The Champions – The Interrogation

Returning from a mission in Hong Kong, Craig is captured and subjected to a brutal cross examination. Pushed to the limit by a nameless interrogator (played by Colin Blakely) and pumped full of drugs, his grip on reality begins to falter ….

Television of this era loved a clip show (not least for the fact it helped to balance the books). Although it was one of the last episodes to be broadcast, it’s fifth in Network’s DVD release, suggesting it was one of the first to be filmed.

In story terms this makes sense of the late reveal – the whole interrogation is a charade arranged by Tremayne, who is worried that Craig’s recent missions have been just too perfect (triggering fears that he might be a double agent). A theme of these early stories is Tremayne’s puzzlement about how our three heroes manage to pull off such tremendous successes time after time – although these moments have, until now, been handled lightly.

The recycling of clips from the first few stories might have tried the audience’s patience had this episode been transmitted early on, so that might explain why it was held back.

But holding it back creates another problem (it makes you wonder why Tremayne has waited so long before investigating this issue). Also, his method of obtaining information does seem out of character – up until now he’s been portrayed as a fairly faceless, quite affable sort of chap.

Mind you, the jolting realisation that Tremayne is prepared to go to extreme lengths does work well (any time that a formulaic series manages a swift gear change will always meet with my approval) but the downside is that the anger felt by Craig, Richard and Sharron towards their boss will vanish very quickly.

This type of series – designed to be broadcast and rebroadcast in virtually any order – simply didn’t have the capacity for story arcs or character development. So in the next episode you know that the Champions and Tremayne will once again be the best of friends. The same goes for Craig and Richard, who share a very tense and spiky scene at the end of the episode.

But for today we can savour the sight of a shifty Tremayne, abruptly shutting down Richard and Sharron’s fears that Craig is in danger. At this point we don’t know that he’s simply down the corridor at Nemesis HQ. Hmm, that seems a little odd – surely it would have been better to have stashed him out of the way somewhere?

With Colin Blakely the only guest star and most of the action taking place in a single set, there’s an obvious feeling of claustrophobia. Craig’s prison cell is a wonderfully designed creation with more than a hint of Ken Adams’ James Bond sets. It has a very ominous spider-like feel ….

Colin Blakely was obviously the go-to guy when you needed a brutal interrogator (he’d fufilled the same function in a classic Man in a Suitcase episode). He’s excellent throughout this one and so is Stuart Damon – both of them clearly relishing the opportunities in the script.

It’s interesting to wonder how the story would have played out had either Gaunt or Bastedo taken the lead (an even more intriguing notion would be all three receiving parallel interrogations). Indeed, that’s one obvious story flaw – why has only Craig been selected for this treatment whilst Richard and Sharron have been left alone?

Minor quibbles apart, this is a stand out story for me and rates an almost flawless four and a half out of five.

5 thoughts on “The Champions – The Interrogation

  1. In which order are you reviewing these? I believe that this had been intended as the series finale, although it wasn’t broadcast last.

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  2. Ah, I see. iTunes and Britbox have a different episode order, which corresponds to the original UK broadcast order, according to Wikipedia, although I don’t know if all ITV regions broadcast them in the same order.

    According to another source I found, the production order is as follows, in which “The Beginning” is number 3!

    1) The Dark Island (commenced filming 2.2.1967)
    2) The Gun-Runners
    3) The Beginning
    4) Operation Deep-Freeze
    5) The Silent Enemy
    6) The Search
    7) The Invisible Man
    8) To Trap a Rat
    9) The Mission
    10) The Iron Man
    11) The Experiment
    12) The Night People
    13) The Fanatics
    14) Get Me Out of Here!
    15) A Case of Lemmings
    16) The Interrogation
    17) Twelve Hours
    18) Project Zero
    19) The Gilded Cage
    20) Full Circle
    21) The Body Snatchers
    22) The Ghost Plane
    23) Reply Box No. 666
    24) Shadow of the Panther
    25) The Survivors
    26) The Final Countdown
    27) Nutcracker
    28) Autokill
    29) Happening
    30) Desert Journey (filming is completed in January 1968)

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    • I know that The Beginning wasn’t the first episode they recorded (this is discussed by the leads on the comm track of that episode). Seems odd not to have recorded that first, but maybe there were logistical reasons.

      Unlike the first series of Star Trek, which does benefit from being watched in production order, The Champions feels a bit more interchangeable. Might be interesting to rewatch some time in production order though – just in case there are any small nuances (the way the regulars interact with each other, say).

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  3. I agree that most of the episodes are interchangeable (they are for most ITC series), but in the case of The Champions, there is clearly a Beginning, and “The Interrogation” provides some sort of conclusion. I understand that these two episodes were edited together to make a feature-length movie, which is on the Network DVD set (which I don’t have, unfortunately).

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