Softly Softly: Task Force – Good Touches

S03E11 (15th December 1971). Written by Arnold Yarrow, directed by Frank Cox

PC Drake is concerned about a recent crimewave which has seen the same people burgled on multiple occasions. One victim especially – Helen Morris (Elaine Mitchell) – is now so traumatised that she’s become a virtual prisoner in her own flat …

Good Touches pleasingly brings the character of PC Drake to the fore. This was Brian Hall’s seventh appearance, and it’s really the first to find out what makes Drake tick. We also discover his first name (Ted) which the others start calling him on a regular basis. This takes a little getting used to.

Drake kicks off the story by visiting Miss Morris. Several years before he’d been part of the team who investigated her first burglary and decided to investigate when he saw her name on a recent crime sheet. That he rushed out of the office without telling anyone where he’d gone doesn’t please Hawkins (not one little bit). Barlow and Watt are both mentioned, but never seen, so it’s Hawkins running the show today – and he’s content to give Drake a hard time.

Later on, there’s a few more nuggets of information about Drake dished out. We learn that he used to be a plain clothes CID officer – so why is he now a uniformed constable? That remains a mystery, but it suggests that his career has been a checkered one. His lackadaisical approach to paperwork (allied to a photographic memory which gets him out of trouble at the last minute) is a character beat that’s been established before, and is repeated here.

Drake and Forest team up today as they toil to work out a statistical model to predict which previously burgled victims might be vulnerable again. Having not had much to do for a while (Julie Hallam last appeared in Marksman, but didn’t feature heavily) this is also a decent episode for Forest, whose ability to crack jokes at the most inappropriate times remains a key character trait.

That the cocky and streeetwise Drake isn’t half as clever as he thinks is made plain after he pumps an old snout, Sam Lester (Anthony Collin), for information. Lester’s unreliability is known to both Hawkins and Snow (and by this point in the episode also by the audience, who will have worked out that Lester is passing information onto today’s villains – Dave and Allen Venner).

Apart from Miss Morris, the episode also sketches out several other multiple burglary victims – the affluent Mr and Mrs Spender (Kenneth Watson and Libby Glenn) and the far from affluent (but remarkably cheery) John Tyler (Donald Eccles). So with several potential victims, Arnold Yarrow is able to leave the audience in suspense for a while about who will suffer again.

That Miss Morris is chosen works well from a dramatic viewpoint (her utter collapse as the Venners drill through her door is well played) although it does seem a little illogical. The only item of value she appears to have now is a new colour television set – I know they were relatively rare in the early seventies but it seems a poor reward for an aggravated burglary.

A good episode from a character viewpoint, even if the plotting isn’t always watertight.

One thought on “Softly Softly: Task Force – Good Touches

  1. Interestingly (for 1971 at least), it seems the production team were attempting a “character arc” for PC Drake, which was uncommon in TV series drama back then. Having watched everything easily available for this season of SS:TF, I’d say it was reasonably successful. Far better than all the subsequent PC characters they had who were either wet, caricatures of policemen or failed attempts at roles that had been done better before. I’d almost say they kept them in the show so they’d have someone to say the lines if Terence Rigby got a good theatre gig and wasn’t available for certain episodes.


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