Worrell and Liz are assigned to protect Emile Gurwin (Raad Rawi), a controversial author who has received death threats from Islamic radicals following the publication of his book Interim Prophets. The three travel to a remote part of Scotland where Gurwin plans to take a relaxing holiday, but a heavily armed gang has other ideas ….
It’s not hard to find a real-life parallel with Gurwin. Salman Rushdie’s 1988 novel The Satanic Verses sparked an identical storm of protest which saw Rushdie, like Gurwin, placed under sentence of death following the issue of a fatwa.
As ever with Bodyguards, political or ideological rights and wrongs aren’t pushed into the foreground. Liz might regard Gurwin with mild disdain (believing that his problems are self inflicted) whilst Worrell (who claims to have read and enjoyed the book) is somewhat more forgiving, but once the action starts there’s precious little time for philosophising.
After their car is ambushed and then trapped on a bridge, they realise that the only way to escape is via the river. This is an impressive stunt – one of several – as we see Worrell, Liz and Gurwin diving for their lives. Gurwin comes off worst, with a broken arm, and the net result places the two agents in an incredibly difficult position – they’re wet through, in the middle of nowhere, possessing radios which no longer work and with the burden of an injured man.
After a few episodes which have been fairly light on action, Steve Griffiths’ script (his only one for the series) offers a sharp change of pace. Worrell gets to demonstrate his countryside skills, some of which he says were picked up with the Boy Scouts rather than on his RAF survival course!
One slight plot contrivance is that MacIntyre is present in Scotland (he was attending an unrelated conference in the area). Worrell later explains as to why he injured, rather than killed, one of their pursuers – an injured man is a burden for the others. It shouldn’t come as any surprise to learn that the ruthless group have no compunction in killing their wounded comrade – which is something of a cliché, to be honest if they hadn’t it would have been more surprising.
The Killing Ground brings to a conclusion this short, but interesting series. Creator Jeffrey Caine had previously devised The Chief, although Bodyguards was quite a different beast. The Chief had much more of a serial feel, with multiple storylines overlapping over a number of episodes. Bodyguards is much more in the tradition of the likes of The Sweeney or The Professionals, featuring one-off stories with minimum overlap (the death of Worrell’s wife is the only story beat which features in a number of episodes).
With the combined talents of Lombard, Pertwee and Shrapnel, it’s a little surprising that Bodyguards never progressed beyond a single series. A second run might have allowed for a more layered approach to the storytelling, certainly the potential was there.