Jig-Saw was the first story of Dixon’s eighteenth series, originally broadcast on the 20th of November 1971. Although it shares some similarities with Waste Land (a hunt for a missing person in a vast, crumbling industrial site) it also feels quite different – this one is much more a standard police procedural story.
Forbes (Victor Maddern) is the nightwatchman of a derilict gasworks. Making his rounds, he finds an open door and after he enters the building he finds that somebody has locked him in. He calls Dock Green nick and they take a look around. Although they don’t find anybody, they do spot some scattered possessions which belong to a woman who went missing earlier in the week – and this is enough to initiate a search of the area.
One attraction of television of this vintage, particularly when shot in these sort of locations, is the glimpse it gives us of a landscape that would be unrecognisable today. The gasworks were an example of Britain’s industrial past, but by the time the series was made it was a relic and scheduled for demolition. Both Dixon and Andy Crawford professes admiration for the place (and offer a hint of regret that it’s no longer active) whilst one of the other detectives shows it no sentiment at all – in a few years, he says, it’ll probably be a housing estate. This moment shows that Dixon and Crawford are two of a kind – sharing similar views and opinions.
If they sometimes have a father/son relationship, it’s not surprising (since Andy married George’s daughter way back in 1956). Although Crawford is a detective sergeant, he has no qualms in seeking the advice or opinion of Dixon (who’s just a humble uniformed sergeant). Other police programmes (such as The Bill) would have a much sharper divide between the uniformed and plain clothes divisions, but thanks to the special relationship between Dixon and Andy, that’s blurred here.
As the search continues, both Dixon and Andy view the missing woman’s husband, Colin Warren (Charles Houston), with suspicion. He lied about where he was on the night of his wife’s disappearance (he was seeing another woman) so what else might he have lied about? There’s also the possibility that this might not be an isolated attack – the gasworks are close to a canal towpath where several woman were assaulted a few years previously.
The possibilities soon stack up. Warren might have killed his wife or she may have left of her own accord. But there are other suspects, such as the nightwatchman Forbes, who has been receiving psychiatric treatment – which is is confirmed by his colleague Morris (Windsor Davies) .
Glynn Edwards is solid as Chief Inspector Jamieson, he wasn’t a regular but did pop up from time to time over the years (in a variety of roles). Jig-Saw also gives us a chance to see Nicholas Donnelly as Sergeant Johnny Willis, who had a long association with the series (some two hundred episodes between 1961 and 1976).
Victor Maddern appeared in Dixon four times – playing four different characters. By far his most celebrated appearance was his final one, It’s A Gift (broadcast in 1975). This wasn’t for any particular part of the story though, rather it’s for this outtake which has become a favourite of many people.
Jig-Saw ends with a chase and the apprehension of the criminal. It therefore offers a tidy solution to the mystery, even if it’s still rather downbeat. Whilst Eric Paice’s script never hits the heights of Waste Land (which he also wrote) it’s still an efficient character piece that also makes good use of its impressive location.