Redcap – The Orderly Officer


It looks like an open and shut case. 2nd Lt. Harry Barr (Giles Block) confesses to Mann that in a drunken New Years Eve misadventure he knocked down a concrete bollard outside his barracks.  Although it’s a relatively trivial matter, it will still mean a court martial for Barr.  But things don’t quite go the way that Sergeant Mann planned ….

This is an interesting one. It’s a good ten minutes before the crime of the episode is revealed. Which means there’s plenty of time to get to know Barr – who’s young, inexperienced and totally out of his depth. The sergeants – notably Sgt. Greatorex (Barry Keegan) – delight in running rings around him. This is demonstrated by the contemptuous grin given by Greatorex during Barr’s inspection of the men.

But maybe Greatorex isn’t totally a bad sort, as he invites Barr to a New Years Eve drink in the Sergeant’s mess. A friendly gesture or is he simply seeking to embarrass the officer further? The real trouble begins when Greatorex suggests that he and Barr pop down the road for a quick drink with a nearby Highland regiment. It may be nearly the new year but they’re both on duty, so it would be something of a dereliction. But Barr, keen to prove that he’s one of the lads, agrees and he later pulls rank by insisting that he drives them back to barracks, despite being somewhat insensible.

So the blame is shared. Barr was responsible for the accident but had Greatorex not goaded him into making the trip in the first place then nothing would have happened.  But as the officer, Barr will be the one to shoulder most of the responsibility – unless the regiment closes ranks.

A little more meat is put onto the bones of Mann’s character in this episode. He’s still working late into New Year’s Eve and is very resistant to popping down the pub for a quick drink, despite the entreaties of the Staff Sergeant (the ever-solid Bernard Kay in an all too brief role). Eventually he does agree, which proves that he’s human – but the dour, workaholic John Mann is certainly a world away from Jack Regan.

We’ve previously seen how Mann has faced hostility from certain quarters during his investigations, but not the complete obstruction that he runs into here.  On the surface they’re pleasant enough – Captain The Hon. Ian Loder (Mark Burns) is courtesy itself – but everybody has their stories and they’re sticking to them.

Can Mann force someone to confess? Greatorex is unlikely to crack and neither is the mess Sergeant (Jack Smethurst). Smethurst sketches a nice performance with his limited screentime – it appears that the Sergeant spends most of his time sampling the stock or worrying about a visit from the weights and measures man!

Mann eventually manages to break through the wall of silence when Barr admits all.  All well and good, but he then makes a fatal mistake when he allows Barr to confess his crime to the Colonel (Ronald Leigh-Hunt).  The upshot is that Mann is appalled to later find a new suspect – Trooper Kelly (Harry Littlewood) – has been put into the frame whilst Barr is nowhere to be found.  Mann attempts to interrogate Kelly, but he gets nowhere – the Trooper is a mixture of Irish charm and sorrowful remorse.

It’s previously been mentioned that Mann is somewhat inexperienced and this episode was possibly designed to reinforce that fact.  For all his implacable questioning earlier on, he’s been undone thanks to one simple request which now means that there’s no way back – this time the ranks have firmly closed and he’s forced to admit defeat.

For an ex-copper like Mann, it chafes to see a guilty man go free but the Colonel holds a different view.  In time, Barr might become a more than decent officer, so why squander that potential over such a trivial matter? Neither of them are wholly wrong but neither are wholly right either and this is what makes The Orderly Officer such a fascinating watch – for once it’s not a matter of life or death, but that makes the drama no less compelling.

This was Giles Block’s first television appearance. He’s probably best known for playing Teel in the Doctor Who story The Dominators, although his list of credits isn’t particularly lengthy.  His television inexperience probably helped here, as Barr is supposed to be something of a greenhorn. As I’ve said, it’s a shame that Bernard Kay’s part wasn’t larger, but the rest of the cast is peopled with the usual roster of strong supporting players.

Although there’s a spot of location filming, Redcap‘s studio-bound nature is still in evidence. This is most notable during a scene which attempts to suggest a country road (a few sad twigs in the background do their best, but it’s painfully obvious that we’re still in the studio).  This apart, there’s little to quibble about in this episode since it’s another strong instalment.


The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes – Five Hundred Carats


Barry Keegan as Inspector Lipinzki in Five Hundred Carats by George Griffith
Adapted by Alexander Baron. Directed by Jonathan Alwyn

When a diamond worth millions is stolen from the small mining town of Kimberley, South Africa, Inspector Lipinzki (Barry Keegan) is quickly on the trail.  The security, organised by Mr Arundel (Patrick Barr), was impressive – so how was it stolen?

But even if he doesn’t know how, the dogged Inspector is convinced he knows who – Philip Marsden (Martin Jarvis).  Marsden, along with his colleague Charlie Lomas (Richard Morant) were tasked with guarding the diamond and therefore both must be considered prime suspects.  But Marsden is a powerful man and Lipinzki will have to tread carefully, otherwise he may find himself out of a job.

Five Hundred Carats was written by George Griffith and was originally published in 1893.  It can be read here.

The second series of The Rivals saw a greater international cast of detectives and this story, set in South Africa, is the first example.  But despite the foreign setting it’s still very much a studio bound production (although there is some location work later on – with a sandpit doubling for the South African outback).

Barry Keegan gives Lipinzki a lovely world-weary air.  Unlike some of the other detectives featured in the series, he’s not analytical or given to flights of fancy – Lipinzki is just a hard-working, methodical policeman who uncovers the truth by effectively waging a war of nerves with his suspects.  And after suffering a brief moment of doubt when he realises he’s no idea how the robbery occurred, the Inspector is on much firmer ground once he’s found a suspect he can pressurise.

He admits he doesn’t possess any evidence but he’s prepared to press Marsden hard and see what happens.  This isn’t easy though, since Marsden is a gentleman and Lipinzki isn’t.  The point is brought up early on after the affable Arundel mentions to Marsden that he’s been politely asked not to invite the Inspector to the club quite so often.  It’s a sentiment that Marsden agrees with (he views Lipinzki as being uncouth in the extreme) but Arundel is a great respecter of the Inspector’s abilities and isn’t concerned with issues of class.

But Marsden is and he wastes no time in letting Lipinzki know exactly how little he thinks of him.  The confrontation between Keegan (softly-spoken Irish) and Jarvis (upper-cut English) is one of the highlights of the episode.  And although Marsden is a character whose actions and dialogue verge on the melodramatic at times, Jarvis is a good enough actor to still make him a believable and rounded figure.

Richard Morant is effective as Lomas, whilst Aideen O’Kelly takes the only main female role as Bridie Sullavan.  Bridie is a widower who runs the local bar and finds herself an object of attention from both Lomas and Marsden.  She views Lomas with the indulgence of an elder sister but has little time for the icy-cold and superior Marsden.

Patrick Barr, always such a dependable actor, doesn’t have a terribly interesting part as the upright, honest Arundel, but manages to make him watchable anyway.  Another very good character actor, Alan Tilvern, has a more meaty role as Mr Cornelius.  Cornelius is visiting from America and is most interested in both the diamond and Arundel’s security procedures.  This makes him a suspect (and Tilvern specialised in playing shifty characters anyway) but Cornelius turns out to be nothing more than a diverting red-herring.

There’s also a murder (it occurs in the pre-credits sequence although events then flashback so it doesn’t actually happen until towards the end of the story)  Another death occurs shortly afterwards and this does tend to reinforce the point that diamonds might be beautiful but they’re also deadly.

Although the culprit is caught, the exact place where he buried the diamond isn’t known.  Lipinzki isn’t concerned, as the diamond is back in the soil of South Africa – where it should be.

Apart from some slightly over-melodramatic incidental music this is an effective episode.  The battle between Keegan and Jarvis is excellently done and this ensures that the pace never flags.