Softly Softly: Task Force – The Big Tip Off

S03E19 (9th February 1972). Written by Allan Prior, directed by Eric Hills

Dot Melling (Clare Kelly), an old contact of Watt’s, proffers an intriguing tip off – a van containing two hundred thousand pounds worth of gold bullion has been targeted. She reveals where and when the robbery will take place, but refuses point blank to say who …

This is a really interesting story. Up until now, pretty much all of the villains we’ve encountered in the series have been male. There have been a few complicit female hangers-on, but that’s been about it.

Dot and Mickey (Jenny Twigge) are the dominant characters in this episode although for very different reasons. The ageing Dot is motivated by bitterness after Tommy (Alex Scott) elects to leave her for the youthful Mickey. That Tommy isn’t exactly the brightest crook we’ve ever met is made clear by the fact he obviously blabbed to Dot about his plans to hit the van.

Towards the end of the story, Dot – suffering from a pang of regret about the way she’d shopped her former lover to the police – pops round to see him. Presumably she planned to tell him all, but the mocking presence of Mickey, not to mention Tommy’s heavy-handed attempt to get rid of her (passing over a clutch of grimy banknotes as a peace offering), sealed their fates. Dot leaves without saying another word, meaning that the final act has to play out to its bitter conclusion.

If Dot’s character is a recognisable one, then Mickey is more unusual. She’s part of the gang and although Tommy (with his well-cut suit) is positioned as the boss, Mickey remains outspoken throughout. Tommy, and his chief lieutenant Chuck (Del Henney), are old school villains –  they hope for the best but have already begun to accept that they might get caught. This sort of defeatist attitude infuriates Mickey, who’s smart enough to know that this sort of caper is a mugs game (but isn’t quite smart enough to walk away).

Jenny Twigge’s performance is a striking one and helps to enliven what otherwise could have been a rather static and talky episode (the attempted raid doesn’t occur until the final few minutes). Her sparky energy contrasts nicely with both Scott and Henney. In this episode, the Australian born Scott is attempting more of a harsh London accent than usual whilst Henney (who I’ve just noticed passed away in 2019, RIP) favours a Scottish burr.

Tommy, Mickey and Chuck are all hapless rather than hardened criminals, so it’s hard not to feel a little sorry for them (although only a little, since both Tommy and Chuck take guns along for the ride).  If there’s one slight disappointment with the story, then it’s the fact that although Mickey’s role as the getaway driver has been talked up, in the end she doesn’t take part in the raid (she’s close by but isn’t directly involved).

Although Allan Prior favours the guest artists, he doesn’t forget the regulars. I like Watt’s waspish irritation when WDC Green fails to get Dot to name names. Funnily enough, when Watt later paid Dot a visit and was equally unsuccessful, he kept quiet about it …

Earlier, Snow went undercover to follow Dot (surely there couldn’t be a more conspicuous character than PC Snow) and towards the end of the story Watt and Hawkins have a disagreement about whether they should be armed on the stake-out. Touching on the events of Marksman, Hawkins (although he admits to not being keen) says yes but Watt (by his own admission, an old-fashioned copper) disagrees.

Given that the baddies were armed, this could have gone badly wrong – but luckily our heroes only sustain minor cuts and bruises. Alas, the make-up used isn’t that convincing – especially the trickles of fake blood on the faces of both Watt and Hawkins. Ah well, you can’t win them all.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s