Back to April 1980 (5th April 1980)

I’ll be sticking with BBC1 today. First there’s Wonder Woman, with the series three episode The Starships are Coming. An everyday tale of alien invasion (or is it?). By this point the show was beginning to run out of steam, but this is a decent one – very silly of course, but that’s the appeal of WW.

A sharp change of pace next, for All Creatures Great & Small. Big Steps and Little ‘Uns is a key episode – the final episode of series three (which at the time seemed to spell the end of the series) it ends on a sombre note as James and Siegfried, with WW2 looming, both face the prospect of leaving the security of the Dales for an unknown future. This is obviously the cue for a series of emotional farewells which the regulars play pitch-perfectly.

I’ll round off the evening with a double dose of Dallas, which sees Jock stands trial. My Dallas rewatch has somewhat run aground during the last year, so possibly dipping in here might reignite my enthusiasm to pick it up again.

Back to April 1979 (4th April 1979)

During the next seven days I’ll be sampling April’s schedules between 1979 and 1985. As before, I’m only going to choose programmes that I can actually source from my archive, so anything which looks intriguing but I don’t have will have to be sadly passed over. Let’s dive in ….

BBC1 offers a repeat of Happy Ever After which is followed by a repeat of Accident (no doubt the high preponderance of repeats was irritating certain viewers).

Accident has reached episode two, Take Your Partners. It’s an interesting series, which focuses on the ramifications of the same event (a multi vehicle accident) from different perspectives. This gives it a similar feel to Villains (LWT, 1972). There’s no shortage of good actors across the series’ eight episodes and this was one of three directed by the always reliable Douglas Camfield.

Over on ITV, there’s chicken issues in Coronation Street (a short-lived but nevertheless amusing plotline which sees an initially reluctant Hilda transformed into a doting fowl lover). Later I’ll be crossing over to BBC2 for the start of a new series – Q8. By this point, Spike Milligan’s idiosyncratic sketch show defies any sort of description – but, if you’re in the right mood, there’s usually some nuggets of gold still to be found.

Travelling Man – Sudden Death (12th December 1984)

Lomax’s quest for his son (not to mention finding out who framed him) is halted temporarily when he returns to London to attend his mother’s funeral. Afterwards, he resumes his targeting of Pember (Colin Jeavons) – a man who might be able to help him clear his name ….

Although the previous episode, Moving On, ended on something of a cliffhanger, the ongoing story halts temporarily as Lomax says farewell to his mother and attempts to rebuild bridges with his still somewhat bitter father (played by Patrick Godfrey).

Their scenes together help to bring the character of Lomax into sharper focus, although the picture that emerges isn’t an especially flattering one. Lomax Snr (he’s not given a Christian name, merely credited as ‘father’) remains comically disapproving about the flashy way Lomax dressed during his police days (Lomax tries to explain that he was undercover at the time, but that doesn’t seem to sink in).

Rather more telling is Loman Snr’s disapproval about his son’s philandering ways. Was this the reason why his wife left him? Lomax Snr also believes that having an ex-convict in the family is a source of great embarrassment (Lomax continues to protest his innocence, but his father – an experienced policeman of the old school – has heard it all before and doesn’t believe a word of it, even from his own flesh and blood).

Another fascinating moment occurs when Lomax wonders why his father didn’t let him see his mother during her final days. Lomax Snr’s initial response – he wanted his son to remember his mother as she was – is swiftly followed by a throwaway comment that she died of shame (because of Lomax’s conviction?) Lomax quickly picks up on this, but his father doesn’t seem to realise the import of his words (or decides he’s gone too far) and the conversation moves on.

They part on reasonable terms, although Lomax later admits that his previously held respect for his father has all but faded away. This strained father/son relationship seems to run parallel to what may be an equally fractious relationship between Lomax and Steve. It’s later revealed that Steve attended his grandmother’s funeral incognito. This confirms that he’s fine and had he wanted to speak to his father then he could have done so at any time during the last few months.

Later Lomax looks up Maureen (Bobbie Brown) for an afternoon of champagne, sex and Earl Gray tea. Their scenes together are, like the meeting with his father, designed to shine more of a light on Lomax’s character. And again it’s not flattering, as Maureen (shortly to be married) tells Lomax that she can’t see him any more – but wanted this one last time in order to use him the way he’s frequently used her.

After this mild battering to Lomax’s psyche, he gets back on the trail of Pember. More information is now shared with the audience – there were eight officers, including Lomax and Pember, involved in the operation which led to Lomax’s conviction. He’s convinced that Pember and someone else (as Pember seems to be too weak-willed to have masterminded things on his own) were responsible for framing him.

Lomax continues his psychological reign of terror (phoning up Pember in the middle of the night) although when they actually meet the dynamic between them has subtly shifted and Pember seems more in control. By this point, Pember has also made contact with Martin (Tony Doyle). If Colin Jeavons made a good career out of playing weaselly types then Doyle’s stock in trade was that of the implacable enforcer. The relationship between the two is skewed in Martin’s favour, although Pember (as long as he stays alive) has something of a hold over him.

And this is the point of the story where you realise that Pember’s a weak link who isn’t long for this world. Alas, Lomax is a little slower on the uptake and can’t prevent his murder. Given that he suspected Pember wasn’t working alone, surely he should have realised he was vunerable?

Ah well, that sets things up nicely for the second series. Especially when Lomax leafs through a series of photos of Pember and Martin and doesn’t react at the two of them together, which tells us that Martin isn’t known to him.

So across the course of six episodes we’ve seen two recurring plotlines developed, although neither have reached their conclusion. Hopefully the second series will offer closure. Time will tell …

Travelling Man -Moving On (5th December 1984)

For once the peripatetic Lomax seems content to stay in the same place for a while (he’s taken a job at the local pub). This doesn’t please Neil Pember (Colin Jeavons) who knows Lomax of old and is keen for him to move on as soon as possible. So Pember engages the services of Kenny (Jeffrey Hardy) to sort this out – using any means necessary ….

The last two episodes of series one are the point where Lomax’s desire to find out who framed him really begins to come to the fore (although I assume that Roger Marshall already knew he’d been commissioned for a second series as everything is left dangling at the end of the next episode).

Colin Jeavons plays to type as Pember. He’s a somewhat nervous and devious person, although he does have a hard streak (challenging Kenny to an arm wrestle but placing his open lighter under Kenny’s arm).

I’m not sure if it’s a story flaw, but had Pember simply done nothing then I’m sure Lomax would have moved on when the time was right (as he’s still searching for his son). So by engaging Kenny, Pember has simply drawn attention to himself and sown the seeds of his own destruction.

Although I suppose you could argue that given it’s a fairly small place Lomax and Pember would probably have run into one another eventually, so maybe Pember decided it was worth trying get rid of Lomax by force.

Is Kenny the man for the job though? He seems something of a lightweight and given all we’ve seen of Lomax so far this series, there only seems like one winner in the battle between them. This might be another miscalculation by Pember, or possibly Lomax has grown harder following his stay in prison. Since we have no knowledge of the old Lomax it’s hard to say for sure – but today’s episode once again demonstrates that he’s happy to use violence to resolve a situation (if he was like that during his police days then it’s a wonder he didn’t get drummed out of the force earlier).

Remaining in mild niggle mode, it’s remarkable that so many people met by Lomax on his travels have seen Steve. Today it’s the turn of Susie (Kate Hardie), who appears on the surface to be a friendly teenager with no particular agenda. We’re forced to revise this opinion later on after Kenny asks her to plant some drugs on Lomax’s boat (having then tipped off the police, this is his first attempt to get rid of Lomax).

If you can swallow that Susie has met Steve, more swallowing is required when she becomes embroiled in the episode’s main plotline. This is a little hard to take (unless Kenny knew that Lomax and Susie had already met). When the police – in the form of Inspector Jakeman (Richard Ireson) – come calling, Lomax is remarkably nonchalant. He’s already disposed of the drugs so no problem there, but doesn’t seem in the least concerned about the fact he’s been entertaining an underage girl on his boat (although it’s true that they’ve done nothing more than enjoy a cup of tea).

Jakeman is one of the more comical coppers to cross Lomax’s path. He’s easily bamboozled by the ex-detective and is forced to leave empty-handed.

Kenny steps up his efforts by using his crop dusting helicopter (that’s a handy occupation) to buzz Lomax’s narrowboat as it wends its way down the canal. This is the closest that the series came to a car chase, and although it’s low in speed it’s still an impressive scene.

By this point Lomax is angry (and you don’t want to make him angry) so he plots his revenge in a typically single-minded fashion. He uses a club to knock Kenny unconscious, drags him to a shed and proceeds to almost run him over with a handy threshing machine. Hopefully Lomax was just bluffing, but looking into his eyes it’s difficult to be sure. As touched upon earlier, this outcome was always on the cards – so the question wasn’t who would win, but how Lomax would win.

Now that Lomax knows that Pember was behind Kenny, everything’s nicely set up for the series closer. And this episode ends on an ominous tone with a silent Lomax simply watching the increasingly frantic Pember. Like a cat playing with a mouse, Lomax is content to bide his time and engage in a spot of psychological warfare.

Travelling Man – The Grasser (28th November 1984)

Lomax’s latest parking place for his narrowboat seems idyllic enough – but his peace is abruptly shattered when several bullets are fired in his direction. He initially assumes he’s the target, but upon further investigation that turns out not to be the case ….

The shooter – Thomas (Paul Chapman) – is the centre of attention during the opening part of the story. Arriving in the UK on Concorde, it’s plain that he’s a professional arriving to do a specific job. We’re misdirected into assuming that this is to kill Lomax, but it quickly becomes obvious that isn’t so (his practice shots in the woods simply went rather wide of the mark and hit Lomax’s narrowboat by mistake).

For a well paid assassin, you have to say it slightly beggars belief that he’d be quite so inaccurate in his shooting (it’s also a clumsy way to get Lomax involved in the story, but any other way would probably have seemed just as contrived, so we’ll have to let it go).

Thomas is staying in a small hotel which overlooks a palatial house where Jimmy Nolan (Bernard McNamara) is currently resident. It seems unlikely that Nolan would own the house and the slightly mocking tone of his companions provides us with another clue – they’re police officers who have the job of minding him (the episode title will tell you why).

Nolan might be a very minor villain, but he has had the knack of listening into conversations with major league offenders. So delivering him safely into the witness box wouldn’t be pleasing for many in the underworld (hence Thomas’ presence). McNamara would always do you a nice line in seedy villainy (he was a regular in Hazell as Cousin Tel, for example).

Lomax calls his regular newspaper contact – Robinson (Terry Taplin) – who intercedes with the police on his behalf. This means we’re graced with an appearance from the always dependable David Saville as Superintendent Richards who, rather surprisingly, spills the beans about this delicate operation to Robinson.

Once Lomax knows Nolan’s life is in danger you’d assume he’d warn the officers guarding him, but that doesn’t happen. It’s slightly hard to work out why, but maybe Lomax wanted the kudos of defeating Thomas personally.

If so, his plan backfires spectacularly as Thomas knocks him out and holds him hostage at gunpoint. Until this point, the episode’s two main characters – Lomax and Thomas – have been essentially solitary (interacting with others, but only on a surface level).

The point when they’re brought together is where The Grasser really begins to build momentum. Paul Chapman is given some interesting dialogue which fleshes out Thomas’ character significantly – he may in part be the dispassionate assassin of cliché but he’s also gifted some more unusual character traits. Thomas invests the money he receives fron successful hits into sheep. “Last job was an Italian vineyard owner. Good value. 150 females and five rams”.

The downbeat ending (although I suppose how downbeat you regard it depends on which side of the law you’re on) is effective. And it’s worth noting that by the end Thomas has emerged as a far more interesting and sympathetic character than Nolan (maybe partly as played, but presumably mostly as scripted). But whatever the outcome, Lomax ends up bruised, battered and inside a police cell – although the always dependable Robinson is on hand to bail him out.

Travelling Man – The Watcher (21st November 1984)

Lomax’s continuing search for his son has brought him to an isolated Welsh village. The welcome he receives in the hillside is a somewhat lukewarm one, which doesn’t improve after a young girl goes missing and suspicion inevitably falls on the stranger in their midst ….

There’s something of a telefantansy feel about the opening of The Watcher as Lomax wanders through the deserted village. The puzzle deepens after he enters the primary school which is also devoid of people (and a list of drug terms on the blackboard is a jarring thing to find in such surroundings).

The mystery is quickly dissipated though – everyone is at the chapel, listening to the fire and brimstone proclamations of Morgan Rees (Freddie Jones). As Rees employs virtually the whole community they clearly feel an obligation (however unwilling some may be) to hear him expound at length on the evils of modern society.

As the episode continues, you can’t help but wonder what the Welsh viewers watching at home made of this one. We’re told that the village is something of a throwback, a tightly knit community where strangers are far from welcome. Although Lomax does encounter the odd friendly face, a general air of hostility is the order of the day – which hardly paints a very flattering picture of the country.

Although relatively few members of the village are given speaking roles, at times they seem to operate en masse in a hostile way towards Lomax (especially at the end, which we’ll come to later). Rees’ financial hold over them helps to partly explain their actions though.

Although the cast was, as you’d expect, peppered with Welsh actors, the main guest role fell to an Englishman, Freddie Jones. He tackles a Welsh accent with aplomb and has considerable presence as the florid and autocratic Rees, whose grip on his people becomes more and more tenuous as time creeps on.

Meg Wynn Owen (possibly best known for playing Hazel in Upstairs Downstairs) has a decent part as Gwen Owen, a schoolteacher who initially befriends Lomax but – due to pressure applied – is later persuaded to lay false claims of assault against him.

Hubert Rees made a good career out of playing ineffectual authority figures, so Geoff Watkins (the village’s police representative) was a role well within his comfort zone. Watkins, a man totally under Rees’ thumb, makes a half-hearted attempt to move Lomax on. But Lomax isn’t someone to take fright easily and certainly not when pressure is applied from the likes of Watkins.

Other familiar Welsh actors – Davyd Harries and Aubrey Richards – help to fill out the cast. Alan (Harries) is one of those convinced of Lomax’s guilt (although whether this is due to a desire to please Rees, a genuine belief of wrongdoing or simply a dislike for the English is never made clear).

Richards has a memorable cameo as a draughts player who delights in beating Lomax in what appears to be a friendly pub game. Once he’s celebrated victory, the mood darkens when he refuses to take a drink with Lomax. It’s a brief but telling moment and clearly comes as a jolt to the visitor.

Norman Jones (another non-Welsh actor) is the episode’s other major guest star. He plays DCI Jenkin, brought in to coordinate investigations after the girl’s dead body is discovered.  Like Rees, Jones is playing a familiar part today (Coronation Street and Inspector Morse are just two other series where he can be found in detective mode).

Jones gives an excellent performance and the relationship between Jenkin and Lomax helps to propel the second half of the episode to its conclusion. Unlike some of the policeman we’ve met so far in the series, Jenkin (although he wearily regards Lomax’s presence as a distraction) doesn’t actively despise him and, indeed, they work together in order to uncover the truth.

The episode isn’t a whodunnit. The audience is told who fairly early on and the reason why isn’t too much of a mystery. Other writers may have attempted to put a twist into the story or placed Lomax in more active trouble with the police (although he’s accused of murder, his innocence is quickly established) but Marshall seems to content to let things play out as they are.

After the matter is finally settled, Lomax prepares to leave in his narrowboat – but is startled to see a large portion of the village assemble on the hilltop to watch him go. Apart from Gwen, friendly faces are scarce, and the effect is decidedly unsettling, although you have to wonder just how realistic it would be for so many people to act in a gestalt fashion like this.

Mind you, as the identity of the murderer has brought about a seismic change in the village and the outsider Lomax is probably seen by many as the man to blame, I suppose it’s not entirely impossible. And of course it’s a memorable way to conclude the episode ….

Travelling Man – The Collector (14th November 1984)

Lomax is targeted by Naylor (Michael Feast), who’s come to collect the fortune he believes Lomax has stashed away. But with Lomax absent, he stalks Andrea instead ….

No time is wasted in establishing that Naylor is somewhat on the psychotic side. He begins by purchasing a gun from a selection offered in a car boot at a multi-story car park (even this early on, it’s easy to believe that Naylor – although he didn’t – could have killed the seller after the deal was collected). He then picks up some protection money from an arcade, doing what turns out to be his signature move (rattling a box of matches).

Someone – we don’t know who – has commissioned Naylor to retrieve up the money it’s believed Lomax collected before he went inside. But although Naylor might appear as an intimidating figure to Andrea, everything we’ve seen in the series so far suggests that he’ll be no match for Lomax.

And that’s how it later turns out, which is one of the weaknesses of the episode. Had Lomax not been urgently called away then I’ve a feeling the story would have been a lot shorter ….

The reason for Lomax’s absence – his mother is ill – does feel slightly contrived, especially since we never actually see her or his father. Lomax’s father, a policeman of the old school, still intensely disapproves of his son’s fall from grace and has shut him out of their lives. Some sort of meeting would have carried a dramatic punch, so it’s slightly surprising that it didn’t happen (although since his mother’s illness features later in the series it can’t be dismissed as simply a MacGuffin).

With Lomax away, the field is clear for Naylor to creep aboard the narrowboat where Andrea is sleeping, douse her bedclothes in petrol and then wake her up – all the time rattling his box of matches in a menacing fashion. Michael Feast would always do you a nice line in unhinged types and he doesn’t disappoint today – playing off against Lindsay Duncan in this key scene very well. The moment when an apparently satisfied Naylor leaves Andrea (only to casually throw a lighted match towards her) is quite a jolting one.

A shaken Andrea, recovering in hospital with burns that thankfully aren’t too serious, is visited by a concerned Lomax but as soon as he leaves her room up pops Naylor to taunt her again. That’s a slight story contrivance but I think we can let it go.

So far the episode has kept Lomax and Naylor apart – he searches, but fails to find him, in the hospital – but eventually of course they have to meet. And then things go the way you’d expect with Naylor proving to be no match (ahem, no pun intended) for the remorseless Lomax. Which, as touched upon before, is the episode’s main flaw – had Naylor contrived a way to get Lomax out of the way so he could deliberately target Andrea then that might have just tightened things up.

That’s only a minor quibble though, as The Collector is another strong episode which doesn’t feel padded.

It’s the end of the line for Lomax and Andrea though, as she decides that his life is just too dangerous for her. So he loads up the narrowboat and sets course for a new destination ….

Travelling Man – First Leg (7th November 1984)

Travelling Man was a thirteen part series/serial written by Roger Marshall, broadcast between 1984 and 1985. After scripting the Survivors episode Parasites (tx 2nd June 1976) Marshall began to mull over the possibility of a series where the central character traversed the country in a narrowboat. Given the slowness of this form of travel, it certainly offers a change of pace from most action/adventure series where high speed car chases are usually the order of the day ….

Marshall initially offered the series to the BBC, with John Thaw earmarked as the lead character Lomax. They turned it down and several ITV companies also rejected it before it finally found a home at Granada. By that point Leigh Lawson had been cast as Lomax and although only a few years separated Thaw and Lawson, it’s hard to imagine Thaw playing the character as written (or convincing in some of the stunt set pieces). But possibly Marshall tailored the scripts to suit Lawson and had Thaw taken the role, Lomax would have been subtly different.

This opening episode, First Leg, has an echo of the Public Eye episode Welcome to Brighton? (Marshall, the co-creator of Public Eye, wrote all seven episodes in the series’ fourth run which began with this episode). Both Lomax and Public Eye‘s Frank Marker open their respective episodes as inmates awaiting release after serving a prison sentence for a crime they didn’t commit.

It quickly becomes clear that Lomax is a loner like Frank Marker, although they’re very different character types. Marker has long been a loner out of preference but prior to his conviction, Lomax had a wife, a son, a house and a job. All of these have now been taken away from him, which forces him into the life of a solitary (although he still possesses an approachable charm, so it’s easy for him to make friends).

The search for his son, Steve, is one of the motors which drives the series. And it’s also a handy dramatic device, providing Lomax with a good reason to always keep moving (plus when he turns up in a new place there’s invariably some problem that needs to be sorted out). Also bubbling away close to the surface is the mystery of his conviction – Lomax used to be police officer and is rumoured to have walked away with a fortune following an aborted drugs bust. He denies this, but as we’ll see in the second episode not everyone is ready to believe him.

Lomax’s character is quickly delineated – before the opening credits have run in fact. Taking a shower after returning from a prison work party, he’s approached by a prison officer who offers to take special care of him after he’s released. It’s an offer which Lomax declines in a violent fashion, leaving the prison officer on the floor nursing a broken hand. This gives us a short, sharp insight into the man he is – clearly not someone you would wish to cross lightly. An unfortunate drug dealer (played by Peter Faulkner) discovers this later in the episode.

First Leg effectively sets up the premise of the series. Derek Newark essays a memorable cameo as DCS Sullivan, a former colleague who makes it plain that Lomax should move on with all haste. Morag Hood (as Sally Page) plays an unlikely drug addict whose plight forms a key part of the episode. And Lindsay Duncan (as Andrea) forms an instant connection with Lomax which will spill over into the second episode.

Everything’s working well then – throw in Duncan Browne’s haunting theme and incidentals and you’ve got a series which hits the ground running.

Danger Man – The Lovers

Drake has little love for the current Baravian government or its president, Pablo Gomez (Ewen Solon). But when he’s told that an attempt might be made on Gomez’s life during a visit to London, he immediately springs into action ….

Miguel Torres (Michael Ripper), an old adversary of Drake’s, requests his help in protecting the president. The always dependable Ripper essays an entertaining cameo as a possibly untrustworthy new ally (although given there’s a fair bit of plot to get through, Torres remains a fairly undeveloped character).

Given that the autocratic Gomez seized power after a violent uprising, there’s no shortage of dissidents (forced to flee Baravia and now living in the UK) who may wish him and his wife Maria (Maxine Audley) harm. But the fact they’re dealt with in a very abrupt manner (we see quick cutaway shots of Drake interviewing several people) makes it clear that they’re not going to feature.

Gomez is kept in the background for most of the episode, with Maria foregrounded much more (she’s the one who deals directly with Drake to begin with). It’s a nice performance from Maxine Audley who effectively manages to tease out Maria’s disenchantment with the current situation in her country. By the end of the episode we’re left in no doubt that she possesses a core of steel which will hopefully help to bring about positive change.

The other major guest appearance comes from Martin Miller as Stavros. Miller is a twitchy, ingratiating delight as a bomb maker who offers to tell Drake all he knows – for a cool ten thousand pounds.

As has happened before, mid-way through the episode is the point where the story begins to collapse. I can accept that Stavros has been commissioned to build a bomb and that he knows the time it will go off, but how does he know who ordered it?

For those who don’t know the ending please look away now …..

Gomez was responsible – his plan was to place the bomb in his car and at the last minute be called to an urgent phone call (meaning that his wife would be driven away and shortly afterwards be blown to smithereens). Wouldn’t it just have been easier to ask for a divorce?

It beggars belief that Gomez approached Stavros directly (surely he could have used an intermediary?) and when Stavros – arriving at Paddington station to receive the cash from Drake – is shot dead, it’s even harder to credit that Gomez was lurking somewhere on the platform with a gun. Given there had been a threat on his life, would he have been allowed to walk around on his own?

Looking for the positives, Stavros’ death scene (in the ambulance, clutching the money he never got a chance to spend) is a nice touch and there’s some brief travelogue shots of London (although McGoohan was obviously doubled for the Paddington location shoot).

If you can suspend your disbelief, then The Lovers (an obviously ironic title) isn’t a bad way to spend twenty five minutes.

Danger Man – The Blue Veil

Posing as a drink-sodden desert rat, Drake visits a small town on the Arabian coast. There he meets the autocratic ruler, the Moukta (Ferdy Maine), a man allegedly implicated in the local slave trade ….

When I cued up this episode on Network’s DVD, my first thought was that I’d played the previous episode (The Nurse) by accident again, as both open with a shot of a helicopter hovering over what’s supposed to be a stretch of desert. But no, this is a different story even though the setting is pretty much the same.

The Blue Veil takes pains to establish that we’re in a society which would be totally alien to many of those in the West – it’s a land still firmly fixed in the Middle Ages, where justice is brutal and women are very much secondary citizens. The episode doesn’t really explore the problems of the locals though as most of Drake’s time is spent interacting with two Europeans – Spooner (Laurence Naismith) and Clare Nichols (Lisa Gastoni).

Spooner, an Englishman, has totally assimilated himself into the local culture and views the arrival of Drake with extreme disfavour. Naismith is excellent – managing to radiate a calm malevolence that’s very effective. Clare is today’s damsel in distress, desperate to return to civilisation and hopeful that Drake will help her.

Drake’s reluctant to break cover, so he has to be cool with her for a while. There’s a fascinating scene where she seems to see right through him – declaring that even though his outward appearance is disheveled, there’s goodness within. Either she has a sixth sense or Drake’s play-acting isn’t as good as he’d hoped.

Another small, but telling, moment comes after she learns of Drake’s apparent links with the slave trade. Her disgust seems to cause him a spasm of pain.

Rounding out the small guest cast is Joseph Cuby as Hassan, a young lad who befriends, betrays and then comes to serve Drake. Cuby offers an appealing turn, although the moment when Drake threatens Hassan with a knife does feel a little disquieting. We know that Drake would never use it, but even so.

There’s some Secret Agent gadgets used today. Drake has a miniature camera (which of course doesn’t look all that small today, but back in 1960 would have been more impressive). And for safety’s sake, he keeps the film in a hollow compartment in his shoe.

Drake uses the camera when he visits the Moukta (it’s hidden in his water bottle, so when he takes a swig of water he’s able to snap a few shots). I’m not sure why he does this and it slightly beggars belief that the Moukta didn’t notice anything. Let’s be generous and assume he was distracted by Clare.

The bulk of the episode is set in the town, but this turns out to be just preamble as Drake concludes his mission when he travels to the Moukta’s diamond mine and photographs the unhappy slaves kept prisoner. This is the main flaw in the episode – it seems that Drake already knew about the mine, so there seems no reason why he didn’t ask the helicopter to drop him there in the first place (which would have saved all that faffing about in town).

I like the way Drake pole-vaults over the electric fence which is keeping the slaves in captivity. Although it’s amazing that that guard who passed by a few seconds earlier seems totally oblivious.

Summing up The Blue Veil, you can’t fault the performances (Naismith especially) but the plotting somewhat lets it down. Apart from Drake’s runaround interlude in the town, it’s hard to believe that the United Nations (even with Drake’s photographic evidence) will be able to do anything. Drake might confidently assert that the Moukta and Spooner are now in deep trouble, but who will bring them to justice is never made clear.

Danger Man – The Nurse

Drake is back in the Middle East, in an unnamed state suffering a violent uprising. The entire Royal Family (who have been sympathetic to the West) appear to have been massacred but it turns out that an infant – now heir to the throne – escaped from the turmoil with his Scottish nurse, Mary MacPherson (Eileen Moore). In a land where few can be trusted, Drake has to somehow lead them both to safety ….

The Nurse opens with a not terribly thrilling pre-credits sequence – a man and a woman are slowly making their way across the desert plains. Once the credits have rolled they’re revealed to be the American consul and his wife, fleeing from the fighting. Despite the danger, both are impeccably dressed (her gloves still look gleaming white).

Having located them in a chopper, Drake and the pilot prepare to ferry them away. But then Drake learns that a British nurse is hiding out at a farmhouse nearby and decides to go there alone. This is a definite mark in his favour – at this point nobody knows about the baby (and the possible benefits to the West if a sympathetic ruling class can be restored) so he’s motivated purely by the thought of helping someone in need.

Drake and Mary are quickly forced to go on the run and a bond forms between them. Drake, never usually one to thaw when in close contact with a female, does seem almost human as the pair hide from their pursuers in the dunes. Eileen Moore, probably best known for playing Sheila Birling in the Alastair Sim film version of An Inspector Calls, offers a strong performance. Mary’s honest, uncomplicated goodness and her obvious devotion to her infant charge might be the reasons why Drake seems a little less harsh than usual.

Reaching the nearest town they take refuge at the inn, but the innkeeper (Eric Pohlmann) seems rather untrustworthy. Pohlmann doesn’t have a lot to do but he manages to radiate a low-level of malevolence. Jack MacGowran as Launcelot Prior, has a little more to play with. The British-born Prior works for the local ruler, the Moukta, and his initial geniality is quickly stripped away to reveal something far less appealing.

Harold Kasket, a man who racked up a long list of television and film credits, is one of a number of British born actors playing Middle Eastern types today. He’s convincing enough as the autocratic Moukta, although as ever during the first series there’s rarely the time to really dig into characters.

Mid-way through the story is where the plot starts to go a little awry. Drake, Mary and the baby are summoned to the Moukta’s presence. Drake decides it’s not safe for them all, so he goes alone. But surely it would have been better had they stayed together, as by this point it’s become public knowledge that the young prince has escaped. Once Drake leaves, the Innkeeper focuses his beady eye on Mary and the baby.

Following his short and not terribly sweet meeting with the Moukta, Drake is driven away to meet his fate. But inexplicably he’s not killed, simply duffed up slightly and dumped on the outskirts of town. This means that it takes him no time at all to return to the Moukta, who by now has Mary and the child in his clutches.

With rebel forces – keen to kill the young prince – apparently closing in, the situation looks grim. But Drake manages to save the day by forging a proclamation from the rebels and circulating it around the town (it declares that the prince can be identified by a heart shaped mark on his leg). Of course the prince doesn’t have one, so Drake is able to convince the Moukta that the baby is simply an innocent child.

We briefly see the note and it doesn’t look that impressive (there’s no seal, for example). This rather convenient plot resolution is swiftly negated anyway after it’s revealed that the town has just been secured by forces loyal to the Royal Family (so Drake’s spot of forgery turned out to be superfluous). Why they didn’t just use one of these two possible endings and stick to it is a bit of a mystery.

Fairly routine stuff then, but as always it’s fun to spot familiar faces (Heather Chasen, Andrew Faulds, Maxwell Shaw) making brief appearances.

Danger Man – The Traitor

Drake is tracking a traitor, Blatta (George A. Cooper), across Northern India. He knows that Blatta is passing secrets to the enemy, but he doesn’t know how. Then on their arrival in Karaz, Blatta makes contact with an Englishwoman called Louise Goddard (Barbara Shelley) …

Based on the episode title, I was expecting George A. Cooper to feature strongly. But in fact he never gets to utter a word and the traitor of the title turns out to be someone else completely.

Before this reveal, there’s some preamble to attend to. Drake’s contact in Karaz is Banarji (Warren Mitchell). He’s one of two actors browned up for the episode although Mitchell’s performance is a little subtler than it might first appear. Banarji, a marketplace hawker, begins by giving it the full Peter Sellers “goodness gracious me”, but once he’s happy that he and Drake can’t be overheard, this act is dropped and he becomes much more businesslike.

The Traitor is another largely studio-bound story, although the marketplace set is very effective thanks to a number of extras milling about and several convincing backdrops. Add in a few brief establishing shots via stock footage and overall the illusion that we’re in India is well done.

Jack Watling offers a decent cameo as Rollo Waters, an amiably alcoholic garage owner. Rollo’s connection to the plot is fairly tenuous – it’s at his garage that (by a remarkable coincidence) Drake first spots Louise Goddard.

Drake learns that Louise lives in the mountains with her husband. On arrival there he’s instantly befriended by Noel Goddard (Ronald Howard) who offers Drake the run of the house, telling him that due to their remote location they very rarely see anyone.

Goddard’s hysteria at the thought that Drake might not stay is the first chink in his character, as otherwise he radiates an aura of urbanity. Howard essays an excellent performance as does Barbara Shelley – the relationship between the Goddards and the way they deal with Drake the interloper is nicely teased out.

Although I’ve had some harsh words previously about Danger Man’s plotting, there’s little to complain about here. For example, the puzzle as to why Goddard stays isolated in the mountains and never ventures down to the city is eventually answered and proves to be the crux of the episode.

The confrontation between Drake and Goddard after both their identities are revealed – Drake the NATO agent, Goddard the spy – crackles with energy. Goddard’s reasons for spying are ideological, not money-based, so Drake finds it impossible to break his resolve. Louise Goddard stays more in the shadows, but it’s plain she was a devoted helper (but resumably because she wanted to help her husband rather than out of any strongly held convictions).

It’s interesting that Louise, despite her complicity, doesn’t seem to pique Drake’s interest – it’s only Goddard that he’s interested in. This is about the only plot niggle I can see, apart from wondering why Goddard’s servant Panah (Derek Sydney – the other actor browned up) later attempts to kill him. Maybe Panah was in the pay of the foreign power.

Goddard’s failing health is revealed to be the reason why he remains in the mountains – if he travels down into the heat of the city then his life expectancy will be short. Drake realises this, but is still determined to bring him to justice. This concludes the episode in a suitably downbeat way and, apart from the last melodramatic musical sting, it’s a very effective closer.

I’ve had a quick look at the two reviews on IMDb and was slightly surprised to see that both were quite negative. For me, The Traitor is a top-notch effort – thanks to McGoohan, Howard and Shelley. It’s possible to argue that there’s little tension in the episode as you never believe for a minute that Goddard will be able to fulfill his orders to eliminate Drake. But then Goddard isn’t that sort of traitor – he’s a detached, intellectual sort of spy, so it entirely fits his character for him to quietly accept his fate.

Danger Man – Sabotage

Drake arrives in South East Asia to assist an old friend, Peta Jason (Maggie Fitzgibbon). Mrs Jason is the owner of a small airline which has lost several planes recently. Sabotage would seem to be the most likely reason, but if so who and why?

As so often, we find ourselves in a politically unstable part of the world where a nameless government (today they’re referred to simply as the new regime) are in power. Are the new regime responsible for blowing up the planes? If not, maybe one of their embittered opponents are doing their best to ensure that they take the blame.

It turns out to be the latter, although there’s no real clues or evidence offered – we’re told that’s the case and it turns out to be so. Since this part of the story isn’t much of a whodunnit we’ll pass on to more meaty matters.

Drake decides the best way to get to the bottom of things will be to join the cabin crew as a steward. He then acts as a drunken and corrupt one (all the better for attracting any criminal elements lurking close at hand). Patrick McGoohan’s drunk acting is something of an acquired taste – if you’re a fan then you’ll certainly enjoy his over the top antics early on (although I will concede that Drake’s ability to suddenly return to his usual cold, focused persona once he’s alone is effective).

For once, the cast doesn’t feature too many familiar faces. Alex Scott (as Benson, one of the airline’s loyal pilots) is probably the most recognisable. Yvonne Romain gives a good performance as Giselle Simon, a femme fatale who attempts to ensnare Drake (but proves to be no match for our Secret Agent). R. Bobby Naidoo as the corpulent and vocally high-pitched crime boss Chin Lee also makes an impression.

Despite the joint efforts of Michael Pertwee and Ian Stuart Black, the storyline never quite clicks for me. Even though she’s lost several planes, Mrs Jason doesn’t seem terribly bothered (neither do any of her flight crews – you’d have assumed they’d all be anxiously looking for safer jobs elsewhere). The pre-credits sequence focuses on a tea urn in one of the unfortunate planes – making it plain that’s where the bomb is (which rather negates any later mystery or tension).

True, Drake does force open another tea urn later on to reveal a gold bar (just as well that one didn’t contain a bomb, otherwise his heavy handed handling would have had explosive consequences) but this revelation only muddies matters somewhat. The gold smuggling is a subplot that could have been deleted without harming the story too much.

The climax (Drake lures the mastermind onto a plane he knows is due to carry a bomb) also falls a little flat as it’s obvious Drake has left the bomb behind and substituted it for a real tea urn.

So not the most thrilling or satisfying of stories, but the acting’s good and there’s some decent back projection shots which almost convince us we’re not on the studio backlot. A fair to middling effort then.

Danger Man – The Girl in Pink Pajamas

Having survived an assassination attempt, President Varnold (Robert Cawdron), lies unconscious and seriously ill in the local hospital. In order to protect him from further harm he’s been isolated under an assumed name, but an amnesic American woman – found wandering in the countryside – seems to know something about another attack which is due very soon ….

The Girl in Pink Pajamas easily wins the award for the most intriguing episode title from DM‘s initial run and the pre-credits sequence is pretty arresting as well. The unnamed girl (played by Angela Browne) is seen wandering barefoot through the sort of quarry usually favoured by Dr Who, dressed only in pink pajamas (well, given we’re watching in black and white we have to assume they’re pink).

This part of the story is put on the back burner for a while as Drake arrives at the hospital to check that all security procedures are in place. The man in charge, Major Minos (Alan Tilvern), seems very efficient but since Tilvern was one of those actors blessed with a remarkably shifty face, it won’t come as too much of a shock to learn that Minos later turns out to be a wrong ‘un.

The mystery of the girl (who we learn is called Anna Wilson) has the feel of a proto Department S storyline, although given that a fair few of those episodes tended to have weak resolutions to puzzling set-ups, I wonder how well this one is resolved? Well …..

It’s revealed that Anna jumped (or maybe was pushed) from a train. My immediate reaction is to wonder why she didn’t have a scratch on her (had the train been moving at any speed then it’s impossible to see how this could have been avoided). And you have to raise an eyebrow at the chatty villain who clearly couldn’t just kill her (first he had to mention that bad things were due to happen at the hospital)

Anna, a nurse, was travelling with Dr Keller. Keller’s a specialist surgeon due to operate on President Varnold, who has a bullet lodged in his brain. The plan was to kill Anna and Dr Keller and substitute them with black hats who could finish Varnold off for good. Keller was duly killed, but somehow (the story isn’t too clear on this) Anna managed to get away.

You have to say it’s a reasonably good plan, although it seems rather overcomplicated once you realise that, for security reasons, Varnold isn’t guarded at all (since that would only draw attention to him). The most puzzling part of the story occurs midway through when (due to the dramatic music) we can infer that a mystery person was up to no good when he/she turned up Varnold’s oxygen. Since he was unprotected at this point, why not kill him there and then?

Okay, that’s enough quibbling. What works well in the story? Angela Browne does for one thing. Drake’s questioning of Anna zigzags between gentle and harsh (McGoohan could always do you a nice line in brutal). The camera certainly seems to like Anna as she gets some good close ups (these close ups come into their own during the scene where Drake is at his most hectoring).

The key showdown – Drake confronts the faux Keller (John Crawford) who’s about to operate – also gets the thumbs up. Everyone in the operating theatre, apart from Drake, are masked, which makes the scene especially interesting.  Crawford, limited in his acting choices due to the mask, can only use his eyes as Drake attempts to convince the others that the man they think is Keller poses a danger to the President. Drake bluffs his way through by pretending to speak to Keller’s superiors on the phone – an excellent example of Drake thinking on his feet.

There’s also a satisfyingly punch up at the end after Drake takes on three baddies and wins. Plus Colette Wilde adds a dash to humour to the episode as a somewhat grumpy farmer’s wife who’s very keen for Drake to take Anna off her hands.

Plot-wise, this one’s a bit patchy then but I’ve still got a lot of time for The Girl in Pink Pajamas. Ralph Smart and Brian Clemens always knew what they were doing.

Danger Man – Bury the Dead

Tony Costello, an agent colleague of Drake’s, dies in a motor crash. Accident or murder? Drake heads out to Sicily to investigate ….

Drake’s first port of call is the police, where the Captain (Paul Stassino) acts in such a shifty fashion that he might as well have just confessed on the spot. Stassino is also saddled with a fake-looking moustache which is more than a little distracting.

Jo Harris (Beverley Garland) claims to be a friend of Tony’s (his fiancée in fact). It’s left dangling for a short while as to whether she’s on the side of the angels or not (it turns out that she is). That seemed a little unlikely early on though, after Drake takes her to investigate the site of the crash. No sooner has he begun searching through the undergrowth than a shotgun pokes out through the bushes and nearly causes him a mischief.

Since Jo was the only one who knew of Drake’s intentions, it’s a remarkable stroke of luck that the shooter was in the right place at the right time. That appears to be Hugo Delano (Dermot Walsh), who pops out of the bushes with a shotgun, although oddly Drake investigates his weapon and seems happy that it wasn’t fired. So was there a second person also waiting in the undergrowth with a loaded gun on the off chance Drake would come calling? Maybe, although that makes even less sense.

This is only a small niggle though and the rest of the story proceeds smoothly. We don’t know why Tony was killed or exactly what the Captain and Delano are up to until the closing few minutes and this sense of mystery is a definite plus.

As are the arrival of Patrick Troughton and George Murcell as Bart and Bruno, two street toughs with orders to get Drake into trouble so that the Captain will have an excuse to lock him up for a few days. Troughton, using his one size fits all foreign accent, is maybe a little out of his comfort zone but Murcell has an imposing persona which works well in one of the episode’s key scenes.

Bruno, increasingly frustrated that all his attempts to provoke Drake into a bar-room brawl have failed, smacks him hard around the face several times (Drake simply soaks up the punishment). McGoohan doesn’t have to do much here, but it’s the way he doesn’t do it that’s so impressive. Of course Drake could have simply walked away to, but maybe he was enjoying playing a game of psychological warfare with his opponents.

Previously, I’ve drawn attention to a few episodes which have been somewhat on the predictable side. So credit where credit’s due, I have to admit that the key twist of Bury the Dead (Costello faked his death) wasn’t something I saw coming. The gun-running scheme that Costello, Delano and the Captain are involved in isn’t terribly interesting, but the final five minutes of the story still pulsates.

First you have Robert Shaw’s performance as Tony Costello. His screentime might be limited, but his star quality is evident. The confrontation between Drake and Costello (McGoohan getting the chance to show a rare spasm of rage, as Drake’s controlled persona slips for a few seconds) and the unhappy reunion of Costello and Jo are both memorable moments.

The downbeat ending – a shellshocked Drake and Jo drive away – is also something that’s appreciated.

Written by Ralph Smart from a story by Brian Clemens, Bury the Dead is a top-tier effort.

Danger Man – Deadline

The independent African nation of Bassaland is in turmoil. Pulling the strings and orchestrating acts of violence is the exiled former leader Saul Khano (William Marshall). Drake has just three days to prove Khano’s complicity in a high level assassination and so prevent a bloody uprising ….

Deadline is notable for featuring an all-black guest cast. Given that the pool of available actors in the UK was fairly limited during the early 1960’s, this is slightly surprising but most welcome. The performances all down the line are strong as well – even minor players like Earl Cameron and John Harrison.

Dominating the episode is William Marshall. The episode takes pains to build up an unflattering picture of Khano – his violence and lust for power – which means that when Drake and the audience meet the elegant, Oxford-educated man we’re forced to quickly adjust our perspective. True, the University educated African is something of a cliché but the immaculately dressed Khano (his eyepatch, like his dinner suit, is white) does spar entertainingly with Drake.

Plot-wise, this one works pretty well (Jo Eisinger was always a safe pair of hands) although I could quibble about the way Drake gains access to Khano. Drake claims to be a gun-runner, which immediately piques Khano’s interest since he desperately needs more arms and ammunition to continue his revolution.  But nobody seems to check Drake’s credentials (indeed, you could be forgiven for thinking Drake makes up the gun-running story on the spot). And why hasn’t Khano secured arms from another source anyway?

Khano’s wife, Mai (Barbara Chilcott), holds the key to her husband’s destruction. She knows that he ordered the death of her uncle (a respected advocate of non-violence) and blamed the murder on the government. Drake is convinced that if she tells the people this they will immediately cool down (and so it proves, although in real life things might not have gone so smoothly).

Chilcott plays her scenes of conflicted loyalties well and Mai turns out to be a key character (saving Drake’s life for one thing) which given there were only two female speaking roles in the episode is a nice touch.

As with some of the other 25 minute episodes, it’s easy to find everything a little simplistic and contrived, but overall there’s still plenty of interest in Deadline.

Danger Man – An Affair of State

The tiny nation of San Pablo has requested substantial financial aid from the United States of America, claiming that its substantial gold reserves will provide more than adequate security for the loan. American economist Arthur Winfield has spent some time investigating the state of the San Pablo economy, but his apparent suicide sets alarm bells ringing in Washington. Hence Drake’s arrival ….

The pre-credits sequence is short but very sweet. A car draws up by a cliff edge. The boot is sprung to reveal … a dead body! A man extracts the body and flings it over the edge of the cliff (let’s ignore the fact that it’s obviously a stuffed dummy who takes the dive). The man turns round and we see … it’s Patrick Wymark! Then a policeman turns up (let’s ignore the fact that given it’s a very deserted spot, the chances of anyone else suddenly arriving are quite remote). The policeman is shot dead by … John Le Mesurier! If all that hasn’t piqued your interest, then this probably isn’t the series for you.

San Pablo is an archetypical banana republic (or more accurately, a banana and pineapple republic). The Commissioner of Police. Ortiz, is completely corrupt. We, the audience, already know this as he’s played by Patrick Wymark. Wymark is one of a number of British actors forced to adopt “Arriba, arriba! Ándale, ándale!” accents during the episode. But he’s good enough to get away with it (just).

Plenty of false evidence is produced to prove that Winfield had been leading a hectic social life of drinking and gambling, which provides a compelling reason for his suicide (strengthened by a signed suicide note).  Indeed, it seems that Drake has been pretty much convinced – although if so, the arrival of Raquel Vargas (Dorothy White) gives him pause for thought.

This is the point of the story where the ever mounting plot oddities can’t be ignored. I can just about accept that Ortiz likes to do his own dirty work (although surely he could have bribed one of his underlings to dispose of Winfield’s body). But an extra level of suspension of disbelief is required when you learn that Alvarado (John Le Mesurier) is the Minister of Finance. He likes to tag along for body disposal jaunts with a handy rifle? Hmm, okay.

Then we discover that Raquel and Winfield had secretly married, but not in San Pablo as her parents wouldn’t have approved (this is negated at the end of the episode after Raquel tells Drake that her parents have decided they didn’t mind after all). Given that Winfield doesn’t seem to have been in the country for long, theirs was obviously a whirlwind romance. Maybe I’m nitpicking, but this part of the story doesn’t feel right to me.

Dorothy White looked naggingly familiar – one quick trip to IMDb later and I think it’s her final screen credit (as Mrs Firman in Grange Hill) which I particularly remember her for.

Although the story is a little clumsy (surprising, since Oscar Brodney had quite a career, scripting films like The Glenn Miller Story) I did like the moment where Ortiz confronts Raquel. He tells her that she needs to spend a short time in the cells, say a year or so. Although the episode is painted with fairly broad brushstrokes, this short scene is very chilling (and well played by Wymark).

Having appeared in the pre-credits sequence, Le Mesurier doesn’t reappear until the last few minutes. Alvarado and Ortiz take Drake down to the vaults where he rapidly learns that some (if not all) of their gold supplies are nothing more than worthless lead.

This is obviously what Winfield learnt and the reason why he was killed (and since it’s been obvious right from the start, any tension or mystery has long since dissipated). Plus it’s another plot problem. Given that the US isn’t going to lend San Pablo any money without making the necessary checks, killing Winfield only means that someone else – Drake – would be sent in his place. And if they had disposed of Drake, would they go on killing each new replacement? That might add up to a lot of bodies ….

It’s a fairly low mark for the storyline then, but the guest cast (apart from those already named there’s the always reliable Warren Mitchell as a twitchy whistleblower and Fenella Fielding as a vampy hostess) help to paper over the obvious story cracks.

Danger Man – The Sisters

Nadia Sandor (Mai Zetterling), an East European scientist, has defected to the British. The authorities are having trouble establishing her identity though and ask Drake to travel to Slavosk in order to free Nadia’s sister, Gerda (Barbara Murray), from prison and bring her back to England. But after he does, the problems aren’t over ….

Once again Drake is summoned to the presence of Hardy (Richard Wattis). Nattily attired in a three-piece suit (Drake’s English-wear?) our Secret Agent is still a little frazzled after his plane trip from America and (as is his wont) begins to rile the straight-laced Hardy. At one point Drake reveals that his friends call him “the man with the built in crystal ball”, which is something of a conversation stopper.

Drake’s voice over makes a comeback in this episode. It’s easy to see why, as it papers over the cracks when the narrative is forced to take a sudden jump forward. As touched upon before, that’s a curse of the 25 minute format – time is always of the essence.

With the assistance of Mikhail Radek (Sydney Tafler), Drake breaks Gerda out of prison. Radek is quickly established (via Drake’s voice over) as an amusing, if cold-hearted, mercenary – someone whose only loyalty is to money. To be honest, Drake lays this character profile on so thick that when Radek disappears from the story after a few minutes it’s hard not to imagine he’ll reappear towards the end. Guess what ….

The prison break could have easily lasted a whole act, but instead it’s done and dusted in a matter of minutes. Drake and Radek waylay the guards sent to escort Gerda to another prison and steal their authorisation documents. The hapless guards are dealt with in an amusing way though – lured by the prospect of girls and all-night jiving (the party they stumble into looks endearingly innocent) they instead find Drake and Radek waiting for them behind the bedroom door.

Given that the episode is now whipping along at a rate of knots, we never see the scene where Gerda realises that Drake is her saviour rather than another jailor. Instead, we have to be content with a single scene (on a studio-bound grassy knoll) which shows the pair leaving the country (thanks to Drake clipping through a barbed wire fence and having an energetic punch up with a guard).

This scene is notable for the way that Gerda, inching along the ground to the fence, stops to have a cup of tea from a flask whilst Drake is attempting to break through. Now I like a cup of tea as much as the next man or woman, but surely there’s a time and a place to take your beverages.

Is Nadia an imposter? The arrival of Gerda should hopefully answer this question, but since the sisters haven’t seen each other since childhood that won’t be so easy. Plus there’s the very real possibility Gerda could be a spy sent to discredit Nadia and force the British to deport her.

This is a decent puzzler and both Zetterling and Murray play the scenes they share together well – the sister’s reactions abruptly changing from delight as they’re reunited after many years apart to suspicion as each apparently begins to mistrust the other.

If one were in nit-picking mode, then it’s slightly hard to believe that no-one has been able to vouch for Nadia Sandor. No doubt she’s rarely travelled abroad, but given that she’s fairly eminent in her field, would she never have been photographed in the newspapers or met any Western scientists?

As it turns out, Gerda is revealed to be a spy which secures Nadia’s place in Britain. But maybe a more devious writer would have ensured they were both imposters, with the exposure of one as a spy helping to strengthen the identity of the other.

The ‘shock’ late return of Radek, working with Gerda, helps to wrap things up. Gerda pleads with Drake not to send her back home, but Drake is implacable. We never learn her fate (or that of Radek) but Drake tells her that “when you play this sort of game, you must expect to pay the consequences”. Ouch.

In addition to Zetterling, Murray and Tafler, the always reliable Anthony Dawson makes a brief appearance, meaning that The Sisters doesn’t skimp on acting talent. It might be another of those episodes that really could have breathed had it had double the running time, but it’s still an above average effort.

Danger Man – Position of Trust

Drake is in El Dura, a Middle Eastern country whose government has grown rich from the sale of heroin. Determined to stop the flood of these narcotics into the US, Drake enlists the reluctant assistance of Captain Aldrich (Donald Pleasence), a minor official in the El Dura government, who has the information Drake needs ….

Once again there’s no voice over during this episode and there’s another sign that the series is becoming more confident that the audience will get quickly up to speed (the episode opens with a brief establishing shot of New York but there’s no onscreen caption to hammer this point home).

Drake’s clearly knows New York well (several people call him Johnny, which is a tad disconcerting) although his stay today is brief. Calling on an old friend, Paul (John Phililps), he’s horrified to learn that Paul’s daughter is now a junkie. This is revealed in a striking – if rather melodramatic – way. Paul, in his luxurious apartment, lingers over a photo of his daughter on the sideboard (youthful, smiling) before showing Drake another photo (a police mugshot of his now hopeless looking daughter).

After deciding that rounding up the pushers will do no good, Drake heads off to El Dura, intent on extracting a list of the organsations the government sells the heroin to. The drug aspect of the story then becomes a Macguffin (the list could be about anything) as from now on the episode centres around the manipulation of the hapless Aldrich.

Pleasence’s second Danger Man appearance is a memorable one and he’s responsible for making the episode so watchable. Aldrich is a British ex-pat, ex-public schoolboy who pretends that he holds a position of trust (as per the episode’s title) but is nothing more than a minor clerk, barely tolerated by his superiors.

Drake decides to gain his trust by posing as an old boy from the same public school (so McGoohan gets to drop the American accent for a while and try out an English one). Aldrich is pathetically grateful to meet anyone from the old country and immediately latches onto Drake. The question is then posed as to why Aldrich has never returned home – we’re not given a definite answer but the arrival of Mrs Aldrich (Irene Prador) strongly hints that since his wife is a local, he might be concerned about the welcome she’d receive in the UK.

Austrian born Prador (possibly best known for playing Mrs Lemenski in Dear John) provides subtle support to Pleasance. Both Mr and Mrs Aldrich seem to be decent people, which makes Drake’s ruthless manipulation of Captain Aldrich all the more cruel (Drake no doubt believes that the ends justify the means).

Having plied Aldrich with drink and encouraged him to lose heavily at the roulette table, he’s now forced by Drake (back with the American accent) to steal the document he needs. That Aldrich is no sneak thief is confirmed by the fact that he walks out of the office with the secret file in full view – immediately alerting Fawzi (Martin Benson).

A comedy then plays out in which Drake manages to manipulate Fawzi, the end result being that Drake and Mr and Mrs Aldrich are unable to be charged but will be deported by an irritated government immediately. Drake promises to use his contacts to find Aldrich a new job (who, after realising the horror of the heroin trade, has now regained his self respect).

Everything’s wrapped up neatly then, although you could argue that it’s just too neat. Maybe later in the series’ run the innocent Aldrich might have been sacrificed, giving us a downbeat ending, but here everything concludes happily.

With Lois Maxwell also featuring strongly as Drake’s local contact Sandi Lewis, Position of Trust is a compact and satisfying script by Jo Eisinger (one of six he wrote for the first series).

Danger Man – The Journey Ends Halfway

Drake is in an unspecified Asian country, attempting to discover why refugees fleeing to freedom disappear somewhere along the escape route. The easiest way to find out the truth is to pose as a refugee, but that’s also the most dangerous ….

Given that we’re in Chinese territory, I have to confess to suffering a twinge of anxiety. Which Caucasian actors would be adopting the “me velly solly” roles today? But actually we get off fairly lightly with only Willoughby Goddard forced to look faintly ridiculous.

Elsewhere, there’s the usual crop of British based actors (Anthony Chinn, Ric Young and of course the sainted Burt Kwouk) who could always be guaranteed to pop up in a story of this kind and add a touch of authenticity. Kwouk, as the easily bribed hotel receptionist, gives an entertaining turn as does Anna May Wong as Miss Lee, today’s damsel in distress.

Miss Lee is one of many seeking to escape the oppressive regime of the unnamed government. She doesn’t feature greatly, but at least her presence gives Drake something to fight for.

One interesting thing to note about the episode is that Drake isn’t called upon to move the plot along via voice overs. This device has been used fairly regularly in the previous episodes and can sometimes be a little irritating, although it wasn’t uncommon during half hour series of this era, where movement from scene to scene had to be rapid (see also Dial 999, which regularly used the VO method).

There’s not a great deal of mystery in the story as the pre-credits sequence reveals what happens to the unfortunate refugees – half way across the river they’re murdered and robbed of their valuables.

This is where the finer aspects of the plot start to niggle away at me. McFadden (Willoughby Goddard) tells Drake that he believes there’s a traitor in the organisation, but it becomes plain that there’s problems at both ends of the escape route.

Dr. Bakalter (Paul Daneman) looks to be one of the white hats – arranging Drake’s escape but asking for no payment – but it’s not terribly shocking to learn later that he’s one of the baddies. This revelation causes me to ponder over more plot niggles. If the refugees don’t pay Bakalter, then how does he know whether they’re carrying anything of value? Given that we’re clearly in a Communist state, surely most of those wishing to flee wouldn’t have a great deal of money anyway (plus if you murder all of your clients it can’t be long before someone starts to notice).

Let’s be generous and assume that only certain wealthy refugees were given the machine gun treatment and the poorer ones reached the other side of the lake.

When not worrying about the plot, there’s always Patrick McGoohan’s performance to enjoy. Posing as an engineer, he adopts a very interesting accent although he doesn’t keep it going for long. I also enjoyed Drake’s interlude in the steam baths, where he luckily came up with the right answers (had he not, he might have been fried to a crisp!). His bamboozling of the local police also entertains, allowing McGoohan a chance to play broad (something which so far in the series he hasn’t been able to do very often)

Ian Stuart Black’s script is competent enough and it’s always a pleasure to see Paul Daneman, but I have to confess that The Journey Ends Halfway doesn’t really catch fire for me.