Tuesday, 10 February 2015

6-12 February 1965

Saturday 6 February

Another Saturday evening, and once the four and a half hours of Grandstand (a good-sized portion no doubt devoted to Sir Stanley Matthews' final football match at the record age of 50) are over with viewers once more get to hear an ill-assorted group of celebs' views on the week's single releases.  On the Juke Box Jury this week we have the marvellously unlikely combination of Thora Hird and Gene Pitney, plus Radio Luxembourg DJ Don Moss and teenage singer Linda Lewis.

Once musical justice has been done (and been seen to be done), it's time to bring Doctor Who's adventure in ancient Rome to a fiery end.

Last week, the credits rolled as Ian seemed about to have his head separated from his neck by his supposed friend Delos, while the Emperor Nero bayed for blood.  But, instead of making the fatal chop, Delos turns on the Emperor and he and Ian engage in combat with the imperial guard.

The male slaves manage to escape, but Barbara remains in Nero's clutches.  Aware that she tried to betray him, the Emperor draws his sword, vowing revenge... but it's actually one of his guards he runs through, for not fighting hard enough.  For Barbara he has other plans...

...as does his jealous wife Poppaea, who summons Tavius before her and demands Barbara be discharged (dealing him a slap across the chops and a threat to his life when he tries to talk back).

Barbara tells Tavius Nero's using her as bait for Ian, who he'll have guards waiting for when he returns.  He promises to help them escape - it'll get Poppaea off his back into the bargain.  Barbara, still unaware that visiting musician Maximus Pettulian is in fact her friend the Doctor, tells Tavius that Nero plans to set lions on him in the arena.

Delos and Ian discuss their next move: Ian decides to take a leaf out of the Doctor's book: "He dives in and usually finds a way."

The Doctor and Vicki happen upon Nero's plan for a new Rome (to be named after himself), which jogs the Doctor's memory about the city's fate.

Tavius once more tries to attract the Doctor's attention ("Must you hiss my name from all corners?") - this time to warn him what Nero has planned.  Also, Tavius is finally explicit about the conspiracy he's been hinting at for the past couple of weeks: it seems that the real Maximus Pettulian's true purpose in Rome was to assassinate Nero.  The Doctor seems rather tickled by the idea.

Exit Tavius, enter Nero, bursting to tell the Doctor about his planned appearance in the arena.  The Doctor lets the Emperor know he's aware of what's in store for him through the use of the most groansome puns.

Nero's attention's soon distracted from all this though: the pince-nez the Doctor's holding behind his back catch the sunlight and set fire to Nero's plans.  The Emperor's initial rage ("I'll have you both killed over and over again!") - suddenly transforms into joy as a new idea hits him: the Senate have blocked all his plans for rebuilding Rome to date, but if they city were to burn down they'd have no choice but to rebuild it.

The Emperor rapidly puts his new plan into action, gathering together a horde of budding arsonists who he promises to remunerate handsomely for setting fires across the city.

Tavius picks out Ian, hiding among the pyromaniacal crowd, and brings him to Barbara.  The pair hug enthusiastically.

Nero sets his torchbearers on their way. My favourite's the chap below, who looks like he's having the time of his life.  Sadly the still image doesn't show you the merry way he scurries off (I keep almost deciding I'm going to learn how to do GIFs).

As Tavius leads Ian, Barbara and Delos out of the palace and on their way, they're set upon by Sevcheria.  Delos casually puts him out of the way by shoving a burning torch in his face.

Delos decides to head for home, while Ian and Barbara set off in the direction of the villa where their adventure began.  As he wishes them luck we learn Tavius is a Christian, which in 64 AD was perhaps more of a guarantee of being a kind and charitable person than it is now.  The casting of a man with a face as grim as Michael Peake's as a character who turns out to be such a thoroughly good person was a masterstroke.

One person who seems to be enjoying himself even more than Happy Torch Man is William Hartnell, who's clearly been having a ball with the comic opportunities he's been given in the past four weeks.  The story gives him one last opportunity to indulge himself as he and Vicki stand on a hill looking at the blaze.  Vicki, marvelling at her "first real sight of history"  points out that, despite all his rhetoric about not interfering, the Doctor was responsible for the whole thing.  His initial indignant protest gives way to great amusement, Hartnell's face doing some truly remarkable things as the camera closes tight on it.

The Doctor's chuckle segues impressively into the crazed laughter of the Emperor, strumming at his lyre as per the legend while the city burns.

Ian and Barbara get back to the villa first, picking up just where they left off,  Ian stinging Barbara with her own joke about going to the fridge.  Barbara lets slip that it was she who cracked the vase over Ian's head, precipitating their whole ordeal of the past four weeks.  In response, he dunks her head into a fountain.

But there's no time for larking about - the Doctor returns now, decreeing that they must now all head back to the TARDIS (Ian nicks a vase for a souvenir).

Back aboard the ship, Vicki, who's been trying without success to impress Barbara with her stories of Rome, is alarmed to be told the Doctor can't always control the vessel fully.  And that seems to be even truer now than usual...

Sunday 7 February

The fiery theme of yesterday's Doctor Who carries over into this evening's amusingly titled  Stingray (sadly it doesn't feature a villain called Ralgex, even though it would be a brilliant name).

WASP (do we call it WASP? Or the WASPs? I'm never quite sure) has sent a cute little beepy probe down to survey the ocean floor.  The increasing use of these unmanned craft is a boon to Troy Tempest, who gets much more leisure time as a result.  He spends this hanging out with his chums at the Blue Lagoon, taking in the smooth jazz sounds of house band the Wasps.  Marina's trying out another new hairdo, but nobody seems to notice.

The probe's suddenly gone quiet, and Shore deduces that it's fallen down an extinct undersea volcano.

Troy shows off to his friends by ordering a magnum of Champagne, even though Atlanta's scared of the sound of popping corks.  Luckily for her it never does get popped, as everybody's called back to work.

Troy, Phones and Marina are sent to recover the lost probe (they have to take a "high frequency tracking pack" with them to make sure they don't drop off the radar as well).  When they reach the volcano they find themselves being pulled inexorably down...

...until they reach a mysterious hangar-like area, 1000 feet below.  There, a voice commands them to swim out to a nearby airlock, on pain of being torpedoed.

Troy and Phones venture out, leaving Marina behind as per, and find that beyond the airlock is a lift, which carries them down even further.

All this travelling deep beneath the Earth's surface (again) has done something very peculiar to Troy's hairdo.

When the lift reaches its destination Troy and Phones alight, finding themselves in a curious chamber.  Its two occupants eventually pop out from behind a pair of rocks, though why they were hiding is less than clear.  Their names are Turata and Fragil (pronounced "Fraggle").  They announce that this is what remains of the city of Voldana, and that they are the "sole survivors of Centralius, the mighty civilisation [they say] that has lived under the Earth for thousands of years."

"I will explain," says Turata - who we can tell is the leader because he's got a beard and  does all the talking - in the face of Troy and Phones' blank looks (well, I suppose they always look blank).  Happily, he has a pointer and diagram handy.  The rest of the Centralians were killed the last time the volcano erupted, and it's about to do so again.  They've been sucking down craft in the hope of escaping in one of them.  Stingray's the first that they can do so in.

But if this were simply about a pair of friendly subterranean beings being evacuated to the surface there wouldn't be much of a story.  The snag in rescuing Torata and Fragil is that Troy and Phones only have breathing apparatus for two people.  So the Centralians nick it from them at gunpoint, ("You dirty rats!" exclaims Troy, though this hardly seems the time for James Cagney impressions),.  "We would not want to prolong your suffering, we are humane people," says Turata, confusingly, before shooting out the wall just so the Aquanauts will be killed by molten lava.

This episode is really just an excuse for a load of pyrotechnics, and on that basis it's very impressive.

Turata and Fragil make their way to Stingray, but discover they can't get in, so they have to go back, hoping Phones and Troy aren't yet dead.

As yet they're not quite dead, just gawping at the melting set.

When the Centralians return, the Aquanauts bash them over the heads with rocks, and escape with them just in time to take them back to Marineville, where they'll languish in jail.

Stingray gets away just as the volcano erupts, though it's badly knocked about by the resulting tidal wave.

Atlanta's so happy to hear that Troy survived she starts crying.  She's probably not all that bothered about the others.

Monday 8 February

I neglected to mention last week that BBC 2's Monday evening pop programme The Beat Room has now been restyled as Gadzooks! It's All Happening (yes, really).  Christine Holmes and Alan David are the presenters and the regular acts are the Three Bells and the Mike Leander Combo (featuring the Beat Girls).  Special guests tonight are the Rockin' Berries and the Graham Bond Organisation.

Tuesday 9 February

This week's dip in the murky waters of espionage begins with Ramon Torres (played by Harold Goldblatt, whose screen roles to date have included Concepta Hewitt's father in Coronation Street) returning to his native Spain from exile in Paris.  Wanted by the police, he's there under an assumed name, and meets up with a group of rebels who promise to take him to his son's house.  He gets to the front door, but a sinister man (Stingray voice artist David Graham) is waiting for him.  He's a police inspector, and his men seize Torres and take him to prison, where he's sentenced to death - an announcement that leads to a wave of protests - which, in turn, lead to John Drake arriving on the scene, in the guise of a journalist.

The first thing Drake does on arriving at his hotel room is to check for bugs - and he's not disappointed.  Aubrey Morris, in swarthy makeup and a greasy black wig, is in an adjacent room listening.  Drake puts the bug out of action and leaves for a bit - returning to find Morris's character, Fortunato Santos, pretending to fix his telephone.

Drake warns Santos against spying on him, but the sneaky little man plants another listening device when Drake answers the door to British diplomat Sir Duncan (Andre Morell), who's most perplexed by his silent gesturing once Santos scurries out, not to mention his production of a tape recorder to fool the listener into thinking he's still in the room.

Sir Duncan brings Drake to the offices of Security Minister General Ventura (Martin Benson).  He and his American counterpart (Alan Gifford) are their to plead for Torres' release.

While there, Drake meets up with American agent Kemp (Charles Tingwell), an old sparring partner.  Neither's convinced the diplomats will have much luck, so Kemp suggests Drake get involved with his plan to spring Torres from prison with the help of the underground.

"But didn't he spring someone from captivity last week?" you might be thinking, and you'd be right, but this week's episode goes off on quite a different tangent.  For a start, the underground leader known as El Ferro (Brian Worth) is not a very friendly character, and is as suspicious of Drake as Drake clearly is of him.

Drake's meeting with El Ferro and his gang is interrupted by the apprehension of a blind match seller outside the bar - it's really that sneaky Mr Santos again.

Later, Drake receives a visit from one of the rebels, young Maite (Sonia Fox), who quizzes him about his intentions.  He tells her he doesn't believe El Ferro wants to rescue Torres at all - his capture has drawn worldwide attention to the rebel cause, and having Torres as a martyr would be the best thing that could happen to them.  Besides, as far as Drake's concerned all the evidence points to Torres being a cold-blooded killer rather than a hero.  Maite protests that Torres only killed in response to a massacre carried out by General Ventura - which she's seen film of.  She takes Drake to see Carlos Bisbal (Eric Pohlmann, in cuddly mode), the filmmaker (formerly a great cameraman during Hollywood's silent era, he claims) who recorded the footage, but who now works as a projectionist at a tatty local cinema.

Carlos shows Drake the film.  It confirms for him that Ventura ordered the massacre, but also that El Ferro's not out to rescue Torres: if he knows of evidence this compelling, why wouldn't he publicise it - unless he wanted to make sure Torres isn't released? The rebels themselves soon turn up to confiscate the film, roughing up poor Carlos.  Drake escapes with a print of the film by diving through the cinema screen.  The set decorators have dressed the cinema's lobby with some posters for real Spanish films, but also, less expectedly. portraits of a trio of British film stars of the 50s: Richard Todd, George Baker and John Fraser (who'd guested in a previous Danger Man).  Who knows, perhaps they were all especially big in Franco's Spain.

Drake heads straight for Sir Duncan with the film, but the diplomat, horrified by the idea of using "sordid, pornographic evidence" to discredit the General, swiftly hands it to his right-hand man, Colonel Montes (Richard Leech) when he comes calling - much to Drake's frustration.  The wonderful Andre Morell gets disappointingly little screen time but perfectly sketches his exasperatingly pious character.  Patrick McGoohan, too, is fantastic in this scene, as Drake just about manages to keep a lid on his anger at Sir Duncan's blithe betrayal.

It turns out, however, that Kemp has another positive copy of the film, which he has flown to London.  Drake's taken to see General Ventura, who won't officially sanction Torres' release, but agrees to help out with a jailbreak.

So Drake sneaks in to the prison with a group of musicians, and swiftly constructs a pretend double bass so Torres can sneak out with them.  He finally gets him out of the country in the guise of an English aristocrat.

Next tonight, a glimpse of rush hour on the London Underground in the mid-60s.

George Starling makes the dreary commute home from work, all the adverts on the train ganging up to remind him of his new duties as a father (we get enough of a glimpse of the route to see that he travels by the Central Line).

A former colleague, Michael (Trevor Danby) welcomes George to "the Fathers' Club", pointing out that it has its advantages too: there's a tax cut, women will take him more seriously... and Mr Dickson (Arnold Diamond), George's former boss, who fired him after an "incident in Birmingham" suddenly looks more kindly on him too, offering to help George out with insurance matters, and intimating that he could get his old job back.

As a result of this, George lords it over his friend Ronald (Rex Graham), who's been trying for kids for ages (not by himself, I hasten to add) when they meet up for a pint.

Kate's still in hospital.  A rather merry George comes to see her and Helen, nearly squashing the unfortunate nurse (Elizabeth Chambers) when he enters.  Kate isn't upset that her husband stopped by the pub on the way.  In fact, she tells him, "You're much nicer when you've had a few."

After the hospital, George pops in to see his parents, who reminisce over his own birth: "Never seen such a wrinkled little shrimp," chortles his father.  "Good lord, if I'd been a fisherman I'd've thrown him back!"

If that's not embarrassing enough, George now has the next door neighbours (John Kidd and Betty Romaine) to contend with, as they pop round and share their memories of his childhood.  When his mother whips out a naked baby photo he has a strop, though it's interrupted by Kate ringing to say she's being turfed out early and he'll have to come and collect her.

Having offended his father, George isn't able to get a lift, so the Starlings have to rely on an extremely grumpy taxi driver (Frank Partington, who makes a right hash of his few lines), who they end up having to pay out of their copper jar.

Kate's driven to distraction by the state of the flat and George's general uselessness in helping with the baby.

Happily, George's parents turn up to the help out.  But while Mrs Starling's a godsend, her husband proves to be as much use as his son, using the boiling water for sterilising to make a lovely pot of tea.  The end.  Next week it's the last in the present series of Marriage Lines, and indeed the last episode of the show that still exists.

Wednesday 10 February

Tonight's Enquiry by David Dimbleby into the stresses facing the nation's GPs is available to watch at the BBC's archive site here.  The GP in question is a Dennis Potter lookalike reaching the end of his tether over the 100+ patients he has to see each day in exchange for very poor remuneration and being permanently on call.  Highlights include his nurse's amazing cat's-eye glasses, his insistence that an understanding wife is essential for all GPs, and the interview with an extremely ill-at-ease private patient who looks like a 1950s serial killer.

Thursday 11 February

The opening caption of this week's The Saint announces that we're in a "South America" just as nebulous as last week's "South East Asia", though the dialogue clarifies that we're in an unpleasant backwater called San Carlos.  As soon as he leaves the airport, Simon's accosted by bungling heavy Julio (the very funny Alvaro Fontana), who wants to take him to his boss, one General Cuevas.

Simon makes short work of Julio, then heads for his destination: Scottish pub the Crown and Heather, run by another member of his global old friends network, Fergus MacLish (Alex McCrindle).  Fergus has called on Simon for help as he's been swindled out of his life savings by a con artist calling himself Professor Humphrey Nestor.

Simon checks into the hotel where Nestor (Hugh McDermott) is staying with his beautiful daughter Alice (Jacqueline Ellis) with a plan to turn the tables on them.  As soon as they spot him they decide he'd be an ideal next target for their scam.

On arrival in his room, Simon finds it's already occupied by Quintera (Alan Tilvern) of the National Security Police, who's been waiting for him.  Having learned of his altercation with Julio, Quintera warns Simon to be on his guard as General Cuevas is a very dangerous man who's plotting to seize control of the country.

Meanwhile, the General himself (Walter Brown) is busy tearing a strip off Julio (who's already had his sleeve torn off by Simon).  He's determined to get Simon out of the way, figuring, reasonably enough, that he poses a major threat to his plans.

Simon makes contact with the Nestors as his accustomed alter ego, hick American businessman Sebastian Tombs, and pretends to be highly impressed with the golden frog they show him: they claim it's an Aztec artefact and that there's a whole cave full of them in the jungle, but that they need help financing a full scale expedition to fetch them (some are enormous) while avoiding the neighbouring headhunters.  Simon bites.

Simon returns to his room to find Julio waiting. but sends him flying with a single punch.  However, he ends up knocked out by his burly colleague Paco (Barry Shawzin).

At Cuevas' hideout, the General welcomes Colonel Vargas (Alan Curtis), who looks suspiciously similar to a certain president of Cuba.  He's returned from a nearby country with a consignment of guns to help aid Cuevas' revolution.

Nestor's busy planning the bogus expedition, having secured the services of simple Indian guide Loro - in reality a cigar-chomping Yank (played by Maori opera singer Inia Te Wanata), who suggests they buy the headhunters' favour by supplying them with guns.

Nestor's kidnapped and taken to Cuevas: he protests that he doesn't really have any guns, but Cuevas forces him to take some with him to give to his men stationed in the jungle.  Meanwhile, Simon and Alice get to know each other better.

In exchange for a promise to bring Cuevas and his gang to justice, Simon (who wears an enormous cravat on the expedition) has obtained an official document from Quintera granting him the rights to the gold in the area where the frog cave supposedly is - there isn't any there, of course, it's all a ruse to trap the Nestors.

The expedition sets off by boat - the captain's played, uncredited, by Frank Singuineau, who played the major role of the Minister in Fable a couple of weeks ago.  Vargas lurks below with the guns.

Jacqueline Ellis's facial expression when Alice spots a crocodile is something to treasure, and the pop-eyes obviously run in the family judging by her father's reaction to a threat from Vargas.

Loro's hired a group of pretend head-hunters, and even supplied his own papier-mach√© head.  I think that the squeamish Indian he gleefully freaks out with it is an uncredited Dino Shafeek (in reality a different sort of Indian), later to star in Mind Your Language.

Anyway, it all ends with Simon throwing Vargas overboard after a scuffle, Cuevas and his men being arrested, Simon conning the Nestors out of $20,000 for a share of his mining rights, and Alice thanking him as it's finally convinced her father to retire, which she's been nagging him about for ages.  And they've ended up in the black after selling Cuevas' guns to the government.  Neither of the Nestors are likeable enough for this to be a satisfying ending.

Friday 12 February

Kathy Kirby (no relation) is a difficult woman to avoid at the moment.  Not only is she singing for Britain at the Eurovision Song Contest, this year, she's also got a new series of her very own show on BBC 1.  Adam Faith is her special guest this evening.

This week's BBC TV listings from the Radio Times can be found at the BBC Genome project here.

And to play us out...

It's the Righteous Brothers, whose original version of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" has leapfrogged over Cilla Black's cover and landed in the number one spot in this week's hit parade.

You can see the full chart for the week here.

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