Softly Softly: Task Force – A Policeman’s Lot. Story Three – It Depends Where You’re Standing

S03E23 (8th March 1972). Written by Alan Plater, directed by Peter Cregeen

John Watt discreetly investigates the circumstances of Jarman’s suicide whilst Barlow assists a prominent local citizen, Huntley (Peter Howell), after he receives a blackmail note …

At first glance, it seems that the main story thread of this three-parter has virtually concluded. Although John Watt – prompted by a plea from a tearful Mrs Jarman – does agree (in his spare time) to try and find out why her husband committed suicide, it’s a plotline that’s subordinate to the Huntley blackmail case.

Via a not terribly subtle form of info-dumping (Watt tells Snow and Drake – as well as the audience – that Huntley is a member of the police board and a prominent local businessman) the audience quickly understands why Barlow seems so keen to drop everything to help him.

Quaffing a drink together, Barlow and Huntley seem very chummy. Watt cynically wonders later if everyone would receive a similar level of police attention and it’s a fair point – especially as the blackmail note is only asking for £100. In many ways, this is a key part of the episode (and one that’s repeated right at the end). We’d like to assume that the same sort of police manpower would be available for all, but it seems unlikely. This appears to trouble Watt, but Barlow – who’s blithely detached throughout the episode – just accepts that the world’s unfair and seemingly has no interest in trying to change it.

The blackmailer – who’s a somewhat pathetic character – is easily run to ground and just as this plotline is wrapped up, we’re told that it has a vague connection to Jarman (which feels a little contrived and unnecessary).

It’s always nice to see the velvety-voiced Peter Howell and Brendan Price (later on the right side of the law in Target) spars well with Barlow (Price plays Huntley’s son, Paul). The most striking guest performance comes from Frederick Treves as Commander Beevers though. Beevers’ plot function (as a senior police officer) is to warn Watt off any further investigations into Jarman’s death. Jarman was connected to the security services in some way (although on whose side and in what capacity is never made clear).

As I said, that’s Beevers’ plot function but in story terms he’s there to intimidate Watt. Treves underplays throughout his scene, which makes it all the more chilling – when authority doesn’t feel the need to rant or rave, you really have to sit up and pay attention. But Watt remains unfazed. “If you have a complaint to make, write to my Chief Constable about it. Don’t come banging on my back door in the middle of the night, even the dustman don’t do that”.

Elsewhere, Plater still seems to enjoy writing for Snow and Drake, who – sharing a car on an evening obbo – are gifted some amusing lines.

After three episodes, if you’re looking for all the story threads to be neatly wrapped up, then you may come away disappointed.  Only Beevers knows exactly what Jarman was doing and he’s not telling (either to John Watt or us). This isn’t really a problem though and is certainly not a story weakness. Real life is often unfair and messy and Alan Plater’s scripts simply reflect that.

One thought on “Softly Softly: Task Force – A Policeman’s Lot. Story Three – It Depends Where You’re Standing

  1. I do recall Alan Plater and his work being held in high regard by various series directors, including my father Michael

    Freddy Treves was a similar genial soul and “old mucka” for Cregeen and co, dating back to RSC days I think (he played a similar, stalwart “stout fellow” in dad’s ACGAS in 1979 .. when Chris Timothy had his actual arm inside some sort of bovine passage!)

    Happy Memories of super people, and thanks for posting

    Liked by 1 person

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