A thirteen year-old boy called Alan Taylor (Dean Steel) is the only witness to the murder of a priest and will therefore be vital in gaining a successful conviction. Worrell, returning from compassionate leave, is assigned – along with Liz – to the job of protecting him in the run up to the trial. MacIntyre considers it to be just the sort of routine mission which will gently ease him back into the swing of things, but events prove otherwise …..
Police intelligence seems to be somewhat lacking in this one. MacIntyre doesn’t take the threats against Alan seriously and the investigating officers, lead by DCS Granger (Roger Blake), appear not to have linked the murder to a feral teenage Manchester gang, all of whom are skilled in the use of firearms.
That Alan and his family are under serious threat is made plain when his younger brother, Jamie (Dean Cook), is kidnapped. But this is a strange part of the story – you’d assume that Jamie’s abduction would be the lever that forces Alan’s mother, Helen (Eve Bland), to withdraw her elder son from testifying – but not so. Jamie is discovered, albeit dosed in petrol and traumatised, unhurt.
We never find out why they didn’t hang onto him, as the gang remain nebulous characters, little more than objects of abstract menace. None of them have names or speaking roles, which skewers the narrative very firmly on the police’s side. Programmes like The Bill also favoured this storytelling style, but it doesn’t work terribly well here.
Out of the Mouths of Babes continues to develop Worrell’s character – at the start he’s still somewhat emotionally fragile (MacIntyre wonders whether he should have returned at all) but seems to regain his equilibrium as the story progresses. Most notably, we see how he and Liz form a bond with Alan.
For the first time we also start to probe a little deeper into Liz’s character as she relates the story about how she received a commendation for bravery – but since it concerned the death of her colleague it’s a bitter-sweet remembrance. There’s another of the series’ action-packed sequences at the conclusion of the episode as the gang – via a forklift truck – force their way into the secure secret location where Worrell and Liz are guarding Alan. Not much of a secret location then ….
The relative youth of the gang has already been stated, but it’s not been possible to really register this as they’ve been masked in their few, fleeting appearances. So the moment when Worrell corners one and pulls off his mask only to reveal a child not much older than Alan is a suitably jarring moment.
Although it clips along at a decent pace, not allowing the gang a voice is a problem as is the pre-credits sequence which shows Alan observing the murder. Since the murderer was masked, how exactly could Alan have identified him? This is another puzzling part of the story which I’d hope would be addressed, but alas never was.