Callan – Heir Apparent


Written by John Kershaw (as Hugh d’Allenger)
Directed by Peter Duguid

After Callan and Meres attend Hunter’s funeral, they are called to see Sir Michael Harvey (John Wentworth) at the Foreign Office.  As Meres says: “Hunters come and go but we go on forever”.  Sir Michael informs them that a new Hunter will be appointed on a temporary basis and it could be that if it works out he’ll be made permanent.

The new Hunter is John Ramsey (Derek Bond) – somebody that Callan knows well (they trained together).  Callan and Meres are set to fetch him, but the problem is that he’s been working in East Germany and doesn’t have the appropriate exit papers – so he’ll have to make an illegal border crossing.  It shouldn’t be too difficult (apart from a minefield to negotiate) – but when Callan and Meres make the rendezvous, they quickly become aware that the area is swarming with troops, making their job considerably more dangerous.

The death of Hunter seems to have hit Callan hard.

CALLAN: That’s just one more reason, isn’t it, for not getting married. Did you see her? Did you get a look at her face?
LIZ: He means Mrs Hunter
CALLAN: Smart, wasn’t she. I bet he had a nice house too. Did you see his boy? And how old was Hunter then? Fifty?
MERES: Well, it’s par for the course, old boy
CALLAN: Par for the course? You know, sometimes Toby your stupid platitudes really make me sick. Par for the course. I mean it could have been either of us, do you realise that? I didn’t even know his real name until this morning

But it’s not only Hunter’s death that’s affected him – it’s made him question his own existence in the Section.  “I am sick of it mate, I am sick of it. I mean week after week, month after month, year after year, living the way we live”.  The job of extracting the new Hunter from the East does give him something to focus on, but it’s not the last time that he’ll express doubts about the job.  It does seem that there’s only a finite amount of time anybody can work in the field before the strain becomes overwhelming.

Heir Apparent is a little different, as a large part of the story is shot on film and is more visual (Callan’s attempt to guide Ramsey to safety) than the regular episodes, which tend to be character and plot driven.  It gives us a chance to see how Callan and Meres work when teamed up – pretty well, it must be said.  They still manage to rub each other up the wrong way before they set off, but they’re professional enough not to let that interfere with the job in hand.

We also get a first look at the new Hunter.  As a contemporary of Callan, he seems sure to have a different management style to the older, more autocratic Hunters.  The episode also allows Liz a little more character time (and indeed this might be the first episode where she’s actually named, rather than just credited as Hunter’s secretary).

The King is dead, long live the King.

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