Tuesday, 17 February 2015

13-19 February 1965

Saturday 13 February

Tonight's Juke Box Jury panel on BBC 1 is an especially intriguing one: Marianne Faithfull, Brian Epstein, Adrienne Posta (still spelling it Poster at this stage) and Ted Ray.  Once judgement has been passed on this week's new records, viewers are whisked off to a distant galaxy for the start of a brand new adventure from Bill Strutton, a brand new writer for the series.

In the recap from last week's episode, Ian wonders where the TARDIS is being mysteriously dragged down to.  The episode's title obligingly answers him.

The travellers' Roman holiday now well and truly over, they climb back into more mundane garb (including a fetching anorak in Ian's case) before taking a proper look at their new surroundings.  It's a barren sort of landscape - Ian thinks they're on the moon.  But in that case, what's the mysterious force that's dragged them there?

Vicki gets a headache from unpleasant, high-frequency noises the others can't hear (though the viewer can, and they do get rather painful after a while)...

...which are being made by strange, ant-like (and really rather cute) creatures bumbling around outside the ship (note the use of vaseline, or something similar on the camera lens to give the effect of an alien atmosphere).  Evolution has curiously granted these creatures one pair of thick, human-like legs which they walk around on while their more insectoid upper appendages dangle about.

Back aboard the ship, the Doctor continues to fiddle about with the controls, eliciting a hilarious eye-rolling response from Barbara before she nips off to get Vicki some painkillers.  Finally it seems like he's managed to get the ship to take off, but it quickly returns, seemingly influenced by the actions of the ant-creatures and their even more bizarre looking companion.  Suddenly the noises are audible to all of the travellers, and the TARDIS begins to shake.

The ship's now completely out of power, and Ian and the Doctor decide to go outside and find out what's caused it.  As it's unknown whether the atmosphere's breathable, the Doctor gets out a couple of ADJs - Atmospheric Density Jackets, sort of space anoraks - for them to wear.  It turns out he can use his ring as a secondary door-opening mechanism by waving it in front of a light (much like how many of us get into our places of work these days).  By this stage in the show's development, William Hartnell giggles almost permanently throughout his performance

Barbara gives Vicki something she claims will make her sleep, which seems very odd as they're aspirin (perhaps she's banking on the placebo effect).  Vicki's never heard of them - they seem "a bit medieval" to her  "You wouldn't like it if I wanted to stick leeches all over you, would you?" she asks, unanswerably.

This is a really lovely character scene of the kind we don't often get between the show's regulars, which charmingly sketches in some of Vicki's futuristic background: medicine was one of the subjects she studied at a very young age, by computer for "almost an hour a week".  Barbara eventually talks her into taking the tablets: "After all, it would save me having to put make-up on and dance around a fire in order to get rid of evil spirits."  Barbara only now gets the chance to tell Vicki about her own adventures in Rome, when the girl notices the gold bracelet she received as a gift.

The Doctor (who has a matching hat to go with his ADJ) is fascinated by the rocks of mica outside the ship (he describes them as "magical", which seems slightly out of character), and the bizarre echoes created by the landscape.  Ian gets out his gold pen for him to take notes - but it immediately vanishes from his hand.  "Whatever power's got hold of the TARDIS has taken your pen!" gasps the Doctor when he's finally convinced it wasn't a conjuring trick.

It seems those aren't the only things it's got hold of - Barbara suddenly feels a strange force pulling at her braceleted arm (she doesn't think to take the bracelet off, though).

Outside, the Doctor and Ian come across a vast pyramid: "What's that at the top?" wonders the Doctor, spying the strange winged figure that surmounts it.  "Well it isn't Nelson!" chortles Ian.  "No, no pigeons," agrees the Doctor.

Ian stumbles upon a little pool, which he's about to wash in before the Doctor stops him.  He dangles Ian's tie into the liquid, which immediately sets fire to it.  "We very nearly had the remnants of a Coal Hill teacher in there instead of his wretched old, ragged old tie!" the old man points out when Ian complains about this act of sartorial vandalism.

All of the Doctor and Ian's actions are being spied on by one of the ant creatures, sneakily (and adorably) hiding behind a convenient rock.

Ian  spots the creature's reflection in the pool as it peeps out at them, though it swiftly darts out of sight.  But the strange noise it makes can still be heard.

Aboard the TARDIS, all of the instruments in which are now going haywire, with the console spinning round and all sorts, Barbara can hear the noise too, to a deafening extent.  The mysterious force pulls her out through the open doors.

Ian and the Doctor hear Vicki calling after her, but Ian's suddenly caught in a thick, web-like substance.

Barbara's being drawn inexorably onward, and it looks like she's heading straight for the pool of acid...

Meanwhile, Vicki's trapped in the increasingly out-of-control TARDIS.  When the ship tilts, she falls on some controls, and the ship takes off...

...much to the horror of the approaching Doctor ("My ship!" Hartnell gasps once it's vanished, a weight of mourning in his voice).  Now THAT's a cliffhanger for you - and what a bizarre and compelling episode that was.

The Zarbi, we gather from the end credits, were the ant-creatures.  Most viewers would probably have been aware of this already, though, as they'd been heavily publicised prior to broadcast as an attempt to reproduce the popularity of the Daleks (since flying in the face of Sydney Newman's "No Bug-Eyed Monsters rule" had been such a success it seems only natural to follow up with monsters that were all bug).  Here's Daily Mirror cartoonist Stanley Franklin's take on the coming of the Zarbi, riffing on the race tensions of recent election campaigns.

The pre-publicity certainly seems to have done the trick:  The Web Planet achieved an astounding 13.5 million viewers - the highest the series had managed to date (and the highest it would get for the whole of the 60s).

Sunday 14 February 

I think it's fair to say that Stingray wouldn't be many people's first port of call if they were looking for a satirical view of international relations (however broad-brush)- so this week's episode is wonderfully unexpected.  The star of the title is the one on the flag of a fictional Arab nation whose name I can't remember and didn't write down.  The star of the episode, however, is this nation's dictator, the grotesquely obese El Hudat, who claims his engineers have invented an invincible ship, which he hopes will pave the way to his country becoming a member of WASP.

"I don't know how you have got along without me!" the gross despot chuckles as he prepares to sign the papers securing his entry into the organisation.  Unfortunately, news arrives that there's been a revolt in his country and his brother's now on the throne, rendering his application void (cut to flag being taken down, accompanied by "Wah-wah-wah" music).  El Hudat's the most vivid character Stingray's yet given us: except for reasons of unintended hilarity Stingray's dialogue's rarely notable, but writer Alan Fennell gives the gross despot some gloriously imaginative Eastern exclamations: "Sphinx of a thousand starless nights!" "You are the small toe, as well as the large, of the camel's foot!"

"What are you shaking your head for, green-haired one?" he asks Marina, and becomes extremely attracted to her on learning that she's mute.  "If I had a country I would take her back to it!" He exclaims, the old smoothie.

Commanded to leave the meeting after his outburst on discovering he's been deposed, El Hudat is nonetheless allowed to stay the night at Marineville.  Smarting from Commander Shore and Troy Tempest's high-handed treatment of him, the former dictator plots to revenge himself on Troy by striking "at his heart".

Next day, Marina's vanished.  She's been abducted by El Hudat, who plans to whisk her off to Monte Carlo.  On the way, he regales the poor thing with self-aggrandising stories: "Even the oil recognised my greatness - it gushed forth and made my country rich!"

Marineville sends a fighter plane, which has a good go at El Hudat's ship but is swiftly shot down.  Can Troy stop the mad despot, who's now gone on a destructive rampage?  He scores a direct (and very colourful) hit on a cargo vessel.

Troy heads out in Stingray, diving when El Hudat fires to give the impression that he's been sunk.  Marina sheds silent tears at Troy's apparent demise.

But that evening Troy sneaks aboard the ship, releases Marina, and knocks out the nattily-bearded captain (off screen - puppet fights are never dignified), and announces that the ship's headed for Marineville.

El Hudat's brought before Commander Shore, but WASP aren't able to punish him themselves - instead, it's a matter for the World Court.  But then news arrives that there's been another coup, and El Hudat's back in power.  He greedily seizes the offer of becoming part of WASP - and is then informed that means he can be chucked in prison for five years there and then.

As El Hudat bellows threats of vengeance from his cell, the episode ends with his flag being run down the pole once more, suggesting yet another in the country's endless round of regime changes.  See, satire.  Of sorts.

I had hoped to feature this week's episode of Dr Finlay's Casebook, entitled "Charity, Dr Finlay" and scripted by the up-and-coming Robert Holmes, but sadly I can't find the disc it's on.  In fact I think I might have thrown it away when I was moving house.  People like me are exactly why so little 60s TV still exists.

Monday 15 February

In the first of a new series on BBC 1, The Rare Ones, E F Schumacher goes to Asia in search of "The Lion and the Unicorn" (the unicorn of the title's actually a rhinoceros, but that doesn't sound as good).  Over on BBC 2, the Nashville Teens, Dave, Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich and Screamin' Jay Hawkins all do their stuff in Gadzooks! It's All Happening.  Later in the evening a new thriller serial, Reluctant Bandit, commences, with a cast including William Mervyn and Patricia Haines.

Tuesday 16 February

Tonight's Danger Man is as off-beat an item as you could hope to find on ITV of a Tuesday evening.  Where the earlier Colony Three roughly sketched the basic situation that would mutate into Patrick McGoohan's subsequent show The Prisoner, tonight's instalment is almost a template for that series' more surreal elements.

We start in innocuous, if unusually casual fashion, with John Drake merrily bowling along a country road in a sports car (as opposed to his usual Mini), failing to stop for a hitch-hiking tramp (Francis De Wolff).

Suddenly, a football descends from the sky, and Drake swerves to miss it, crashing the car...

Drake comes round, seemingly unharmed (as is his car), and returns home to find another agent, Fletcher (Peter Gill, in his last screen role - he'd give up acting shortly after to concentrate on writing and directing for the stage) waiting for him.  He's leafing through Drake's copy of From Russia With Love, a knowing reference in more than one way - not only is James Bond a clear influence on the character of John Drake, but this edition of the book ties into the film, in which Francis De Wolff also appeared.

Drake's told to go and see a superior at M9, "Happy" Lovegrove (Eric Barker), who's been trying to find out about his gambling habits.  "You've been attracting a lot of attention lately," Lovegrove snorts.  "It's my personality," responds Drake in his most debonair fashion.  "I try to fight against it, but without success."

Drake supposedly owes a casino owner named Alexander £500 (Lovegrove's riotous laughter on being informed that the only Alexander Drake knows is the Great is an early indication things aren't quite right), and is sent to pay him a visit.

There's another Bond reference in the shape of Desmond Llewellyn, irascible gadget-provider Q in the film series.  Here he plays the doorman of Alexander's club, who seems to think he knows Drake, and whose face has an unnerving habit of turning into that of Lovegrove.

Everyone else in the club seems to think they've seen Drake before too, including Elaine Pearson (Adrienne Corri), Alexander's glamorous secretary.  She brings him to the inner sanctum of the man himself: Drake seems not to notice that he has the same face as the tramp from earlier on.

 The matter of the £500 is suspiciously easily resolved: Alexander readily believes Drake's protests that it is in fact another John Drake who ran up the debt. As Drake heads off, he collides with merry widow Elsie Fairbrother (the wonderful Patsy Rowlands), who takes an instant shine to him and drags him over to the table to bet for her.

There, he notices Elaine placing bets (Elsie refers to her as "the one in the green dress", adding another layer of oddness by drawing attention to a colour the viewer's unable to see), watched by an unknown man (Edward Underdown).  And now it's the croupier (Terrance Hooper) who briefly transmogrifies into Lovegrove.

Drake reports back to the "real" Lovegrove - he's suspicious about this other Drake, who he doesn't think really exists.  As well as seeing Lovegrove everywhere, Drake's now haunted by his laughter.  He's sent to the M9 doctor, who, inevitably, Drake sees as Lovegrove.  The feeling that we're through the looking glass is amplified by the reversed letters on the doctor's sight chart.

Returning to the club, Drake tries to pump Elaine for information.  She lets him walk her home, and Alexander's there waiting for him.

Alexander reveals that he knows Drake's an M9 agent, referring to identities he's adopted in previous episodes and, in an especially inventive touch, laying down cards with photographs of them as he plays patience.  He demands £10,000 to keep quiet - the signature Drake provided to prove he wasn't the other John Drake has in turn been forged on an IOU.

The unsympathetic Lovegrove thinks Drake wants the money to pay off more gambling debts, and refuses to pay up.  Drake storms out (Patrick McGoohan thumping a desk in rage would become a very familiar sight on TV in a couple of years), but returns to find the doorman from the club nonchalantly perched on Lovegrove's desk.

It's getting worse: at home that evening, Drake even sees his own reflection as Lovegrove.  But he doesn't have time to puzzle over it, as two city gent types (Peter Butterworth as "Umbrella", Mike Pratt as "Briefcase") have somehow invaded his flat to demand the money.

A fight inevitably ensues - both men are beaten easily enough.

Alexander's so desperate for the money that he even offers to lower the amount.  Elaine has a suggestion for how he can get hold of it: the only time she ever bets is when the roulette wheel's been fixed by Alexander for a particular client.  She suggests Drake follow her betting to secure a win.  There's a wonderful parody of womanising heroes like Bond and Simon Templar as Drake appears poised to snog Elaine - but instead reaches behind her for something.

Lovegrove confirms that the mystery man at the casino was a naval captain - Drake thinks Alexander fixes the wheel to pay men like this for secrets. This meeting occurs while Lovegrove occurs while his superior's picking out a pair of glasses.  Why? Well, why not? It provides another especially bizarre moment as Drake suddenly sees his superior wearing a succession of particularly outlandish frames.

Drake's next strange vision is his car, suddenly all smashed up, and wheeled beneath his flat window by Doorman-Lovegrove and the two gents ("Briefcase" isn't played by Mike Pratt now, but in these circumstances that hardly seems to matter).

Shortly afterwards, Drake's visited by a man in funereal garb (John Cazabon) hawking insurance.  Inevitably he turns into Lovegrove the moment he's over the threshold.

Drake goes back to the club and, with Elsie by his side, bets along with Elaine.  Clearly wise to his game, the Croupier/Lovegrove ushers him aside, but he escapes to Elsie's flat ("I haven't been so happy since Norman died!" she exclaims)

The croupier enters, and he and Drake fight - though part-way through Drake gets distracted by his reflection and starts fighting that instead.  It fights back.

Alexander appears, only to be accidentally shot by the croupier (Elsie's entirely unbothered by all these goings-on).  He's followed by the Doorman, who reveals himself as the real mastermind behind Alexander's operation.  He plans to protect it by getting rid of Drake and Elsie - but Drake shoots him first, and he vanishes into thin air.  The other villains follow.

Next, Drake shoots his own reflection, then finds his gun turning on him of its own volition.

Backing away from his own arm into the bedroom, Drake finds himself in bed with Lovegrove, with Elsie preparing a fearsome-looking injection for him...

...and then he awakes, to find Elsie as a nurse, the croupier and doorman as ambulancemen, and Lovegrove as the doctor tending to his wounds from the smash-up.  Imaginative viewers may wish to extrapolate the significance of Elaine from her uncanny resemblance to Drake's friend (and implied old flame) Pauline, seen a few weeks back.

"It was all just a dream" is usually such a disappointment, but as its clear almost from the outset here, The Ubiquitous Mr Lovegrove is a highly diverting hour of strangeness - though as the 60s wear on, flights of fancy like this will increasingly seem less like curious diversions and more like the standard route.

Over on BBC 1, it's the last episode in the present series of Marriage Lines and - though two further series were broadcast - the last one known to exist.  It's pleasing then, that it sees the return of two characters from the show's first series - Kate and George Starling's former neighbours Peter and Norah.

George is finding the boredom of life as a parent a struggle - unable to go out like he could when he and Kate were childless, he's stuck in every night doing a jigsaw.  He's done the same one 14 times.  It's not much of a Saturday night (he snorts in astonishment at Kate's suggestion that there might be something good on the telly), and George wishes he could go back to "the good old days".  "You'd better hitch a lift with Doctor Who," Kate tells him, sternly.

The monotony's broken by a phone call - it's Peter and Norah, visiting London from Edinburgh.  George invites them round for a casual supper.

Kate immediately starts to fret about impressing their guests- Peter has a swanky job now, and he and Norah live in a big house.  Surely a Sunday joint brought forward by a day is going to look a bit pathetic?

Kate heads out to the shops to get something more impressive, pressing George for a pound.  Deciding the cheap red wine they've got left from New Year won't cut it she sends him off to get some Beaujolais and a bottle of sherry.

George: Who drinks sherry?
Kate: Civilised people!
George: Everybody turns it down, then it clutters up a cupboard till you make a trifle or we get invited to a bottle party.

"You used to lend her our washing powder and he was sick in our loo," George reminds Kate, in a doomed attempt to get her to calm down about Peter and Norah's visit.  Instead she worries about how much her dress will clash with the candles.

George is appalled by the posh grub Kate's brought back from the shop - a tin of lumpfish caviar ("6/6 for an ounce of imitation frogspawn!"), artichoke hearts, "birds without their heads" (ie oiseaux san tete - veal burgers, basically), and most bizarre of all, "rainbow sugar".  George is amazed she got that lot for a pound - and is informed Kate's opened an account at the store.

Eventually Peter arrives, without Norah - she's having a nap at the hotel and will arrive shortly.  Having done a pub crawl on his way, Peter's pretty well lubricated, and, on being presented with baby Helen, proceeds to spill beer all over her.

Norah arrives, gagging for a glass of cheap red wine, though she can't have one as she's pregnant.

Totally absorbed in her own forthcoming baby, Norah shows no interest at all in Kate and George's.  This greatly upsets Kate and leads George to an angry outburst.  Norah bursts into tears, and George and Peter nearly come to blows.

Desperate to save the evening, George tries to get a smile out of his guests by reminiscing over previous episodes.  It doesn't go well.

The doorbell rings, and salvation arrives in the form of a pair of Scottish newlyweds (Stuart Monro and Christina Gray) in search of the wife's uncle.  George gets them to come in, in the hope that their presence will prompt happy reminiscences of past times for the others.  It works - and what's more the young Scots both love sherry.

The series comes to a lovely end with George joining Kate at Helen's cot, and mock-toasting their future with her.

Wednesday 17 February

Comedy thriller serial Night Train to Surbiton, with Nicholas Parsons, Eleanor Summerfield, Fabia Drake and John Bluthal chunters on over on BBC 2, while tonight's Wednesday Play on BBC 1 is Eric Coltart's Wear a Very Big Hat, the second of the series to be directed by Ken Loach.  Neville Smith (who gave a truly awful performance in Doctor Who's French Revolution story) and The Likely Lads' Sheila Fearn star, with John Clive, Alan Lake, William Gaunt, Marji Campi and Ken Jones also in the cast.

Thursday 18 February

This week, Simon Templar's in Cornwall - specifically, at an out-of-the-way inn called the Weary Traveller.  He's come in response to a letter from young Julia Jeffroll, asking for his help.  He helps himself to beer and sandwiches and waits for her to appear.  When she does, she's played by the beautiful Suzanne Neve - he must have a sixth sense about these things.

Simon checks in under his usual alias of Sebastian  Tombs, though thankfully there's no dodgy American accent to go with it this week.  Julia's called him in because of the mysterious noises that haunt the inn at night and the furtive, frightened behaviour of her father (Michael Gwynn), who recently came back from abroad and purchased the inn (she gave up her job in London to come and help him run it).

Any thoughts of things that go bump in the night are swiftly shunted aside, however - it's immediately clear that anything dodgy going on at the inn is the work of its only guests beside Simon - a rum trio of former Royal Engineers.  On a sliding scale of geniality they're bluff Captain Portmore (Howard Marion-Crawford), edgy Weems (Norman Bird) and "maniac" Kane (Percy Herbert).  The writer of the episode is Norman Hudis, who provides a few snippets of dialogue that wouldn't seem out of place in one of his Carry On films ("This is an inn," Jeffroll reminds Weems when he demands Simon be ejected.  "As far as he's concerned it's an out," comes the response - earlier, Simon responded to Jeffrroll informing him there was no hot water with "Never mind, I personally plan to keep out of it.").

Kane arrives at the inn with a case which he forcibly prevents Julia from touching: this and his generally unpleasant attitude lead he and Simon to a bout of fisticuffs.  Simon inevitably comes off best, and Julia's chuffed that someone's finally stood up to this ghastly man.

Later that evening, Simon sneaks in to Kane's room for a look in the case - it's full of dynamite.  He and Julia notice Jeffroll and Weems driving off in an army truck Jeffroll claimed was unserviceable.  Simon suspects Jeffroll's being blackmailed into involvement in whatever the crooks are up to.

Investigating the cellar, he finds Portmore and Kane busy digging a tunnel, and talking about a job that'll get them £100,000 each.  "I know what that means to you," Kane sneers to his colleague, "400,000 double whiskies".

Julia romanticises over legends of smuggling, but Simon works out the rather more mundane truth about where the tunnel leads to: a nearby prison.

The mastermind behind the scheme turns out to be Jeffroll's solicitor Yesterman (John Gabriel), who is being paid a million pounds to spring a wealthy client, Bellamy (Edward Cast) currently detained at Her Majesty's Pleasure.  Yesterman's seen Simon, and recognised him as the Saint.  In spite of Jeffroll's protests, the others determine to kill him.

Bellamy's currently in the prison infirmary, where Yesterman pays him a visit, dropping hints about the escape plan as they pore over a document "There is a get out clause, it operates from today..."

Kane places a bomb in the engine of Simon's car.  The Saint, meanwhile, has pinpointed Bellamy as the escaping crook from the fact Yesterman's his solicitor.

Julia's sneaked into the cellar and learned the time of the breakout.  "Even as a child, I was disobedient," she tells Simon.  "Yes, well, you know what happens to disobedient children," he says, sternly.  "They get whacked.  And that's what I should do to you."  It's probably for the best that this doesn't develop any further.  Instead, Julia reveals to her father that she knows all, and tries to talk him out of his part in the plot.

Julia goes off with Simon in his car to alert the police, but on learning about the bomb, Jeffroll races after to warn him, followed in turn by Kane and Weems.  Hearing all the commotion behind him, Simon stops his car in the middle of the road.  A man who looks extraordinarily unlike Roger Moore gets out.

Kane shoots Jeffroll, who crashes his car.  As Kane and Weems hop out to get him, a huge explosion alerts them to the destruction of Simon's car - and, they assume, Simon.

Jeffroll gets tied up in the cellar (poor Michael Gwynn suffered a very similar fate in Danger Man just a few weeks back too), as the others get on with the final stages of the plan.

Bellany reads what appears to be an article about strippers in Man's Life magazine as he waits to make his escape.  At the appointed hour he rushes to the shower room and disappears down a hole in the floor.

He's followed by a guard, who's sadly crushed when the tunnel is dynamited once Bellamy's out of it.  The villains celebrate their success - but discover that the suitcases supposedly full of money are in fact just full of rubbish.  Simon has another ding-dong with Kane, the police arrive to apprehend the crooks, and Julia's compensated for her father's imprisonment with £75,000 - half the reward money.  Simon spends the other half on a new car.

Friday 19 February

Deryck Guyler and Kenneth Cope guest star in tonight's episode of Roy Kinnear sitcom A World of His Own on BBC 1, which is followed by Club Night from the Lyceum Rainbow Club, Bradford, with Charlie Chester, David Hughes and Sheila Buxton on the bill.

Outside the box

Sunday: The one millionth Mini rolls off the production line at the British Motor Corporation's Longbridge plant.

Tuesday: The British Railways board publishes its second report since the infamous Dr Richard Beeching took the reins, suggesting that all but the most mainline of stations will be closed.

Thursday: Gambia becomes independent from the UK.

And to play us out...

It's the Kinks, at number 2 in the hit parade with "Tired of Waitin' for You".  And no doubt they're tired of waitin' for the Righteous Brothers to vacate the top spot as well.

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