Howards’ Way – Series Six, Episode Four

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The episode opens with a gorgeous sweeping aerial shot as the Xanadu makes its way back to Tarrant. This almost – but not quite – makes up for the fact that Leo is present and correct onboard and no worse the wear for his dip in the ocean. Whilst this isn’t as bad as negating an end of series cliffhanger, it’s still an annoyance to have set up a dramatic beat and then see it dismissed so casually.

All three elect not to tell anybody about Leo’s dice with death, Jack commenting that “it never happened, did it? Must have been a bad dream”. Was this a sly nod to Bobby’s shower exploits in Dallas? It’s a rare sunny day in Tarrant and a fair number of extras were pressed into service as the Xanadu makes its triumphant way into port.

Ken’s very active today (and he’s also wearing a very eye-catching jacket). First up there’s a meeting with Sir John. These encounters are always entertaining, not least for that way that Sir John (unique amongst Tarrant residents) always refers to him as “Kenneth”. Since the bank seems disinclined to help him raise some working capital, Ken then moves onto Sir Edward. This is also great fun, as he brazenly attempts to blackmail Sir Edward! You suspect he’s dicing with danger there.

Later, there’s more personal matters on hand as he invites Jenny out for a drink. Ken making a move on the prettier members of his staff isn’t a new thing, but Jenny (at present) isn’t prepared to give him more than a shoulder to cry on. It’s a fascinating few moments nonetheless, as Ken opens up about his childhood (his first racket was reselling school milk!) and the fractious relationship he enjoyed with his father. It’s a pity that we haven’t really looked before at what makes Ken tick, but better late than never.

He didn’t want to know anything about me, thought I was the black sheep of the family. Said if I didn’t sort myself out I’d end up going to prison. What did he know? Nothing. By the time I was eighteen I had my own business. It was a garage business. Do you know something? He was one of my first customers. He drove around in a used car when I drove around in a brand new one. I earned more in a week than he earned in a year.

Nice Orrin from a few episodes ago now seems to have been replaced with the more familiar Nasty Orrin. He continues to harass Abby whilst also making his presence felt at both Leisurecruise and Relton. Oh, and his braces are impressive as well.

The seasoned HW watcher should know never to believe what people say (they’re more than likely to do the exact opposite). So when Lynne declared in episode two that she had no interest in returning to England, I wasn’t convinced. And so it came to pass that she rather improbably hitched a lift on the Xanadu. Jan and Kate are absolutely delighted of course and there’s an awful lot of cooing as the pair welcome the young chick back into the fold. A rare moment of happiness, although how long everybody stays happy remains to be seen ….

Gerald and Laura have an awkward meeting. He’s still bitter and hurt over the way their seemingly close personal relationship simply evaporated. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Ivor Danvers was one of HW‘s most underrated performers and whenever he was given something dramatic to get his teeth into (sadly not very often, as most of the time he existed to line feed Charles) he never disappointed. Danvers deftly captures Gerald’s conflicted emotions whilst O’Mara also plays the scene well – Laura’s self-satisfied smirk after Gerald leaves is a sign that her contrite statements were valueless.

Vanessa eventually accepts Jack’s offer of marriage (I love the way he takes an extra gulp of whisky just before she delivers her answer!) whilst Jan continues to have a rocky relationship with Robert. In all the excitement of welcoming Lynne home, Jan totally forgot about the meeting he’d arrived with the bank’s solicitors. Cue a couple of grumpy looking extras looking at their watches and sighing. She may be apologetic, but it’s obvious from the expressions she pulls that Jan really doesn’t like anybody telling her what she should do.

The major revelations in this episode are left for the closing minutes (at least this is a cliffhanger which will be difficult to reverse). Sir Edward has gathered all his friends, family and business associates together for a garden party. Slightly surprising that Charles accepted the offer, but in plot terms all will become clear shortly.

Revelation one is that Sir Edward has married Polly. There’s a faint ripple of applause whilst various folk (notably Jan and Gerald) look rather ashen faced. But whilst we’re all still reeling from that, he drops another bombshell – he’s not a well man and has returned to Highfield for the last time. The camera seeks out Charles, who slowly begins to process precisely what this new information means ….

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Howards’ Way – Series Six, Episode Three

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Another episode, another surprise return. Today it’s Sir Edward. First he pays a visit to his country seat, where his faithful retainers are all lined up to greet him (his dogs look the most pleased). Later he gives Jan a fright by suddenly popping up. His car window swooshes down, he looks out and says “hello Jan”. Not the most devastating opening gambit, that’s for sure ….

Both Jan and Gerald independently wonder what Polly’s up to (sadly she didn’t make the trip over). Genial Sir Edward twists the knife when he tells Jan that Polly is now running a dozen boutiques. Jan’s glazed expression makes it plain that she’s not exactly delighted to learn of her oldest friend’s success. Whereas poor Gerald still seems to be slightly pining for her – one obvious plotline for series six would have been Polly’s return, but this never happened (presumably Patricia Shakesby was otherwise engaged).

The dinner date between Jan and Sir Edward is cordial but guarded – elsewhere though we see more strained relations. Leo and Abby have a brief, but utterly furious argument. Both have been angry before, but I’ve never seen them quite so out of control in each other’s company. Even the calming presence of Gerald isn’t able to cool Leo’s temper.

Leo and Abby do later make up before he, Jack and Bill head off for Gibraltar, but there’s definite fractures showing in their relationship. This is exacerbated when Orrin comes calling – his friendly peck on her cheek develops into something more and (at least to begin with) Abby doesn’t put up a struggle. Orrin can’t see anything wrong – after all, Gerald’s at the office and Leo’s away – but eventually Abby comes to her senses. Just in time! I was beginning to get a little worried.

Abby’s almost infidelity apart, there’s a nice quiet moment between her and Gerald. Although the first series often stated that Gerald was an absentee father, things now seem to have changed (or the information we had then wasn’t entirely accurate). The affectionate bond between them is obvious, whilst it’s also fascinating to learn how he looked after the infant Abby. Of course this may be because Polly had other fish to fry.

As ever, the interlapping business affairs have now become even more complicated. Orrin has bought Ken’s Relton shares and expresses a desire to work with Kate who’s keen to strengthen her ties with Charles. Meanwhile Charles is concentrating on his latest marina development whilst fretting about why his father has suddenly reappeared in Tarrant.

In the first episode, Jan’s business had suffered a serious hit after James borrowed deeply from company funds. This difficulty now seems to have been brushed aside as she’s keen to expand her empire even further with the perfume designed by Claude. Sir John is guardedly interested, but decides it has to be a joint venture between the House of Howard and the bank. And this is where Sir John’s nephew, Robert Hastings (Paul Jerricho), comes in.

You may know Jerricho as nasty Mr Hicks (the malevolent games master from Grange Hill who received summary justice at the hands of Mr Baxter. “Slip on the wet floor did you?”). Or possibly as the Castellan from Doctor Who (“no, not the mind probe”). Truly, that was an unforgettable performance. And believe me I’ve tried ….

In a way it’s surprising that we haven’t seen the bank take a closer interest in Jan’s business before – it certainly brings to mind the storyline which drove the action for several years in The Brothers (the arrival of merchant banker Paul Merroney and his desire to remould Hammond Transport).

The most interesting nugget of information from these scenes is Jan’s statement that she’s now the sole designer of her clothing line. No, really. It’s hard enough to swallow the notion that Jan could have built up a burgeoning fashion empire by stumbling across several world class designers (who all just happened to be unemployed) but the idea that Jan is now knocking out the designs herself (although we’ve never seen this happen) simply takes the breath away.

Moving on ….

It’s a windy day in Gibraltar (with poor Jack’s hair suffering somewhat). But after a brief drink and a quick view of the sights, it’s down to business as the trio prepare to sail the Xanadu back to England. Jack’s been blithely confident – shrugging off Vanessa’s entreaty not to go – but now it seems that she might have had a point, as they run into filthy weather in the middle of the ocean.

This was a major (and no doubt expensive) sequence. Shot in the controlled environment of a film studio tank and utilising a full-sized boat, it’s a memorable couple of minutes. The feeling of dread only increases when Leo is swept overboard just before the credits roll. An impressive cliffhanger, but I hope they don’t negate the impact by simply dismissing the events next time.

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Howards’ Way – Series Six, Episode Two

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The episode opens with a slow car pursuit – Ken chasing Avril (he has a very weedy sounding horn, it has to be said). He’s desperate to convince her that he’s the one who owns the trailer design. Will Avril believe him or will she come down on Laura’s side? She might be Laura’s friend, but since this is business, friendship counts for little. Avril’s therefore content to wait for one of them to come up with some concrete evidence.

Ken should be able to provide this – after all, Jack developed the trailer and surely would have kept a paper trail, wouldn’t he? No, of course not, this is Jack Rolfe we’re talking about – a man who loves taking cash in hand and not putting it through the books. Having already confronted Avril and then Laura, Ken’s next quarry is Jack.  Ken’s certainly covering a good deal of ground today.

Jack puts on his most concerned face, but doesn’t see what he can do. Now that Relton owns the Mermaid, he simply can’t magic a receipt out of thin air (Relton’s accountants have been through the Mermaid’s books with a fine tooth comb, so a retrospective receipt would stick out a mile). This is a plot point that doesn’t really make sense. Jack only agreed to sell out in the previous episode and the events today follow on almost directly. So when exactly did the Relton accountants find the time to undertake a forensic study of Jack’s books? Only a small niggle, but a niggle nonetheless.

Never mind, onwards and upwards. Last year Malta was the HW foreign destination of choice – this time it looks like it’s going to be Gibraltar. Jan’s headed out to open another House of Howard boutique whilst also arranging a joyful reunion with Lynn.

Lynne’s back! Having been absent for three years, her sudden reappearance came as something of a surprise (it hadn’t been trailed in the previous episode). The Gibraltar scenes have a lovely, summer feel to them (with plenty of apes thrown in). Pure travelogue padding it has to be said, but it does give the series a little extra gloss.

The late, unlamented Claude might be long gone, but his memory lives on. Not only was he a talented clothes designer (so they say) he was also a dab hand at creating perfumes. Lynne, trawling through his papers, recently came across one of his formulas and now she plans to go into business with her mother. Jan’s initially hesitant, but once she has a quick sniff she’s bowled over. As the smell doesn’t come through the screen we’ll just have to take her word for it.

Charles has his eye on a Marina development (just for a change) in Southampton. He also takes the opportunity to wine and dine Laura and begins by dropping a number of coded references to sailing at night. These heavy handed metaphors are easily deciphered – he wants Relton, she wants Leisurecruise, so there shouldn’t be a conflict of interest (they won’t be ships that bump in the night then).

Had the series gone to a seventh series and beyond, it’s tempting to wonder if Leo would have begun to move more into Tom’s position. As the new liaison man between Relton and the Mermaid, he’s already much more of a fixture at the yard than he used to be (powerboats now seem to be a thing of the past) and he’s also keen to see one of Tom’s old designs brought off the drawing board. This he achieves via a slightly tense deal between Avril and Laura. A nice gesture to honour his father’s memory or is he simply eyeing a decent commercial prospect? A little of both maybe.

Orrin reappears. Not very surprising, since he has a habit of popping up at regular intervals, but what’s new is the way he behaves. The arrogant Orrin seems to be a thing of the past and in his place is a humble, reflective man. I think we’ll have to wait and see how long this lasts, but Abby seems prepared to listen.

This meeting naturally causes discord between her and Leo. Even before he knew that Abby’s dinner date was with Orrin he was already in a bit of a mood. So learning that the father of Abby’s first-born is back in Tarrant (and apparently for good) didn’t improve his temper much! His body language makes it plain just how ticked off he is (at one point he seems to fashion his hand into a gun which he points at Abby’s head – or maybe he’s just pointing in a very emphatic fashion).

It’s not surprising that he reacts so negatively to the news that Orrin’s sniffing around Abby again, but his body language prior to this revelation (when he was simply irked that Abby had stayed out late) is slightly more revealing.  Is this a subtle reminder that Leo is very much his father’s son?  Tom, for all his good qualities, was very old fashioned when it came to male/female relationships.  Or it might be I’m reading too much into this moment.

Possibly a change of scene is what the boy needs. Jack’s had a bright idea – over in Gibraltar the Mermaid’s latest job (the Xanadu) is waiting. So it makes sense that he, Leo and Bill pop over to Gib and sail her back home. As with Malta last year, the attentive viewer will already have picked up on the curious coincidence that the boat just happens to be moored in the same place where Jan and Lynne have recently been.

How does Vanessa respond to Jack’s brilliant scheme? I think you can probably guess ….

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Howards’ Way – Series Six, Episode One

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Long term HW watchers will be aware that the series often set up storylines only to somewhat annoyingly abandon them. There’s a prime example right at the start of the opening episode of the sixth and final series – last time, we left Abby on life support and fighting for her life, whereas today she looks perfectly chipper as she and Leo (plus friends and family) arrive in church to baptise their son.

The way this cliffhanger was so casually tossed away is a little baffling, but the decision to have already buried Tom prior to the start of series six (his death occurring sometime after the end of series five) is much more understandable. Given the way that Maurice Colbourne’s sudden death had already destabilised the cast, keeping up the pretence that Tom was alive and well would have no doubt felt increasingly painful.

Emotions run high in the early part of this episode, not only for Jan and Leo, but also for the viewers as well. Abby and Leo’s decision to christen their son Thomas Leo was an obvious move, but it’s still a lump in the throat moment. Later, both Jan and Leo are seen to shed a tear for Tom – although interestingly, they don’t do it together. When Jan weeps at the christening party, Leo is by her side and totally supportive. But when he and Abby are alone his own feelings bubble to the surface. Real tears from Edward Highmore? Possibly, and though his performance through the years was sometimes mocked, this moment feels very genuine.

Melancholy though the news of Tom’s death is, we’ve a whole new season of wheeler-dealing and skulduggery to enjoy, so it’s not surprising that soon the focus shifts to the ever-changing alliances and conflicts of our regulars. The peace and quiet of the christening party was clearly just a tentative truce.

To bring everybody back up to speed ….

Having acquired Leisurecruise, Laura is now in a triumphant mood. But Ken, despite this knockback, is also remarkably chipper. Entering into a partnership with Avril at Relton, his new office (a portacabin) might be modest, but he clearly feels he’s on the way back. Hmm. Let’s wait and see.

Laura and Avril might be old friends, but the prospect of Avril and Ken doing business together doesn’t please Laura. I love the way that Laura, driving along the road, suddenly spies Avril and Ken out on the water. To confirm this, she picks up a pair of binoculars from the front seat of her car. No, I don’t know why she’s driving around with a pair of binoculars so close at hand either. And just in case we hadn’t picked up on the fact this was an ominous moment, the soundtrack suddenly goes all discordant.

James might be long gone, but before he went he took a large loan out of Periplus (so not for the first time Jan’s facing financial difficulties). This is the cue for Jan Harvey to look anguished (she had plenty of practice over the years). Sir John suggests that Jan should find a new partner, but given how badly things have gone in the past with her previous partners you can’t blame her for not being too keen. Later there’s a brief bitchfest moment when Laura comes calling (telling Jan they should team up, somewhat improbably). Sadly, their meeting doesn’t come to blows ….

Jack’s continuing to mull over whether to sell the Mermaid to Charles. Eventually (hurrah!) he makes his mind up – but instead of Charles, he sells out to Relton. This means he gets a block of Relton shares, some cash in hand plus he stays in charge. Not a bad deal, although Charles (as you might expect) is incandescent with rage. With his marina development (it’s always a marina development) blocked by Relton’s purchase of the Mermaid Yard, there’s now only one option – he’ll have to take over Relton Marine.

So with three main plotlines – Ken/Laura, Jan, Charles/Avril – all bubbling away, the sixth and final series has hit the ground running. Plus you can throw in the delightful sight of Kate as young Thomas’ nanny (she seems to have appointed herself) and Charles already phoning around all the best schools, looking for somewhere to send his grandson.

Given all this, it’s maybe not surprising that new arrivals are kept to a minimum. We do see Jenny Richards (Charmian Gradwell) though – a local sailing enthusiast who joins the newly refloated Ken Masters organisation. Like Sarah Lam, Gradwell had previously appeared as a regular on The Adventure Game. Either this was an enormous coincidence, or somebody on the HW production team was an Adventure Game fan.

As I’ve said, this episode clips by at a rate of knots and the cliffhanger – Laura, popping up like a wicked witch to tell Ken that the design of the boat he’s been selling belongs to her – is a suitably juicy one. Poor Ken’s woebegone face is a picture (as is Jack’s). We may be nearing the end of the voyage, but it’s a more than promising first lap.

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Juliet Bravo – Family Unit

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John Murphy (Rio Fanning) is a regular at Hartley police station. A widower with a young family of four, his fondness for a drink coupled with his inability to hold it means that he’s often to be found overnight in the cells. When he attacks his teenage daughter Maeve (Rebekah Blair), social services – in the form of Tom – are brought into the picture. It quickly becomes obvious that Jean and Tom view Murphy’s case very differently ….

Family Unit opens with a tracking shot showing a sizeable chunk of Hartley. Although it’s set up to establish a specific plot point (Jean notices smoke coming from the chimney of a house that should be empty) it helps to once again remind us of the sort of environment Hartley is.

The stuttering relationship between Jean and Joe is teased out a little more during the opening few minutes. Although they’ve been on a fairly even keel since the third episode, there does seem to be slightly more bite to their conversations here. Was this script originally planned to air earlier in the run?

Jean sends Joe out to look at the house, but doesn’t tell him why. When he radios in to query, she then suggests he walks across the street – once he does so, he spies the smoke and the penny drops. During their dialogue, Joe is the model of stolid efficiency, but there’s something about the way he pauses every so often which borders on the insolent.

Hiding in the house is a bruised and battered Maeve. Whilst Joe escorts her to the hospital, the character of Murphy is developed. It’s striking that Jean and Tom see very different sides of his character. Resident in the cells, Murphy views Jean with extreme disfavour (wondering how such a terrible woman could have snared a lovely man like Tom).

But when Tom later runs him down, he’s contrite and tearful as he explains the reason for the attack (he came home to find Maeve playing records in her bedroom with a Pakistani boy and snapped). Murphy’s racial hatred is never far from the surface – later he confides to a drinking buddy that he’s going to track the boy down and “descend on him, mangle him and give him a biblical pasting”. The irony that Murphy – as an Irishman – would also be viewed as an outsider by many isn’t overtly commentated upon, but the inference seems to be there.

We do later see Maeve’s friend (he receives a few punches from an incensed Murphy before she intervenes). But since he never speaks he serves no other purpose than to illustrate Murphy’s simmering anger. Maeve herself is similarly never really developed as a character in her own right – she exists purely to bring her father to both the police and the social sevices’ attention.

If Jean’s job sees her interact with Murphy once he’s broken the law, then Tom’s working from the opposite end. This explains why they’re on very different sides – Tom doesn’t want to see the family unit broken up and the children placed into care, whilst Jean isn’t prepared to let a potentially unstable father continue to live with them. Both, of course, are right in their own way, and this conflict helps to generate the main drama of the episode.

A little extra spice is added by the fact that Jean is concerned about the possibility that her confrontation with Tom, once it becomes public knowledge during the court hearing, might have a negative impact on her career. She worries that an enterprising newspaper reporter could spin it into an embarrassing story, thereby damaging her reputation at Headquarters. This isn’t something which shows Jean in a very good light, although as the script was written by series creator Ian Kennedy-Martin it’s not possible to argue that it’s the work of a writer unfamiliar with the series or characters. Clearly this is a side of Jean’s character that Kennedy-Martin was keen to touch upon.

Just a couple of episodes after another female office was attached to Hartley, Sergeant Margaret Cullinane (Maggie Ollerenshaw) turns up for a short transfer. She’s a very different proposition from the naïve WPC Hannah Maynard though. Experienced, confident and plain speaking, she wastes no time in telling Jean that she’s keen to take her job! Jean responds with icy politeness. Unlike Hannah in Expectations, Margaret is a fairly peripheral character, although the pair do have a brief late-night conversation in Jean’s office (this is after she’s had yet another run-in with Tom and is feeling somewhat emotionally bruised).

George Parrish might continue to play second fiddle to Joe Beck, but Noel Collins is gifted a lovely scene in which he harangues the ever-hapless Roland (Mark Drewery). Roland’s complaint that he doesn’t think it’s fair he has to make the teas and coffees for everybody (it’s not what he joined the force for, he says) is viewed with a definite lack of compassion by George. The scene is capped by George sending a severely ticked Roland out to the shops to buy some biscuits!

The court hearing is an uncomfortable experience for both Jean and Tom. Tom especially, who finds himself as the sole Social Services representative. Jean continues to paint Murphy in the worst possible light – acidly commentating, after his appearance in the witness stand, that he’s “a better actor than Laurence Olivier”.

After making an impassioned plea that he’ll never drink again or hit Maeve, it’s easy to see her point though (especially when a jubilant Murphy invites Tom to join him for a victory drink). In addition to this, the way Murphy brusquely instructs Maeve to take the other children home suggests that his contrite statements in court will prove to be worthless. Jean and Tom both witness this scene, with the inference being that Jean was in the right all along, although a more philosophical Tom is of the opinion that there were no winners, only losers.

What might happen to Murphy’s family in the future is left dangling, but from Jean’s point of view this case has damaged her relationship with Tom. “I can’t count on you 100 percent in the future, count on your 100 percent support”. Tom considers this to be a good thing though, the fact that they both have principles and are prepared to stand by them.

Rio Fanning gives a good performance, but it’s really the Jean/Tom dynamic which is the main focus of another decent series one episode.

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Juliet Bravo – Home-Grown or Imported?

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Peter Palin (Ivor Danvers), a newcomer to Hartley, hasn’t made himself popular with the locals. Having bought Tarn Hill House, he plans to turn it into a swanky country club, something which Greenwood (Allan Surtees), a farmer and Palin’s nearest neighbour, is less than happy about.

When Palin is later found unconscious and badly injured, Greenwood is an obvious suspect. But he’s not the only one – an escaped criminal called Martin Wright (an old business associate of Palin’s) had a score to settle with him. Plenty of possibilities then, but it could it be that there’s yet another reason for the attack which nobody has considered?

Like a few previous episodes, Home-Grown or Imported? is a slightly wrong-footing story. The opening few minutes sets up the conflict between Palin and Greenwood, but although that looks set to be the dominant theme, the story quickly veers in a different direction.

The difference between their characters is quickly delineated. We see Greenwood and his son in a Land Rover, slowly herding sheep down a narrow country lane with Palin stuck behind them. With the road blocked by sheep there’s no alternative for Palin but to sit and wait, something which obviously irritates him greatly (the number of angry toots he gives on his horn is some indication of this).

More possibly could have been made of the conflict between the pair. Greenwood’s disdain at the way his rural life is being threatened by this interloper is certainly a theme, but it isn’t central to the story.

Twelve episodes in, and this is the third to feature coppers from London. DI Winder (John Judd) and DS Fournel (Eric Richard) are easily the most objectionable seen so far though. Right from their first scene it’s clear that they regard the local force with the upmost contempt. Their baiting of Joe being a case in point.

Fournel confides to Joe that Jean’s “a bit of all right, isn’t she?”. Fournel’s unreconstructed mindset is further demonstrated when he then mentions that he couldn’t “take orders from a skirt”. This is the cue for Joe to launch a spirited defence of Jean. “The only thing that counts is how well the job gets done. Inspector Darbley’s as good as any male boss I’ve known”. High praise from Joe, especially given his attitude towards her which we witnessed in the opening episode.

Joe later gains his revenge by sending the two officers on a wild goose chase around Manchester. Interesting that when Jean learns about this she gives him her tacit approval. A sign of the growing respect between them maybe, or possibly it’s just that she’s becoming more relaxed now that she’s settled into the job.

Geoffrey Larder makes his third appearance as the constantly vague DS Melchett. We’re given a rare early glimpse into the CID room at Hartley (eerily deserted) as Melchett takes down the message that Winder and Fournel are in the area. But his inability to tell Jean about this earns him a scathing dressing down later. “Our two visitors from London … no doubt think we’re just clodhopping country cousins. You had a clear duty to give me that information at the earliest moment and not just when it suited you, sometime never”. Ouch!

Home-Grown or Local? boasts some very familiar faces. Ivor Danvers (best known for Howards’ Way) drops a few rungs down the social ladder (Palin is something of a wide-boy). Meanwhile Eric Richard warmed up for his later role as Bob Cryer in The Bill by playing another copper. Although as we’ve seen, Fournel’s character is a million miles away from that of Uncle Bob.

Martin Wright’s backstory is delivered in detail by Winder and Fournel. Remembering that a previous episode also saw two London officers on the trail of a criminal who never actually appeared, the attentive viewer might have been wondering if the same trick was going to be pulled twice. And so it was, which is slightly surprising.

With Wright a no-show, it seems obvious that Greenwood will turn out to be Palin’s attacker. This doesn’t turn out to be the case, although there’s still a connection to the farmer. The link may feel a little contrived (Roland notices a van without a windscreen and follows his nose) but since real-life policework also thrives on coincidences like this, it’s not too outrageous.

Winder and Fournel might not have got their man, but without their presence Home-Grown or Imported? would have been a rather thin story. But with them, it’s a rich and entertaining yarn (even if, not for the first time, the actual crime element isn’t dominant).

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Juliet Bravo – Expectations

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Hannah Maynard (Rosalind Wilson) is a green young WPC, temporarily seconded to Hartley. She’s keen, very keen, but quickly learns that there’s a wide gulf between theory and practice ….

Expectations, like a number of other episodes, juggles several plotlines. The slightly testy relationship between Tom and Jean is teased out in the opening few minutes. At present he’s got an even heavier workload than she has (Tom tells her that he’ll need to work this weekend). His desire to make a success of his new career in Social Services is clear, but so is the feeling that everything’s starting to slip away from him.

His office is a glimpse into the long vanished, pre computer age. Apart from whispered conversations and ringing phones, the only sound is the gentle click clack of manual typewriters. With no computers available to store or collate data, it means that everything has to be written down – hence why everybody is drowning in reams of paperwork.

There are several examples of this – a message from Jean on Tom’s desk (reminding him about their lunch date) becomes buried under a bunch of files whilst his fumbling with more files during a case conference draws expressions of disapproval from some of the others present.

Tom’s current case concerns Laura Cartwright (Jean Rimmer) and her husband Jack. He’s confined to a wheelchair, but this doesn’t prevent him from lashing out viciously at her. Laura later tells Tom that she allows Jack to hit her for the simple reason that if he didn’t attack her then he might do something to himself. A bleak moment with no closure, it’s another of those well-mounted kitchen sink drama scenes that the series excelled at.

It’s interesting that despite this being a major plot point, it isn’t a police matter (they aren’t involved at all) and indeed the travails of Laura and Jack are somewhat secondary to the examination of Tom’s working practices. His desire to prove himself has led him to take on more and more cases (since he believed that refusing any would be a signal that he wasn’t up to the job).

With Tom’s colleague, the ever patient Jennie Randall (Wendy Allnutt), also present, Laura directs a diatribe at poor Tom – describing how his visits are perfunctory at best and useless at worst. She may be being a little hard on him, but for a man who’s always prided himself on his ability to work with people (and joined the Social Services in order to make a difference) it’s something of a hammer blow.

Whilst this is going on, Jean welcomes WPC Maynard to the team. She clearly heroine worships Jean – confirmed by the fact that she requested a secondment to Hartley precisely because she wanted to serve under an officer whom she admired. Jean isn’t especially delighted to hear this and gently tries to explain to Hannah that the job is the important thing, not personalities. It’s left unspoken, but there’s the inference that it’s rare to ever be in a position to pick your superiors (we’ve seen how the likes of Superintendent Lake are – at best – rather condescending towards Jean). Rosalind Wilson is excellent as the keen as mustard Hannah, who manages to exasperate the phlegmatic Roland with her attention to detail.

Youth culture isn’t something that the series has tackled so far, but today we see two punky teenagers – Mo (Clare Toeman) and Laura (Sarah Sugarman) – which proves that Hartley does have its share of disaffected adolescents. They mooch around the perimeters of the plot for a while – trying the doors of locked cars on a grimy housing estate, running through a bleak concrete shopping centre – before they come face to face with Hannah.

Left to her own devices by Roland for thirty minutes, it’s plain that she’s no match for Mo and Laura. The pair, apprehended for shoplifting, are marched to the manager’s office – but when he has to leave, Hannah is left alone with them, which is where the trouble starts. The manager locks them in – a strange move since it means that once the punky pair turn on her, Hannah has nowhere to run.

The sight of a dishevelled Hannah, “pig” written across her forehead, slowly walking through the store (with an amazed Jean looking on) is a memorable one. Hannah’s reason for not cleaning herself up first – she wanted to public to see the dishevelled, other side of police work – is given short shrift by Jean. She considers this to be a highly melodramatic way of proving a point.

If the title of the episode could easily relate to Hannah’s experience, then equally it fits Tom’s nightmare of a day. The episode ends as it began, in the bedroom, although this time Tom is in a reflective mood. “I was incompetent and irresponsible” he tells Jean. His long suppressed resentment of her more successful career also bubbles to the surface but as they settle down for the night, there’s the sense that they’ve turned a corner and more positive times lie ahead.

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Juliet Bravo – The One Who Got Away

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It’s a busy time in Hartley. A group of international counterfeiters have moved into the area, a vicious murderer is on the run and Jean’s interest is piqued by a smooth con-man who targets rich widows ….

The One Who Got Away is content to slowly introduce and manoeuvre its guest characters, meaning that it takes a while before we understand exactly who they are and what their function in the story will be. A couple, who we later discover are Detective Inspector Harry Connor (Walter McMonagle) and Detective Sergeant Annie Aspen (Stephanie Fayeman), are shown selecting an isolated cottage (which looks perfect for a stake out) whilst a confident middle aged man, Commander Scott (Geoffrey Hutchings), checks into the Highwayman hotel.

The episode will spend a fair amount of time in the lounge of the Highwayman (which is a nicely realised studio set). For Hartley it’s clearly an upmarket sort of place – albeit with fake rustic overtones – which looks to be positioned slightly out of town. The cheesy muzak which constantly plays in the background is a nice touch, setting up the atmosphere perfectly.

Everything about Scott screams con-man, which is reinforced when his dinner guest – Colette Newby (Shirley Stelfox) – arrives. Scott spins a yarn that he served with Colette’s late husband on the Ark Royal and although there’s no obvious flaws in his story, something seems slightly off-key about him.

At this point, it might be expected that Harry and Annie have arrived in Hartley on Scott’s trail, but that’s not the case. Although when Harry later sees him (coincidentally he’s entertaining Jean at the Highwayman) he does comment that he seems familiar.

If The One Who Got Away has a theme, then it’s about subverting our expectations. Not only is Scott not Harry’s target, but Scott proves to be less in control of the situation than he thinks. Colette might be an imposing and respectable figure – chairman of the Townswomen’s Guild – but she came up the hard way and is more than capable of spotting a confidence trickster when she sees one. Bedecked in a wonderful fur coat, Shirley Stelfox is good value for money.

So although the viewer might have expected Colette to be the victim, she instead turns out to be, if not the hunter, then not exactly a passive character either. Colette (real name Mavis) offers Scott (real name Trunky Porter) a job. As a smooth salesman at her second-hand car lot, he seems set to make a go of things. It may not quite be that she’s going to make an honest man of him, more a case of thieves together ….

The way that Scott/Porter drops his cultured air when later confronted by Jean is nicely done, as is his reaction after he learns that his prey’s real name is Mavis! A con-man conned back.

The return of Superintendent Lake (John Ringham) has primed the audience to expect that the arrival of Harry and Annie from the Crime Squad is big news. Their action against the counterfeiters seems set to be the major theme of the story and yet – in another example of subverted expectations – it turns out to be almost totally a MacGuffin. We do briefly see the counterfeiters, but their presence has no impact on the plot.

Instead, the latter part of the episode focuses on Annie (maintaining the stake-out, all by herself) encountering the runaway murderer (played by Andrew De La Tour). It’s already been established that the house has no phone (which Harry seemed unconcerned about) so when the wild-eyed fugitive breaks in it appears that Annie’s going to have to face him on her own. It’s a slight shame that Annie is transformed into a victim during these scenes (she manages to beat him off before Roland arrived in the nick of time).

Odd that Annie would be left by herself with no means of communication. Whilst Harry is depicted as a secretive type – only Lake and Jean know why the Crime Squad are in the area – this is stretching credibility a little too far. Andrew De La Tour casts an imposing shadow though – and he’s all the more effective since his character never utters a single word.

The meeting between Jean and Harry is one of the most interesting parts of the episode. It’s plain that they have a history, with the clear inference being that they were lovers at one point (Harry waxes lyrical about the time they were snowed in at Merthyr Tydfil during an operation). In his presence Jean is almost girlish whilst the later arrival of Annie casts a slight chill over proceedings. When Harry wanders off, Jean and Annie start a faltering conversation which seems to have a clear subtext (both, in own their way, are keen to prove that they know Harry best). Despite vanishing for a section of the story, Walter McMonagle is another strong addition to the guest cast.

Mixing several different storylines, The One Who Got Away, thanks to its wrong-footing ways, is a very decent story.

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Juliet Bravo – Rage

Kim Buckley (Judy Liebert) is a new mother driven to distraction by the demands of her constantly crying baby boy. With no assistance forthcoming from her husband Jeremy (Christian Rodska) she quickly becomes a danger to her son ….

Rage opens with a visit to two very different households (although both homes are fairly spacious middle-class dwellings, not typical of Hartley). In the first, Jean and Tom are having a relaxed and playful early morning bicker. Tom is mock annoyed by the fact that the newspaper boy is slow in delivering his Guardian (he likes to park up at the end of the street and read it). Clearly he must be a well-read lad if he prefers it to the charms of the Sun.

Playing in the background is Terry Wogan’s breakfast show with Marmalade’s (an appropriate group for the time of day) version of Ob-La-Di-La-Da. The same song continues when the focus switches over to Kim and Jeremy, but the mood there is completely different.

They don’t exchange a word, although their non-verbal actions speak just as clearly as any dialogue would. Jeremy’s face expresses disgust at various small things (the way the teaspoon has been left in the sugar bag, toys scattered about the room) whilst the constantly crying baby is like a knife through Kim’s heart. When he leaves for work (slamming the door) still without having spoken to her, it might have been the trigger for the first of her breakdowns – she smashes up the living room – although this violence doesn’t appear to give her any respite.

Clutching a bottle of whisky, she eventually staggers up to her son. Up to this point we haven’t actually seen him (he’s been represented purely by sound alone). This works on several levels. Not only practically (strict rules would have governed the length of time a baby could be present in the studio) but also story-wise (there’s something slightly more disturbing about a crying baby when we can only hear it).

The sheer misery and desperation of Kim’s life is contrasted by the merry atmosphere at Hartley nick. When Jean enters, Joe is doing his best Long John Silver impression – all because they’ve received a report from a Mrs Edith Bridewell, who’s told them that her son has stolen her wooden leg ….

Moving onto film, as Kim takes her baby out, we get our first sight of the child. But not for long – once Kim enters the police station (as usual, recorded in the studio) the baby has disappeared from the pram. After Kim claims to have killed her son (the empty pram suggests this might be so) she runs off, necessitating a switch back to film as the green young PC Ian Shelton (Martyn Hesford) sets off in hot pursuit.

After this filmic moment we again switch back to the station on videotape (this constant jump from videotape to film and then back to videotape isn’t ideal but it was the way drama of this era tended to be made). A strange videotape/film mix occurs later in the episode when we see Roland checking out the Buckley’s house. The living room is on videotape, but the hallway is shot on film ….

Across the course of the episode, Judy Liebert is called upon to produce several violent mood swings – it’s certainly the sort of role that you have to through yourself into. After being pulled into the station is a deeply hysterical mood, she switches back to being quiet and composed.

She doesn’t have a particularly long list of credits, which is a slight surprise as Liebert’s very compelling as the deeply disturbed Kim. The battle of wills between Jean and Kim is well-written, giving both actors a chance to shine. Kim’s comment that Hartley “sits like concrete on my neck” sums up in a few words the sort of prison she believes she’s found herself in.

Kim’s wildly fluctuating moods continues to drive the story onwards. The moment when she punches Jean in the face (Jean responds by slapping her) is one such example. Presumably Jean intended the slap to bring her to her senses (which it did) although it’s still a jarring sight.

Writer John Foster had cut his teeth on Softly Softly (his first television writing credit was an episode of the series back in 1966) before moving onto a range of seventies dramas including Sutherland’s Law and Z Cars. He would contribute eight scripts in total to Juliet Bravo, including the memorable episodes Aunt Sally and Chasing The Dragon. It’s fair to say that downbeat often tended to be his JB style.

Offering little in the way of light relief, we do at least have a fairly happy ending after the baby is found safe and well. Jean tells Jeremy that he has to do his job better in the future (listen and respond to his wife) with Jean inclined to write this matter off. The right decision? Only time will tell.

Juliet Bravo – Cages

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George Donkin (Patrick Durkin) is an inept career criminal who’s captured the attention of Melisande Duffy (Anita Carey). Duffy, the bored daughter of a wealthy local businessman, declares that Donkin is a persecuted political prisoner and organises a demonstration outside the station.

Meanwhile Donkin, firmly inside the station, suggests to Joe that he checks the back yard of Szabo’s fish and chip shop. Szabo, a friend of Joe’s, has been resident in Hartley for some time (he fled Hungary decades earlier as a political refugee). And what is Szabo hiding in his shed? Why, a bear ….

Cages has two parallel storylines which eventually converge. At first, it seems that the travails of Donkin will dominate. Patrick Durkin was an actor with one of those faces that you instantly recognise, even if you can’t quite place where you know him from. Donkin is a faintly comic character, whose general lack of criminal ability is later sketched in by Joe (he tells Szabo that the one-eyed Donkin wore a balaclava when robbing a bookies, but only cut one eye-hole in the mask!)

We never quite learn why and how Melisande Duffy latched onto him. That she’s happy to use him in order to further her own political (Marxist) ends is clear, but Duffy never really emerges as a rounded character. She does interact well with Roland though – with him playing the hapless stooge and she the temptress.

Scriptwriter Kenneth Clark is more successful with Szabo (Jon Rumney) who enjoys several lovely scenes with Joe (which are easily the highlight of the episode). When Szabo describes the interrogation he suffered in his own country (a bucket was placed over his head and hammered all night long) it’s done in a very matter of fact way, although Rumney’s skilfully able to imply the horror non-verbally.

If we don’t know why Duffy latched onto Donkin, then neither do we discover how Donkin discovered that Szabo had a bear in his back yard. The reveal is nicely done though – mainly because it’s so unexpected – with a non-plussed Joe looking on. Although the reason for the presence of the bear is another slightly sketchy part of the plot (Szabo’s brother – a circus acrobat – had recently died, so the bear was passed over to him).

Duffy, on learning about the bear from a besotted Roland, decides to free it. This leads to a rather droll line from Joe, after he explains to Jean what happened when Szabo went out to feed it. “When he took the bear his porridge, no bear”. There’s then an attempt to generate a little bit of tension – will the bear, roaming the streets, maul a group of children? – but this part of the story doesn’t really grip.

Better is the byplay between Duffy and Duckworth (David Ryall). Duckworth is a down on his luck newspaper man who senses that the Donkin story might be his ticket back to the big time. Ryall could play this sort of part in his sleep (he’d later appear again as a reporter in another police series – The Chief) but he’s gifted some decent lines as he explains to Duffy that everybody – including both of them – live in cages, just like the unfortunate bear.

Kenneth Clark had experience with a number of police series, such as Dixon of Dock Green and Z Cars, but Cages never really clicks into gear. Save for the character of Szabo (and this is mainly down to Jon Rumney’s performance) there’s not a great deal that’s memorable here. The fifty minutes pass by amiably enough, but overall it all feels a little insubstantial.

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Juliet Bravo – Coming Back

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Having served a ten year sentence for armed robbery, Mick Grainger (Ron Bain) is heading home. He has a wife, Judy (Rachel Davies), waiting for him, but his reintegration into society isn’t straightforward. Especially since some people, such as Joe Beck, aren’t prepared to forgive or forget ….

There’s not a great deal of film in one, but what we do have is used very effectively. The episode opens with a panning shot, moving from a group of industrial chimneys to a bleak block of flats which are carved unappealingly out of concrete. The eerie silence is a signifier that it’s early in the morning and as the camera closes into one specific flat, we see that Chris Evans (Kevin Whately) is preparing to take his leave of Judy.

It’s plain that they’re in a relationship – which is a complicating factor since her husband is due home any day. The fact that Evans is a constable at Hartley nick adds another layer of complexity to the problem.

An early screen credit for Kevin Whately, his role in the story isn’t terribly large (although it’s an important one – especially the closing scene). Many series tended to feature one-off characters, like Evans, who have clearly been around for some time but were never actually seen by the viewers either before or after their single appearance. This always feels less than satisfactory and since Evans is a fairly peripheral character for most of the story there seemed to be little value in making him a policeman. Given that he hardly interacts with any of the regulars during the bulk of the story – apart from one scene where he asks Jean for a transfer – he could have worked anywhere.

One of the striking things about Coming Back is that it’s not afraid to use silence. Mick’s eventual return home to Judy is a halting affair – punctuated by awkward gaps in their conversation. As we progress through the episode, various people have their say about him – Judy’s employer Mr Lawrenson (Bernard Gallagher) considers Mick to be a dangerous man whilst Joe Beck can’t forgive him for attacking one of his best friends on the force (Mick’s assault meant that the officer was forced to retire due to ill health).

And yet Mick now hardly seems to pose a threat to anyone. True, he’s capable of getting drunk and riled, but his health issues (a major operation in prison has hit him hard) seems to have curtailed his previous wild spirit. Of course, we have no way of knowing just what sort of a character he really was before this current prison spell. Joe fills Jean in with Mick’s career highlights – but given Joe’s obvious bias it’s possibly not surprising that he delights in painting as black a picture as possible.

Crime is not central to Coming Back. Joe might be convinced that Mick is already planning another job, but that’s not the case. In fact, the only crime occurs in the last minute or so (and doesn’t concern Mick). Instead we have a character based drama which just as easily could have been a Play for Today or an Armchair Theatre. Ron Bain and Rachel Davies make for an intriguing pair – the dynamic between their two characters shifts somewhat during the course of the fifty minutes – and they’re the ones who really drive the episode along.

The Hartley regulars have no interaction at all with either Mick or Judy – only Mr Lawrenson bridges the gap (a nice performance by Bernard Gallagher as a rather pompous and self-important type). There’s some decent character building moments at Hartley nick though – we see Jean relaxing with the others in the kitchen, mock annoyed at George because he had the temerity to call her a Liberal! George also has a lovely line after he turns his nose up at the news that a new wine bar’s opened in town. He sorrowfully shakes his head and declares that Hartley’s becoming more like Morecambe every day ….

The aforementioned wine bar is where Jean and Tom head off for lunch, although it’s something of a stormy meal. Their argument – mainly about whether they should take Jean’s (unseen) mother on holiday with them – continues when they get home. So far Tom’s been a rather placid character, so it’s not a bad thing to see a bit more spark from him.

Those who enjoy the rough and tumble, cops and robbers, aspect of police series won’t find much of interest here (this one couldn’t be further removed from The Sweeney). But as a piece of kitchen sink drama, Coming Back stands up very well.

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Juliet Bravo – The Runner

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Johnny Duffield (Julian Briercliffe) is a nine year old tearaway who’s been in and out of trouble ever since he was six. Currently in care, he delights in absconding and sleeping rough. He comes to Jean’s attention after stealing an invalid car – she’s determined to get him back on the straight and narrow, but he proves to be a tough nut to crack ….

Regarded with weary resignation by Joe and George, Johnny immediately piques Jean’s interest. She finds it impossible to believe that the system is incapable of keeping him under control, but it quickly becomes clear that there are no easy answers. Jean’s husband, Tom (David Hargreaves), has recently taken up a job at social services and this provides the plot with a little dollop of friction. Jean and Tom could be said to be on different sides, although it turns out that they want the same thing (although Tom’s colleagues aren’t averse to using him in order to neuter Jean’s sting!)

This was Julian Briercliffe’s sole acting credit. He certainly makes an impression as the bold, but vulnerable Johnny. We’re told that Johnny’s constructed a wall between himself and the rest of the world – with his mother dead and a father (played by John Rees) who’s been unable to control him, his immediate horizons seem rather bleak.

Mr Duffield might be initially presented as an unsympathetic type, but his character is given some dashes of light and shade as the episode progresses. Due to his busted legs, he’s forced to take in any work he can get – at present he’s button carding (“women’s work” he bitterly tells Jean). When he later confesses that Johnny never loved him, it’s possible to wonder whether he’s telling the truth or if he’s simply hardened his heart to save himself from further pain.

The title suggests one of the main features of the episode. Police walls can’t hold Johnny, as he’s apt to make a dash for freedom at the drop of hat. The first time it happens – outfoxing Joe at Hartley nick – is somewhat embarrassing for all concerned. And the sight of Joe and George (puffing down the high street after him) is a little embarrassing too. Jean’s obviously not too pleased, but when he absconds later, she’s the one who was closest to him. This is something that Joe can’t help but mention ….

If the story has a slight weakness then it’s the fact that mid-way through Johnny suddenly gains a friend from nowhere. In plot terms this makes perfect sense – as it allows Johnny to unburden himself (talking about his mother and his future plans) – but it can’t help but feel a little clunky.

This slight niggle apart, we see some nice performances throughout the episode. David Ashton plays Mr MacRae, the social worker at Johnny’s care home. Like everybody else he’s concerned about him – but he’s also confident that if anybody can fend for themselves out on the moors, then it’s this boy. It’s not really an uncaring attitude, since MacRae has attempted – and failed – to get through to him. A few years later Ashton would be a regular in Brass, playing Doctor MacDuff.

Another familiar face making an appearance is Robert Vahey (later to be the long suffering Bill Sayers from Howards’ Way). Vahey is Tom Collinson, a local reporter who’s convinced that Hartley is the location of a major IRA arms dump. His obsession has nothing at all to do with the main story, but his regular appearances help to sprinkle the episode with a dash of comic relief.

Martin Matthews is very solid as Jim Naylor. Naylor, along with his wife Cynthia (Eileen Helsby), is interested in fostering Johnny. His wayward streak doesn’t bother them and Naylor, as a former orphan, knows better than most how Johnny’s mind works. It’s interesting that he seems to be the first person to get through to the boy – this is despite the fact that everybody else (both the police and social workers) have been equally as patient. Fair to say that this is a story which isn’t criticising the system (Johnny is shown to be something of an anomaly). Since everybody’s done their best to help him, the finger of blame isn’t pointed at any specific person or organisation.

It’s maybe just a little pat that Johnny lands on his feet with a warm and loving couple who are so keen to look after him. But although we end on an optimistic note, there’s still the possibility that things might not work out in the future ….

Not a story that has too many surprises, but the major location shoot (we see plenty of Hartley and the surrounding moors) keeps the interest ticking along.

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Juliet Bravo – Trouble at T’Mill

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Issy Smethurst (John Barrett) is an elderly, set in his ways, lollipop man. Many passing motorists catch his ire, but none more so than Ted Galway (Alan Lake). Galway, a flashy self made man, represents everything that Issy despises. And when Galway buys the factory where Issy works part time (tending the engines) it only serves to deepen their feud ….

The character conflict between Galway and Issy is at the heart of the episode. Issy stands for tradition and continuity – although the engines he so lovingly tends (when he’s not harassing passing motorists) are contained within an eerily quiet factory. Once it was a thriving hub of activity, but now it stands idle. The current owner explains that it’s simply not cost effective to keep it running. When a smaller plant space, with newer equipment, can turn out more textiles at a cheaper cost and with far less manpower, the economic argument for its closure is strong.

The facts don’t concern Issy though. For him, it represents a lifetime of toil (he recalls how he first arrived at the factory, as a seventeen year old). To see those engines broken up – which seems likely after Galway (via proxy) buys the place – is heart-breaking for him.

Ted Galway is Issy’s complete opposite. Having disappeared to London for a few years, he returned as a self made man of considerable means. Now he owns the flashiest house in the neighbourhood (complete with a swimming pool and a snooker room), runs with the local hunt and numbers several high-ranking police officers – such as DCI Logan – amongst his friends.

Logan gently suggests to Jean that Issy needs to be warned against bothering Galway in the future. That Logan’s never even considered the possibility that Galway might be crooked seems barely credible (Logan seems to have swallowed Galway’s story that he made his fortune in a London casino hook line and sinker). Issy might be motivated (in part) by spite, but he’s plainly right when he claims that Galway’s crooked.

Although it might be expected that Issy would be the audience identification figure, there’s also something about Galway which incites a certain sympathy. This is no doubt down to Alan Lake, who manages to make Galway a curiously vulnerable figure.

There’s something ever so slightly pathetic about Galway’s delight in the trappings of his success. From his Rolls Royce (complete with an eight track cartridge system!) to the fact that he now hob nobs with all the local worthies, he leads a comfortable and law-abiding existence. So the arrival of Walter Hancock (Antony Carrick) who’s come up from the smoke is an unwelcome one – since Hancock forces him back into a life of crime.

Galway would like nothing more than to be left alone, but he owes some powerful people some favours, so has no alternative but to get involved in a furs robbery. Which happens to be observed by Issy – who by this point is keeping Galway under constant surveillance!

There are some fascinating incidental details in this story – one which stood out for me is Jean’s assertion that Hancock may very well be a criminal since he has tattooed arms. Today, tattoos are commonplace, but rewind nearly forty years and it’s plain that they were far less socially acceptable. The way we observe how Galway has moved upwards (he likes to indulge in dinner parties with jugged hare, after dinner mints and cigars) is another lovely touch.

Trouble At T’Mill possibly doesn’t show Hartley’s police force at their finest, since it’s Issy who does all the work for them. This is something that annoys Joe immensely – if Issy was a nuisance before, imagine what he’s going to be like now he’s been proved right ….

John Barrett’s a little shaky on his lines from time to time, but considering that he’s got the largest role in the episode that’s possibly not too surprising. Issy’s gifted several nice monologues and shares some decent two-handed scenes with Jean. Knowing about Alan Lake’s untimely death, it can’t help but make his later television appearances (such as this one) seem very bittersweet. Ted Galway is a fine creation – with Lake deftly shading in the nuances of his fluctuating character very well.

Lake would go on to appear in another two Juliet Bravo episodes playing different characters as would Christine Hargreaves who in this one plays Galway’s wife, Vera. You might have expected that Galway would have found himself a young, trophy wife, but not so – Vera is middle-aged and running a little to seed (and whilst Galway has assimilated himself amongst the upper echelons, Vera has remained resolutely working-class). With a cigarette never far from her lips, she seems somewhat out of place in their palatial home. Hargreaves who, like Lake, would pass away in the mid eighties, is probably best known for being one of the original cast members of Coronation Street.

Trouble At T’Mill is low on crime, but high on character conflict and is yet another strong episode from the early part of the first series.

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The Mad Death – Simply Media DVD Review

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It always seemed that it could never happen here, but when a cat infected with rabies is smuggled into Britain it triggers a major crisis. Facing hostility from the public (angry that some of their pets have been impounded) the authorities struggle to stop the outbreak from spinning out of control ….

Tom Siegler’s (Ed Bishop) decision to befriend an apparently benign wolf he discovers at the side of the road has far-reaching consequences. By now the audience has already been primed to expect something awful to happen, although the tension is eked out for a few minutes longer (Tom, having cut his finger slicing a lemon, then goes over and pets the fox – although at this point there’s no reaction).

The boiling point isn’t far away though. Animal wrangling must have been an issue for the serial, as attempting to depict rabid beasts would require considerable co-operation from the animal actors (which no doubt couldn’t always be guaranteed). Director Robert Young keeps the tension bubbling along though, thanks to rapid cuts and close-ups, with the result that the action scenes feel viscerally real.

Young had cut his teeth on horror films (directing Vampire Circus for Hammer in 1971) before moving into television in the early eighties. Robin of Sherwood, Bergerac, Jeeves & Wooster and G.B.H. all benefitted from his presence. Possibly it was his work on The Mad Death which made him an ideal fit later for Robin of Sherwood, as both had – at times – a woozy, non-naturalistic feel.

This is first seen in The Mad Death after Tom, by now seriously ill after being bitten by the fox, is hospitalised following a car crash. The hospital should be a place of safety and security, but instead it’s a hallucinogenic nightmare for him. The mere act of reaching for a glass of water becomes overwhelming (he’s then pictured drowning in a bed of water – a technically impressive shot) whilst other visions are equally as disconcerting (his wife and his mistress both pay him uncomfortable visits). It’s interesting that during these scenes we often switch in and out of reality (with the result that the viewer is privy to Tom’s fevered imaginings). This simply adds to the sense of horror.

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Bishop, a sometimes underrated actor, is excellent as the increasingly tortured Tom. Another stand-out scene for him occurs earlier in the opening episode when he attempts to dispose of the fox. First with a broom handle (that was never going to work) and later with his car. Eventually he does manage to drive him off, but by then the damage has been done.

Although Tom’s story dominates the first episode, the two central characters of the serial – Michael Hilliard (Richard Heffer) and Dr Anne Maitland (Barbara Kellerman) – are also introduced. They first appear during the opening few minutes in a rather clumsy way. It might have been better to cut this scene and hold them back until they actually started to interact with the main plot (for example, when Anne was dispatched to the hospital to confirm the diagnosis that Tom is suffering from rabies).

If Anne has the medical knowledge, then Michael is her equal when it comes to the veterinary angle. But he’s refusing to get involved ….

Richard Heffer was by this time a very familiar television face. A regular in several 1970’s WW2 dramas (Colditz, Enemy at the Door) he’d also made several appearances in Survivors and had appeared throughout the final series of Dixon of Dock Green. Barbara Kellerman had also notched up some notable television appearances during the seventies (The Glittering Prizes, 1990, Quatermass) and would later go on to appear in the BBC’s C.S. Lewis adaptations during the late eighties and early nineties.

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Richard Heffer and Barbara Kellerman

The beginning of the second episode brings any latecomers up to speed with a summation of the events so far, before looking ahead to the current measures being implemented to control the outbreak. This is done quite neatly via a news report (a very effective way of info-dumping).

Episode two also sees a rabid dog terrorising a group of customers in a shopping centre. With a fair number of extras deployed, it’s a good indication that The Mad Death had a very decent budget. Robert Young once again crafts some striking shots – a slow plan past several shop window dummies (stopping eventually on what initially appears to be another dummy but turns put to be a heavily suited dog handler) is especially memorable. A series of jerky cuts gives these scenes a naturalistic, documentary feel.

Anne continues to prove that she’s no shrinking violet by driving a jeep containing Michael and a number of marksmen at high speed through the shopping centre (in a desperate attempt to get to the dog). This is something of a wish-fulfilment scene, since most of us have probably wanted to do this at some point.

Inbetween the moments of terror are longer periods of reflection. Animal lovers, such as Miss Stonecroft (Brenda Bruce), are appalled at the way their pets are being treated (chained up like prisoners twenty four hours a day, she says) whilst Michael and Anne eventually fall into each other’s arms. This always looked inevitable, but it seems sure to annoy Anne’s partner Johnny (Richard Morant). And the fact he’s an arrogant member of the landed gentry who isn’t prepared to take any precautions with his animals is guaranteed to get Michael’s back up ….

The third and final episode ramps up the action another few notches after Miss Stonecroft lets a whole pound full of dogs loose. With the animals roaming the countryside, Michael takes to the skies, coordinating a team of armed soldiers. Their instructions are clear – all animals are to be shot on sight. The filmic sweep of these scenes is another example of the serial’s healthy budget.

Meanwhile, Anne finds herself tangling with an increasingly detached Miss Stonecroft whilst Johnny, also doing his bit to deal with the dogs, eventually runs into Michael. The question is, will he use his gun on the animals or on his love rival? These interlocking plot threads help to keep the interest ticking along until the final few minutes.

Shot on 16mm film, the picture quality is generally pretty good considering the age and unrestored nature of the material. I did notice one picture glitch – at 18:38 during episode three there’s a slight picture breakdown (a brief loss of sound and a blank screen for a second or two).  After the blank screen, we see Michael raising a glass of scotch to his lips but before the glitch he wasn’t holding one, so a short section of this scene is missing (Michael being offered and then accepting a drink).  Luckily it’s not a vital moment, but If I learn any more about this issue then I’ll update this review.

Thirty five years down the line, The Mad Death is still a tense and disturbing watch, thanks to Robert Young’s skilled direction and the performances of the cast. It remains a powerful serial and is well worth adding to your collection.

The Mad Death is released by Simply Media on the 7th of May, RRP £14.99, and can be ordered directly from Simply here. Quoting ARCHIVE10 will add a 10% discount to the order.

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Barbara Kellerman

Juliet Bravo – Coins

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Major Adams (George A. Cooper), convinced that the Russians will attack sooner rather than later, has prepared for this eventuality by stockpiling an impressive array of food and other provisions. This proves to be an irresistible temptation for two young teenagers – Carol (Diana Walker) and Kenny (Mark Price) ….

The first of two episodes written by Ray Jenkins (a writer with an impressive track record across many popular series) Coins is a pretty low-key story which focusses more on the characters involved than it does the crime. The pilfering is pretty petty – some tins of food, a primus stove, etc – and is mainly of interest since it suggests that the perpetrator is somebody living rough.

Cooper’s role in the story is quite small (once Carol and Kenny are identified, Adams fades away) but as might be expected he’s terribly good value with what he is given to do. Adams (rather like Cooper’s most famous creation, Grange Hill’s Mr Griffiths) is somewhat pompous and self-important, but scratch a little below the surface and there’s hidden depths.

Adams’ war service and the things he saw might very well explain why he continues to run his life along such strict lines. His bachelor status and his self-professed pride in doing everything for himself is both admirable and slightly tragic.

There’s something of a jump (almost as if there was a missing scene) after Adams suggests that the young female thief might have been a papergirl who used to work the area. The long-suffering Roland is sent off to check this – but in the next scene we’re at the local care home, where Jean has arrived to speak to Carol. A spot of bridging dialogue, explaining that the ex paper girl was Carol, would have made this part of the story flow a little better.

Diana Walker’s acting career only encompassed this episode of Juliet Bravo and a limited run in Brookside a few years later. Her lack of acting experience helps to give Carol a natural, unforced air – with her mother in hospital (and unlikely to ever come out) she faces a bleak and uncertain future, with Kenny being the one bright light in her life.

Kenny’s disappearance drives the later part of the story, but it’s never suggested that he’s in any danger (or indeed is dangerous himself). His eventual discovery is more the solution to a puzzle, whilst his continuing absence allows the spotlight to be shone on his estranged parents – Bob (David Boyce) and Pat (Deidre Costello).

Joe Beck doesn’t take to Bob at all. Granted custody of his son, Bob seems to be a pretty decent sort of chap – true, he doesn’t often get to see his son (but that’s mainly because he’s working night shifts and sleeping during the day). As he tells Joe, he has to earn money to put food on the table. There’s something in Joe’s expression which suggests this is something of a feeble excuse and the way Boyce plays the scene does suggest that Bob is an inherently weak man.

But he must have seemed a better bet than Pat, since the court decided not to grant her custody. If Bob’s pallid and faded then Pat’s bold and brassy. But her confident public image proves to be decidedly brittle ….

Roland continues to provide a dollop of comic relief. Once again he demonstrates that he’s lacking in a sixth sense (referring to Jean as Wonder Woman, whilst unaware that she’s standing right behind him). But she keeps on giving him chances and decides to take him along to Pat’s house in order to discover whether Kenny is hiding out there. He’s told to dress in plain clothes – well, what he arrives in certainly isn’t a police uniform, but it couldn’t really be classed as plain clothes either.

It’s a slight frustration that this episode introduces us to the very capable WPC Gilbert (Helen Duvall) as sadly this would be her one and only appearance. Possibly it was felt that one female regular was sufficient, but these early episodes would have been stronger if there had been at least one female amongst the rank and file officers.

Fairly forgettable crime-wise then, but Coins is a decent character study.

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Juliet Bravo – The Draughtsman

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DS Cole (Del Henney) arrives from London. An informant of his, Arthur Roberts, was discovered murdered on the moors and Cole has come to identify the body. His role should then be at an end, but the dogged Cole is determined to work out what happened and Jean is keen to assist ….

The first of three different Juliet Bravo roles for Del Henney, Cole is initially presented as a dour, humourless man. He’s less than impressed that the body’s been moved to the mortuary (he would have preferred to have viewed it in situ), seems incredulous that the scenes of crime officers haven’t found anything and is disgusted that so many people have trampled over the site.

The fact he’s been given PC Roland Bentley (Mark Drewry) as a driver seems to be yet another irritation for him. The garrulous Roland and the taciturn Cole seem like a match made in hell. But when Cole wryly grins after overhearing Roland on the radio, telling the station that Cole is a “right one”, it suggests that he might not be quite as dour as he initially appeared.

Roland is the first of a series of PCs who appear throughout the six series. Some are more gormless than others it has to be said, with Roland being somewhat high on the gormless scale. He’s long-suffering (tutting when Cole drags him on a trek across the moors), petulant (when Jean and Cole leave him alone on observation) and ever so slightly sickly (but as he tells Jean, he doesn’t often get car sick now and rarely when he’s driving ….)

Cole is received politely, if condescendingly, by Detective Superintendent Brunskill (John Rowe). Jean later confides to the Sergeant that Brunskill was hardly going to welcome him with open arms – a murder in this area is something of a rarity, so the thought of a London copper stealing their glory wouldn’t be appreciated. Cole solving the case doesn’t concern Jean, but she is bothered about the way that Brunskill’s men have commandeered her nick.

Henney’s greatest strength in this episode is his stillness. As befits Cole’s solitary nature, he’s much more of an observer than a talker (although he can be articulate when he wishes). The best example of Cole’s ability not to react can be seen when he finds himself on the end of a boozy diatribe from Joe Beck. Joe is celebrating twenty two years on the force (confusingly, he refers to this as his “silver handcuffs” which surely would be twenty five) and everybody – including Cole – has convened to the local pub for drinks.

But Joe, a man who’s had dealings with Flying Squad officers like Cole before, is keen to vent his spleen about those flash London coppers. Henney’s the picture of control during this scene – allowing a range of expressions (from amusement to irritation) – to play across Cole’s face. That Cole doesn’t confront Joe in public but does so instead in private (in the toilet shortly afterwards) is an interesting choice. Sparing Joe a public humiliation?

The rift between Jean and Joe now seems to have been healed (although they don’t exchange more than a few words during this episode). But after being rather stroppy in Shot Gun and now drunkenly boorish here, it’s fair to say that Joe hasn’t made a good early impression.

The relationship between Cole and Roberts is teased out as the episode continues. Cole respected his skill as a blag draughtsman and regrets his death. But the main reason why he carries this regret is that he was hoping to pin a really big crime on him one day. For Cole, everything – including relationships – comes back to the job eventually.

With Roberts represented on screen only by an unseen body under a mortuary covering, the script has to work to build up a picture of him. And his criminal associates are also – until the last few minutes – equally shadowy characters (spoken about, but only briefly seen). When they do appear, it’s the cue for a mild action scene as villains and police have a bit of a bundle. The Sweeney it isn’t (director Paul Ciappessoni wasn’t really an action director like, say, Douglas Camfield).

The dichotomy of Cole – he delights in roughing up the villains but also digs into his own pocket to buy a headstone for Roberts’ grave – means that by the end we still don’t really know what makes this enigmatic man tick. Henney would return but Cole wouldn’t, which is a bit of a shame as it would have been interesting to return to the character at a later date.

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Juliet Bravo – Fraudulently Uttered

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Doris Latham (Patricia Hayes) works part time as a tea lady at Doe Electrics. Elderly, Irish and genial, she would appear to be the most unlikely criminal you could ever hope to meet. But over the last four years she’s embezzled the company out of more than thirty thousand pounds ….

Although Patricia Hayes might be best known as a comedic actress (appearing alongside the likes of Tony Hancock, Arthur Askey and Benny Hill, amongst many others) she proved to be no slouch when she moved over to drama – winning a BAFTA for the 1971 Play For Today, Edna the Inebriate Woman, for example.

She continued acting well into the 1990’s, racking up credits on popular series such as Heartbeat and Lovejoy whilst her film career included such diverse roles as Daisy in the classic Ealing wartime propaganda film Went The Day Well? (1942) and Mrs Coady in A Fish Called Wanda (1988).

Fraudulently Uttered is, of course, enhanced no end by her performance (although the Irish accent took a few moments to get used to). As Doris is a female prisoner, Jean finds herself (as the only female officer at Hartley) cast in the role of her jailor (and also interrogator). A curious mixture of innocence and steel, Doris proves to be a tough nut to crack.

The sight of a little old lady locked in a cell at Hartley nick is a powerful one, but Doris’ belief in the righteousness of her actions – she admits stealing the money, but never kept any for herself – gives her a curiously detached air. Even when she asks Jean what her sentence will be, it doesn’t seem to concern her too much. As she says, with only a pension and a cat to go home to, what does it really matter?

The innocent Doris has been manipulated by the far from innocent Jimmy Harker (Ray Smith). Harker, a second hand car salesman, caught Doris’ sympathy after he fed her several sob stories. So as a result, she was quite prepared to steal huge sums of money for him …..

With my accountancy hat on, I have to say that I’m amazed the fraud was undetected for so long. Despite only being the tea lady, Doris was entrusted with taking the cheques at Doe for signing each week. This is just about credible, but it’s the next part which is difficult to swallow. Somehow Doris had stolen a company cheque book and from time to time would slip in one from this book. Fine so far, but when these dodgy cheques were cashed they’d show up on the bank statement with all the others – so surely then somebody would have realised that something was wrong (they wouldn’t have been able to tie them back to an invoice, the cheque numbers wouldn’t have matched the others, etc). Reconciling your bank statement back to your ledger is pretty basic stuff.

Taking my accountancy hat off, there’s still plenty to enjoy in this episode. Ray Smith is wonderful as Jimmy Harker. Harker purrs with silky villainy, taunting DCI Jim Logan (Tony Caunter) that he has nothing on him. But things start to unravel dramatically after Harker tells his associate, Edward Bass (Dicken Ashworth), to take Arthur Hill (Arthur Kelly) out to the quarry and persuade him (with a hammer) that he should keep quiet.

Hill might have been an unwitting part of the fraud, but his testimony could prove fatal for Harker. That Bass and Harker are an inept pair of villains is made clear after a frantic Bass phones Harker to tell him that although he only tapped Hill a few times (!), he thinks that he’s killed him. This is the signal for Harker to make a break for it ….

All Harker’s scenes so far have had a faint comic edge and his attempted getaway carries this theme on. The sight of Harker speeding away on a moped whilst two officers crawl behind in a commandeered car driven by a vicar (played by Hugh Latimer) makes this plain.

This part of the story also gets us back on film after the largely studio-bound nature of the rest of the episode. I like the moment when we see Harker jogging for freedom down the high street. Given the number of passers-by who stop and stare at him, it’s plain that the street wasn’t closed for filming. Therefore these ordinary members of public unexpectedly found themselves television stars for a few seconds.

Another strong script from Ian Kennedy-Martin, Fraudulently Uttered has a lighter tone than Shot Gun and is a highlight from the early run of the series, thanks to Patricia Hayes and Ray Smith.

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Juliet Bravo – Shot Gun

Juliet Bravo carried on in a similar tradition to previous BBC police series such as Dixon of Dock Green, Z Cars and Softly Softly. What links them all is their low-key feel (murders and armed robberies were the exception rather than the rule).

It’s an interesting fact that series creator Ian Kennedy-Martin had also created The Sweeney (penning the original Armchair Cinema pilot, Regan). The Sweeney has long been regarded by many critics as a breath of fresh air – destroying the few remaining shreds of credibility of tired old warhorses such as Dixon and Z Cars.

The truth is a little different though. The surviving colour episodes of Dixon (most of which are now available on DVD) reveal a much more interesting programme than the “tired old dinosaur” of legend. And whilst The Sweeney blazed brightly for a while (with The Professionals and Dempsey and Makepeace following in its wake) there’s no reason why every subsequent police show had to follow this format.

Possibly due to its countryside setting, JB has come to be seen by some as a cosy Saturday night programme, a forerunner to Heartbeat. This is far from the mark though – Hartley may be an isolated town, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Social and economic deprevation (the series debuted in 1980) is the background to many of the stories. Quiet desperation might be said to be one of the series’ recurring themes.

The major selling point of JB, of course, was the fact that a female inspector, Jean Darblay (Stephanie Turner), has been placed in charge of a station full of men. Today this wouldn’t raise an eyebrow, but the novelty of a female Inspector (or indeed a female leading a police series) would still have been strong back in 1980.

The forces of conservatism are represented by the two middle-aged sergeants, Joe Beck (David Ellison) and George Parrish (Noel Collins) with Joe being the most opposed to Jean’s appointment (his calculated insolence runs throughout this opening episode). Eventually she tells him outright not to call her “boss”. “Ma’am” will do instead.

The opening few seconds of the episode – a car gingerly traverses up a steep, deeply rutted road whilst an old woman with a trolly trudges down (with a factory chimney billowing out smoke in the distance) is a wonderful piece of visual shorthand. We’re instantly aware of exactly what sort of town Hartley is (a run-down environment which has seen better days).

The car driver – Rodney Maskell (Tony Melody) – is just as quickly established as a deeply unstable man. With camera angles shooting from low on the ground and from his POV, it helps to create a sense of queasy uneasiness. He’s arrived, at gunpoint, to take his teenage daughter, Maureen (Joanne Whalley) away with him.

After this drama, we switch over to the more humdrum world of Hartley nick. Jean’s already been resident for a short while, but it’s still clearly not something that Joe and George have come to terms with. Joe’s gleefully sorrowful comment that a parade at 9:30 will be difficult is just one round in their battle of wills.

Jean’s encounter with local informer Ted Watson (John Moore) is another. Joe and George have clearly indulged this elderly chap for years, but Jean is far from impressed when she learns that he expects to receive five pounds for his statement (he claims to have witnessed a rape on the moor). This subplot is notable for establishing the bleak tone of the series – Jean attempts to question the mother of the alleged rape victim, but doesn’t get very far. The father isn’t a great deal of help either (telling Jean that if her daughter becomes pregnant they’ll “summon the bastard”. If she’s not, then they won’t).

Jackie Shin (as Mr Porter) enjoys a vivid cameo here, as Porter explains to Jean that dragging his young daughter through the indignity of a court case is something he’s keen to avoid. His parting shot (“if you weren’t a bloody woman, I’d belt you one”) is nicely delivered too.

Mrs Maskell (Margaret Stallard) tells Jean that her husband has been on a downward turn ever since he lost his job (his old place of work – a now derilict mill – could be taken as a visual metaphor for the economic decline of the North). Of course, this is where he and Maureen are holed up (Jean decides to pop into the mill all by herself and is marched out at gunpoint by Maskell for her pains).

It’s hard to see this as anything other than a massive miscalculation on her part (although to be fair, Jean wasn’t aware that Maskell had a shotgun).

Whalley might have been eighteen at the time, but she’s easily able to play a diminutive fourteen year old. She doesn’t have many lines, but no doubt due to her later career she always catches the eye.

Tony Melody is compelling as a man on a verge of a nervous breakdown. His desire to shoot his wife (or indeed the police) is contrasted by his obvious love for his daughter. That she’s the only person he won’t shoot is later used by her as she timidly tells him that she’s prepared to walk out of the door. Melody and Whalley play these later scenes very well.

This looks like it was David Reynold’s only JB episode as director, a pity as there’s some lovely filmic moments peppered throughout (Shot Gun is a major location shoot, other episodes would be more studio based). Later moving to ITV, Reynolds would become a producer, working on many of the network’s top dramas and comedies.

Shot Gun establishes the series with a bang, informing us right from the start that we shouldn’t always expect a happy ending.

 

 

A Very Peculiar Practice – Contact Tracer

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At the start of this episode Lyn and Stephen enjoy a relaxing post-coital moment. Lyn tells him that she’s his best client and that their experiences (with the names changed of course) will make valuable research material. Is she attempting to unsettle him with her talk of other partners – all part of her researches maybe? Stephen, although he’s immensely grateful to Lyn, can’t help but feel like an experiment subject. At one point he likens himself to a “smoking beagle”.

John Bird returns as Vice Chancellor Ernest Hemmingway with Frances White appearing as his ever-loyal secretary Dorothy Hampton. The members of the practice are called to an early morning meeting with the VC, where the drinks on offer – apple juice – doesn’t meet with the approval of Bob (“I’m not a bloody hippy”).

Hemmingway is a jargon-spouting bureaucrat, keen for the practice to pay its way. Stephen’s weak protestation (made even less impressive by the way he’s clutching his carton of apple juice) that they have an impressive treatment rate piques the VC’s interest for a fleeting second, but since it’s not actually something that’s generating income he’s unsure of how they can spin it into a success story.

Stephen’s encounter with Jeannie MacAllister (Geraldine Alexander) has unforseen consequences. She’s charming and Stephen is his usual affable and friendly self, but she’s also a journalist and despite Stephen’s protests that he can’t discuss confidential medical matters with her, he attempts to put a positive spin on their treatment successes. Alas, this means that he turns into Doctor Blue Eyes whilst their success at treating VD becomes a major talking point of the article.

But then there’s a rash – as it were – of cases of sexually transmitted diseases. Stephen and Rose Marie, of course, are delicate, patient and understanding with their patients whilst Bob is forthright, brisk and uncaring. “Below the waist I take it? Front or back? So we’ve got a bit of tool trouble, well, well, well”. Jock is his usual avuncular self, telling one student that it’s “one of the minor penalties extracted from us by the goddess aphorpdite”.

With thirteen cases in two days (“trouble with the trouser snake” as Bob puts it) Jock and the others have a race against time to stop the epidemic growing. Graham Crowden once again ramps the intensity up and effortlessly steals the scene as Jock rages to Bob that they have to tackle this undercover and with a Falklands spirit. Later bulletins to the troops (“we’re holding the enemy, but only just”) are delivered in the same entertaining military manner.

With only a limited number of extras on hand, a little bit of creative work ensures that the illusion of a stream of patients is created. First, we see a number of mute patients before rapidly cutting to close-ups of the doctors as they continue to work their way through a backlog of appointmemts. By this point we simply have to accept that the unseen people they’re talking to are actually there.

Bob’s rundown of which departments were the worst offenders is a classic VPP moment. “Arts Faculty produced the largest number of cases. Idle sods. Too much time on their hands. Whole department’s going down like dominos. Similar pattern with the secretaries and porters, and Communication Studies lived up to their name. Waitresses and bar staff were a problem till we sewed up the catering managers’ trousers with cobbler’s thread. Sociologists only appear to do it with each other and we’ve got control there. Engineers, you’ll be interested to hear, have a very low rate of sexual activity. Singing about it in the bar seems to be their only outlet. And Physical Sciences hardly troubled the scorer”.

The nuns – who have been ever-present background figures – call in to see Jock. Stephen’s shocked expression – surely, they can’t have … ? – offers Peter Davison a lovely reaction moment. The late twist that even the VC is affected is another gift for Davison as Stephen is forced to reluctantly approach Hemmingway in his den. Naturally, the VC immediatly jumps to the conclusion that Stephen’s attempting to blackmail him.

The VC is appreciative but as a skilled politician he finds it impossible to believe that Stephen won’t attempt to use this embarrassing information at a later date. So Stephen’s told gently but firmly that his days at Lowlands are strictly numbered ….

A Very Peculiar Practice – Black Bob’s Hamburger Suit

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An old school friend of Bob’s, Jimmy Partington (David Gwillim), is able to put a potentially lucrative consultancy deal his way. Jimmy, now working for Hamburger – a major international pharmaceutical company – wants him to trial Confidan, a wonder drug that can cure just about any ill.

And with Jock under pressure from the Vice Chancellor, this could be just the sort of thing to prove their worth. Bob ropes Stephen in and the pair start to prescribe the drug (Stephen as and when required, Bob to anybody who walks through the door). Everything seems to be going swimmingly, until ….

Black Bob’s Hamburger Suit is, as the title suggests, a Bob-centric episode. This is a very good thing. Given a little more time and space, David Troughton is able to flesh out the character of Bob Buzzard very nicely. We start by dropping in on his home life (a swooping camera pan across a number of expensive-looking, but identical houses). After a few hurried and angry words with his wife, Daphne (Kay Stoneham), he’s straight into his car. His first job is drop his boys, Ollie and Simon, off at school.

Diminutive and bespectacled, they decide that daddy is in one of his rages. The way that Bob drives – aggressively and fast – suggests this is so, however much he denies it. His children don’t seem to have a very happy school life – duffed up by the boarders who refer to them as double-glazing salesmen. No doubt this is due to their impressive briefcases – gifts from a prestigious multi-national drugs company.

Bob is clearly happy to receive trinkets like this (as well as an expensive new suit of which he’s very proud) but until he meets Jimmy he doesn’t seem to be aware that further rewards could be his. Not only money, but a trip to Bermuda possibly. Only for him of course, no room for Marjorie. Delightfully this doesn’t seem to concern him that much. His off-hand comment when Jimmy asks how Marjorie is (“oh she’s all right I suppose”) is nicely done.

Bob, for all his aggressive outer shell, is little more than a child. Unlike the more machevilian Rose Marie, he doesn’t view Stephen as a threat (on the contrary, he invites him to join the Confidan project). And with everybody urged to develop papers or topics, Stephen – with nothing on hand – agrees with alacrity. Jock is working on a new book – The Sick University – whilst the ever industrious Rose Marie has dozens of projects to choose from.

Jock’s frequent asides into his tape recorder (as he compiles material for The Sick University) is an episode highlight. It causes some of his patients to run away although others are built of sterner stuff. “A typical consulation in the sick university. All is the same, all is new. One face, one body, taken at random from the long procession of pain. This is a young man. The unlined, greasy, pustules skin denotes innocence and ignorance. But then the eyes meet the eyes of the doctor and everything is changed, changed utterly. In that moment of acknowledgment, a shared mortality in which each symptom inscribes itself as an ideograph of the inevitable death that is all we humans share”.

And the pay-off? The young man’s come to him about his piles …

There’s yet another incredibly awkward conversation between Stephen and Rose Marie. She once again turns on the full power of her considerable sexuality to discomfort him (I love the production detail that plastic nipples were sown into Barbara Flynn’s costume – thereby ensuring that Rose Marie proved to be just that little more distracting at all times!)

When Rose Marie leans in even closer to tell Stephen that she finds him attractive, there’s another lovely touch from Davison as he swallows nervously and clears his throat. Once again, he’s mainly reacting, but it’s still done very well. It hard to take your eyes off Flynn though – the way she doesn’t break eye contact, how she uses her hand to draw attention to the points she’s making – it’s another masterclass in allure.

Rose Marie has come to tell him that he really should claim joint ownership of Bob’s paper. As we’ve already had a faint suggestion that there’s something wrong with Confidan, this is obviously another of Rose Marie’s manuvoures designed to embarrass and weaken her colleagues. There’s a very interesting cynical line reading from Davison late in the scene (“as a colleague and a friend?”) that seems to suggest he’s aware that Rose Marie is playing him, but this doesn’t seem to be as scripted as afterwards Stephen goes on merrily assisting Bob.

Both Bob and Stephen are presented somewhat as innocents. Lyn’s the one who suggests they set up a control group – supplied with a placebo – so their results can be compared against those prescribed Confidan. Stephen reacts in wonder at this (“that’s brilliant”) whilst she considers it to be simply common sense.

Lyn’s a constant presence throughout the episode. Whether she’s slowly drawing out Stephen’s confidence (first with a kiss and then by sharing the same bed) it’s plain that a great deal of his new-found resolve comes from her. The fact that he’s beginning to fall in love doesn’t please her though. She likes him a lot, but she also has interests elsewhere.

Bob’s noticed the change in him, approvingly putting it down to his “totty” (“she’s not my totty” Stephen weakly replies). Daphne refers to her as a “tart” and is highly undelighted that Bob’s invited her and Stephen to Sunday lunch. Daphne’s so utterly horrible during the scene where she and Bob are discussing the upcoming lunch, that it does shine a little light into what may be a fairly wretched home life for Bob. But when he plaintively asks Daphne if she actually loves him (again, a very child-like question) she does cease her sniping and responds to him as a mother would to her son.

Stephen and Lyn are left alone with Ollie and Simon while Bob and Daphne argue in the kitchen. The boys keen them entertained with a rundown of the terrible people their daddy has to work with. “The mad old fart and the uppity dyke. And the wet liberal. He’s so wet you could shoot snipe off his back”.

It’s no surprise to learn that Confidan has a major flaw (nothing serious, but it causes a nasty ear inflammation) which means that Bob has to reluctantly file a negative report. Stephen berates him over the fact that he already knew an American trial was similarly affected, but Bob weakly responds that he was assured the problems had been fixed. After all, if you can’t trust a major international pharmaceutical company who can you trust?

Black Bob’s Hamburger Suit has always been a favourite, thanks to the way it puts David Troughton front and centre. He seems to relish every line and delivers them perfectly. There are a number of stand-out scenes, but one of most memorable has to be when Bob – making an early start – discovers Jock attempting to hang himself (a bleak moment, albiet dealt with in a comic way).

After Bob is told to go away he does, all the way to his office. There’s a few exquisitely timed beats until he wheels around and returns to Jock. He then tells Jock that he shouldn’t really kill himself. Instead he prescribes him a course of Confidan ….