Softly Softly: Task Force – Series One (Episodes 1-3)

My New Year’s resolution is to rewatch all 149 episodes of Softly Softly: Task Force (I like a challenge). Hopefully I’ve got them all (and I’ll also have the stamina to stay the course). On both counts, time will tell ….

I won’t be able to jot down detailed reviews, but every so often I’ll put up brief capsule reviews of a handful of recently watched episodes, noting a few areas of interest.

S01E01 – Arrival. Written by Elywn Jones, directed by Peter Creegen

Strictly speaking (given the series title and music) this is actually the final episode of Softly Softly, but since it introduces all the new characters it’s easy to see why it’s been lumped under the Task Force banner.

DCS Barlow, now transferred to the Thameford division, is less than impressed with the level of efficiency he finds in his new force. There’s some good fun to be had with Barlow’s exasperation at their slack habits, although this quickly dissipates when everyone urgently begins the search for a missing child.

Professional Welshman Sgt. Evans (David Lloyd Meredith), by-the-book administrator Sgt. Jackson (David Allister), phlegmatic PC Snow (Terence Rigby) and his dog Inky, token female WDC Donald (Susan Tebbs) and chillingly friendly Chief Constable Cullen (Walter Gotell) are the new faces with Barlow, Harry Hawkins and (from episode two) John Watt providing links to the old series.

All of the newcomers’ characters are quickly delineated, and it’s good to see that WDC Donald gets a fair amount to do during these early episodes (although Barlow can’t resist a few “she’s only a woman” comments about her).

Like the second episode, in the end the crime turns out to be murder and (as with episode two) we never actually see the victim. The ending is grim indeed, but well handled – as always, Stratford Johns is excellent value.

S01E02 – Exercise. Written by Elwyn Jones, directed by Ben Rea

After a brief spasm of reluctance, John Watt agrees to take over the running of Task Force One. A move to Thamesford means promotion, but it also means working under Barlow again – which both men view with mixed emotions. It doesn’t take long before they click into harmonious gear, but I did like the flickers of friction before this happens (Cullen referring to them as a “pair of pansies”!  helps to date the episode).

As with episode one, it’s another where the crime feels a little distanced as we never see the victim (a Mrs Outwood, who dies in hospital following a violent attack). Patsy Smart (as a nosy neighbour) and Barry Jackson (Mr Outwood) are the familiar faces in a story that has a twist in the tale which I have to confess I didn’t see coming (although in retrospect, perhaps I should have done).

S01E03 – Diversion. Written by Robert Barr, directed by Vere Lorrimer

Barr wrote a good chunk of Task Force (25 episodes). His work is usually strong on procedure (as with today’s episode) but low on excitement. Diversion begins with a lengthy briefing concerning an operation to target a persistent housebreaker (you can’t help feeling a little cheated though – for now, this turns out to be a red herring as the story moves in another direction completely).

An armed robbery, led by Whitley (Brian Croucher), means that the Task Force are on high alert – organising road blocks and eagerly following up clues. A large part of the episode seems to take place in the information room, where the dogged Inspector Reid (Philip Ross) meticulously logs every scrap of information that comes his way (those who enjoy drinking games could try taking a slug of something every time he says “timed at …”)

Croucher’s rather wasted. Along with his accomplices, Whitley is riding a bus to freedom but little happens along the way (and even the moment when he’s disarmed is all over in a flash). Positive points – David Jackson (with a permanent grin on his face) plays a uniformed PC, Geoffrey Hayes (later, like Jackson, a Z Cars regular) makes a brief appearance and Reg Lye (as a newsagent with a memory that comes and goes) is another familiar face to spot.

6 thoughts on “Softly Softly: Task Force – Series One (Episodes 1-3)

  1. Was Series one rescued from America?.As the episodes have American conversion look to them a bit.Or it’s due to giving all the scenes a filmic look which wasn’t needed.

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  2. Was Series one rescued from America?.As the episodes have American conversion look to them a bit.Or it’s due to giving all the scenes a filmic look which wasn’t needed.Series 2 doesn’t have that thankfully.

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    • The original release was a bit compromised – due to an error, many of the episodes had an accidental ‘filmised’ effect. After a great deal of back and forth, there were several represses and eventually things were sorted.

      Possibly you’ve got one of the original, faulty, releases.

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      • Yes unfortunately I have.Probably too late to get a replacement now as well.They must have learnt their mistake with the Series 2 release.As they were 625VT,as originally shown.Didn’t mean to put my original msg twice of course.

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  3. I think I have watched all those on You Tube. Apparently the quality of the DVD’s is iffy and so have yet to take the plunge.

    As with all old TV you have to accept things were different back then. And often just different and not bad or wrong; certainly not as bad or as wrong as many of today’s accepted norms as given to us by the output of today’s media. Too many with an interest in older TV spend far too much time paying penance to the god of political correctness.

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  4. Purely by coincidence, as I’m reading this for the first time just now, I’ve also spent the first few weeks of 2023 revisiting ‘Task Force’ from the beginning. Unfortunately, my collection dries up midway through series four. I purchased the two DVD releases and then foolishly didn’t download all the rest when they appeared on YT two or three years back, moving too slowly before the channel inevitably vanished.

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