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 – 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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Doctor Who – The Aztecs. Episode Two – The Warriors of Death

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The Doctor is furious with Barbara for halting the sacrifice. We’ve seen an angry Doctor before, but not like this and it’s clear that Hartnell relishes the opportunity to really go for it. Hill is excellent as well and it’s one of those scenes that crackles with energy, although it’s notable that the Doctor doesn’t remain angry for very long (another sign of the general softening of his character).

TLOTOXL: I would ask you, how shall a man know his gods?
BARBARA: By the signs of their divinity.
TLOTOXL: And what if thieves walk among the gods?
BARBARA: Then indeed, how shall a man know?

This short exchange, beautifully delivered by Ringham and Hill, tells us everything we need to know. Tlotoxl is convinced that Barbara isn’t the spirit of Yetaxa, but lacks any proof. This means he’ll spend the remainder of the story using whatever means are at his disposal (in this episode it’s Ian) to chip away at the composure of the false goddess.

Having won a victory over Ixta with his magic thumb, Ian then faces a rematch – but Ixta will have a secret weapon (the unwitting help of the Doctor). It’s a slight contrivance that Ixta is the son of the man who built the temple, which means the Doctor (in exchange for non-existent temple plans) hands over a plant that will disable his opponent (who turns out to be Ian). Two coincidences, that’s rather a lot!

I like the way the Doctor describes himself to Cameca. “I am a scientist, an engineer. I’m a builder of things.” There may be the hint of pretence here, as he’s attempting to explain his interest in the temple, but there’s an essential truth to this statement. Much, much later he’ll become the defender of the universe (whose name alone makes monsters tremble in fear) and part of the charm of the series will be lost forever.

Carole Ann Ford’s off on holiday, so only appears in a single pre-filmed scene. It’s another nod back to Lucarotti’s previous story, as Susan reacts in horror to the thought of an arranged marriage (much as she did when she learnt of Ping-Cho’s intended fate).

The Doctor, realising that Tlotoxl means them great harm, asks Barbara to play up to Autloc. The more she can convince Autloc that she is Yetaxa, the more it will help them. Barbara’s happy to do this, no doubt because she still clings to the hope that she can bring about a fundamental change in their society, but it already poses the uncomfortable question about what Autloc’s fate will be once he realises his faith in Barbara was misplaced.

AUTLOC: If your words are denied, shall we not be living in defiance of the gods?
BARBARA: Famine, drought and disaster will come, and more and more sacrifices will be made. I see a time when ten thousand will die in one day.
AUTLOC: Where will it end, Yetaxa?
BARBARA: In total destruction. Your civilisation will pass forever from the land.
AUTLOC: You prophesy our doom.

Even this early on, we’ve been primed that there won’t be a happy ending. In this era of the programme, the Doctor’s main focus is survival – fighting injustice is something he does rather as an afterthought. But whilst later stories might see him toppling entire civilisations with a few words, you do get the sense that this isn’t going to happen here.

The fight between Ian and Ixta goes on a little too long (and like Ixta’s fight in the previous episode suffers from being shot on VT) but it does leave us with an excellent cliffhanger. As Ian faces death, Tlotoxl taunts Barbara to use divine intervention to save him ….