Thursday, 29 January 2015

23-29 January 1965

Saturday 23 January

This evening's televiewing on BBC 1 starts off with Angela Douglas, Del Shannon, Wolf Mankowitz and Virginia Lewis (no idea) sworn in on Juke Box Jury.  Among the records in the dock tonight are Tom Jones with "It's Not Unusual", Wayne Fontana with "The Game of Love" and Millie with her cover of "See You Later, Alligator".  Following this there's more hi-jinks in the ancient world for

Attentive viewers may recall that the last story Dennis Spooner was credited as writing saw the Doctor light-heartedly whack a man over the head with a shovel.  This week Spooner develops the character's violent streak further by having him tussle with Ascaris, the mute assassin who's been sent to kill him (by a centurion who believes him to be the lyre player Maximus Pettulian).  The Doctor doesn't show much surprise at this sword-wielding figure's intrusion, he just gets stuck in.

The old man has at his foe with such vigour that the viewer comes to feel sorry for poor Ascaris, who's clearly out of his depth.  Finally, presented with the spectre of Vicki advancing on him with an amphora, he jumps out the window - much to the Doctor's disappointment: "You know, I am so constantly outwitting the opposition I tend to forget the delights and satisfactions of the gentle art of fisticuffs!" (you can hear an increasing self-awareness creeping into the show here with the acknowledgement that, rather than just being a hapless traveller in space and time, the Doctor's job is to fight the baddies).  The Doctor boasts to his young charge that he taught the Mountain Mauler of Montana everything he knows - and goodness knows mauling a mountain's no easy task.

A change of scene is announced by a grandiose intertitle:

Arrived in the eternal city, Barbara doesn't have much of a chance to see its wonders as she's bunged in a cell by Sevcheria prior to being put up for auction.  She's understandably upset, but not at the extreme level of glumness of her elderly cellmate (the splendidly named Dorothy-Rose Gribble, who colours her role in with a West Country accent, all "bain'ts" and "thankees").

Elsewhere, Ian's been put to work as a galley slave, under the iron rule of Carry On actor Gertan Klauber.  As you might expect, it's hard work, and Ian and his co-slave Delos (Peter Diamond) are nearly breaking under the strain.

As she waits to be auctioned. Barbara catches the eye of a prospective buyer named Tavius (the ever-sinister Michael Peake), whose hopes of snapping her up without having to bid are dashed by greedy Sevcheria.

Salvation of a kind is at hand for Ian and Delos as their ship runs into the choppy waters and, when the galley master loses his balance, the slaves seize their chance of both escape and revenge.

The Doctor and Vicki now arrive in Rome, passing the slave auction and comically missing Barbara's appearance on stage by a matter of seconds.

Tavius succeeds in snapping the erstwhile history mistress up for the princely sum of 10,000 sesterce.

After the ship capsizes (something related to us in money-saving dialogue), Ian and Delos are washed ashore, and set about freeing themselves from their bonds.  Ian convinces his new chum to come with him to Rome to find Barbara...

...who is at that moment being introduced to her new life as a slave.  As slavery goes, it's quite a cushy number: Tavius, you see, works for the Emperor Nero himself, and Barbara is due to be a handmaiden of the Empress Poppaea. 

Tavius is called away from being mildly lechy toward Barbara by the arrival of the supposed Maximus Pettulian.  The comedy highlight of the episode is Tavius' attempt to get the Doctor's attention via "psst"ing at him.  When he finally succeeds, the old man's left baffled by his mysterious whispered asides to him.

There's no time for elaboration though, as now the Emperor (an outrageously camp turn from Derek Francis) makes a suitably grand entrance.

Nero demands to hear the Doctor play his lyre, but the wily traveller manages to avoid being exposed by instead flattering the Emperor into playing himself.  But surely he can't avoid playing the instrument forever...?

Ian and Delos arrive in Rome, but swiftly find themselves at swordpoint.

Poking around at the palace, the Doctor discovers a body hidden behind a curtain, and is perplexed to realise it's the centurion who met he and Vicki on the road to Rome.

Back behind bars, Ian comes face to face with Sevcheria once more, and is informed that he will have to fight for his life in the arena.  Cue stock footage of lions.

As mentioned last week, tonight also sees the start of a new ABC drama series, Public Eye, starring Alfred Burke as down-at-heel private investigator Frank Marker.  The series' first episode is lost, but I'll be taking a look at the second next week.

Sunday 24 January

The gun of the title is mounted on a submarine piloted by the chap below with the cuboid cranium (whose appearance may seem remarkably familiar to anyone who's seen sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf).  His name's Maritamis, and we first see him using his enormous weapon to blow up an island.

Maritamis is a member of a race who reside in a beautifully designed, starfish-shaped city beneath the sea.

They're led by a blue-skinned "Mighty Leader", who sounds very American in contrast to the exaggerated English accent Ray Barrett gives Maritamis (I could probably tease a metaphor about the relationship between the two countries out of this if I wasn't in a bit of a hurry).  The leader's plan is to obliterate the entire civilisation of the surface-dwellers.  Next target: the entire West Coast of the USA.

But the WASPs, having noticed that three islands have been destroyed in a week, are on to Maritamis.  Stingray tracks down his ship and blows it up before he can carry out his  mission of devastation.

But Maritamis escapes, and in no time he's back with another ship (I like the little crab painted on the side), and with a new target in his sights: Marineville.

The WASP interceptors are able to prevent any serious damage, though Atlanta only narrowly avoids being hit by a falling tannoy.

Marineville's best scientists having pinpointed the location of the underwater city, Troy and Phones head out to find it (oh yes, Marina's there too - she can be seen in the background stroking her seal pup).

It's clear that this episode was made before Subterranean Sea, which was broadcast before it, as we're told that this is the deepest the sub's ever been (in fact, Troy actually notes in wonder "This is a subterranean sea!").  The water when you get this deep is yellow, which is a bit icky.  Despite nearly being paralysed by the pressure, Troy and Phones manage to reach the city.

But Maritamis (whose lovely eyelashes are showcased in the image below) is waiting for them, and prepares to fire a missile...

Happily Marina, whose aquatic nature means she's not affected by the pressure, chooses this moment to finally come to the rescue and blast Maritamis' ship to bits.  And then follows this up by destroying the city (and presumably all its inhabitants too).

"I think she's the greatest girl in the world!" Troy later enthuses to Phones as the pair of them gaze on her portrait.

The evening's TV schedule is disrupted by the announcement of Sir Winston Churchill's death.  At 8 pm the BBC broadcasts tributes to Britain's wartime leader from the Prime Minister and Britain's other political leaders, followed by a special obituary programme narrated by Michael Redgrave.  All of this can be seen on the BBC's Archive site here.

As a result, this week's Hugh and I and Sunday Film are postponed, but the schedule returns to normal in time for tonight's visit to Tannochbrae.

As Ian Hamilton (Bryan Marshall) anxiously phones the doctor to announce that his wife Peggy's gone into labour, the woman herself (Jennie Linden) seems quite relaxed about the whole thing, just sitting back and fondling her pussy.

Peggy and Ian are known as the golden couple of Tannochbrae: fine physical specimens and champion players of tennis and rugby respectively.  Everyone at Arden House expects that theirs will be an especially bonny baby.  Anyone familiar with drama of any kind will immediately suspect this is a portent of trouble ahead, and so it proves: the boy is born with a clump of hair at the base of his spine - a sure sign of spina bifida.

The baby proves to be paralysed from the waist down, and visiting consultant Dr Geddes (Noel Johnson) confirms there's no hope of a corrective operation.

Poor Peggy's devastated by the news, and doesn't want anything to do with the child.  Dr Cameron thinks she's reacting especially badly as she's lived a charmed life up to this point and this is the first thing that's ever gone seriously wrong for her.

Despite Dr Finlay's best efforts, Peggy remains resistant to seeing her baby.  Cameron notes that Peggy's had a strong maternal instinct ever since she was a child, and gives his friend a dire warning: "A strong maternal instinct that's twisted and turned in on itself is a destructive and dangerous force."

Ready to be discharged from the hospital, Peggy's trying not to think about her child, insisting all its toys be given away and focusing on getting back to her normal size.  She wants the baby, which she admits she feels "repulsion" for, kept in the hospital until he can be put in a home, but is eventually persuaded to hold him.

Some weeks later, Finlay calls in to see how the Hamiltons are getting on.  He cautions Peggy not to use the angora blanket the baby's been sleeping with as it could suffocate him - but is that what she wants? He asks her housekeeper, Mrs Douglas (Jean Taylor Smith) to keep a close eye on her.

At Arden House, we're treated to a prime example of the Reader's Digest-type dialogue typical of Dr Finlay:

Janet: I hope you'll soon be finished with that sink, Dr Cameron.  That's if you'll be wanting vegetables for your supper.
Cameron: It is a question of priorities, Janet.  Weighing a delicate bloom against the mundane carrots.
Janet: That argument does not apply, Dr Cameron.  We are having cauliflower!

Talk at the dinner table inevitably turns to the Hamiltons: Ian's dropped out of the rugby team to spend more time at home as he's so worried about Peggy.  Finlay thinks it's the worst case of post-natal depression he's ever seen, and Cameron's concerned that Peggy could be suicidal.  Janet hits on the idea of getting her nurse friend Florrie Gow (Virginia Clay) installed at the Hamiltons', and once this is accomplished pops round to find out the gossip.

Popping out into the garden to see the baby, Janet makes a terrible discovery: he's dead.

The child was suffocated - could it have been by that angora blanket Finlay told Peggy not to use? The long white hairs Dr Martin (Roger Snowdon) finds that the child breathed in suggests it could well be.

Janet's sent to the Hamiltons' to get a sample, to confirm yay or nay.  But it turns out that it's not the angora blanket that suffocated the baby but the couple's Persian cat.

Yes, the killer was hidden in plain sight all along, and after Peggy, cleared of suspicion, realises she really did love her poor baby, the credits roll over an image of the creature, who looks, it must be said, thoroughly unrepentant.

Monday 25 January

Among tonight's programming on BBC 1 is a special edition of Panorama in which the great and good line up to pay further tribute to Churchill.  It can be found with the other Churchill programmes at the link above.

Tuesday 26 January

It seems there was no episode of Danger Man broadcast this evening.  I don't know what was on instead (more about Churchill?), but we won't worry about that.  Instead we'll head straight for BBC 1 for this week's edition of

As this week's episode mainly consists of an extended fantasy sequence imagining how family life will pan out for the Starlings, it gives Richard Briers and Prunella Scales a chance to show off their range playing older versions of their characters.  Well, it's mainly Briers who has the chance as it's George's fantasy and Kate's fairly peripheral to it.

The Starlings' first baby, "Huge Helen" is followed a few years later by "Big Belinda".  Kate frets about the cost of weddings for two girls.  "If this one looks anything like Helen there won't be any weddings, will there?" responds George.

A struggling Kate relies on George's charm to get the badly behaved Helen (Janette Sattler) to eat: "I can't imagine Gina Lollobrigida leaving her supper, can you?" Kate, we discover, is pregnant with a third.

This time it's the long-awaited George Jr.  His christening sees the first use of a far from convincing photomontage technique that crops up throughout the episode.

Next thing we know, it's time for the Starlings (extremely prosperous in George's vision of the future) to send their son (John Howard) away to boarding school.

Now George imagines Helen (Waveney Lee), Belinda (Kate Allitt) and George Jr (John McGee) as rampaging teenagers who won't allow him a moment's peace.  Richard Briers' performance as the harassed, pernickety middle-aged father skirts close to the one he'd give as Martin Bryce in Ever Decreasing Circles.

Next, Helen's bringing a young man home to ask for her hand in marriage.  He's a "fab dreamboat" named Dave, who dresses in a leather jacket with no lapels.  As he's played by Jonathan Cecil we can tell straight away he's not the rebel he's made out to be - indeed he was just putting on an act so George didn't think he was wet.  In fact he's a very sensible French polisher who earns £25 a week.  And everybody calls him David really.

Of course in George's mind all this is happening in a time no different to the one he lives in, but if Marriage Lines had kept going until Helen was of marrying age it would happen in the early 80s. Rather than a mod, David would be masquerading as a New Romantic, and George would immediately be tipped off that he wasn't the tearaway he pretends to be by the very fact that he and Helen wanted to marry.  And £25 a week wouldn't be anywhere near as impressive.

The wedding day arrives.  And if this was the 80s it's likely Helen's wedding dress would look very different.  I don't think I've ever seen one with a collar before.

Hoping to get George Jr married before Belinda to ease the financial burden, his father encourages him to go after a bridesmaid.

The future significant events in the Starlings' lives are all shown to us in photos - in the final image of an elderly George and Kate George looks remarkably like the interpretation of Doctor Who Peter Cushing will bring to the big screen later in the year.

There's a rewarding end to the episode: after George's reverie is broken by a phone call from Kate, we stay with her in the hospital as she starts to imagine her version of how the future will be, with a struggling George dressed in a frilly pinny and her effortlessly in control of the home and the children...

Wednesday 27 January

A lot of shows to get through this evening, beginning with TV Minus 50's first visit of the year to Britain's most beloved street.

And I'm happy to announce the TV Minus 50 Autumn/Winter collection, with exciting fashion looks for men...

...and ladies.

Annie Walker's seeing off her young charge Lucille Hewitt, who's going hiking with her friend Rosemary (in truth they're going dancing in Blackpool). Stan Ogden's squatting outside number 13 with a fag: "Have you ever seen anything so soft?" laments daughter Irma. "C'mon Dad, get up.  It looks as though you're drunk."

In fact, Stan's waiting for milkman Bert Lodge (William Crossdale), of whom he wants to enquire about a job, having realised a milkman has "A job where you knock off at opening time."

Meanwhile, Elsie Tanner's busy making number 11 look as undesirable a property as possible, even manufacturing her own damp patches.  The reason? It looks like the mission hall may be closing down, so its custodian, Ena Sharples, will need somewhere new to live.  As she's recently been left number 11 in the will of Elsie's former landlord, she's eyeing it up as a new home - an idea Elsie's desperate to put her off.

In the street, Ena happens on Ken Barlow, who offers her the opportunity of "doing a bit of ton-up stuff on the M6" on his new motorbike.  Violet Carson struggles a bit with her dialogue: "You know, in the old days we thought nothing of baking - biking down to er, well, Bakewell."

Val Barlow's pregnant, and dressed in an astonishing cardigan-like garment and polo neck.  She and Ken discuss the simmering tension between Tanner and Sharples with her Uncle Albert, who warns: "If you've lived as long as I have you'll be well aware that wars always start on a Sunday."

Miss Nugent and Mr Swindley have a brief run-in with a hostile Ena on their way to do some overtime at Gamma Garments.  An uncharacteristically uncharitable Miss Nugent tells Swindley she thinks Ena deserves to lose her home for "all the times she's made you look small", and moves on to ponder the psychological reasons for Ena's enmity toward him: "Perhaps you actually resemble, facially, someone from her past.  A cruel father or an intolerant teacher, and perhaps, unknown to herself, Mrs Sharples is punishing you for her own unconscious hate of this other man."

Swindley seems a tad sceptical of this theory.

As Ena practices the organ in the mission hall, Annie listens, rapt: "Whatever else I may say about Mrs Sharples, Jack, you've got to admit she has a lovely touch."  "Aye, and Elsie Tanner'll give her a lovely touch when she catches up with her," responds her husband.

Finally, Ena descends upon the Tanner household.  Dennis has fixed it so the house is filled with smoke, and sneaks off to jump up and down upstairs so flakes of ceiling fall on the choking landlady.

Ena beats a retreat, seemingly convinced that the house isn't fit to live in.  But she reveals to Minnie Caldwell that she knows exactly what Elsie's up to - "They've dressed it up like The Fall of the House of Usher" - and is still determined to turf Elsie out.  "She's the worst actress since Jean Harlow," she says of her tenant.  Minnie offers Ena a room, but for Ena that's the very last resort, which she'll only turn to when either she or Minnie is unable to look after themselves.  Until then, she needs her own place: "I like to have a room where I can undo me corsets in front of the fire and nobody to say me nay."

Elsie heads to the Rovers for a much-needed drink.  "By 'eck, I could slap that face!" is how Len Fairclough cheerily greets her.

It's not long before Ena follows Elsie in, passing a letter to her via Annie: it's her notice to quit.

As a brass band in the street outside strikes up "All Things Bright and Beautiful," the inevitable fight commences.  "Nowt'll separate those two now, short of death," predicts Jack.

Things really get going when Elsie throws Ena's handbag out into the street, the two women following shortly after.

It soon comes to blows, Ena calling the others to witness that Elsie "started the physical side of this."  "I'll throw the physical side of you over that wall, you bandy-legged old bat!" responds Elsie.

Dennis tries to break them up, with no success.  The other residents are absorbed in the show, especially Hilda Ogden, who begins cheering for Ena (Irma takes Elsie's side).

Things reach a head when Ena smashes the front window of number 11 with her handbag.

It falls to Mr Swindley to put a stop to proceedings by revealing that the fight's pointless as the mission hall won't be closing after all.

But it's a personal matter for Ena now, and she tells Elsie she'll make her pay.  It's Elsie, however, who gets the last word: "You're still me landlord, are you? Well you'll pay for that window."  Incredible.

Next we stay up north but change channels for tonight's

This week writer Alan Plater brings us an engaging tale of suburban strife.  Guest star Philip Latham is brilliantly aggravating as Thomas Martin, who arrives at Newtown police station wanting to talk to report a theft.

When he finally gets to see Inspector Barlow and Sergeant Watt, Martin reveals that he is himself the thief in question.  In his capacity as a churchwarden, he's been keeping hold of money given to him by parishioners rather than passing it on to the vicar: £5 17s 6d altogether ("I'll probably stop now.").  It's by way of a protest against Reverend Corbett, who's far too liberal for his liking and wants to send the money "to places like Africa".  "He used to Ban the Bomb, did you know that?"  Martin's been redistributing the money himself: "To old people.  And fellow countrymen."  Martin's keen that the vicar finds out about what he's been up to.

As Watt shows Martin out, actor Marcus Hammond, playing PC Taylor, drops his telephone, and spends the rest of the scene fumbling about with it.

Having seen Martin only briefly before heading out on patrol, PC Graham's convinced he's "A proper nutter."  And now he and PC Baker are sent to pick up another one: a drunk who's been bothering a pub landlord.  "Can't move for nutters these days.  Must be the stuff they put in the bread."

Emergency Ward 10's Jack Melford plays the landlord, who's managed to lock the drunk (Reginald Barratt, last seen around these parts as a crazed scientist in Doctor Who) in his understairs cupboard.  "Come on you old slag!" Graham exhorts the captive, then sits with him on his lap all the way back to the station.

We now pop over to the home of Reverend Corbett (Francis Matthews), where the beleaguered vicar is being subjected to phone calls from a woman claiming "Everyone knows what you do with young girls."

That these phone calls have become a frequent occurrence and are placing a strain on Corbett's relationship with his wife (Sheila Shand Gibbs) is communicated with brilliant subtlety by her reaction when Sergeant Watt turns up at the house to interview the vicar: when Watt says he's come in relation to a complaint a man's made, her reaction, "A man?" seems half relieved, half scared things are even worse than she thought.

Plater brilliantly establishes the kind of trendy, glorified social worker vicar Corbett is by having him wearily note to Watt that Martin "takes his religion very seriously."  "You're a policeman, and you think the church is a place to find weirdies," he says.  For him, it's the chance to help the weirdies of the world that makes the job worthwhile.  He refuses to take any action against Martin, but Watt insists the crime will need to be prosecuted nonetheless.  In the end, Corbett speaks up for Martin when the case is heard, and he ends up with a conditional discharge

Corbett says nothing about the phone calls and they continue, though the recipient of one of them is the bewildered Mr Reynolds (Michael Brennan, owner of TV's most fearsome visage).  He reports the call to the police straight away.

The outfit sported by Mrs Reynolds (Mary Hignett) is marvellous, by the way.

Learning that the calller called Reynolds "Vicar", and that the Reynolds' number is only one digit different from the Corbetts', Barlow goes to question the parson.  Corbett admits he's been receiving the calls, and that he knows who's making them: a former member of his flock who fell in love with him and react badly when he spurned her advances.  Initially reluctant to give her name, he caves in when Barlow suggests she might one day harass someone with less Christian charity and a more violent temper than he.

The culprit is lonely widow Mrs West (Carmel McSharry), who Barlow sets about interrogating.  Initially denying any knowledge of the calls, she eventually breaks down when forced to recall Corbett's cold attitude toward her: "He's supposed to like everybody!" McSharry is absolutely brilliant here.

As the episode draws to a close, Mr Martin makes an unexpected reappearance at the station, seeking another confidential chat.  This time it's about Mrs West.  He informs Watt that she's the way she is due to a possessive mother and a stepfather who "did things".  She ran away and got married at a fairly advanced age, and her husband's not actually dead - he left her when it emerged he was already married to another woman.  Martin knows this not because he's a nosy neighbour, but because he's her brother.  We find out what their relationship's like in the final scene, as they both head for the police station exit at the same time, Mrs West making no acknowledgement of Mr Martin's presence.

While all that was going on BBC 2 was casting a cool eye of the situation of women in the mid-60s.

The fact that the programme's presenter, James Mossman, is a man, means it has the feel of looking at women as slightly exotic, unfathomable creatures: "Few women really know how to live without a man's domination," he notes wryly at the outset.  "Though this doesn't stop them grumbling about it."  His first interviewee, Mandy Ralph, admits she feels envious of young, umarried women, but thinks it was worth giving up "the fabulous holidays and the parties every night" for her children.  She thinks men are very noble to sacrifice all that too.

Next up is Brigid Brophy, the stone genitals placed over her shoulder as she talks about sex surely intentional.  She thinks contraception's set women free "morally and legally" by allowing them to have sex without the threat of unwanted children, and that it's also helped to make both sexes more responsible parents.  Modern advances in childcare have "done a great deal to emancipate men from the feeling that they're no good to babies."

Sarah Miles is interviewed in the tropical birdhouse at London Zoo.  Her view is that as men have been the dominant sex for so long it must be because they're better at it.  She'd love a man at home to fetch her slippers for her but "He could put the slippers down in a very domineering way if he wanted to."  Her insistence that she wants both a dazzling acting career and a family life leads Mossman to comment that she wants the best of both worlds.  "Of course I do," she laughs.  "I'm a woman!"

By contrast, Moira Shearer gave up her ballet career to look after her children, who she keeps behind bars.  She opines that a woman who goes on being successful throughout her life has "a masculine mind".

"Where can men escape from women today," ponders Mossman.  "Except in clubs and lavatories?" Even the clubs are no longer a certainty: "Women increasingly impinge," he notes, as he meets Evening Standard pop correspondent Maureen Cleave in one formerly all-male establishment.  She talks about women's greater freedom to travel and have careers, but notes that while her married friends are jealous of her she's likewise jealous of them.

Mossman next visits a plummy member of "the vintage profession" named simply as Veronica.  She thinks that if more women wore sexy lingerie around the house their husbands wouldn't need to come to her.

"I'm very conscious of being a woman, and I enjoy it," says Eleanor Bron.  The thought of giving up her career to have babies "fills me with horror".  "I do tend to think that men are lovely, and women are a threat," she admits.

Next we visit a girls' comprehensive school run by the formidable Margaret Miles, who offers an assessment of women's situation at the time that seems especially interesting with 50 years of hindsight: "These girls won't have to fight the old feminist battle for equality with men, but they will have to fight."

A selection of her decidedly elderly-looking sixth formers chip in with their own views: "For years and years the man has always taken the lead and it's worked very well.  I see no reason for it to change", "I don't think a woman should make a fool of a man in public."  None of the girls are exactly feminist firebrands, the most radical remark being   that a woman's security should exist outside of her marriage.

We're now privy to the thoughts of an unnamed "woman psychiatrist", who thinks some women would be better off without children.  She adds that in the past the only women able to make advances were those who could stand up to men on their own terms and stand up to "masculine standards of success".  "I think nowadays men prefer women to be women, and this makes life much easier immediately.

The final word goes to Gladys Marsden, 77 year old veteran of the women's suffrage movement.  Weighing up the rights women have gained versus the new pressures on them, she sums up how life is for women in 1965: "Freer, but worse".

You can watch A Woman's Place at the BBC Archive site here.

Back to BBC 1 now for TV Minus 50's first look at 60s TV's most groundbreaking drama strand (the off-air recording these images are taken from is of the show's broadcast in an early BBC Four theme night, hence the text cluttering the screen).

Tonight's play was originally scheduled for last week, but postponed for fear it could affect the outcome of the Leyton by-election.  Its controversial nature's plain from the very start: images of savage violence against black people in South Africa are followed by smooth narrator Keith Barron describing the situation in Britain.  When he mentions the Head of State, an image of a black man (Andre Dakar) appears on screen.  Britain, we learn, is a country ruled by its black minority.

We're now introduced to Len and Joan (Ronald Lacey and Eileen Atkins), a white couple who live with their children in a high-rise in London.  A letter arrives informing Len that, like all unemployed white men, he will have to move to a labour camp in Scotland.  He's sure it's an error, as he has a job working as a chauffeur.  Then he opens another envelope and learns he's been fired.  Soon the police arrive (led by Rudolph Walker) to take him away.

Footage of Len and other men being dragged out of their homes is appraised coolly by men working for the state broadcaster.  The news editor (Leo Carera) decides the public don't need to know about it.

In an attempt to have Len returned, Joan goes to see his former employer, the sympathetic Mark Fellowes (Thomas Baptiste), and his markedly less sympathetic wife Francesca (Barbara Assoon).  They're unable to help as Len was actually employed by the government to drive Francesca: Mark is a writer held under house arrest for writing books urging equality between white and black people.  The best the Fellowes can do is give Joan a supply of food (though Francesca would rather not even do that).

Despite his arrest, Mark continues to write anonymously for an underground journal, convinced his impassioned pieces will eventually make the country see sense.  He gives them to Francesca to take to the publisher.  Instead, she burns them.

It's not surprising that Francesca doesn't want life made more difficult: she's regularly harassed by the security men stationed around the house, and now has to put up with Joan's constant visits for food.  She refuses Joan's requests to speak to Mark again, until eventually the increasingly desperate white woman spits in her face.

Up in Scotland, Len finds an apparently sympathetic listener to his woes in Lala (Carmen Munroe), the wife of his camp overseer (Dan Jackson), who seems interested in "the Movement", which aims to liberate white people.  But when her husband finds the two of them together she cries rape, and Len is slashed and beaten senseless (off camera).

Joan, her children having been put in care, has been forced to move to filthy new digs, where she's subject to the advances of a sleazy neighbour (George Rodrick). Soon the police arrive at her door in search of Len, who's escaped from the hospital where he was recovering.

Battered, desperate Len returns to his old flat to find it's now occupied by his former neighbours (Sally Lahee and John Rapley).  He flies into a rage and attacks the unfortunate man, then flees.

Out in the street Len meets up with Joan, who, having heard of his escape, is in the vicinity looking for him.  They run through the streets back to her room, where Len tells her about the Movement and his own plans to further it by assassinating the Head of State.

Len proves as good as his word, and is swiftly captured and interrogated, offering a stream of false information on non-existent conspirators.

It's reported that he committed suicide in his cell, though Joan doesn't believe it,

She's now being pimped out by her sleazy neighbour to all the local men.

In response to the attack on the Head of State, white people are being rounded up and sent to "work camps", which, of course , are really something far more sinister.  Joan returns to the Fellowes house one more time to beg for help, and finally gets to see Mark.  We discover the limits of his solidarity with white people when he recoils from her touch.  She tries to tell Mark the truth about the camps, tries to tell him she's seen Francesca burning his articles, but he's (deliberately?) unable to understand what she's telling him.

Francesca obtains an audience with the minister (Frank Singuineau) who's responsible for dealing with white people, and tells him about the foul, disease-ridden prostitute who's been hassling her husband.

Soon enough, Joan's surprised to welcome a gentleman caller who's black, that sort of thing being expressly forbidden.  But this one's embrace brings death, and her pimp meets a similarly grisly end.

The viewer can't help but feel uncomfortable at the camera's insistence on dwelling on their corpses.  They're being viewed by the editor, who agrees to use the images on TV: "Prostitutes, pimps, murderers, living right here among us.  We have to know.  The people have a right to be told."  The play's bitter irony is at its most searing here.

At the Fellowes' home, Francesca confronts Mark about the true purpose of his writing: he doesn't really care about white people, he just wants to show his own people the error of their ways.  She urges him to keep writing, keep acting as the conscience of the British people, but not to fret too much about the casualties: "They're white, they're different - they're animals, little better."

The play closes with the camera returning to linger on Len and Joan's body, as Barron's voiceover ironically assures the viewer that such terrible things as these could never really happen.

The intentions of Hopkins, director Christopher Morahan and their collaborators - to literally bring the horrors of apartheid home to viewers (assumed to be white and British-born)  by presenting them in the most uncomfortably visceral terms - were undoubtedly noble.  But Fable makes for deeply uncomfortable viewing for quite another reason - the one that saw its transmission delayed.  Despite its opening of scenes from South Africa and the dialogue's many ironic reversals of familiar racist tropes, it's wide open to misinterpretation: a viewer who tuned in mid-programme could easily assume they were watching a dire warning of what would happen if, to borrow Enoch Powell's infamous phrase of a few years later, the black man gained the whip hand.  Despite its aims, in a political climate where an election could be won by a Tory candidate telling voters "If You Want a Nigger for a Neighbour, Vote Labour", Fable seems breathtakingly misguided.

Thursday 28 January

Tonight's adventure for The Saint, a routine whodunnit wreathed in sci-fi/horror atmospherics, takes him to Scotland, specifically to shoot grouse on the estate of Colonel North (Maurice Hedley), whose daughter Marge is Simon's love interest of the week.  Dour gillie Simms (Donald Bissett) grumbles about the nearby scientific research station: "They've ruined the shooting for twa seasons!"

As it gets dark, Marge's dog Sinbad goes missing, and Simon sets off to look for the beast.  Instead, he comes across a mysterious, concealed figure wielding a light that burns the bark right off a tree, who proceeds to knock him unconscious.

Coming round, Simon returns to Colonel North's house, where he meets Ingram (James Maxwell), the research station's security chief, and Oakridge (Robert McLeod), one of the scientists.

Sinbad's still not back, and neither is Simms, who also went to look for him.  So everybody sets off in search of them both.  And soon enough they find them.  Sinbad's alive and well, which is more than can be said for Simms.  He's fallen down a hole, but has mysterious injuries that were clearly caused before that.

Later, at the research station, a nosy security guard overhears Oakridge talking to an unknown listener: "I helped you create this evil.  Now I've got to destroy it.  He must be told of our secret experiment! He must see the result! Your stupid desire to experiment outside the limits of the laboratory has already cost a life!"

Unsurprisingly after all that, Oakridge's life is next to go.  He's found in the lab, having expired while writing something on the floor (has anyone ever actually done this?).  Assuming he wasn't just trying to right something along the lines of "Cor, what a life!" what could the mysterious letters mean? Well, they look like "Cop", which is something Oakridge disparagingly called Ingram, so he's the prime suspect.

The other main scientists are Professor Rand (Ronald Ibbs), the irascible head of the research station, and the smooth, vaguely Germanic Professor Soren (Robert Dean).

A curious red herring pops up in the shape of a blobby artificial life form Professor Soren's created.

Snooping about in the bowels of the station, Simon finds the strange device wielded by his assailant.

Simon sends Marge off to get a mysterious book.  On her way back to him she gets out of her car to investigate a mysterious roadblock.  Yes, it's that old chestnut: when she returns she's attacked by the masked man.

But pleasingly, she gives as good as she gets.

By the time Simon comes to the rescue Marge has already seen off her attacker.  The tome Simon sent her in search of proves to be a Russian-English dictionary (oh yes, at some point along the way it was revealed that Oakridge was really Russian).  He discovers that "C" in Russian is the same as "S" in English.  Oakridge lapsed into his native language as he died, and was trying to expose Soren as the killer,  Of course, Soren has a gun in his pocket ready to be whipped out in the event of being exposed, and a boastful speech prepared about how he created "the classic death ray".

When Soren attempts to escape with the ray, Simon shoots it out of his hand, inadvertently training it on him and causing him to burn to death.

Simon decides that, all things considered, it's a machine the world's better off without.

Friday 29 January

On BBC 1 tonight, Kathy Kirby (no relation) sings A Song for Europe.  Six songs, actually, with the choice of which one competes in the Eurovision Song Contest left for viewers to decide (spoiler: Peter Lee Stirling's "I Belong" wins the vote).

Outside the box

Saturday: The Daily Telegraph reports on a proposed solution to parking problems in Britain: a single-seat "commuter's car" which can be parked in a vertical position.

Thursday: Prince Charles' O level results are announced to the public.  He got five of them: English language, English literature, history, Latin and French.

And to play us out...

It's Sandie Shaw with "Girl Don't Come", which is not intended as an instruction and as such is badly missing a "The".  Also it should be "Doesn't".  If we can't look up to pop stars as exemplars of grammar what are they for? Anyway, she's at number 3 in this week's hit parade (Georgie Fame remains in the top spot).