Wednesday, 11 March 2015

6 - 12 March 1965

Saturday 6 March

Evening viewing on BBC 1 tonight commences with Jukebox Jury: this week's panel consists of Tom Jones, currently storming up the charts with "It's Not Unusual", glamour girl Jennifer Jones (no relation), the ubiquitous Pete Murray and the sex kitten of Tannochbrae herself, Barbara Mullen. On original paperwork on the BBC's Doctor Who website, we can see that the songs they passed judgment on included the Mighty Avengers' "When Blue Turns to Grey", Jackie Trent's "Where Are You Now" (as heard in Granada's It's Dark Outside), Del Shannon's "Stranger in Town", Cliff Richard's ""The Minute You're Gone" and the Shangri-Las' "Give Him a Great Big Kiss".  Sadly, what they thought of these tunes has not been recorded.

Happily, the programme following after Juke Box Jury is still available for us to marvel at.

Last time we saw Ian Chesterton and his insectoid lady friend Vrestin, they were caught in a landslide (with no escape from reality).  This week, the landslide's reprised (with what sounds like someone laughing raucously on the soundtrack), and the pair land in an underground cavern whose mysterious inhabitants threaten them with strange perspex weapons.

Jacqueline Hill's back from her week off, so it's time now to see how Barbara's getting on in the...

The answer is, not very well.  The work she's forced to do by her Zarbi taskmasters - putting heaps of vegetation in Vortis's acid streams so the Animus can use them as the raw material to grow its Carsenome - is tiring stuff, and it doesn't help that she can barely breathe the planet's atmosphere.  "Everything seems to flare when I look at it," Barbara tells her workmate Hrostar - which explains the vaseline all over the lens.  Hrostar laments that with his wings pulled off by the Zarbi, he'll never fly again (or play the banjolele).

Hrostar explains that the Zarbi are "just cattle" under the control of the Animus.  He, Vrestin and the late Hrhoonda were part of an advance guard sent to Vortis to liberate the creatures.  It hasn't worked out.

We're led to believe that the Zarbi are ruthlessly driving their Menoptra slaves to death, so it's a bit jarring to see Barbara and Hrostar walk past a Menoptra and Zarbi who look for all the world like they're having a good gossip together.

Meanwhile, back at the Carsenome, the Animus isn't best pleased with the Doctor since Ian's escape.  "Use the spider, child!" exclaims the Doctor as a Zarbi advances on Vicki with a gold mind-control harness.  But too late.  The Animus explains that it intends to kill Vicki to force the Doctor's obedience, but he refuses to be threatened.  He claims to have worked out that the Menoptra's invasion force are massing on the planet Pictos.  Hartnell's brilliant as the defiant Doctor: "If you waste time in idle vengeance, you will all be annihilated."

The Doctor manages to secure Vicki's release: the way the larvae gun threatening her's butted out of the way by a Zarbi is hilarious, but imaginative (same goes for the whole story, in fact).  The Animus' response to the Doctor's revelation is to set an alarm off all round the planet to getthe Zarbi on battle stations.

We now get a proper look at the creatures who are holding Ian and Vrestin captive. Goodness knows this story's given us plenty of bizarre spectacles, but these shuffling, sleeping bag-clad, Muppet-like beings, who call themselves the Optera, are something else altogether.  Their leader, Hetra (Ian Thompson) talks in a ridiculous French accent and jumps in the air every time he gets excited.  Like when he sentences the prisoners to "Ze liquid [jump] death!"

Back at the crater, Barbara and Hrostar, along with another pair of Menoptra, Prapillus (Jolyon Booth) and Hlynia (Jocelyn Birdsall), have noticed that the Zarbi have largely abandoned the area.  Despite Barbara's protests, the Menoptra are convinced that the Doctor must be helping the Animus.  As ever, it's left to Barbara to tell a bunch of dithering aliens what to do: she decides they should head for the Sayo plateau, where the invasion spearhead is due to land, to warn them that the Zarbi are wise to attack.  First, however, they'll have to escape.

Restored to her senses, Vicki terrifies a Zarbi with the dead spider, making it drop its gold harness so the Doctor can get a good look at it.  Why does gold have such strange properties on Vortis, and can he turn them to his advantage?

Back at the crater, Prapillus and Hrostar wrestle with the Zarbi guard while Barbara and Hlynia tip the larvae gun over.

The poor creature ends up squished against a wall.

The Doctor's put the gold harness on his astral map as part of an incomprehensible plan to defeat the Animus using the power of the TARDIS.  There's an explosion, and the Animus demands a report from him on what's going on.  Unfortunately, the device he's been using to record the Menoptra's signals switches itself on at that very moment and reveals to the Animus exactly where they'll be landing.

A Zarbi gets up close and personal with Vicki to put her back under control.  This time the Doctor suffers the same fate.

The Optera prepare to fling Ian and Vrestin into a chasm of fire.  But happily it transpires that they worship the Menoptra as gods - though Vrestin explains to them that they are themselves Menoptra who never progressed beyond the larval stage due to the baleful influence of the Animus.

To  fully convince the Optera she's a Menoptra, Vrestin unfurls her wings, prompting an orgy of worship.

Barbara and her friends get to the plateau just in time for the arrival of Captain Hilio (Martin Jarvis) and his suicide squad.  It's too late to call the mission off, and besides, the Zarbi are here.

The balletic sequence that follows, of the Menoptra landing en masse and being slaughtered by the Zarbi is pretty impressive in its way.

After that bloodbath (not that there was actually any blood on show), some light relief would be very welcome.  So it's over to ITV for The Worker.  And perhaps I was in an unusually good mood when I saw it, but Charlie Drake doesn't seem quite so awful this week.

We begin with Charlie back at the labour exchange, after having lost a job as a plumber.  It takes nearly 10 minutes for him to relate the story of how it happened - in summary, he was called to remove a woman's toe from a tap, was caught by her suspicious husband, and ended up with it on his own toe.

Mr Whittaker thinks that trying to find Charlie work is "taking pity on an evil creature," and relates the fable of the snake (the same one told much more catchily in Al Wilson's Northern Soul classic "The Snake").  Charlie finds it hard to follow his reasoning, but professes that he's been trying to better himself intellectually with improving television programmes: "Robert Boothby Entertains: three of 'em all sitting round a table smoking and trying to look as if they'd just ate their dinner.  26 million people were watching Coronation Street, and I'm watching Robert Boothby Entertains.  Last night, Mr Wicketer, I was a minorrery audience."  Mr Whittaker tries him with another couple of wise sayings ("It's a long lane that has no turning." "The M1.", "A rolling stone gathers no moss."  "Billion pound a year and a guitar full of dandruff."), and then it's time to send him for a new job. Appropriately, it's at Send Us Your Problem (SUYP, pronounced "Soup"), an organisation who claim to be able to help people with absolutely anything.

Angela Douglas, best known at the time as the younger woman Kenneth More was shacked up with), plays the SUYP receptionist, who's had a row with her boyfriend, the Harmonious Relationships advisor (Robert Mill) - I believe that's called irony.  Charlie, having been inspired by Mr Whittaker's proverbs, manages to restore the harmony to their relationship with a well-timed "It is no good locking the stable door after the horse has bolted").

Charlie's sent in to see manager Mr Brinkley (Henry McGee, who'll replace Percy Herbert as the show's frazzled labour exchange clerk from the show's second series on).  Baffled by his habit of drawing various items out of his pockets in little flip-top cases (watch, glasses, cigarette case, sweeteners), Charlie somehow spirits up one of his own for his finger.  He then delivers a sententious "You can fool all of the people some of the time," etc., which causes Mr Brinkley to suddenly chuck all of his little cases away in the happy realisation he can do without them.

On his way to see the personnel manager, Charlie's grabbed by a man in a white coat (Mark Singleton, who was also in last week's episode), who implores him to play snooker.  As a former schoolboy champ, Charlie's more than willing to do so.  It's all part of an experiment on behalf of an aristocrat who wants to know how to play the game without smashing any fragile objects.  The room in which they play is full of such objects, and Charlie manages to break all of them.

A butler pops in with a tray of brandies and soda, and Charlie even manages to break that.  Still, when he relates another proverb to the white-coated gent, the idea suddenly strikes him that the answer is to use a larger room.

All seems to be going swimmingly for Charlie at SUYP, so Mr Whittaker's astonished to see him back at the labour exchange the next day, having been fired after his first assignment...

Back to BBC 1 now for tonight's

In a country house, a young lady (Norma Vogan) collapses at the piano as a young man (Paul Harris) watches from the bushes outside.  Michael Robbins prepares to set a slavering mastiff on this lurker, and amongst all the mayhem we just have time to note that the man who the girl was playing for before her collapse was Patrick Wymark, The Plane Makers' John Wilder, and a first-rate guest star by any reckoning.

The next time we see Mr Wymark, he's interviewing young girls alongside Sheila Keith, who in the future will become an unlikely horror icon.  She's Miss Stoper, proprietor of an employment agency, he's Jephro Rucastle, who's looking for a governess for his young son.  After he's dismissed every other girl as unsuitable, his eyes light up on the sight of Violet Hunter (Suzanne Neve).  He offers her the astronomical sum of £100 a year, but there are some very odd conditions attached: to satisfy the curious fancies of his wife, she will need occasionally to wear particular clothes and sit in a particular place, as well as being a photographic model for Mr Rucastle.  Violet's happy to go along with this, but draws the line at Rucastle's demand that she have her hair cut short.  As they're unable to agree on this, the interview is terminated.

At 221b Baker Street, Sherlock Holmes is in despair.  No interesting cases have come his way in months, and a letter from Violet Hunter announcing she's coming to see him for employment advice seems to be the last straw.  Watson points out they've had exciting cases in the past with unpromising beginnings.

It's too late to do anything about it now anyway, as Violet is here.  She relates her experience to Holmes (as we've already seen it this seems a bit of a waste of time), who's immediately fascinated by Mr Rucastle's strange requests.  Violet's now had a letter from him begging her to reconsider, and as he's now offering her £150 a year she feels inclined to accept.  Impressed by her self-possession, Holmes sends Violet on her way with a promise that he will come to her aid if ever she needs it.

Violet's new employer brings her to his Hampshire estate, the Copper Beeches.  There she meets surly manservant Toller (Michael Robbins) and the seemingly charming Mrs Rucastle (Alethea Charlton).  These two share a sinister glance as Violet is taken out to meet her new charge.

Young Edward Rucastle (Garry Marsh) gives Violet an immediate impression of his character by merrily squishing a mouse with a brick (the flattened animal - presumably not real - appears on screen for a fraction of a second).  Even more worrying than Edward's cruelty is his toadlike father's proud encouragement of it: Mr Rucastle seems obsessed with his son one day becoming a great and powerful man.

The final member of the household is Toller's wife (Margaret Diamond), the housekeeper, who seems to be doing her very best to creep Violet out.

When Violet goes off to bed, the Rucastles discuss their fiendish plans - though not enough for us to fully twig what's going on.  All we really know is that Mrs Rucastle's having second thoughts about it all.

As Toller feeds the fearsome dog kept to scare off the intruders the estate's apparently plagued with, Violet explores her room - and discovers a hank of chestnut hair identical to that which was cut from her own head.

Next day, Violet changes into the electric blue dress that the Rucastles have stipulated she wear, and plays piano to entertain them.  They seem oddly keen that she be positioned in a particular way, and when the young man we saw earlier peers through the bushes again, Rucastle has Violet shoo him away.

Violet (allowed out of the house only under Toller's watchful eye) telegraphs for Holmes.  Escaping Toller for a bit, she dines with the detective and recounts all that's happened so far.  No slouch in the deduction department herself, she's decided that the Rucastles have employed her to impersonate someone who's either been done away with or is hidden somewhere in the house.  It seems likely that this is Rucastle's daughter from his first marriage, who is supposedly now living in Philadelphia.

Holmes sets Violet to measure the length of the corridor outside her room.  Returning after doing so, she bumps into sinister Mrs Toller.  When Violet mentions to Rucastle the next day that she's noticed there's a part of the house that isn't used, he informs her that this is his darkroom: "I have your likeness up there."

Holmes has learned there's no Alice Rucastle living in Philadelphia.  But is it possible that Rucastle is hiding Alice for her own good, to protect her from a man who might do her harm? Holmes thinks Edward's cruel nature was inherited from his father, so it's unlikely the man would be acting from noble motives.  Holmes and Watson plan to visit the house when the Rucastles are out - the problem will be getting the Tollers out of the way and avoiding the dog.

Violet locks Mrs Toller in the cellar when she goes to get her husband a bottle of gin.  The man gets so drunk that he's unable to let the dog out to feed it.

So far, so good: but when the Rucastles are only a short way down the road, Jephro insists they turn back, having deduced from Violet's shifty manner that someone is planning a visit.  Unaware of the fiend's approach, Holmes and Watson find the room in which Alice has been imprisoned - only to find that she's gone.  Holmes is confronted by the angry Rucastle, who locks him in the room and goes to fetch the dog.

Watson shoots the lock out and he, Holmes and Violet rush downstairs - only to find Rucastle being savagely attacked by his own guard dog.

Watson shoots the dog, and saves Rucastle's life.  The episode concludes with a comic interlude as Watson becomes convinced that Holmes and Violet are now engaged.  He's crestfallen when Holmes informed him that the proposal he made to the young lady was, in fact, the offer of a job as headmistress at a girls' school.  Holmes thinks it'll give her an excellent start - "If she can manage to avoid the trap of matrimony.

One, two, three and we're back in the 1960s now (and on ITV) for tonight's venture into

Who's experiencing mental distress this week? Why, it's Johnny Sekka as ferry pilot Alvar Bell, who keeps getting terrible headaches and hallucinations.

The sequence of events in tonight's episode is kicked off when Nancy Hamilton, receptionist to Dr Roger Corder, boards his boat to take her nephew (a pre-Oliver! Mark Lester) to the zoo (note that Alvar has a golliwog - a present from his kids, no less - as a mascot).  She's alarmed when he sees a tunnel up ahead as too small to steer the boat through, and nearly crashes it.

A concerned Nancy tells Corder and Jimmy Davis about the incident - she thinks Alvar needs help.  Corder's adamant that they can't recruit patients, but when Nancy voices her fears that Alvar could crash a boat full of children, Jimmy decides to go and have a casual word with him.

After taking a ride on his boat, Jimmy has a chat with Alvar and mentions he's a psychiatrist.  Alvar admits he'd like to see one, and Jimmy gives him Corder's card.

He puts it in his receipt book, where it's found by his jealous and troublesome conductor, Harry (Inigo Jackson).

Alvar arrives at Corder's surgery just as he's finishing with Maria Donati (Gita Denise), a highly paranoid Italian restaurant owner.

Alvar's immediately intimidated by the drugs on display in Corder's office.  Having seen Nancy in the office outside, he suddenly remembers where he knows her from: "I was snared!" He storms out.

However, Harry's followed him to Corder's office, and reports to concerned boss Mr Scollick (Patrick McAlinney) that he's seeing a psychiatrist.

Alvar's wife Rita (Dolores Mantez) brings their kids for a ride on the boat - it's not to be, though, as Alvar's suddenly fired by Scollick, who doesn't want to take a chance on a man with mental health problems.

Convinced it was Corder who told Scollick he was seeing him, Alvar attacks the psychiatrist with an iron bar outside his office (by and large this episode's a very sensitive portrayal of recent immigrants to the UK, but it's more than a bit jarring that the first black patient the show's given us is the one who beats his doctor up).

Confined to a hospital bed for a couple of days, Corder's badgered by his daughter Jennifer, who's convinced he knows who assaulted him though he refuses to talk about it.  Inspector Thomas (Donald Morley) arrives to question him about the accident, having found a hat at the scene: "We think we know the kind of man who'd wear that sort of hat - it'd be a West Indian."

With the identity of his attacker seemingly confirmed, Corder's still determined to help the man, and sends Jimmy to visit  his home (TRETCHIKOFF KLAXON).  Alvar's out looking for work but Rita has a long expository chat with Jimmy.  It turns out that as well as working all day on the ferry, Alvar was working all night at a jazz club.  Even though they didn't need the extra money a second job brought in, Alvar had been "one of the best jazz musicians in Trinidad" and was loath to give up music.  As a result, he's been working nearly 24 hours a day.

Jimmy reports back to Corder, who instantly works out what Alvar's problem is: "Pep pills and extreme fatigue play just the same tricks as a schizoid mind."  Corder feels obliged to help Alvar as he lost him his job, and sends Jimmy and Jennifer along to the Cloud Seven club to talk to him.  He's not interested.

Rita's been to see Scollick, and has found out it was Harry who lost Alvar his job.  On finding out, Alvar flies into a rage and goes to see gangster Johnny the Ironmonger (Frank Olegario), obtaining a gun in exchange for a wad of bills.

Corder goes to the Bells' flat and learns from a distraught Rita that Alvar's out to get Harry: "When a brown man from Trinidad like Alvar gets betrayed, he doesn't rest until the score's settled.  It becomes a sort of obsession."

Learning Alvar has a gun, Corder sends Jimmy back to the club to try and talk him down.  But Alvar, much the worse for drink, still doesn't want to talk, and vanishes after his performance.  The ferry, which doesn't usually go out at night, has been hired for a private party, so it seems obvious where he's headed.

When Harry goes to get some crates of booze, he finds Alvar pointing a gun at him and confronting him with the true, racist reasons he wanted Alvar fired.

Corder arrives just in time, reminding Alvar that is in reality a kind and decent man who'd never shoot anyone.  It works, of course, and Alvar's sent off with the advice that he needs to concentrate solely on his music in future.  As someone who does a day job as well as more creative endeavours on the side, I empathise with Alvar - though I haven't quite reached the stage of attacking psychiatrists with iron bars yet.

Sunday 7 March

Tonight's episode of Stingray is a sequel to the earlier Star of the East, and I think we should all be impressed that they've actually been broadcast in the right order.

A call comes through to Marineville announcing the imminent arrival of Eastern potentate Ali Khali, twin brother of El Hudat, who, as you may recall, is currently languishing in Marineville jail.  We know instantly there's something fishy (sorry) going on because the voice relating the message is unmistakably that of Titan's Surface Agent X20.  As Ali Khali is president of one of the world's richest countries, it seems safe to assume he'll be arriving in the swankiest aircraft possible.  It's not.

Having been ousted by yet another counter-revolution, this rickety contraption, piloted by X20 in Biggles disguise, is the best that Ali Khali could manage.  The plane flies right past Marineville and X20 bales out, leaving Ali Khali to die horribly in the inevitable crash.

But, against all odds, Ali Khali manages to get control of the plane, and flies it back toward Marineville.

On his island, X20 catches his master up on the progress of his plan: it was he who engineered the coup that unseated Ali Khali, and the next stage is to convince El Hudat to aid the undersea people's conquest of land and then spring him from jail to take over the throne once more.

Ali Khali's landing is more than a bit bumpy: before finally coming to rest, he manages to destroy half of Marineville, including the control tower.

Not that he's especially bothered about this, as he's convinced WASP were behind the revolution.

Having sneaked into El Hudat's cell in the guise of his lawyer. X20 gets his assent to Titan's plans.

Anyone assuming the Ali Khali puppet was just the El Hudat one reused is in for a surprise when the two appear on screen together, Commander Shore having brought the former ruler to see his incarcerated twin.

When Shore's not looking, X20 knocks out both Ali Khali and the servant who's imprisoned with El Hudat, and sneaks out with the evil twin (well, they're both quite evil).

Shore realises what's happened almost immediately, but still too late to prevent X20 and El Hudat's escape.  Ali Khali, as you can imagine, is not best pleased.  Stingray heads off in pursuit of X20, with Ali Khali aboard.

Troy Tempest realises who's behind the affair when he notices that the ship taking El Hudat back to, er, Hudatvia, is one of Titan's mechanical fish.  The supervillain himself, meanwhile, gives us a presentation on his plans: "Within three months we will have a quarter of the world's land masses in our power!"

Aboard Stingray, Ali Khali's perving all over poor Marina just like his brother did.  Can't a woman look at some pictures stuck on a bit of paper in peace?

That's not the only similarity between the brothers.

Stingray eventually catches up with the fish, torpedoes it, and recaptures El Hudat.  For a brief moment, when he's splashing about in the water, it's like watching Gerry Anderson's The Robert Maxwell Story.

Both brothers are now aboard, but how to tell them apart? Shore decides the best thing to do is just imprison them both, ideas of human rights and that sort of thing having clearly been abandoned by the era of Stingray.

Monday 8 March

The future David Bowie makes an early TV appearance tonight on BBC 2's Gadzooks! It's All Happening as lead singer of Davy Jones and the Manish Boys.  Adrienne Poster [sic] also guests.   If that doesn't meet the musical tastes of all viewers, the monthly classical music show Workshop's on later in the evening, or, over on BBC 1, the Carl-Alan awards "for outstanding achievements in the world of dancing and dance music."  Over on ITV, the Play of the Week is William Inge's Come Back, Little Sheba, starring Martin Balsam.

Tuesday 9 March

Tonight's Danger Man takes us to France for the second week in a row.  A moneylender (uncredited even though he gets plenty of lines - I'm sure I've seen the actor before but can't name him.  Anyone?) is having trouble with a difficult client (Donald Houston), who's threatening him rather than the other way round.

Ravel's Bolero's playing on the stereo, and when it reaches its loud climax, the moneylender is shot dead.

The killer pops outside to prepare his car to go and dispose of the body, but on the way back slips on a paisley scarf and hits his head, losing consciousness shortly after he's back inside.  Next morning the postman thoughtfully pops the scarf through the letterbox.

The man's awakened by the fall of post on his face, and slowly comes back to his senses, seemingly shocked that there's a body in his flat.  He goes back out to his car, this time observed by a sinister pair of men in dark glasses (Jerome Willis and Frank Maher).

John Drake arrives at the British embassy in Paris.  The ambassador (David Hutcheson) has called him in to investigate the disappearance of an embassy official named Edmund Bierce, who was meant to be delivering an important and highly confidential report.  The ambassador's adamant that Bierce was brought up far too well to be a defector.

Drake goes to see the man's frosty wife, played by The Human Jungle's Mary Yeomans.  She insists her husband's always been fanatically patriotic: "Fascist?" "A Tory" "Yes..."

Mrs Bierce's emotions finally come to the surface when Drake suggests her husband may have had a secret life: she slaps his face.  However, she admits to him that Bierce was often out late playing poker with American journalists.

But one such journalist (Bill Nagy) insists he never really played poker with Bierce: this was just a story he agreed to go along with.  He doesn't know what Bierce was really up to.

But then, suddenly and much to the alarm of his secretary (Alison Seebohm), Bierce returns just as if nothing's happened.  He's the killer we saw at the start of the episode.  As far as he seems to be concerned, nothing has happened: he claims to have no recollection of the day he was missing at all.  But he still has the report.

Drake's not convinced by Bierce's story and continues investigating him (alongside former Coronation Street star Ernst Walder) as he takes the report to a conference in Bonn.

After the conference, Drake spies on Bierce with his in-car CCTV system. Bierce changes his clothes and combs his hair differently, then phones someone, identifying himself as Nigel.

Drake follows him to a block of flats, where he's greeted enthusiastically by a young woman.

Bierce stays the night.  When he leaves the next morning, Drake, in the guise of a German encyclopedia salesman, pays a visit to his girlfriend (Wanda Ventham).  Believe it or not, she doesn't send him away but invites him in for coffee and tells him all about her feller, who has to go away a lot, gambling.

Next, Drake follows Bierce to the flat we saw at the start of the programme.  Hanging around until he leaves, he breaks in and looks around.  He finds an address book with a missing page, and does the old trick of rubbing pencil lead over the following page to see what it said.

Before he can do anything, another girlfriend of Bierce's, Nicole (Nicola Pagett, very vivacious in her first screen appearance) arrives, noticing that, as per the episode's title, the mirror's new.  It's made out of some kind of fancy plastic.

Drake goes to the address on the page, and is assaulted by the two men in shades, who interrogate him about Bierce's whereabouts.  They do something nasty to his fingernails.

Bierce visits Drake in his hotel room - he knows Drake's been trailing him and begs him not to tell the ambassador about his secret life.  Drake tells him he hasn't finished his investigation yet, and doesn't know what he'll do.

Drake returns to the flat, and has another look at that curious mirror.  Cutting into it with a knife, he finds the body of Dupoirier sealed behind it.

At that moment. Bierce returns.  Initially he tells Drake that Dupoirier was an enemy agent who was blackmailing him, but eventually admits he's just too enamoured of his new lifestyle to give it up.  He puts the Bolero on again and gets his gun out.

Drake, however, remains supremely unruffled, realising Bierce can only kill if his quarry makes a move against him.  Finally he disarms the man, who runs outside and is swiftly shot by the lurking men in dark glasses.  Dying, he asks Drake not to tell his wife about the other women.

Wednesday 10 March

Tonight's Wednesday Play on BBC 1 is John Hopkins' Horror of Darkness, directed by Anthony Page and starring Alfred Lynch, Glenda Jackson and Nicol Williamson.

Thursday 11 March

Tonight's episode of The Saint is set in New York, which means it features a lot of dodgy American accents from British actors.  These include John Bluthal in the pivotal role of talk show host Ziggy Zaglan, even though he got plenty of practice doing voices for Fireball XL5.  Fortunately there are some real North Americans in the cast, including William Sylvester as Ziggy's producer Ralph Damien, who's trying to convince a reluctant Simon Templar to appear on the show.

Genial onscreen, Ziggy is an egomaniacal nightmare off it, firing hapless crew members for the tiniest mistake.  Determined to get Simon on his show, he sends glamorous assistant Lois (Jane Merrow) to twist his arm.  Simon's always happy for some female company, but shows no sign of thawing, as he thinks the show's terrible: "I had an hour to kill.  I must say he was very successful in murdering it."

Ziggy's brother Paul (William Dexter), makes the shock announcement that he's leaving his job of head writer on the show.  But what especially worries Ziggy, Ralph and Ziggy's agent Ted Coblin is Paul's intention to write a tell-all book about Ziggy and his circle.  They particularly fear the public learning the story of someone called Arlene McCleery.

While in the midst of dictating the book to tape, Paul's disturbed by a man (Donald Sutherland) who enters his home, helps himself to a drink and announces that he's Arlene McCleery's brother.  He's heard about Paul's book, and he doesn't want its revelations tarnishing his sister's name.  Announcing that he intends to kill Paul, he knocks him unconscious.

The next day, Lois finds Paul dead, apparently by suicide.

Inevitably, Simon decides to stick his oar in, deciding that it wasn't a suicide at all as Paul was far too happy to do away with himself.  Besides, Paul's tape was left running while he was assaulted by McCleery, and Simon heard it all.  He doesn't tell this to exasperated police chief of the week Captain Williams (Fred Sadoff).

Simon investigates Ziggy's boat and discovers that this is likely where Paul's rope came from.  He catches Ralph sneaking around there too.

Simon tells a worried Ziggy, Ralph and Ted that he knows Paul was murdered, and intends to find the culprit.  Ted's offer of $20,000 for a brief TV appearance if he'll leave the case alone is politely declined.  Ziggy's shirt, covered in pictures of New York landmarks, is undeniably horrible but I sort of like it.  As Simon leaves, one of Ziggy's servants hands him a card with McCleery's address on it.

Simon decides to pay a visit to McCleery, and sends Lois off to check Ralph and Ted's alibi: they were supposedly watching Annie Ross perform in a nightclub.

McCleery's not in, so Simon breaks in and noses around his apartment.  Photos of a beautiful young woman (presumably Arlene) are everywhere, and his bookcase is full of English Penguins, including this one, which is on my own bookshelf.

McCleery returns, and insists that he didn't kill Paul - his threat to do so was just drunk talk.  But he's consumed with anger over the death of his sister, an 18 year old aspiring opera singer who appeared on Ziggy's show and became "hypnotised" by his decadent lifestyle, which eventually led to her being drowned - though as she could "swim like a dolphin", McCleery's convinced there was foul play.  The police arrive and arrest him for Paul's murder, having been tipped off by a mysterious informant.

At the nightclub, Annie Ross, playing herself, tells Lois that the show the previous evening was cancelled because she was ill: "Darling, without me, how could there be a show?"

Simon's worked out who killed Paul, but on his way to tell Ziggy somebody puts nails in the path of his car (yes, that old chestnut) and forces him off-road.  Simon shoots at the saboteur, but misses.

Eventually he makes it to Ziggy's house, where he explains that Paul was strangled and then strung up.  Ralph lets slip that he knows McCleery was arrested, exposing himself as the informant and, by extension, the killer - he'd covered up Arlene's death after she fell down some stairs at a party by throwing her over the side of the boat.   Simon punches his lights out, mainly because he hasn't hit anyone so far this week.

That's the last in the present series of The Saint, and after last week's exciting episode it seems like a bit of a damp squib to go out with.  From next week until he returns in the summer, Simon's Thursday night slot will be occupied by a new ITC crime fighter, Inspector Gideon of the Yard.

Friday 12 March

Stubby Kaye is the special guest on tonight's Kathy Kirby Show on BBC 1, while ITV's Cinema looks at the making of Dirk Bogarde's new film, The High Bright Sun, in Cyprus.

Full Radio Times listings for this week's BBC programmes can be found here, while you can see ITV listings in the full issue of TV World, the Midlands TV Times alternative here.

Outside the box

Wednesday: Goldie the Golden Eagle is recaptured and returned to London Zoo after being loose for 13 days and becoming a familiar sight to walkers in Regent's Park.

Thursday: Sylvia Plath's Ariel is published posthumously.

And to play us out...

It's Tom Jones again: "It's Not Unusual" is at number 2 in this week's hit parade, just under the Seekers.  You can see the full chart for the week here.