Field Marshall Von Splitz (Alan MacNaughtan) is released from prison after twenty five years, but repentance for his war crimes is the last thing on his mind. Still a fanatical Nazi, he immediately sets out to locate an atomic bomb which was jettisoned from a Heinkel during the dying days of WW2. Von Splitz plans to detonate it, thereby triggering a war between East and West. Can the Champions locate the bomb in time? The clock is ticking ….
The way the incidental music swells to highly melodramatic when Von Splitz makes his first appearance gives you an early indication that he’s a wrong ‘un. The Nazi salutes proffered by Dr Neimann (Wolf Frees), Kruger (Derek Newark) and Heiden (Norman Jones) towards him is another subtle clue.
Actually, subtlety is not really a key part of this episode – you just have to sit back and enjoy the ride whilst not worrying about the plot specifics too much (although that won’t stop me of course).
Post credits, there’s a lengthy sequence of children playing in the snow. All very nice, but where are the Champions? Eventually we see Richard, attempting to dig his truck out of the snow, who dashes over to stop a young child from blowing himself up with a bomb. No, I’ve no idea what the bomb was doing just lying around in the field.
MacNaughtan was an actor of considerable presence. Von Splitz is something of a cliché character – the ice-cold Nazi – but MacNaughtan is still very watchable in the role. Derek Newark is entertainingly over the top when delivering his handful of lines whilst very decent actors like Basil Henson briefly feature (he suffers that most memorable of ITC fates – death by white car hurtling over a cliff for no particular reason). You really can’t grumble about the cast in this one as it’s also nice to see the likes of Morris Perry and Hannah Gordon.
Amazingly, Wolf Eisen (Henson), managed to survive the death crash (at least for a few hours) and so before he pegs out there’s just time for Richard to interrogate him. This seems a little harsh, although Tremayne later tells us that everybody else – the German police, Interpol, etc – has already had a go at him. Quite why Eisen’s ‘accident’ should have generated so many flags with the authorities is a slight mystery.
The notion that that Germans had developed an atomic bomb by the close of WW2 sounds a little far-fetched, but still credible. That it’s ended up lying quite happily in a German lake since 1945, maybe less so. The way the nasty Nazis manage to locate and extract it with embarrassing ease also requires some indulgence on the part of the viewer.
This is a story where the Champions’ superpowers only come into play late on. To begin with Craig, Richard and Sharron are all operating as ordinary detectives – interviewing suspects and doggedly following up clues – whilst Von Splitz remains several steps ahead of them. The Final Countdown is also one of those Champions episodes which doesn’t feature a lot of quipping from the leads – fair enough, since there’s an atomic bomb floating about it’s probably not the time for merry jests.
A small piece of trivia – I think this is the first time we discover that Tremayne has a secretary (we don’t see her, just hear a disembodied voice on the intercom).
Craig is captured and given a thorough working over by Heiden. After slapping him around for a few minutes, Heiden asks him “who are you? Who are you?” which (thirty five minutes in) were Norman Jones’ first lines. Before then he’d just been called upon to loom menacingly in the background.
Richard rescues Craig (Sharron is forced to stay outside – which seems a little unfair). I love the entertaining punch up between Richard, Craig and the Nazis, even better is the way they both crash through the windows to confront Dr Neimann, who’s standing over the ticking bomb. Stuart Damon seems to go a bit Jimmy Cagney when Craig confronts Neimann.
Richard once again attempts to send Sharron away – is he afraid for her life or is he just a bit of a male chauvinist?
Their superpowers are no use when it comes to defusing the bomb so Craig has to use skill, ingenuity and some syrup. It’s a tense scene which concludes a very decent episode. Although it’s a shame that the Nazis are dealt with rather abruptly (Craig and Richard pulverise them in double-quick time) there’s not too much else to grumble about, so I’ll give this episode four out of five.