yourself to be.  Mr Donovan says that all countries are countries of the mind."  Some retrospective viewers might feel an immediate frisson when Mr Richardson refers to the place as "the village".

Mr Donovan (Niall McGinnis) is the lugubrious fellow who presides over Hamden.  He explains to the new arrivals (much to Randall's outrage) that they will be expected to continue with their previous occupations: Hamden is a school for spies, where prospective agents experience English life: "When they leave at the end of the three years, they are Englishmen."  Donovan boasts that he's living proof of this, though the occasional intrusion of McGinnis's own Irish lilt into his dialogue makes us question just how successful it's been.

Janet regrets her decision even more when Richardson takes her to see her boyfriend's grave: he left the village, which is expressly forbidden, and supposedly died of exposure in the freezing wasteland outside.  She's there not to join him, but to replace him.

Richardson gives Fuller/Drake a tour of the educational facilities.  The English imports are listened to round the clock by students.  "It's like being in a zoo," Drake muses.  "The animals are very well cared for," Richardson assures him.  Clearly suspicious of Drake, Richardson takes him to the interrogation centre and gives him a sample of what happens there, demanding to know who Drake's working for.  Drake admits he is not a party member, but the session is interrupted by Donovan, to whom Drake complains that the interrogation techniques can't be any good, as he managed to hold out with his "fake" story.

The now thoroughly disillusioned Randall gives his new room mate Fuller a hard time for being a toady.  But Drake continues to express an interest in how the place is run, Richardson assuring him that everything is done exactly as in England: "Drive on the left, politics on the right."  A heavily-accented student going by the name of Pearce (George Mikell) is berated by Richardson for being so un-English as to try and strike up a conversation with Fuller, a complete stranger to him.

Due to start work the next day in a replica Citizens Advice Bureau, Drake tinkers with his typewriter, installing a camera.  Randall very nearly sees him do it.

The next day Drake starts work, assiduously photographing all the agents who come to see him with a push of his colon.

Drake walks in on Randall as the electrician discovers a roll of film hidden in a pencil.  The agent cautions his hot-tempered room mate to keep his mouth shut, threatening to expose Randall as the spy.

The following night the newcomers are invited to a gala reception held by "the squire," Foreign Office minister turned traitor Lord Denby (Edward Underdown).  Randall ends up threatening Pearce with violence after the student makes a pass at Janet.  Randall's language is nothing if not blunt: he responds to Donovan's observation that "You're not enjoying our little party, Mr Randall," with "It makes me puke!"

Deciding it's time to ship out, Simon sends a message using a transmitter hidden in his electric shaver.

Drake then follows after Randall, who's making an attempt to escape the village.  Warning him he'll be dispatched within 24 hours of leaving, Drake comes to blows with Randall, who's taken back to Hamden via helicopter to face interrogation.

Drake secretes his film in the heel of his shoe, shortly prior to being informed by Donovan that he's been summoned to "Section One".  Puzzled by this turn of events, and worried it could lead to Section One poking their unwanted noses into Hamden affairs, Donovan arranges for Richardson to escort Drake, disposing of him along the way.

As he gets back on the bus, Fuller is slipped a note by Janet.  It's a letter to her parents begging for help, which Richardson gleefully reads and then rips up once they're aboard the train: "I'd have thought people would have realised by now... once people enter Colony Three they cease to exist."

Returning from a trip to the bathroom, Drake is set upon by an axe-wielding Richardson, who attempts to push him out the door of the rushing train.  It appears at first that he succeeds, but then Drake, clinging to the side of the train, pulls his aggressor out onto the tracks (the people involved in this bit clearly aren't Patrick McGoohan and Peter Arne, though we do get a final close up of Arne screaming).

Back at M9 HQ, Drake asks if anything can be done to help Janet, knowing what the answer will be.  "We've never even heard of her," the Admiral reminds him.

Colony Three is an absorbing piece of TV drama, Donald Jonson's script working as both an exciting spy thriller and a sly satire on the English way of life.  And it was to prove an important influence on Patrick McGoohan's next project: its malevolently pleasant, inescapable village, prowling helicopters and scheming officials providing the seed from which The Prisoner would grow.

Tonight's Plane Makers opens with Don Henderson merrily bowling along in his sports car, without a care in the world.  It's a situation destined not to last long: on his return to Scott-Furlong after a business trip, he's deeply worried on seeing John Wilder admiring a military jet.

Wilder informs Henderson that Scott-Furlong will shortly be manufacturing these, and that he wants Don to sell them for him.  Perfectly happy selling Sovereigns, Don's appalled.

He's slightly cheered up by the appearance of some eye candy in the form of Laura Challis (Wendy Gifford), who's turned up in a car belonging to Scott-Furlong board member Sir Gerald Merle MP.  A former journalist ("Displaying, for a woman, an impressive knowledge of the theory of flight," as Wilder misogynistically notes), she's recently been headhunted by Scott-Furlong chair Sir Gordon Revidge to act as Personal Assistant to the board.

The scene changes briefly to the Wilder residence, where we note with alarm that Pamela Wilder has a new face, that of Ann Firbank (spoiler: Barbara Murray returns to the role in the Plane Makers spin-off The Power Game).  The change isn't particularly jarring, as Firbank gives near enough exactly the same performance of languid malice that Barbara Murray did.

Wilder's reluctant to talk to Laura instead of Sir Gerald, who's heading off to Switzerland, so he decides to head for the airport and intercept him there.  The general election had taken place a couple of weeks before this episode was broadcast but it's set beforehand, presumably to give the writers time to tailor their scripts accordingly.  Wilder's putting pressure on Merle to rush Scott-Furlong's plans to manufacture jets for the military through parliament, but the ever-pious Merle is worried about how it might look on the eve of the election.  This scene is enlivened no end by the trouble actor William Devlin has getting his specs back into their case.

After failing to make any headway with Merle, Wilder accepts Laura's offer of dinner (at the restaurant we hear "Left Bank Two", better known as the gallery music in a succession of Tony Hart programmes, in the background - not for the first time in The Plane Makers).  She suggests that Wilder get in touch with Merle's fellow Labour MP James Cameron-Grant, an aviation expert popular with the media.

Wilder instructs Pamela to invite Grant for the weekend.  Having struck up a flirtation with the MP at the Sovereign launch she's quite happy to renew his acquaintance.  Grant is invited to bring a guest, and who should his guest turn out to be but Laura Challis? The pair are extremely close.

Strangely, Grant's face is kept out of view for quite a while: when we finally see it we recognise it instantly as that of dear old Peter Jeffrey.  Pamela shows him all the mod cons in his bedroom, including a cupboard hiding a bookshelf and an entire entertainment system.  Laura's in the connecting room.

Pamela works out that her husband lied about where he was on the night of his dinner with Laura, and her suspicions grow.

At dinner, the Wilders trade barbs over the calamari, Pamela eventually revealing that she received a call from the restaurant where John and Laura dined, to tell her that Laura had lost her engraved gold compact there.

Wilder's worried that Pamela's destroyed his chance with Grant, but the MP approaches Wilder after a game of billiards with Pam, and cuts right to the chase: what will Wilder do for him if he lobbies for Scott-Furlong's military contract? The "fat fee" and prestige of securing the contract aren't enough for him: he owns an advertising firm, and wants a contract to handle the Sovereign.  He insists the matter needs to be sorted before the election: "Election promises, like naughty girls, should be made but not kept."

Grant agrees to talk up Scott-Furlong in a TV debate the following night.  The scenes inside the TV studio means there's an intentional sighting of an ATV camera for once.

The debate's chaired by distinguished journalist (and pipe-puffing Harold Wilson lookalike) Lord Francis-Williams, and the man who poses the question about aviation is familiar TV commentator Huw Thomas.

Merle, sharing the panel with Grant, flails hopelessly when asked about the money that's been squandered on a vertical take-off fighter, and Grant suavely steps in (the episode's title comes from Grant's musings over where Britain would need to use such a fighter - snippets of dialogue as episode titles would also become common in Danger Man, also script edited by Wilfred Greatorex).  Grant mercilessly exposes Merle's links to Scott-Furlong, and insists he'll fight the contract.

At the Wilder household, John angrily switches off the set and accuses Pamela of vindictively destroying the contract.

But it's not long before a jolly Grant appears, informing Wilder he missed the important part of the debate: a promise from Merle that Scott-Furlong will get cracking on the fighters straight away.  Wilder's left to reflect on what a dangerous new ally he's acquired.

1 comment:

  1. For many decades I have been a great fan of The Sixties TV including The Plane Makers,Danger Man,The Saint,Man of The World,The Sentimental Agent,The Human Jungle,The Avengers,Z-Cars,Supercar,Fireball XL5,Stingray,Thunderbirds,The Power Game,Emergency Ward 10,Top of The Pops,Juke Box Jury,Ready Steady Go,Thank Your Lucky Stars,Dixon of Dock Green,Grandstand,Professional Wrestling,Coronation Street,The Arthur Haynes Show,The Larkins,No Hiding Place,World of Sport,The Eamonn Andrews Show,Steptoe & Son,Hancock's Half-Hour,The Wednesday Play,The War Game,Culloden,Doctor Who,Take Your Pick,Double Your Money,Stars & Garters,Professional Boxing,The Baron,Man in A Suitcase,The Champions,Randall & Hopkirk(Deceased),Department S,The Mersey Sound,University Challenge,Harpers West One & Callan.

    The Famous of BBC & Independent Television Stars with Caroline Blakiston as Lena Hyde in Emergency Ward 10,Patrick McGoohan as John Drake in Danger Man,Roger Moore as Simon Templar with the halo over his head in The Saint,Patrick Wymark & Ann Firbank as John & Pamela Wilder in The Plane Makers,Herbert Lom as Doctor Roger Corder in The Human Jungle,
    Patrick Macnee as John Steed & Honor Blackman as Cathy Gale in The Avengers,William Hartnell as The First Time Lord in Doctor Who,The Famous Wrestlers with Jackie Pallo,Mick McManus,Steve Logan,Les Kellett,
    George Kidd and The Voice of Wrestling on ITV Sport is The late Kent Walton,The Classified Football Results read by Leonard Martin,The Horse Racing,Rugby Union,Rugby League Results & Sport News Service read by John Langham who used to do the job when Tim Gudgin came in since 1965 in Grandstand,David Jacobs voted Hit or Miss in Juke Box Jury and Keith Fordyce with The Weekend Starts Here in Ready Steady Go.

    The Great Memories of The Sixties British Television.

    Terry Christie,from Sunderland,Tyne & Wear.