Target – Shipment


If Target is remembered today, then it’s usually because of its reputation as a cheap Sweeney knock-off or possibly due to its Doctor Who connection (incoming Doctor Who producer Graham Williams created Target, outgoing Doctor Who producer Phillip Hinchcliffe would become Target’s producer).

The lack of a DVD release or recent screenings (series one aired on BSB in 1990, whilst series two hasn’t been seen since selected repeats back in 1980) have no doubt added to the series’ mystique. It’s not a classic by any means, but there’s plenty to enjoy (although Patrick Mower’s performance is an acquired taste, it must be said).

Mower had starred in the Euston Films revival of Special Branch (generally regarded as a dry-run for The Sweeney) as well as two episodes of The Sweeney itself, so was ideal casting as Det Supt Steve Hackett. Mower is never less than totally unsubtle, rampaging through the series like a bull in a china shop. I can’t decide whether he’s playing it tongue-in-cheek or if he’s being serious – either way you can’t take your eyes off him (although not always for the right reasons).

One of Hackett’s snouts gives him a tip-off that an incoming ship (containing a supply of silver) will be robbed.  Hackett and his men organise a stake-out but no attempt is made. The infuriated Hackett runs back to his car to remonstrate with his snout, only to find him murdered.

It’s a very decent pre-credits hook scene, even if it makes no sense. Who would be stupid enough to kill a police informant when there are so many police nearby?

Naturally, Hackett is out for vengeance and he’s convinced that he knows who’s responsible – Maynard (Jon Laurimore). The quality of actors is one of Target’s main strengths (we also see Bernard Kay as a forensic officer and Jack May as the ship’s Chief Officer in this episode).

Another actor it’s always a pleasure to see is Philip Madoc as Hackett’s boss, Det Chief Supt Tate. Sadly he’s got very little to do, so on the basis of this episode it seems odd to cast an actor as good as Madoc in such an unrewarding role.

It may come as no surprise that the episode ends in a punch up. David Wickes’ direction is suitably muscular (he also co-wrote the episode with Hinchcliffe) and the lessons he must have learnt earlier on The Sweeney are put to good effect here (it’s also not surprising that he directed several episodes of The Professionals the following year).

Given his work on Doctor Who, it seemed an obvious choice for Hinchcliffe to draft in Dudley Simpson to compose the theme tune and incidental music, but it’s a little distracting. Dudley always had a distinctive style, shall we say, so hearing music not dissimilar to his Doctor Who scores on Target is rather disorientating.  It’s also worth pondering how he had the time to work on Doctor Who, Target and shortly afterwards Blakes’ 7 all at the same time. It’s no wonder that occasionally all his music does sound rather similar!

A decent opener, then. Low on subtlety but high on action, with the character of Hackett clearly defined.

3 thoughts on “Target – Shipment

  1. I have never watched Target (as I was born just after it ended) and it appears to be one of those TV productions that has hardly been repeated.

    The Sweeney had an awesome time dominating the ratings for ITV throughout the latter half of the 1970s. The BBC in their infinite wisdom, decided to bite back with their own version of a brutal cop show and Target was born in 1977.

    Sadly, Target ended after just two series. There have been many theories over the years as to it’s demise. Many of the people who did watch it said it wasn’t as enjoyable as it should have been. The primary rumour is that Patrick Mower didn’t want to become typecast as Haggarty.

    Unfortunately, Target has never been awarded a DVD release which is such a shame. Having once been a member on the now defunct Sweeney TV Lounge Forum, there was reference to the series being blocked by Target cast member Phillip Madoc (who passed away a few years ago). Again the reasons were not made clear, and this was speculation raised in an Internet forum!

    I would love to see Target – I understand it was criticised for it’s violent content, but I’m sure it would be quite tame in comparison to some programmes made in recent times.

    Sadly as time moves on, I think it’s very unlikely the BBC will release Target in any kind of format and it will probably be confined to the TV vaults indefinately.


    • There does seem to be an issue with a commercial release of Target – but it wouldn”t be down to Philip Madoc (or any other actor) blocking it.

      Equity changed the rules for this in the early nineties, which meant that a single actor could no longer veto the release of a series (reasoning that their decision would deprive many more people of royalties).

      It does pop up on YT from time to time and (because of the talent it employed, both in front of and behind the camera) is worth a look – but it’s no lost classic.


  2. I recall watching this series in the mid 1970swith my late dad as it was the year + that I left school to start work and I recall it as being a decent series even if 45 years ago etc

    If it was on dvd I may give it a fo as to much of todays copshows are fixated & obsessed with either serial killers or paedophilia and its gone dry long since. There was definitely more variety back in the 1960s & 70s


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