Sunday, 18 January 2015

16-22 January 1965

Saturday 16 January

Tonight sees the fabulously unlikely figures of Richard Wattis and Maigret star Rupert Davies judging the week's pop releases in Juke Box Jury alongside a pair of more readily explicable choices, Evening Standard pop correspondent Maureen Cleave and Eurovision Song Contest host Katie Boyle.  Viewers who stayed tuned to BBC 1 after this strange experience had another one in store...

You may remember that last week's episode ended with an almost literal cliffhanger (a cliff-faller, to be truly literal) as the TARDIS tumbled off a precipice shortly after landing.  It would be natural to expect tonight's instalment to follow directly on from this, but it doesn't.  Instead, it whizzes us forward in time: the ship lies covered in ivy, and the Doctor and Ian are, most unexpectedly, living it up in a Roman villa.

It seems the travellers have been staying here for some time, and have made themselves quite at home.  But while the Doctor, Ian and Barbara are enjoying a well-earned rest, Vicki, having been promised an abundance of adventure when she stepped through the doors of the TARDIS, is thoroughly bored.

But it looks like we've happened upon our heroes just in time for the adventures to recommence: as Vicki and Barbara head to market danger appears to be quite literally lurking round the corner in the form of the sword-wielding Ascaris (Barry Jackson), who hides in the bushes and watches as they pass.

Other eyes are watching too: these belong to Sevcheria (Derek Sydney) and Didius (Nicholas Evans), the slave traders of the title, who decide that Barbara and Vicki would be an ideal pair of acquisitions.  They bribe a stallholder at the market (Margot Thomas) for information on them, and it's only now we learn that they've been staying at the villa for about a month in the guise of friends of the owner (who's currently off campaigning), living on the proceeds of their garden produce.

Entertaining the shoppers is an elderly lyre player (Bart Allison), whose flowing white hairdo seems a tad famili.  When he packs up his instrument and toddles off, he's grabbed and stabbed by the lurking Ascaris.

Back at the villa the holidaymakers enjoy a lavish meal of peacock breast in orange and juniper sauce and ants' eggs in hibiscus honey (chef Barbara having either thrown herself into the cuisine of the era or discovered a faddy 21st century cookbook in the TARDIS library).  It sends the Doctor quite giddy.

When the Doctor announces to his startled companions that he plans to make a trip to Rome, Dennis Spooner, acting as both script editor and writer this week, pushes the show further into sitcom territory than ever before:

Doctor: I don't believe I'm under any obligation to explain my movements to you, Chesterfield.
Barbara: Chesterton.
Doctor: Oh, Barbara's calling you.

Excitement-hungry Vicki talks the Doctor into taking her with him, but, peeved with Ian and Barbara for being stickybeaks, he refuses to let them come too.  After he's set off, Ian and Barbara get squiffy and lark about the villa.  It's wonderful to see the pair of them letting their hair down (well, Barbara has to comb Ian's down): especially cherishable is Barbara mischievously sending Ian to the fridge for ice.

But soon enough there's trouble in paradise, as Didius and Sevcheria descend upon the unwitting pair.  This week, even the fight scenes descend into comedy: as Ian tries to fight off the invaders, Barbara, rather than heeding his call for her to flee, comes to his aid with a heavy vase - unfortunately, the person whose head she smashes it over is Ian.  As a result, both teachers are carried off.

As they set out on their journey, the Doctor and Vicki stumble upon the body of the unfortunate lyre player.  As the Doctor examines his instrument they're approached by a centurion (Dennis Edwards) who's looking for Maximus Pettulian, the man who lies dead, to take him to play at Nero's court.  Eager for a chance to meet the emperor, the Doctor pretends to be the dead musician: "She keeps an eye on all the lyres," he says of Vicki, a line either brilliant or terrible depending on your tolerance of puns.  Either way, it's as good an example as any of the kind of dialogue found in this story.

Sevcheria and Didius, meanwhile, are bargaining with a very jolly slave buyer (Edward Kelsey).  He ends up with a job lot of male slaves, including Ian.  Barbara, however, is being taken to Rome to be put up for auction.

The Doctor's already voiced his suspicions of the centurion to Vicki, and it turns out they're well-founded: it was he who sent Ascaris to kill Maximus Pettulian (Nero being unable to cope with the existence of any musician better than himself), and he now scolds the assassin for not carrying out his task.  Ascaris, being mute, is unable to explain, and is sent to do the job properly...

The Slave Traders is tremendous fun, but if you put yourself in the place of a viewer in 1965 (which I suppose is what I'm meant to be doing), it would be easy to conclude that Doctor Who has completely lost it.

Over on ITV, the last in the present series of Redcap sees Sergeant John Mann dropped by helicopter into a jungle, where he meets with a patrol led by Major Frazer (Graham Crowden) and his close companion John Bell (Robin Bailey), a civilian scout.  Much to Frazer's chagrin, Mann is there to take statements from three of his men in connection with a murder appeal.

As far as Frazer's concerned this is a trivial matter compared to the mission he's on, and Mann is forced to join up with his patrol as it moves on.

Mann's suspicious that the three men he's after, Lance Corporal Gentry (Roland Curram), Private Burroughs (David Burke) and Private Fox (Anthony Colby) are all together on this patrol, having previously all been stationed in different places.  None are forthcoming with any information about their former comrade Pike, who's been convicted of murder in Germany.

That night, as the enemy come closer to the camp, Mann is rudely awakened by Sergeant Job (Ewan Hooper) and forced to join the defence.  While he's on duty, Fox informs him that Pike is not, in fact, guilty of the murder.  Mann bats him away, as it's hardly the time.

But unfortunately, there isn't going to be another time for Fox.

Frazer opines to Bell that Mann's becoming "a kind of Jonah" to the patrol.  The scout informs him that it couldn't be the enemy who killed Fox: he was shot from behind at a range much closer than would have been possible.  Mann confronts Gentry, who he thinks joined up with the patrol deliberately to warn the others of his visit.

Next, Mann talks to Burroughs, informing him that Fox revealed all before he died.  Prompted by this, Burroughs confesses to the murder of Dorothea, a German girl who the four men (plus four others no longer serving) took it in turns to "take care of".  When she announced her marriage to a "fat German businessman", they all felt betrayed, but it was Burroughs who snapped first, though Pike was the one fingered for it.

Mann fights with Burroughs to get hold of the bayonet he killed Dorothea with, but Frazer, concerned with his mission above all else, insists Mann return it and that the issue be dealt with later.

Nonetheless, Frazer's aware there are now two distinct groups in the camp, and that he, Mann, Bell and Job are in danger from Burroughs and his friends.  Mann tells him it's worse than he thinks: he's deduced that it was Job who killed Fox.  The danger increases as a message comes over the radio that Pike's committed suicide: if Mann, Frazer and Bell are got out of the way there's now no need for the truth to ever come out.

Job, who proves to be very much the ringleader, plans to see to their disposal, but Bell, ever one for the practical solution, shoots him dead.  The other two prove easily overpowered, and the next day Mann departs with them in the helicopter.

The Patrol is distinguished by excellent performances all round, and particularly Guy Verney's tense direction, which makes the jungle set seem genuinely oppressive.  The highlights of the episode are a pair of bravura tracking shots that circle the whole set, showing what each character's up to in turn.

Next week Redcap's slot will be filled by a new ABC series, Public Eye.  Unfortunately, only two episodes from the first series are known to still exist, and the opener isn't one of them.  Those that do will be featured here in due course.

Sunday 17 January

Tonight's episode of Stingray tells us, for what I think is the first time (I may just not have been paying attention) in what year the show is set - 100 years after it's broadcast.

Oddly, that plaque commemorating Arago Rock lighthouse isn't at Arago Rock, but at Marineville, where the gang discuss the extinguishing of the light: it turns out that an airbase has been built nearby, and the light would just be confusing for the planes (presumably nobody's that bothered about ships crashing into the rock).  Lighthouse keeper Frank Lincoln has been forced to switch off the light leave the place that's been his home for many years (in reality, all the lighthouses in the US - where this is presumably set - have been keeperless since 1998).  As he rows off, Frank takes a sorrowful look back - and notices that the light's back on.  This almost instantly causes a plane crash.

Returning to find out what's going on, Frank is confronted by a green man with dreadlocks (well, it looks better than white men with dreadlocks, anyway).

Commander Shore sends Stingray out to find out why the light's still on.  The show's usually brilliant model work falls down a bit here: when Troy Tempest climbs out onto the hull to ascend to the lighthouse the little model man affixed to the sub is less than convincing - particularly as it's missing the bright yellow waterproof Troy's meant to be wearing.

Troy heads for the light, and like Frank before him is stopped from shutting off the light by the mysterious green man.

Horror movie logic comes into play here. with Phones following after Troy, and being captured in his turn: note that where the green man touched both Troy and Frank's hands, he confronts poor unloved Phones from over the other side of the room.  Still, he comes up quite close behind as he forces Phones to accompany him into the very depths of the building, where Troy and Frank are being kept prisoner.

As usual (for the purpose of discussing their plans) there are two enemy beings occupying the secret underground lair.  Their names are Lorif and, amusingly enough, Cromer.

I'm fairly sure that's Cromer
Lorif and Cromer are determined that the "great light" must remain unextinguished, as they rely on it to power their civilisation.  A tasteful mural in the wall slides back as we're treated to an explanation: the light causes anemones on the sea bed to open and give off energy which these people have found a way of harnessing (sounds plausible).

Unfortunately for Lorif and Cromer, the light gets shut off from central command at Marineville.  They agree to give Frank 30 minutes to get it working again before they kill the others.

Instead, Frank heads out to Stingray to get help from Marina.  Clearly unaware of the fact that she can't speak, his frustration at her not answering his questions about how to get a message to Marineville is hilarious.

Eventually he manages to get the light switched back on for long enough for Phones and Troy to be released, but it's shut off immediately after, leaving Lorif and Cromer cursing the double-crossing surface people.

At the party to present Frank with a lifetime service medal, Troy feels guilty about the whole destroying a civilisation thing.  So he arranges for a light to be placed underwater.  Lovely.

Monday 18 January

BBC 2 viewers tonight are treated the to first instalments in a pair of new series.  Writers' World sees Simon Raven talk to authors including Kingsley Amis, Robert Graves, William Golding and Laurie Lee about their school days, while following directly after is a new thriller serial, Hit and Run, starring Joseph O'Conor and Rosalie Crutchley.

Tuesday 19 January

We join John Drake tonight in the fictional South American state of Santo Marco (well obviously it's not fictional from his point of view), where chaos runs rampant in the streets, with rioting and shooting all over the shop.  From a high vantage point, Drake watches as a glamorous woman (the fabulous Jill Melford), clearly not a local, hands envelopes to a group of men.  Relieving one of the men of his envelope, Drake finds it's full of money.

Drake catches the same flight to Heathrow as this mysterious Lady Bountiful, and trails her Bentley into the city (note that visitors to London in the mid-60s were greeted by enormous fags).

Drake's quarry alights at the Society for Cultural Relations with South America, and naturally enough he follows her in.  Her name's Certhia Cooper, and he blags his way into her office in the guise of a travel agent.  A very well informed one, aware that she's spent about £250,000 of the society's money supposedly bringing culture to Santo Marco, but in fact paying agitators to bring down the current government.  Certhia refuses to discuss the matter, instead promising to arrange a meeting with someone who can explain matters.

When Drake returns home, he finds tell-tale signs that an intruder's hiding in his flat.  He doesn't get to see the man, just his hand, with distinctive skull and crossbones ring, as he departs.  Drake traps it in his front door - look at that blood!

Next Drake pays a visit to his reporter friend Pauline (the also fabulous Adrienne Corri).  Certhia once worked on her paper, where it seems she slept her way to the top before departing for her new lucrative role. Pauline's  burning hatred of the woman is a joy to behold: she scoffs at Certhia's ridiculous name: "I looked it up once - it was a bird.  A tree creeper.  Very appropriate."  Immediately after, there's a phone call from the woman herself: "Certhia darling! What a lovely surprise!" (nobody could accuse this episode of being a tract on female solidarity).

It's Drake Certhia wants - she's arranged a meeting for him with a top official at the society.  Hastening to the address in Mayfair, Drake's taken aback to find that the man he's meeting is Lord Ammonford (Bernard Lee), one of the most hallowed names in the business world.  Drake explains to the peer how his money's being spent, but it comes as no surprise - as far as he's concerned, the society's helped the people of Santo Marco "to climb out of a swamp of ignorance and primitive bondage".  Naturally the society's activities are working to keep in place a system reliant on Ammonford's other business interests.

Ammonford immediately pegs Drake as working for the foreign office in some capacity, and cautions him to leave the matter well alone.  As he leaves with a flea in his ear, Drake encounters the charming Lady Ammonford (Joyce Carey).

The next day, Drake is called to the presence of the foreign office's most senior mandarin, Sir Joseph Manton (Richard Caldicot, always the man to call on for these sort of parts), who pooh-poohs Drake's alarming claims, and puts him on a month's leave.

But Drake's not prepared to let the matter drop.  After a gloating visit from Certhia, he decides to head back out to Santo Marco.  He's informed there's no record of his booking and the flight's full up.  As Certhia swans in and picks up her tickets he remembers that Ammonford owns the airline.

Exposing Ammonford as a crook is becoming an obsession for Drake: he returns to Pauline in the hope of digging up some kind of dirt on the man.  Little seems to be known about him bar his humble origins in a Welsh village.

Drake heads to said village, and finds that while the residents are all very proud that such a distinguished figure hails from there, no two of them describe the young Ammonford in the same way.

Pauline's exerted her feminine wiles to get into the records of the passport office, where she's unearthed Ammonford's first application, naming him as Peter Jones of Pennygwynt Farm.  Drake heads directly there - just in time to join the procession to Peter Jones' funeral.

Drake gives a lift to a man at the funeral (Colin Douglas), only to come upon a road accident staged so his passenger - the man with the skull ring - can get the opportunity to rough him up for interfering.

More determined than ever to bring him down, Drake faces off against Ammonford once more, revealing he knows his history to be a sham.  "I can ruin you, Drake," the peer informs him.  "Physically, professionally, mentally, you name it.  And there's nothing you can do to harm me in return."  Lee is stonkingly good as Ammonford, coming across as genuinely dangerous but also regretful about the less pleasant activities required to protect his interests.  However, the star of this scene is undoubtedly the bizarre sculpture below, which looks like the halfway point in an attempt to sculpt a Dalek by sticking lots of lemons together.

After receiving Ammonford's stick, Drake returns home to be confronted with Certhia's seductive carrot.  He demands £10,000 to leave the matter alone, but their meeting's interrupted by Pauline.

Having seen Certhia off, she puts Drake on a new trail: he goes to see Lady Ammonford's former nanny (Patsy Smart), claiming to be writing a biography of the great man, and borrows a photograph: it shows Lady Ammonford's sister's wedding, and the chauffeur in the background looks very familiar...

Drake pays a visit to the hire car firm the man worked for: after its employees set him up on a drink driving charge and he escapes from the police (this is nothing if not  an eventful episode), he pays a visit to a former driver (Jack Bligh) who identifies the chauffeur as one George Foster.  Who, it turns out, was a married man.

The next stop is the home of the first Mrs Foster (Barbara Leake), who, it emerges, has never divorced Lord Ammonford, and has been paid very well to keep silent about the matter.

It's nearly time for Drake's final confrontation with Ammonford, but there's enough time to squeeze in a catfight between Pauline and Certhia (note that below Pauline is clutching a presumably Beatles-inspired gonk of the kind which would feature in Robert Hartford-Davis' barmy pop movie Gonks Go Beat that same year).  I love Corri and Melford so much that I dearly wish these two had been given their own spin-off.

Ammonford proves unimpressed by Drake's threats to expose his bigamy: he knows the media's too scared of him to touch the story.  But Drake has a final ace up his sleeve: Lady Ammonford.  He just has to sow a few doubts in her mind for the whole thing to suddenly become clear to her.  Unable to cope with his wife discovering she's not, in fact, his wife, Ammonford promises to divest himself of all his interests in Santo Marco.  He and Drake part on quite amicable terms, in the circumstances.

Things are a bit lighter over on BBC 1, where George Starling is about to wake up as a father for the very first time.

It's the night after Miles' birthday party, which, idiotically, he held on a weeknight.  He's now hungover to buggery, but things are even worse for George, who collapsed on his sofa and failed to wake for 9 am, which is when he'd promised to be at the hospital to see Kate and their new baby.

George desperately tries to think of an excuse for his absence.  Miles suggests he looks crumpled enough to have been hit by a car.  I very much like Miles' curtains.  I wish I knew what colour they were.

George heads off, without even enough money to buy flowers (one of the most mind-boggling things about TV of this era for a 21st century viewer is that people can't get money without going into the bank).  Miles gets a call from the hospital, and is forced to bluff a reason for George not being there...

...which we don't get to hear.  Instead we join George outside the hospital, desperately trying to dishevel himself to account for his absence.

He's greeted by the formidable Sister Bulmer (Molly Urquhart), and informed that both his and Kate's parents have already seen the baby.  Which makes him feel even worse.

"Did you have a good time?" he asks Kate when he finally gets to see her.  Turns out it was a quick and easy birth (as births go), but learning that even the butcher's sent flowers doesn't make George feel any better.

George finally gets to see his daughter, who, apart from her blue hands, pointed head and chapped face is seemingly beautiful.  Kate tries to convince George the baby's got his mouth, but he's more concerned by her having Richard Dimbleby's nose.

A wealth of telegrams have arrived from both sides of the family.  George considers Kate's family's efforts to be very stiff and formal, but considers those sent by his relatives a hoot.  Kate points out that they all make exactly the same joke about the name of Starling.

It's only just occurred to George that the baby will cry all night, and he's finding it hard to adjust to being called Daddy.  Kate's worried he's disappointed they didn't have a boy, particularly as all the names he suggests for the baby (Christine, Samantha, Nicola, etc) can be shortened into boys' names.  Eventually they decide on Helen.  After much angling, George finally learns from Kate what Miles said on the phone about him being late: that he'd offer a full explanation when he got there.  She's waiting.

Wednesday 20 January

Tonight sees the return of a show that hasn't made one of its sporadic appearances around these parts in ages.

As they patrol the streets of Newtown, Jock Weir and Fancy Smith are called to aid Bert Lynch (who's recently joined the CID) in his investigation of a supermarket burglary.  The £350 takings the manager, Mr Cassidy (Bernard Kay) carelessly left in a drawer overnight have gone, and Lynch thinks he seems remarkably unbothered by it.

As the police depart the scene, an old codger, Brian (George A Cooper) furtively tries to find out what's going on.  "Have you a tin of bootlaces?" he asks in a doomed attempt at seeming nonchalant.

Brian's next seen paying a visit to brassy Clara (Renny Lister, wife of Kenneth Cope) in search of her boyfriend Arthur, who he thinks robbed the supermarket.

Lynch, however, has decided that as there's no evidence of any break-in the culprit is surely Cassidy.  He offers this opinion to Inspector Barlow in the presence of Cassidy's boss Mr Unsworth (The Plane Makers' Reginald Marsh, looking far less avuncular without his moustache and pipe).

Brian's still searching for Arthur, and his next port of call's a snooker club run by Percy (Jack Woolgar), who clearly knows and dislikes Brian of old.  There's still no sign of the elusive Arthur.

Meanwhile, Unsworth, satisfied that Cassidy was indeed the robber, decides to avert scandal by laying him off with a month's pay.  Cassidy reacts with a fit of hysterics before agreeing to go on his way.

Brian finally finds Arthur (James Culliford) working at a seedy nightclub, though he's beaten up by the doorman (Peter Schofield) before he gets to meet him.  When he eventually does it emerges that Brian's recently been released from Strangeways, where the pair of them had previously served time together and developed a father-son relationship, Brian teaching Arthur all he knows.

Brian manages to cadge a fiver off Arthur and immediately blows the lot on booze (and in 1965 a fiver could buy you a lot of booze), finishing a wild binge with an arrest for being drunk and disorderly.

Brian's greeted at the police station by Sergeant Blackitt, who knows him of old.  Brian informs the Sergeant it was a friend of his who robbed the supermarket, which rather upsets Lynch's view of events.

Lynch has his conscience pricked in the canteen by the intellectual PC Baker (Geoffrey Whitehead), who tells him he could have ruined Cassidy's life with no good cause.

When Blackitt informs him there's room for doubt, Lynch goes to see Brian, and offers to pay his drunk and disorderly fine in exchange for information about the thief.

Barlow learns that several other shops in nearby towns were turned over in the same manner that weekend, making Lynch's suspicion of Cassidy look increasingly unlikely.  Consumed with guilt, Lynch goes to visit the poor man, but it turns out he's already taken a lucrative new job in Southampton.

Meanwhile, Arthur returns to Clara to ask for money, having gambled all the proceeds of his last jobs away ("Ooh, you're certainly licking all the ice creams" she says on learning he's been sleeping with a Chinese woman).

Arthur's got a new shop in his sights (that certainly sounds like a very specialist brand of tea).

He gets a look at the shop's safe through the cunning ruse of getting the shop assistant (Connie Merigold) out the back to tell her his missus left a brassiere she'd just purchased in the shop the other day.  Much merriment ensues as she goes to ask her colleague Mavis about it.  Meanwhile, Arthur cases the joint.

When Clara goes out that evening, Arthur gets his tools ready for the job.  Throughout, bizarrely, he talks to the photo of a small dog (the Bonzo of the title).

He even talks to Bonzo while he's breaking into the safe.

But Arthur slips: after successfully getting the money out of the safe he decides to have a little nap - but doesn't awaken till the next morning, when Weir and Smith notice the open window at the shop and rush to arrest him.

He's very cool about the whole thing, not even that bothered about having left Bonzo behind.  Lynch marvels at how he's taking it all in his stride, but the more experienced Blackitt, mindful of Arthur's former mentor, makes a prediction about the cool young thief's future: "One day he'll come in here skint and be glad of a mug of a tea."

We stay oop North for tonight's next offering, over on BBC 2.

The first thing we see in tonight's Likely Lads is Terry Collier's sister Audrey (Sheila Fearn) pashing wildly in the back of a fancy car with her new fella, Mario (George Layton).

Spying them at it, the passing Terry and Bob are left with no choice but to bounce the back of the car up and down.

Scarpering into Terry's house before they can be identified, they settle down to their fish, chips and brown ale.  Terry, it appears, is outraged that his sister's dating an Italian hairdresser (inevitably he's nicknamed him Teasie-Weasie), and Bob's insistence that Mario's actually from Hull doesn't help: "Hairdressers, Italians, people from Hull - they're all the same!" Dramatic irony abounds as Terry sounds off about the Italian bloke at work's garlicky breath while eating out of an enormous jar of pickled onions.

Terry can't understand why Audrey finished with her previous boyfriend, Big Des.  He was a brilliant wing half and he could down 12 pints, go home and get changed and head out for the evening - what more could a woman want?

Enter Audrey, aware Bob and Terry were doing the rocking and livid with the pair of them.  Her insistence that Mario's as English as Terry somehow prompts her brother to do slitty-eyes.  Oh dear.

Bob, meanwhile, mocks Transylvanians with the strategic placement of a couple of chips when Audrey alleges that "If I brought Dracula here and he downed 10 pints you'd be a fan of his for life and all."

Audrey's bringing Mario to tea the next day as Terry is due to go to the match with Bob.  Terry has his own plans to get rid of Mario, however: offering the lure of a meat pie, he inveigles an uncertain Bob into agreeing to seduce Audrey (who he insists he's never thought of as a woman before) while he takes Mario to the pub - the idea being that she'll be so upset at her boyfriend being lured to the boozer she'll throw herself at whoever shows her any tenderness.

Terry bails out of watching the match in order to join Mario and Audrey at tea with his mum.  The conversation segues from Terry's musings over how Mario can cut his own hair to the story of a doctor who removed his own appendix - which Terry bizarrely illustrates by pointing a fork at his crotch.

After tea, Terry convinces Mario to accompany him to the pub for a swift half.  Liaising with Bob, Terry sends him on his way with a promise to keep him in beer for a week.  Back at the Collier household Audrey's livid with Terry for leading Mario astray.  Could she be ready to fall for Bob's charms?

The answer's no, as it happens: when Bob turns up to confess his love for her she's initially taken aback but quickly spots Terry's hand in the whole sordid business, and turns the tables by coming on to Bob.  Eventually he threatens to cry rape unless Bob tells her why to find Terry and Mario.

Meanwhile, at the Black Horse, Terry's discovered that Mario (real name Ernie - you can't be a ladies' hairdresser called Ernie) is a good bloke (and a demon darts player) after all.

So the sudden appearance of a furious Audrey, trailing a quivering Bob in her wake, is less than welcome.

After much recrimination, Audrey and Mario make up and depart.  Bob reveals to Terry that after all the evening's travails he's realised he really does fancy Audrey.  Terry doesn't take the news well.

That's the last in the present series of The Likely Lads.  The show returns later in the year, but only one episode from its second seres still exists.  Rest assured that I'll write about it here.

A bit of proper TV history now: tonight's entry in BBC 1's Wednesday Play strand was due to be John Hopkins' Fable, set in an alternative Britain where black people hold the reins of power.  Clearly a controversial idea to begin with, it was made even more so by the by-election due to take place in Leyton on Friday, in which "the colour issue" was playing a significant part.  As a result, it was postponed by a week (the Labour candidate in the election was Patrick Gordon Walker, who had been made Foreign Secretary despite losing his seat in Smethwick the previous year to  Conservative Peter Griffiths, whose controversial campaign included the slogan "If You Want a Nigger for a Neighbour, vote Labour".  The plan was to parachute Walker into this safe Labour seat instead - the circumstances of his previous defeat were inevitably foregrounded, and against all expectations he ended up losing to the Tories again).  I'll be taking a look at Fable next week.

Thursday 21 January

Tonight's episode of The Saint finds Simon Templar on a visit to a hotel in Baden-Baden, a town whose name is so inherently funny that it seems utterly out of place in serious dialogue.  Nonetheless, our cast give it a good try.

Simon's attention's alerted by a fellow guest (Nigel Davenport) who's behaving in a very furtive manner. This chap, Mr Boyson, is in touch with the sinister Dr Schreiber (Victor Beaumont), who has found a "specimen" for him that's "perfect in every way".  Tony Booth plays Schreiber's assistant, Hans, who's warned to "Ztop eating zose epples in here!".

If  Simon's interest was piqued by Boyson, it's thoroughly aroused by the arrival at the hotel of the beautiful Julia Harrison (Stephanie Randall), daughter of Boyson's deceased business partner, in search of him.  Upon spotting her, Boyson heads upstairs and tries to kill her by pushing a heavy vase on top of her.  Has anyone ever actually been killed by this? Julia isn't, as Simon comes to her rescue.

They repair to Boyson's room to question him about the £250,000 he's absconded with from the company's funds, but before any explanation can be offered, Boyson has a seemingly fatal heart attack (some marvellous acting here from Mr Davenport and Ms Randall).

Schreiber and Hans now appear, just in time to spirit Boyson's body away.  Simon notes that they also take his briefcase, which he suspects contains the missing money.  He and Julia head for Schreiber's clinic, where the doctor confirms that Boyson is quite dead.  I love his specs: they'd be ideal for someone with no eyebrows.

 On Simon's insistence, they're even shown Mr Boyson's corpse in the morgue.  But the briefcase is handed back with nothing in it, and the Saint, deeply suspicious, returns shortly after driving off.

It's about time for the mid-episode fight sequence, and here it is, as Simon sets to with a guard at the clinic.  He polishes him off without any trouble, of course, and heads inside for a look at the safe.

With no luck finding the money there, Simon pops to the morgue for another look at Boyson's body, and finds that it's not Boyson at all but some unfortunate stiff wearing a Nigel Davenport mask (I wish I had one of those), which, on being confronted by the baddies, Simon spends the rest of the scene wearing like a glove.

It turns out, of course, that Boyson faked his death in order to abscond with the money, Schreiber providing medication to bring on an apparent heart attack.  As the fiends tell Simon their plan prior to disposing of him, Julia races to the clinic with Inspector Glessen (George Pravda), this week's grumpy, Saint-hating policeman.

At the clinic a massive ruck takes place, with Simon taking on all three baddies.  It looks like he's going to beat them until Boyson finds a gun and forces him into one of the morgue drawers, whacks him round the head and shuts him in.

The episode's title is the name of the train on which Boyson's due to travel to Switzerland and begin his new life.  Where the early part of the episode led us to believe he was being manipulated by Schreiber it turns out it's actually the other way round: he's got a hold on the doctor due to his knowledge of the grisly medical experiments he carried out during the war, and forces him to go and finish Templar off (it seems actor Victor Beaumont was a barely more savoury character in reality - he's reported to have been a member of Jimmy Savile's circle of child abusers).  Inevitably, Simon gets the best of him and heads off with Julia in a race to join the train at its next stop.

Director James Hill pulls out all the stops to make the last quarter of the episode, with Simon and Julia racing the train and boarding it in search of Boyson an Hans, breathlessly exciting stuff.  We pause briefly to note that the steward Simon bribes to overlook his lack of ticket is played by the adorable Ernst Walder, previously Elsie Tanner's son-in-law.

As the episode races to its conclusion it transmogrifies into a cross between a Hitchcock pastiche and a forerunner of Roger Moore's relentlessly jokey Bond films: as Simon knocks on compartment doors in search of his quarry he happens upon a chap who doesn't look a great deal like Hitler, but whose moustache, combined with Simon's bewildered expression, leads us to suppose he's meant to.

Julia, meanwhile, is busy being captured.

Simon finally happens upon Hans, who he inevitably bests in a fight, exposing him to steam torture to find out Boyson's whereabouts.

Boyson plans to throw Julia from the train.  Simon invades the compartment of an elderly English couple (Totti Truman-Taylor (Aunt Sally in TV's first version of Worzel Gummidge) and Ernest Hare) to climb outside ("How extraordinary!" "Must be a foreigner, dear." "Why?" "He didn't shut the window").

The ensuing battle ends with Boyson pulling the emergency cord to stop the train prior to leaping from it.  Unfortunately he leaps right into the path of another train.  The fool.

The episode's wonderfully bathetic ending sees the Inspector inform Simon that he's been fined for parking his car overnight at the station.  Julia offers to pay.

Friday 22 January

Following on the heels of Ernst Walder's appearance in The Saint last night, Coronation Street wife Anne Cunningham returns to TV, now the wife of Roy Kinnear in the first episode of sitcom A World of His Own, sadly lost to the ages.

Outside the box

The ailing Sir Winston Churchill remains the focus of much of the week's news, with Private Eye christening him "The Greatest Dying Englishman".

And to play us out...

It's the Moody Blues, up 7 places to number 3 in the singles chart.  The Beatles have finally been toppled from the number 1 spot by Georgie Fame, and currently reside at number 2.  Anyway don't let me keep you.  If you gotta go, well, you'd better...

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