A student called Bernard Pinks (Ian Sharp) is arrested at a demonstration after throwing pepper at Snow’s dog, Radar. His solicitor, Grenville (Michael Goodliffe), later alleges that Pinks, whilst he was in custody, was subjected to a homosexual assault by Harry Hawkins ….
Its Ugly Head opens with Barlow and Watt hauled over the coals by Cullen. They both look rather like naughty schoolchildren summoned to the Headmaster’s office for a dressing down. The reason for Cullen’s displeasure isn’t particularly important in plot terms, but it helps to reinforce the notion that he’s an implacable individual, well versed in getting his own way.
He also has a chat to Donald about the conduct of Inspector Reynolds. During the course of the conversation it becomes clear that Inspector Reynolds made advances to Donald when she was a uniformed officer (which was one of the reasons why Donald was glad to move to plain-clothes). That the unseen Reynolds is later revealed to be a woman is an unexpected development. It seems that rumours of her conduct have been fairly widespread (although Cullen knew nothing about it until recently). Now that he does, he wants action – but without hard evidence, what can be done?
It can hardly be a coincidence that the main plot thread is also concerned with an allegation of misconduct against an officer. Cullen and Barlow are visited by the smooth-talking Grenville, who tells Barlow that his client, Pinks, might make a counter-claim of assault against Hawkins when he appears in court the following day. Nothing’s put down officially on paper though and it becomes obvious that this is a fishing exercise – if the police drop their charges then Pink will drop his. It’s blackmail, pure and simple, and neither Barlow or Cullen can possibly agree to Grenville’s veiled offer, but Hawkins still has to be questioned.
A completely studio-bound episode (we hear about the demonstration, but never see it) Its Ugly Head works best as an exercise in seeing how the various member of the Task Force operate under stress. Barlow is quick to rise to anger when Grenville makes his allegations, whilst Watt is irritated to find he’s been kept out of the loop. Frank Windsor’s very good in this one, a particular highlight being Watt’s rather awkward chat with Donald, after he stumbles across her problems with Inspector Reynolds.
Evans is initially sanguine about being called back to the station (it puts off a wall-papering job) but his anger slowly rises when he understands where Barlow’s questioning is leading. Evans’ self-declared awe at Barlow (he feels more comfortable standing up when being questioned by him, rather than sitting down) slowly dissipates as incredulity takes hold. Norman Bowler, as the unfortunate Hawkins, also has his moment to shine, although it’s relatively brief – he might be the man in the spotlight, but the likes of Cullen and Donald have more screentime.
The way Donald’s colleagues feel about her, also a feature of the previous story, is touched upon again. Some, like Snow, are almost paternalistic – he feels she’s too nice a girl to be in a job like this. Others, such as Watt, can’t help but make mildly sexist remarks, although he’s later given a chance to make his position clearer.
Donald – the object of unwanted attention from both males and females – clearly has a lot to put up with. That she struggles to be treated as an equal with her male colleagues can be seen during her interview with Cullen. He speaks to her in an avuncular way that just wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t been a women (imagining a similarly cosy chat with the likes of Snow or Evans makes the mind boggle!) Is this another example of the sexist nature of the series or is it simply reflecting the way the police force was at the time? Or maybe a little of both?
Michael Goodliffe was an impeccable actor with a long and impressive list of credits. As Grenville, he’s controlled and calm until the closing minutes, when it becomes clear that the police hold the upper hand, meaning that his composure ever so slightly wavers. Ian Sharp, the other guest artist, has less to work with, but is able to capture well the contradictions in Pinks’ character. He might be scruffy and dirty, but he’s not ill-educated – so it’s possible to believe that he comes from an affluent background and is simply playing at being a revolutionary.
As ever, Elwyn Jones delivers a sharply-written script, full of decent character conflict.