Wednesday, 10 December 2014

5-11 December 1964

Saturday 5 December 

Viewers staying tuned to BBC 1 after hearing Diahann Carroll, Vic Lewis, Pete Murray and Sandie Shaw pontificate on the week's pop releases in tonight's Juke Box Jury have another rip-roaring episode of Doctor Who ahead of them.

It starts off with a daring raid on the Dalek ship (which, by the way, is beautifully designed by Ray Cusick), in which the Doctor is saved from robotisation at the very last minute.  His travails have left him groggy and disoriented, which means William Hartnell gets quite a cushy gig this week, with few lines and a lot of loafing about.  The attack on the ship is superbly choreographed and tremendously exciting, though the most notable thing about it is surely the pixie hood sported by Jenny.  If the history of fashion in Doctor Who is ever written, several chapters will surely be needed to do this garment justice.

In the course of the battle the rebels are separated, with Susan and David hiding from the Daleks while Barbara returns to base with Jenny, Dortmun (somewhat abashed as his bombs didn't work) and Tyler.  The latter decides to go off on his own, while the other three plan to make a potentially dangerous trip across London to get more supplies (most of the other rebels have been killed by now, so we wonder what's going to happen to the poor extra cowering in the background with the others).

Ian's still aboard the ship, which is now en route to the Dalek mine works in Bedfordshire.  He's set upon by his former cellmate Craddock, now a Roboman.  But of course a robotic zombie proves no match for a Shoreditch science teacher, and Ian and another captive, Larry Madison (Graham Rigby) dispose of the defunct Dalek slave by shoving him down a waste disposal chute.

Susan and David are still keeping out of the way of the invaders.  She's obviously taken a liking to him, as she suggests he come travelling in the TARDIS, but he's determined to help rebuild society on Earth once the Daleks are defeated.  Fellow rebel Baker (Richard McNeff) dumps the unconscious Doctor on them before heading off on his own way.  He plans to go to the Cornish coast.  He doesn't get far.

The shots of Barbara, Jenny and Dortmun travelling through an abandoned London, with Daleks prowling everywhere and monuments covered with alien graffiti are incredible, and made all the more tense by the insistent percussion of Francis Chagrin's score (though the shot of a Dalek with Big Ben in the background reveals to us that the invaders haven't managed to dislodge London's true masters, the pigeons).

Eventually they make it to a derelict transport museum, where Dortmun huffs over failing to take the metal of the Daleks' casings (which he's imaginatively christened "dalekenium") into account when making his bombs.  As Jenny rains on Barbara's parade by scoffing at her insistence that the Doctor must still be alive, Dortmun heads outside to chuck bombs at some approaching Daleks, meeting a predictable end as a result.

Jenny's reaction to Dortmun's death shows she's not so tough after all, but there's no time to stop and mourn - she and Barbara have to hide as Daleks storm the building (interrogating a headless dummy as they go).

The Doctor's come round to find his place in Susan's affections being usurped by David, whose wonderful plans she can't stop enthusing about.  Initially miffed at not being the leader of their little party, the Doctor eventually decides to defer to David in order to please his grandchild.

Ian and his new friend chat in hiding aboard the Dalek ship.  Madison's heard that, for some unknown reason, the Daleks are after the Earth's magnetic core.  The ship lands in Bedford, and the captives are herded out (including the blonde lady we saw last week).

Elsewhere, the Doctor, David and Susan conceal themselves as the Robomen return, this time bringing with them a bomb with them, the Daleks having decided to destroy London altogether...

A quick bit of trivia: a look on IMDb suggests that "Day of Reckoning" is one of TV's most over-used episode titles, having also graced episodes of such diverse series as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Lovejoy, Maverick, The Adventures of Black Beauty, Bonanza and The Bill (twice), among many others.

Anyway, over on ITV, tonight's Arthur Haynes Show commences with an interminable sketch featuring Arthur and Pat Coombs as elderly aristocrats, with Dermot Kelly as the equally aged butler who, we discover, is both a relative of Arthur's and the real father of several of the pair's children.

The most notable aspects of the sketch are the portraits of Arthur and Dermot's ancestors and its conclusion, which sees Arthur and Dermot heading off to bed together.

The next sketch shakes its head at the crazy unisex haircuts of the young, ending on a reveal of a bewigged Arthur as the similarly-coiffed father of the bride.

Tonight's musicians, Kenny Ball and His Jazzmen are announced by a very nice graphic. Their song seems to be all about someone's tragic death.  It's undermined a bit by Kenny's cheesy grin.

The final sketch takes us to a golf club, where chisellers Arthur and Dermot take advantage of the tradition that anyone who gets a hole in one buys a round of Champagne by planting balls in holes all over the course.  There's some nice knitwear on display.

And we stay with ITV for tonight's next show.

The conventional on-screen episode title format is rejected this week in favour of scrolling the title across the screen, in what I can only assume is a deliberate attempt to annoy people trying to take screenshots for blogging purposes.

That was The Boys of B Company, in case you didn't get it.  What is B Company? I probably don't hear you ask.  Well, it's "a boarding school for young soldiers", where youths spend a year in a mock-army environment in order to be fast-tracked for promotion when they join up to the real thing.  Geoffrey Lumsden's the Major in charge, Ric Hutton's his second in command, and the ubiquitous Bryan Mosley is the Sergeant Major.  Directly in charge of the Boys is Boy Sergeant Major Duffy (Richard O'Sullivan) (all the young soldiers have "Boy" before their rank, meaning there are a lot of Boy Privates on parade).

Sergeant John Mann arrives to investigate two recent occurrences: the attempted suicide of a boy named Bellamy and the unruly behaviour of young Pickering, who tore up all the flowers in the camp before stealing a car and attempting to rob a post office.

Mann visits Pickering (the very pretty Karl Lanchbury, later a regular in the horror films of Spanish director José Larraz), who's consistently refused to discuss the reasons for his behaviour, keen that it should instead all come out in court.  However, Mann manages to winkle the reason for both his rebellion and Bellamy's suicide attempt out of him: the brutal treatment of the boys at the camp by the sadistic Duffy.

Pretending to have been sent by the Ministry of Defence to find out about the camp in order to write a recruiting pamphlet, Mann shadows Duffy as he goes on his rounds, and discovers that he's quite open about the violence he metes out to the other boys.

A new recruit called Christmas (Nabil Ghawi) is predictably mocked, while Winger (Malcolm Patten) has his beloved guitar gleefully destroyed and Wilson (Barry Evans, of 70s sitcom fame) is forced to kiss Duffy's boot.

Mann calls on the sceptical Major to intervene, but by the time he does so, Wilson's led a violent revolt, and Duffy is discovered beaten senseless.  A fine grounding for a future in warfare indeed.

Sunday 6 December

As the episode's title suggests, tonight's Stingray unites the worlds of undersea adventure and pop music.  The latter is provided by Duke Dexter, a teen sensation whose every performance of his song "Something to Shout About" (seemingly his only song) reduces offscreen teenage hordes to screaming wrecks.   Stingray doesn't get much right in its vision of the future, but Duke's gold bodysuit is a spot-on prediction of glam rock.


Mind you, there are some equally noteworthy ensembles sported by the WASP staff who've gathered to watch him on TV.  Commander Shore, predictably, thinks Duke's a load of rubbish.  "He's still the biggest thing since the first man on the moon," insists Atlanta.  Her father grumpily suggests that the moon might be the best place for him.

At this point in Duke's performance, his amp, possibly overloaded by his raw sex appeal, blows up.

The next day, nefarious Agent X20 watches as a kinkily-outfitted special messenger arrives with, well, a special message for Commander Shore.  He rushes off to a top security meeting, and is understandably miffed to learn it's all about Duke Dexter's intention to perform at Marineville, supposedly as part of a WASP recruitment drive.

X20 desperately wants to know what the meeting was about, and it doesn't prove difficult to find out as it's splashed all over the front page of the Marineville paper the next day (I thought Marineville was a workplace, rather than an actual town - maybe it's both).

X20 reports the information to Titan, who, despite having no idea who Duke Dexter is, decides that if he merits all this fuss he must be worth kidnapping.  X20 dons a cunning (not to mention nightmarish) double disguise as "X", a security agent pretending to be a crazed fan.

With Duke's entrance to Marineville impending by the (heard but not seen) crowds who've descended on the base, Troy Tempest is drafted in to act as a decoy, which involves dressing in a white polo neck and running past the screaming horde.  It ends up being far worse an ordeal than he could have imagined.

"X" suggests that Duke escape the crowds by making for an out of the way little place he knows - which is, of course, his clifftop hideout (Phones, who accompanies Duke, doesn't recognise the place despite having been there a few weeks back).  Once X20 is alone Duke he provides him with a meal - we guess from the crash zoom into his drink that it's drugged.

The unconscious pop star is dragged aboard X20's sub and spirited away to Titanica.  A long and repetitive chase sequence follows - despite its admirably silly premise this is an especially boring episode - but the WASPs are unable to catch them.  In Titanica, we learn what Titan has in store for Duke: a thank you for turning Terrainians into screaming wrecks, encouragement to keep up the good work, and a glass of drugged octopus juice as a reward.

Duke is returned to the surface none the worse for wear, and his concert goes ahead - having learned that "X" was in fact a phony, Shore's somewhat cavalierly chalked this massive security breach up as a publicity stunt.  The denizens of Marineville enjoy Duke's performance, as do those of Titanica, whose ruler bops along in company with his spy and guards.  "If they keep this up they will be ready to be conquered in no time at all!" Titan chortles.  It's a bit rich for a programme as merrily mindless as Stingray to laugh at how the masses are reduced to idiots by vapid popular culture.

And now for something far more sober: the first in a three-part adaptation of Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End sequence of novels, made for BBC 2's Theatre 625 series (named after the time in the evening the channel commences broadcasting at weekends - there are also Cinema 625 and Jazz 625 strands).  Here are some images from its striking photomontage title sequence:

It's 1914, and life in Britain is about to change forever.  Ronald Hines plays Christopher Tietjens, a civil servant with one of the most brilliant minds in the country.  His wife, Sylvia, has just left him.  His friend Vincent MacMaster (Fulton Mackay) is sympathetic, his father (Charles Carson) and elder brother Mark (Ronald Leigh-Hunt) are more worried about the effect on the reputation of their family of solidly respectable Yorkshire land owners.

Having since ditched the man she left Tietjens for, Sylvia is now living in Germany at her mother's residence at Lobscheid.  Mrs Satterthwaite, as her mother's called, is played by Sylvia Coleridge, looking like an ancient and befeathered mummy.  She has a pet Catholic priest, Father Consett (Godfrey Quigley), who disapproves of Sylvia's immoral ways and thinks Tietjens a fool for not taking advantage being a Protestant and divorcing her.

Sylvia's decided to return to her husband, but still has a seething resentment for him which she intends to assuage by corrupting their young son (we're left to wonder in what way).  The leering devil mask on Mrs Satterthwaite's wall is appropriate as Father Consett thinks Sylvia's possessed, and threatens to exorcise the demons within her with holy water (she recoils like a vampire from this threat).

Father Consett predicts Tietjens will go after another woman, and we assume it's no coincidence that his words are directly followed by the appearance of Judi Dench as Valentine Wannop, a young suffragette who, along with her chum Gertie (Annette Robertson), is larking about on a golf course, frustrating the patriarchy by pinching their balls.

Tietjens and MacMaster are at the clubhouse, where the irascible General Campion, Tietjens' godfather, holds sway.  He's played by Tony Steedman, who looks every inch the apopleptic old military gent, but was in fact only 37 at the time (he's one of the actors whose age seems to remain constant throughout his career - at this point his real age hasn't yet caught up with it).

Frank Pemberton, Coronation Street's Frank Barlow until he became a victim of the show's first cast cull a few months back, plays one of a pair of club members who savagely chase down the unfortunate Gertie, with cries of "Strip the bitch naked!" Valentine implores Tietjens to intervene, and he does, but not before the poor girl's been thoroughly traumatised.  The General's horror at his son abetting suffragettes is exacerbated by his gossipy MP brother-in-law Paul Sandbach (Frank Gatliff), who claims to have seen Valentine (whose father was an old friend of Tietjens' father) with Tietjens in London.

Valentine and Tietjens meet again when they both attend a breakfast gathering at the home of Dr Duchemin, a great man of letters who MacMaster wishes to consult for the book he's writing on Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Valentine's eccentric novelist mother, played by Lally Bowers, gatecrashes).  But MacMaster's interest suddenly shifts to Duchemin's wife Edith (Sylvia Kay) - the two of them fall in love at first sight.

Mrs Duchemin seems absolutely terrified, and well she might, as it turns out that her husband is a dangerous lunatic.  As played by Robert Eddison he's something straight out of a horror film, and the scene at the breakfast table where MacMaster manages to keep his violent impulses in check by keeping his mind focused on literary matters is genuinely tense.  However, it's only a timely intervention by his burly handler that prevents him detailing the events of his wedding night to the assembled guests.

Once Duchemin and the other guests are out of the way, MacMaster and Edith succumb to the inevitable.

While taking tea with the Wannops, Tietjens receives a curt telegram from Sylvia agreeing to his request that she return (it just says "Righto").  He and Valentine head out in a cart to take the recovering Gertie home.  On the way back, she holds his hand - and at this precise moment General Campion drives out of nowhere in a motorcar, injuring the horse.  An embarrassed Tietjens bandages the animal with a scrap from Valentine's petticoat as his shocked godfather watches.

Tietjens reunites with Sylvia, but their meeting's made even worse than it might have been by the arrival of another fateful telegram, this one announcing that his mother's died.

The crazed Duchemin has by this time been put away.  His wife and her lover decide to spend a weekend away at a hotel near the Tietjens' country house.

Their trip is marred however, by finding that General Campion is staying at the same hotel.  Terrified of discovery, MacMaster convinces Tietjens to accompany the distraught Mrs Duchemin back to London.  But guess who should look through the window of their carriage as he comforts her? Yes, it's General Campion again! I found it very hard not to laugh out loud at this scene.

Sandbach is now pouring anti-Tietjens venom into the ear of another grumpy General, Ffolliott (Erik Chitty): supposedly, Tietjens had Duchemin put away to get at both his money and his wife.  They're overheard by Tietjens' father.

Nicholas Pennell appears briefly as Valentine's brother Edward, informing the viewer that war has been declared with Germany, and that all his German student friends must now officially be considered his enemies.

Elsewhere, Valentine tries to comfort a distraught Edith, who wants to know how to get rid of a baby (Valentine gets the impression it's Tietjens', though Edith informs her that she loathes him as, despite his supposed wealth, he sponges off MacMaster).

Robert James, owner of the most remarkable face on television, plays the devious Mr Ruggles, assigned by Mark Tietjens to find out the truth behind the rumours swirling around his brother.  We don't have much confidence it'll work out well for Christopher.

At the Tietjens residence Sylvia lambasts her husband for not being sufficiently angry about her affairs, which we sense were all just a doomed attempt to get him to notice her (Jeanne Moody is really fantastic in this scene).

Tietjens has now been called up: in its present situation England has no use for his mind, so he must press his body into its service.  He says an emotional goodbye (or as emotional as this supreme example of the stiff upper lip gets) to Valentine.

But there's one more unpleasant piece of news in store before he goes.  Tietjens Senior has died in a "shooting accident", shortly after Ruggles fed back that Christopher had a child with Valentine, both she and Edith being his mistresses.

Obviously a quality production, but not exactly a barrel of laughs.

Viewers this evening are presented with a choice of World Wars by the BBC, with Billy Wilder's Five Graves to Cairo (1943) starring Erich Von Stroheim as Erwin Rommel, the centrepiece of the evening's schedule on BBC 1.

Monday 7 December: Tonight's viewing includes, on BBC 2, a documentary about town planning in Birmingham, followed by a panel discussion on the same subject.

Tuesday 8 December

As well as the usual espionage thrills, tonight's Danger Man offers us a convincing portrayal of domestic abuse between Gregori Benares, a shady representative of a corrupt government (a performance of flesh-creeping vileness from Howard Marion-Crawford) and his young English wife Helen (Suzan Farmer), who's started to notice that the people he does business with have a habit of dying in mysterious circumstances.

This has also been picked up on by M9 in London: Benares has been tapping a lot of governments for money, and the individuals he taps tend to either die or fall from grace soon after.  Admiral Hobbs assigns John Drake to investigate, his cover this week requiring rather more effort than usual: he's to replace the manservant at the villa Benares has rented in Rome.  Drake proves his butling mettle to the villa's owners, Sir Charles and Lady Fielding (Frederick Piper and Elizabeth Ashley) at a dinner party at the Admiral's house.  They give him the thumbs up and he flies out to await his new master's arrival.

Benares arrives in company with his wife (what an outfit!) and his sinister chauffeur Jospeh (John G Heller).  It's clear he takes an instant dislike to Drake, who finds it difficult to prevent his contempt for the revolting crook bubble to the surface of his obsequious exterior.  His dry response to Benares' suggestion that he's not come across the tradition of the servants being assembled to greet the lady of the house is hilarious: "Oh yes, indeed I have, sir.  In the cinema."

While Benares delights in having servants to push around, it's clear his wife feels deeply uncomfortable with having people wait on her - due to her humble background she feels like a fraud surrounded by all this luxury.  "We're all frauds in one way or another," Drake assures her, and he's a man who knows whereof he speaks.  She and Drake strike up an immediate bond when he brings her breakfast the following morning, with him suggesting an exquisite menu of local produce for the guests they expect the following evening.  Vulgar Benares, unhappy with anyone but he holding sway in the household, rides roughshod over this by insisting that lobster, caviar and pheasant be served - and to hell with whether they're in season or not.  Drake leaves them together in the bedroom, and hears Benares strike his wife.  Patrick McGoohan is incredible here, his face barely registering any expression but nonetheless making us aware that bringing down Benares is now a personal crusade.

The Benares' dinner guests are Mr Armstrong (Mervyn Johns) and his daughter Judy (a pre-nose job Francesca Annis).  After dinner, Drake retreats to the basement, where he's set up surveillance equipment in a wine barrel.  He listens in to Benares trying to extort money from an uncooperative Armstrong.

The next day, Judy and Helen plan to go shopping, but Benares informs his wife that her friend's cancelled.  In fact, she's being kidnapped by his goons.

That evening, tensions come to a head between Drake and Benares, with master telling servant that he just isn't servile enough, and attempting to force him to heel.  Drake makes a succession of whisky-and-waters for Benares, each one unsatisfactory.  Despite his cool exterior, Drake eventually gets so worked up that he smashes a glass in his hand.  Benares is more than happy with this result.  It's a brilliantly played scene, directed for maximum tension by Don Chaffey.

Drake pays a visit to Armstrong, and reveals his true identity, but, fearing his daughter will come to harm, he denies anything's happened to her.  Drake whips out his snazzy Memocord tape recorder, which says otherwise.

Drake may have secured Armstrong's cooperation, but Strotti (John Cazabon), his personal security man, proves to be less keen on allowing news of the kidnap to get out, and has Drake set upon by the police.  A little gentle force soon gets them out of the way, though (a wonderful "Aaaaargh!" issues from one of them as he's thrown from the top of the stairs.

Drake makes his exit by crashing through a window, while clutching his umbrella and bowler hat.  John Steed himself would be proud of the way he stops to put his hat back on before dashing off.

From witnessing Benares signal to his henchmen, Drake is able to work out where Judy is being held.  It's a gloomy old abandoned house, festooned with cobwebs, where she's kept bound and gagged.

Drake rescues her and, for the second week in a row, defeats the heavies by finding inventive uses for an umbrella.

Finally, he confronts Benares, making it clear he takes great pleasure in his downfall.

Poor Helen, still unaware that Drake's any more than a simple butler, is startled but not especially upset that her husband's been carted away by the police.  She explains to Drake that she married him because of the material comforts on offer, things that, coming from a humble background, she'd never dreamt of before.  No she must return to her boring old life.  "To me, you are a very real person," he tells her, as big a moment of emotion as he ever gets.  And the little wink he gives to the watching Judy as Helen departs is fantastic.  What does it mean? An acknowledgement that they share the secret of his identity, or a statement of his intention that this isn't the last he and Helen see of each other?

We stay on ITV for, yes, you guessed it, everyone's favourite...

This week's Plane Makers is especially hard work as much of the dialogue is devoted to recapping previous events of the series, meaning that any new developments are buried beneath an avalanche of exposition.  In its favour, its very first shot is of Harriet Evans looking daggers at David Corbett, and it also sees the return of Kay Lingard, whose presence has been sorely missed the last couple of weeks.

We also meet Don Henderson's secretary, named simply as "Trilby" in the credits, and played by the oddly-named Chip Coveney.  She's very drab-looking compared to Kay and Harriet, but what we see of her relaxed, jokey relationship with her boss is a lot of fun.

The episode's main gist is that John Wilder has gone rogue and is courting a group of German buyers interested in the new jet, without consulting anyone else (their limousines arrive like something from a Hollywood musical, their drivers' every movement perfectly synchronised, and depart to the strains of "The Ride of the Valkyries").  Everyone wants NATO as a whole to buy the planes, but it seems that, nearly 20 years after the end of World War 2, trading with the Germans alone is still a sensitive issue.

After a great deal of waffle along the way, the episode ends in tremendous style, with Sir Gerald Merle and the increasingly machiavellian Laura Challis (I can't recall if anyone's called her "Poison Challis" yet - if not it can surely be only a matter of time) descending on Wilder (along with most of the rest of the episode's cast) to demand his resignation.  Their plan is to install Don in his place as Managing Director, which is certainly news to the bewildered Sales Director.  Patrick Wymark is at his sly best as Wilder responds: as the Germans have now decided to buy the British jets, the French have shelved their plans for an alternative fighter plane and will follow suit.  The other NATO countries are now ripe for the picking.  His enemies are forced to depart with their tails between their legs and leave him to get on with things.  This isn't the end of the matter, of course: we've another five episodes of to-ing and fro-ing to go.

Wednesday 9 December: Tonight's Wednesday Play on BBC 1, written by Roger Manvell, concerns the plot by Nazi officials in July 1944 to kill Hitler.  John Carson, Charles Lloyd Pack, Peter Copley, Joseph Furst and Cyril Luckham are among the plotters.  BBC 2 offers viewers Top Beat, a live pop special featuring Brian Poole and the Tremeloes, the Nashville Teens, the Miracles, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, the Yardbirds and Brenda Lee, among others, all introduced by Alan Freeman.

Thursday 10 December

Tonight brings a classic episode of The Saint with a good value guest cast and a hugely entertaining script from Norman Hudis, who wrote the early Carry On films and will shortly be departing for the US to provide scripts for The Man from UNCLE, among other things.  It begins with Simon Templar in the House of Commons, of all places - it turns out that one of his many female friends, Janet (Jennifer Wright) is now the wife of Christopher Waites (Anthony Bate), Minister of International Trade.

Christopher and Janet invite Simon to stay with them for the weekend, promising him an old-fashioned country house mystery.  They jest, of course, but the signs are that there's going to be plenty of mayhem and intrigue nonetheless.  For a start, Christopher's being blackmailed by a pair of rather swishy young men (Jeremy Burnham and Mike Pratt) over a letter he wrote to his mistress, Denise Grant, known as "Government" Grant thanks to her predilection for affairs with politicians, and played by one of my favourite 60s actress, the fabulous Justine Lord.  The problem with this particular letter, written when Waites was a treasury official, is that it includes a tip about the forthcoming budget which Denise made a bit of money off the back of.  As such, it could spell doom for his political career.  Denise claims the letter was stolen from her, but she would say that, wouldn't she? In exchange for the letter they want a copy of a speech he's due to make which contains key financial information they could make a killing out of ahead of time.

Simon's fellow house guests are a shifty bunch.  Michael Gough and Jean Marsh (an ominous couple if ever there was one) play Janet's bitchy alcoholic brother Colin and his carping wife Helen.  Maxwell Shaw plays Spencer Vallance, "the Mayfair Michelangelo" and John Bryans sticks out like a sore thumb as shabby mathematician Mr Anthony.

Christopher sends his speech to the House by special messenger, but the poor man's killed when his car is rammed by the blackmailers.  They're unable to get into the briefcase containing the speech and leave the car to be discovered by Simon (blood trickling down people's chins is a recurring image this series.

Simon takes the briefcase back to the Waites, who decide to keep it in their safe.  The conversation's overheard by Mr Anthony, who rushes to the phone - though he's prevented from making a call by Colin, who's speaking to his bookmaker (while wearing an incredible dressing gown).

To find out more about the assembled guests and whether they might want to get their grubby mitts on the speech, Simon consults society columnist Ken Shield (Moray Watson), who gives a pithy summing up of each of these shady characters ("He's at his best with oils," he says of Vallance, "Being an oily character".  The highlight of this scene is the almost subliminal appearance of an uncredited Stuart Guidotti, whose starring role in Secret Beneath the Sea I wrote about in great detail in the early days of this blog, as an errand boy.

Learning of Christopher's "friendship" with Denise, Simon pays her a visit, only to find her in the process of clearing out.  "I'm busy!" she spits at him, trying to slam the door in his face, and crying "I'm still busy!" when he won't let her.  "Ah, one of the Still-Busys of Going Away?" he inquires.  Eventually he barges his way in, but their conversation's interrupted by the blackmailers (unsurprisingly, they're working with Ms Grant).  A fight ensues (Denise's cuddly poodle's nearly dislodged from its spot on the sofa!), and concludes with Simon being knocked out by a blow to the head.

Janet, ruthlessly ambitious on her husband's behalf beneath her sweet exterior, visits Denise aboard her boat, the Jolly 'D', and offers to get her the speech as long as she leaves Christopher alone in future.  Their meeting is splendidly catty: 

Denise: I only wish I'd thought of approaching you originally.
Janet: Are you capable of anything original?
Denise: Ask Chris.

Surprisingly, Jeremy Burnham's character is revealed to be romantically involved with Denise.  His other playmate doesn't have much time for this relationship.

Having returned to consciousness, Simon swiftly tracks down and neutralises both blackmailers.

But he's still convinced that someone in the Waites house is also involved in the whole ghastly business.  He lies in wait by the safe that night, expecting that someone will attempt to get hold of the speech.  There's a drawn-out sequence shot from the villain's point of view so we can't see their face, which is more than a bit pointless because a) we can tell by their dressing gown-clad arms that they must be Colin, and b) we've already seen him discussing his plans to steal the speech that evening with his wife.  Unsurprisingly, their turns out to be another character after the speech, who swiftly gets Colin out of the way.  It's Spencer Vallance, a revelation that raises barely a shrug as he's character' who's been sketched with only the barest outline.  It's a damp squib of an ending to an otherwise tremendously enjoyable episode.

Early on in the episode the Prime Minister makes an appearance.  His face is discreetly concealed, but we can tell by his voice that he definitely isn't Harold Wilson.

Friday 11 December: Tonight's lineup of BBC 1 includes a show I dearly wish still existed for me to be able to go into greater detail about: the first in a series of comedy plays starring Frankie Howerd and written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson.  This one guest stars Patrick Cargill.

And to play us out: It's the Rolling Stones, up two places and displacing the Supremes from the number 1 slot in the week's singles chart with their "Little Red Rooster".  You can see the full chart here.