Softly Softly: Task Force – Like Any Other Friday …

S01E12 (12th February 1970). Written by Robert Barr, directed by Vere Lorrimer

It’s another Robert Barr script, so you can expect a story rich in procedural detail but possibly low in excitement.

There’s been a robbery at the palatial home of Major Hartley. Hartley is currently out of the country, but his devotedly waspish Scottish housekeeper Miss Mathieson (Dorothy Smith) is on hand to give Evans all the details. I wonder why so many housekeepers are Scottish? Possibly it’s just a dramatic convention.

She tells Evans several times exactly how she maintains the house (when she opens the windows to air the rooms, etc). This stultifying detail is an early reminder that Barr’s hand is on the tiller today.

The story begins to pick up momentum when Watkins (Peter Madden) returns to the house. Watkins is Hartley’s manservant and clearly has something to hide. Madden’s on good form as the shifty Watkins, although it takes him an age to admit that four guns (army souvenirs) were stolen during the break-in.

This revelation leads the Task Force, in the shape of Hawkins and Evans, to an ex-con called Alec Patterson (William Marlowe). Marlowe would later join the police force (as a series regular on The Gentle Touch) but during the early seventies he tended to operate on the wrong side of the law.

He’s excellent value as the cool and cocky Patterson. One observation – Patterson offers Hawkins and Evans a cigar each. Evans accepts, which is fair enough, but it seems slightly odd that he should light up as Hawkins continues his questioning!

Another familiar face – Tom Baker – makes a very brief appearance as a site foreman (possibly the first, but by no means the last, time he’d be on a building site). Although Baker could steal even the smallest of scenes (his earlier appearance on George and the Dragon is a good example of this) sadly the handful of lines he has today gives him nothing to work with. So he appears and disappears in a flash.

The story rather stutters to a conclusion. Given that Patterson and his criminal colleagues seem so well organised, it slightly beggars belief that they would be panicked into retrieving the guns (which is precisely what the Task Force have been waiting for). As they knew the police were watching them, why not wait for a few weeks until the heat had died down?

One another observation – John Watt gets married but it’s handled in an off-hand way (he simply mentions it in passing at the end – which explains his unexplained disappearance earlier in the story). Clearly SS:TF was a series with little interest in the private lives of its regulars …

One thought on “Softly Softly: Task Force – Like Any Other Friday …

  1. Watt’s wedding. Well no it isn’t about not caring as it obvious through the various episodes that the others are very pleased for Watt and think this is positive for him but in adult and restrained way. What I think you mean this is a show about police work concentrating on police work. Whereas today the wedding would be have central to the episode and the ‘police work’ would have been a minor distraction with lots of gushing. Different times with different values.


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