Tony Erickson (Donald Houston) and Charles Randle (Victor Maddern) are co-owners of a building company who are facing a potentially damaging court case. Randle has fought his way up from nothing and has no qualms about using every underhand trick in the book to achieve his ends. His street-fighting ways are confirmed by Thompson (Gordon Gostelow), one of Randle’s more unsavoury contacts. “You’re very thin-skinned these days, Charlie boy. A proper little social climber. Underneath that fancy suit you’re still an East End slum kid, like me.”
On Randle’s instructions, Thompson bribes Smith (Michael Robbins) to perjure himself on oath and thanks to his testimony the case is decided in Erickson/Randle’s favour. When Erickson learns of Randle’s corrupt practices he’s appalled, but what can he do?
Donald Houston was never the most subtle of actors and this is demonstrated very clearly in Fall High, Fall Hard. When he learns that Smith (and others) have been paid off, he reacts like a bull in a china shop. He rushes into Randle’s office and proceeds to give him a good battering and then storms out to get very drunk. His drunk acting is hardly a model of restraint either – although the moment when he returns to his palatial home and crashes into his teenage son’s birthday party (to the boy’s disgust and his friends’ amusement) is a memorable one.
Whilst Houston’s unrestrained hysterics are a little distracting there’s plenty of compensation elsewhere. Victor Maddern is, thankfully, much calmer as Randle – he’s someone who views corruption as nothing more than normal business practice. Gordon Gostelow (along with a young Mike Pratt as Jenson) are a menacing double-act who successfully bribe Smith with both money and threats (water from a boiling kettle is poured over his hand to reinforce the point that he’d be well advised to take the money and keep quiet). And Michael Robbins, as Smith, is perfectly cast as a little man easily manipulated.
Making his second appearance as Det. Sgt. Carmichael is Donald Houston’s younger brother Glyn. Unlike Donald, Glyn never felt the need to soar way over the top and gives a characterically subtle performance.
This was Malcolm Hulke’s sole contribution to the series. Hulke’s later Doctor Who scripts were notable for their political messages, so it’s interesting to ponder whether he added any subtexts to his Gideon script. Although he was adapting an existing Creasy story, it seems likely that the concept of corrupt big-businesses would have been something that the left-leaning Hulke would have been very much in sympathy with.
Donald Houston’s overplaying does detract from the effectiveness of the story a little, but it’s still a decent tale of corruption and murder.