Callan – Summoned to Appear


Written by Trevor Preston
Directed by Voytek

Callan faces a thorny moral dilemma in Summoned to Appear.  Needless to say, the other members of the Section (Cross and Hunter, for example) find it hard to understand why Callan is at all concerned …..

Callan and Cross are tailing a Czech operative called Palanka (Sylvester Morand).  Hunter doesn’t know exactly what Palanka’s up to, but it’s certainly something that needs to be stopped.  They follow him into a railway station, but lose him.  Callan takes one platform and Cross the other.  As a train pulls in, Palanka breaks cover on Cross’ platform.

Cross goes to intercept him, but barges straight into a man walking forward to catch the train.  The unfortunate man is accidentally pushed onto the tracks and is killed instantly.  Cross disappears, but the police are called, so Callan has to remain since he’s an eye-witness.

As he later tells Hunter, he was able to lie beautifully, telling Inspector Kyle (Norman Henry) that in his opinion the man committed suicide by throwing himself under the train.  But matters are complicated by another witness, Mrs Kent (Rhoda Lewis). who maintains that she somebody push the man off the platform.

It probably goes without saying, but Edward Woodward is excellent in this episode.  Callan is an oddity in the Section – a man with a conscience.  Both Hunter and Cross are only concerned with the man’s death insofar as how it affects the Palanka operation.  But Callan is more troubled that a man is dead – someone that would have left a widow and possibly children behind.

The fact that Cross doesn’t understand why Callan is upset provides us with some decent character conflict – and we’ll see this same conflict played out in various ways throughout the third series since Callan and Cross are two very different characters.

Callan is older and highly experienced.  Hunter admits that he’s the best operative in the Section (maybe the best they’ve ever had) although he regards Callan’s conscience as his one major flaw.  Cross is young and inexperienced.  His impulsiveness and rashness are highlighted in this episode and we also see, during the climax, how embarrassingly easily Palanka was able to deal with him.

Hunter elects to use a Czechoslovakian dissident called Karas (George Pravda) to lure Palanka into the open.  Callan and Hunter both know that Palanka won’t be able to resist the chance to kill Karas.  When Cross wonders how Callan can be so sure, he tells him that Palanka is “young and arrogant.  He’s got something to prove, just like you James.”

Lonely doesn’t have a great deal to do in this episode but I love the first flat scene where Callan asks Lonely to tail Palanka.  At once point Callan calls Lonely perceptive and there’s a great reaction from Russell Hunter, who makes it clear that Lonely doesn’t understand the word and is working out whether it’s an insult or a compliment!

Callan is summoned to appear at the Coroner’s inquest, which is a problem – and it’s further complicated when he’s visited beforehand by Mr Leach (Edward Burnham) who is the solicitor acting for the widow of the dead man.  He tells Callan that if a verdict of suicide is recorded then the widow, Mrs Arlen, will only receive a fraction of her husband’s insurance policy.

Callan is under no obligation to do anything.  The Section is in the clear since there’s not sufficient evidence to prove that Cross, or anybody else, pushed the man under the train.  He could simply repeat his original statement that the man committed suicide and that would be an end to it.  But of course he doesn’t – instead he changes his story (much to the annoyance of the Coroner) and a verdict of accidental death is recorded.

Meanwhile, Palanka very easily gains access to Karas’ apartment, knocking out Cross and disarming him.  In the end, it’s Karas who kills Palanka, whilst Cross looks on helplessly.  Since Karas is an invalid, it’s even more embarrassing for Cross.

Summoned to Appear is very much a human drama (both the unfortunate Mr Arlen and the dissident writer Karas).  Callan has several blazing rows with Hunter (and they won’t be the last!) which really highlight just how good an actor Edward Woodward was.  When he was on full-throttle, there was nobody better.

It’s always a pleasure to see George Pravda (as well as his real-life wife, Hana Maria Pravda who played Mrs Karas).  The supporting cast is typically solid, with the likes of Edward Burnham and Norman Henry, whilst a young Warren Clarke makes a brief appearance as a railway guard.

One thought on “Callan – Summoned to Appear

  1. Whilst this episode is 50 years old and the Soviet Union has long collapsed, the moral undercurrents of the dissident writing of its future collapse targeted by a state gangster rings true even today with what happened in Salisbury and possibly more piquantly, when Polonium was used again an opposition leader in Tomsk. This was drama to actually chew over and find refreshing, rather than the candy floss we often see now, moral dilemmas, rounded characters and a great performance by Edward Woodward grimacing through the cant, hypocrisy and cynicism, only having one hearty laugh when Lonely (Russell Hunter) told him he had a hobby: fishing! A super, atmospheric episode.


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