Callan – Red Knight, White Knight

red knight

Written by James Mitchell
Directed by Peter Duguid

The Section has a new Hunter (Michael Goodliffe).  Meres is present to greet him, although he can’t help grumbling at the early time.  “Why the devil he wants to start at the crack of dawn, god only knows”.  First impressions are that this Hunter will be a stickler for the rules – he berates his secretary (Lisa Langton) for leaving secret files on his desk where anybody can read them and also insists that nobody is let into his office when he isn’t present.

Hunter and Meres review the Section’s personnel files – including Callan’s.  Meres thought that the new Hunter should take a look at him, although not for reasons of friendship, as Meres says, “I detest him. But he knows the job. The only thing is,sir, he likes to know why it has to be done”.

After reading Callan’s file, Hunter sums him up.  “He’s emotionally unstable, a one-time crook, he has a dubious circle of acquaintances and he tends to take the law into his own hands.  We don’t want heroes in the Section, this is a team”.

The new Hunter (Michael Goodliffe)
The new Hunter (Michael Goodliffe)

It doesn’t sound like the beginning of a beautiful friendship and the first meeting between the new Hunter and Callan is as awkward and spiky as you might expect.  It isn’t helped by the fact that Meres didn’t warn him that there had been a change at the top.  But even though Hunter has expressed his doubts over Callan’s character, he still wants him back – he tells him that he’ll be safer in the Section than he would be outside.  And when that doesn’t work, he says it would be quite easy to put him back in prison.

They appear to have reached an uneasy truce for now, although Callan’s interest is piqued when Hunter asks him if the name Bunin (Duncan Lamont) means anything to him.  It certainly does, Callan was sent to kill him in 1963.  Hunter tells him that Bunin wishes to defect – a statement that Callan finds impossible to believe.  When Hunter, Callan and Meres meet Bunin, he has an interesting proposal.  Miersky (a top-ranking Soviet agent) also wishes to defect – but he’ll only do so to the Section’s top man in Russia.

The first story of the second series, Callan was now a Thames production rather than an ABC one.  From the point of view of the quality of the existing prints this is good news (the two surviving ABC stories from series one were both in pretty poor shape, this episode looks much better).

Bunin (Duncan Lamont)
Bunin (Duncan Lamont)

Given how good Ronald Radd had been in the first series, I assume that it was his decision to leave.  In story terms though, it’s a positive plus as a new Hunter allows everything to be shaken up.  Callan may have disliked and distrusted the old Hunter, but at least he knew that he understood the job.  Early impressions are that the new man is more of a civil servant, with no practical knowledge.  “He’s never been out in the field, mate, that’s for sure. He doesn’t know how bloody cold it gets out there”.

When Bunin disappears (after killing a Section operative) Hunter now accepts that Callan’s original idea (Bunin had come to kill him) was probably correct.  And if Miersky had met the Section’s top man in Russia, that would have been two key British operatives neutralised by the Russians.

Hunter decides to act as a tethered goat in order to bring Bunin into the open.  This is something that Callan simply doesn’t understand and his professional sensibilities are also appalled by the risks that Hunter takes (for example, by attempting to open the curtains he provides a clear target for anybody outside).  Hunter is quite calm, though.  “I’m assured you’re the two best men I’ve got. I’ve every confidence. Bunin’s alone, gentlemen. Even if he gets one of you, one of you will get onto him before he can deal with me. I’m quite safe”.

The relationship between Callan and Meres is developing (although it may also have advanced in the four wiped episodes of series one).  Whist Meres still professes to detest him, he does appreciate just how good Callan is, and at the start of the story he’s lobbying hard for him to be reinstated.  They also share a nice moment when Bunin proposes a meeting between Miersky and the Section’s agent in Russia.  It’s just a quick glance – but it’s enough to signify that they both believe that Bunin’s playing them, whilst Hunter still remains convinced he’s telling the truth.

Whilst a good chunk of the story revolves around the relationship between Callan and the new Hunter, there’s also time for some decent two-handed scenes between Callan and Bunin.  They’re very much two of a kind – and Callan is quite clear from the start that he doesn’t believe a word of what Bunin says.  Duncan Lamont is very solid and is a formidable foe.  It’s a pity that he’s killed off at the end of the episode (shot by Callan, of course, as he attempted to assassinate Hunter) as it’s possible to imagine this storyline could have been developed over several episodes.

This is also the first surviving episode where we see Hunter’s secretary (Lisa Langton).  She was a voice on the phone in the two existing series one episodes, and as the series progresses she’ll have her moment in the spotlight (especially the series three episode A Village Called G).

Although Callan has saved Hunter’s life, it’s quite clear that he still doesn’t understand or trust him.  But it seems he’ll have to, as Callan’s now firmly back in the Section.

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