Written by Pat Hoddinott
Directed by Don Leaver
Richard Meade (Peter Vaughan) is awoken by noises from the flat opposite. He opens his bedroom window to investigate and is shocked to see a man attacking a woman. He rushes to the phone, but then stops – the woman sharing his bed isn’t his wife and since he’s an MP he can’t afford any scandal. Next day, Gradley visits him to ask if he saw anything the previous night. Meade responds in the negative.
A few days later, Esther is entertaining Meade’s daughter Deborah (Joanna David), her mother Susan (Dinah Sheridan) and Deborah’s new boyfriend Martin Seacombe (Ian Ogilvy). Martin is a smooth-talker, but he doesn’t believe in astrology – which causes Esther’s hackles to rise slightly. One of her gifts is an ability to tell the star-sign of anybody, just by looking at them. She declares that Martin is a Scorpio, but he tells her he was born in May – which would make him an Aries.
Esther simply doesn’t believe him or that she could be so wrong. His insistence would already be enough to mark him out as a wrong ‘un, but he was also the man we saw at the start, committing the murder, so he’s clearly going to be the villain of the piece. When Meade arrives to pick up his wife and daughter he’s shocked to see Martin with his daughter. He knows the man’s a murderer, but if he tells anybody then the story of his infidelity will come to light, and this puts him in something of a quandary.
Saturn’s Rewards isn’t the first episode of Zodiac to use some outrageous coincidences, but the ones here are worth repeating. Meade’s daughter’s fiance chooses to commit a murder in the flat opposite Meade (it’s never explained why he’s in that flat). Gradley is the detective assigned to investigate the murder, whilst Esther is an old friend of Meade’s daughter, Deborah, which is how Esther becomes involved. Too many coincidences!
The studio-bound nature of the production becomes rather apparent when we see the murder committed. The gap between the two flats isn’t very wide and it’s impossible to believe that Martin didn’t see Meade looking at him. Obviously he didn’t, otherwise the story simply wouldn’t work, but the camerawork seems to imply otherwise.
Whilst the plot has its problems, we can take solace with the cast. Peter Vaughan is good fun as a rather shifty, untrustworthy politician and Ian Ogilvy (complete with a moustache that may be fake, I think it is) is the charming, but dangerous Martin. Joanna David and Dinah Sheridan have less to do, but having two good actresses in those roles is some consolation for their slightly underwritten parts.
Esther and Gradley are kept apart for a while, which is a pity, since the series really sparkles when the two of them are together. When they eventually meet up, Gradley tells her a little about the murder case but then says he doesn’t need her help on this one. Esther is incredulous. “It must be straightforward. What happened, did you find the killer drunk on the floor, prints all over the murder weapon and a signed confession in his top pocket?”
Undeniably, this is clumsily plotted, but once again the performances of both the regulars and the guest cast manage to make something out of the fairly thin material.