Callan – The Most Promising Girl of Her Year


Written by James Mitchell
Directed by Peter Duguid

Joan Mather (Elizabeth Bell) is a research scientist working at the Biological Research Centre.  Although her project is close to a breakthrough, she tells her superior, Dr Bradford (Raymond Young), that she wishes to leave because she has concerns that their work could developed into a deadly weapon.

But as Joan is blessed with a photographic memory she’s a grave security risk.  And when it’s discovered that her boyfriend Carl Donner (David Hargreaves) is an East German agent, the situation becomes critical.  Callan is designated to watch her – much to his dismay as “birds with brains” are not a combination that appeals to him.

The Most Promising Girl of Her Year is a strong episode with a down-beat ending.  Joan is a naive figure who believes implicitly that Carl Donner is the same sort of person that she is – someone who doesn’t care about politics and is only interested in their relationship.  When the Section pick up Horst (one of Donner’s colleagues) they are able to demonstrate to Joan exactly what Donner’s true feelings for her are.  Horst is pumped full of drugs by Snell (Clifford Rose) and repeats in her presence the joke he had shared before.  “You said to me how did Donner feel about the girl?  And I say how does a carpenter feel about wood?”

Even after this, Joan isn’t convinced and Callan has to keep plugging away – providing an example of a previous girl that Donner had deceived, for example.  “He squeezed her dry and then he left her. She killed herself. I wouldn’t want you to kill yourself, Joan”.  When he tells her that Donner is a highly trained agent who is well versed in killing, Joan still can’t believe him.

JOAN: Carl told me he hated killing
CALLAN: I hate killing, I sometimes do it
JOAN: You don’t hate it, you love it
CALLAN: Look, I don’t have to justify myself to you, darling
JOAN: It doesn’t make any difference what you say, I love him and I trust him.

Although this is a pretty bleak episode, there are a few moments of light relief.  For example, Callan asks Lonely to keep an eye on Joan (and also burgle her flat).  This he does, although he seems more interested in the lingerie of Joan’s flatmate.  “Cor, you wanna seem some of the stuff that Sonia’s got. Well you can hardly see some it it, nearly all transparent it is, with bows on”.  To which Callan asks him whether he’s been eating raw meat again.

We get a first look at Snell in this episode.  He would become a semi-regular character, always on hand when Hunter needed answers from people – although the cost would be high for his unfortunate victims.  Clifford Rose was always chilling as Snell – a man who clearly enjoyed his work and seemed to approach it from the angle of scientific research.  The fact that many of his subjects became vegetables seemed not to be something that overly concerned him.  This is highlighted when Joan tells Snell that the drugs given to Horst will destroy his mind.  Snell agrees but then tells her that it was a rush job, arranged primarily for her benefit.

It’s a slightly messy ending (both story-wise and also the direction, which does seem slightly miscued when the big moment comes).  With only a few minutes screen-time at the end, David Hargreaves still manages to make an impression as Donner.  He’s able to demonstrate to Callan (and the audience) exactly how little he cared for the unfortunate Joan.

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