Written by James Mitchell
Directed by Peter Sasdy
Hunter is interested in a Polish physicist named Andrei Brezhevski (Andy Devine). The Russians have developed a hundred megaton bomb, which according to Hunter would destroy every living thing in the UK. But although they have the rocket they don’t have the fuel – by the end of the year though, thanks to Brezhevski, they will have.
Hunter wants Brezhevski lifted, so that he can give the fuel formula to the West (thus negating the Russian advantage). And even though he’s closely guarded, Hunter has a lever that will force him into the open – his wife.
During WW2, Brezhevski’s wife Sofia (Pauline Jameson) was interned at Dachau. After the war was over, she was in a highly disturbed state and was slowly nursed back to health by Dr Charles Rule (Laurence Hardy). Believing her husband to have died during the war, Sofia married Rule and they’ve lived together contentedly ever since. Callan forces Sofia to write a letter to Brezhevski which will compel him to make the trip to England.
We’ve already seen how the act of killing has scarred Callan, but in this story the tragedy isn’t just a death – it’s the possibility of what will happen to Sofia after Brezhevski has come to England. The following exchange between Callan and Hunter makes the situation quite clear.
CALLAN: I should think when all this is all over she’ll finish up in a mental home
HUNTER: That bothers you?
CALLAN: That really bothers me
HUNTER: Try thinking about that hundred megaton bomb. That should bother you even more
Hunter views Sofia as little more than a pawn to be sacrificed – he’s thinking about what would happen if the Russians detonated their bomb. Callan understands this, but he clearly loathes the job he has to do. Later on, when the two of them are waiting at the airstrip for Brezhevski’s arrival, he does unbend a little.
CALLAN: Did you know what Brezhevski’s doing?
SOFIA: I knew only that he was famous
CALLAN: Well he’s developing a fuel for a rocket that carries a nuclear warhead
SOFIA: And you want it?
CALLAN: Yeah, we want it
SOFIA: So that you can drop nuclear warheads on them? Your argument does not interest me, I’ve seen too many people die. One day I think it will not interest you either
In many ways, Brezhevski and the rocket fuel are only MacGuffins as the story is more about the question of whether it’s right to sacrifice the innocent (in this case Sofia) for the greater good. Hunter unshakably thinks so and Callan seems to as well – but he doesn’t have to like it. At the end, Sofia is still alive (although Brezhevski is less fortunate) but the memories of the last few days will remain with her forever and it’s left to the viewer to decide for themselves whether the cost was worth it.
Apart from the odd loophole (if Brezhevski’s been desperate to locate his wife for the last twenty years, can we really believe that the Russians haven’t been able to find her?) this is another tight, well written script by James Mitchell. Vladek Sheybal gives his usual, idiosyncratic performance as Dicer, a Polish refugee with a burning hatred of the Eastern Bloc. David Garfield is a little hammy as a Russian agent, but he’s really the only weak link in the story.
Pauline Jameson is outstanding as a woman forced to confront the ghosts of her past and it’s her performance (along with the usual high-quality acting from the regulars) that makes this episode such a memorable one.