Callan – The Richmond File: Call Me Enemy

call me

Written by George Markstein. Directed by Bill Bain

Call Me Enemy, the first in a trilogy of stories which closed Callan‘s fourth and final series, sees the return of the KGB agent Richmond (played by T.P. McKenna, who had previously appeared in the series four opener That’ll Be The Day).  Richmond is, in some ways, Callan’s opposite and equal and this might be the reason why Hunter has decided to leave him in his care.

We open with Lonely driving the pair of them down to a palatial country house, where Callan and Richmond will stay until their business is concluded.  All the rooms are wired for sound, which means that every word is recorded and relayed to Hunter back in London.  Richmond is well aware of this, hence his ironic toast “to the British taxpayer” as he and Callan tuck into a particularly fine meal (with some decent wine).  For Hunter, listening to their exchanges back in London (and with only a sandwich) it’s rather galling!

Jarrow (Brian Croucher) has been seconded to the Section to maintain the recording equipment.  His long hair appalls the highly traditional Hunter, who’s astonished to discover that Jarrow was formerly a captain in the Royal Signals.

Why is Richmond speaking to the British?  He doesn’t want to defect, but he does want to fade away.  Richmond asks Callan if he’s ever “wanted just to disappear. Have you never got tired of the whole business? Had just one wish, to forget and be forgotten.”  He has something to sell.  Whilst he has no intention of betraying his own people, he’s happy to reveal the identity of a mole within the Section.

George Markstein had story-edited the first thirteen episodes of The Prisoner (he’s the man behind the desk in the title sequence) and following his departure from that series joined Thames as a writer and story editor.  Apart from serving as Callan‘s story editor during the third and fourth series, he worked on several other series, including Special Branch, in the same capacity.  He always had an interest in spy and espionage stories (he would later write several episodes of the mid eighties series Mr Palfrey of Westminster, which had something of a Callan feel) so it’s rather surprising that this was the only episode of Callan that he wrote.

Call Me Enemy is a character piece and it’s very much a two-hander with Woodward and McKenna both excelling.  Richmond is an arch dissembler – he’s made a career out of lying, so how much credence can we place on his claims of there being a traitor in the Section?  Possibly he’s only here in order to sow dissent and confusion.

This seems to be working as he starts to needle Callan.  Richmond claims to do what he does out of strong ideological convictions, whilst Callan does it because “it’s a job.”  Richmond decides that Callan owes the Section everything.  “Your father was on the dole, you never had a decent schooling. The army even took away your medal. You owe them a lot, don’t you?”  This section of the story offers a brief insight into Callan’s earlier life (something that’s rarely been mentioned before) with Richmond asserting that the Section blackmailed him into joining.  It’s notable that Callan doesn’t contradict him.

We also learn something of Mere’s backstory.  He was an officer in the Brigade of Guards, but was kicked out after the death of a private soldier.  However, his father (a Lord no less) was able to pull some strings and ensure that he wasn’t court-martialed.

Richmond names Meres as the mole and makes a compelling case.  Meres’ sudden appearance comes as something of a surprise – has he come to silence Richmond, Callan or both of them?  But it becomes clear that Meres is there with Hunter’s blessing.  So if Richmond is playing an elaborate game it appears the Section is doing so as well, although Callan’s life is very much at risk.  Hunter seems sanguine about this, but it’s telling that Bishop is much more agitated.  He rates Callan as the Section’s best man and doesn’t want to lose him.

In the closing minutes, Richmond asks Callan to defect. “For people like you and me, safety can only be found amongst our enemies. It’s our friends who will kill us.” They seem on the verge of leaving together, when Richmond knocks Callan out and escapes on his own.

Meres congratulates Callan.  He believes that Richmond hadn’t convinced Callan and so decided to cut his losses and leave.   What does Callan believe?  He seemed very keen to leave with Richmond – was this simply part of the plan, or did he genuinely see an exit?  Like so much of the episode, it’s open to interpretation and this is one of the reasons why Call Me Enemy is an episode that only gets better with each rewatch.

Callan – The Contract

contract

Written by Bill Craig. Directed by Reginald Collin

Callan, Meres and Lonely are keeping Major Harcourt (Robert Urquhart) under observation.  Harcourt was an officer and is still a gentlemen, but these days he earns his living as a hit-man.  He’s worked for the Section in the past (which will become important later on) but his current contract is very much against the Section’s interests.

Harcourt has been hired to kill a nameless Field Marshall from a nameless country (we never learn any more details than this, but the actual assassination isn’t the point of the story).  Although he’s slightly over the hill he’s still a professional – and therefore dangerous – so Callan and Meres approach with care.

It’s quite interesting that both Meres and Callan are captured by Harcourt at different points in the episode and that they also exhibit a certain amount of fear as Harcourt threatens them with death.  Early in the episode Meres shadows him but ends up as his prisoner.  Callan’s able to overpower him though, but their victory is short-lived as Harcourt escapes.

This isn’t a particularly good episode from the point of view of demonstrating how efficient the Section is.  Meres is captured and then both Callan and Meres lose Harcourt.  It’s all a bit sloppy really and not quite what we’ve come to expect.

Harcourt being at large does cause a problem, but Hunter presses on with his plan of allowing Callan to impersonate the Major.  To do this Callan asks Meres for his coat (which he gives up with a little reluctance!).  Callan’s not really officer and gentleman material, so it would have been more logical for Meres to undertake the masquerade.  But since Callan’s impersonation of Harcourt is the centre of the episode it’s not surprising that Woodward features (and he’s excellent, of course).

It turns out that Harcourt is one of three assassins, all of whom will take four hour shifts.  They know that the Field Marshall will pass a certain window at the Embassy some time over the next few days, but they don’t know exactly when – which is why they require more than one shooter.

This is where the plot starts to feel a little contrived.  One of the other assassins is Lafarge (Michael Pennington).  Lafarge harbours a grudge against Harcourt, since the Major (acting for the Section as a freelancer) killed his friend and partner some years previously.  It’s something of a coincidence that both Lafarge and Harcourt should be selected for the same job – plus it’s also a little difficult to believe that Lafarge knew the identity of his friend’s killer.  And even this is negated at the end when Meres tells Callan that the Major missed and he did the killing anyway.  So why did Lafarge believe it was Harcourt rather than Meres?

Also present is Kristina (Jane Lapotaire).  Kristina claims to be a member of the country’s resistance and wishes to kill the Field Marshall purely for ideological reasons.  Callan gently baits her about this, whilst Lafarge remains aloof.  Indeed, Callan doesn’t get on with either Lafarge or Kristina (Lafarge is young and arrogant, and Callan delights in rubbing him up the wrong way).

Events get more complicated when Harcourt turns up and we see genuine fear from Callan (quite a rarity) as Harcourt comes close to killing him. It doesn’t happen of course, as Lafarge kills the Major first.  It’s a great pity that as the camera switches to a close-up of what should be Harcourt’s lifeless body, we see Robert Urquhart’s eyes move.  Presumably there was no time for a second take.

It turns out that Kristina isn’t all she appears – she’s working for the same party that the Field Marshall belongs to.  Since he’s become too soft and conciliatory they see a chance to kill two birds with one stone – remove the Field Marshall and tarnish the reputation of the resistance groups operating in the UK.

It’s the interaction between Callan/Lafarge/Kristina as all three are holed up in the attic, waiting for the call to kill the Field Marshall, that’s the stand-out part of the episode.  Edward Woodward has two very good actors to bounce off against – Michael Pennington and Jane Lapotaire.  Both have enjoyed lengthy and successful careers – Pennington is a notable Shakespeare actor (who also has plenty of film credits, including Return of the Jedi, to his name) whilst Lapotaire has an equally impressive cv.  They have to sport foreign accents, which can potentially be a problem, but they do so with aplomb.

Apart from this, there’s the usual banter between Callan and Lonely as well as some nice byplay between Callan and Meres.  The tension that existed between the two of them during the time that Callan was Hunter seems to have now dissipated.

Although The Contract does feel a little insubstantial (probably due to the low-stakes feel of the story) the performances help to carry it along.

Callan – The Carrier

carrier

Written by Peter Hill. Directed by Jonathan Alwyn

The Carrier opens with Callan and Lonely indulging in a spot of breaking and entering.  This was something they did on a regular basis during the first three series, but this episode marks the first time they’ve indulged during series four.

What’s very noticeable about this section of the story (which lasts for the first fifteen minutes) is that neither of them speaks a word.  It’s reasonable enough that they would want to keep noise to a minimum, but the complete lack of dialogue was presumably Peter Hill’s choice.  And it does help to make what would otherwise be a fairly routine sequence slightly more interesting.

Lonely’s cab is parked right outside and this will lead to both of them getting arrested.  As they continue to work inside the house, outside we see a policeman take an interest in the parked cab.  Bizarrely, he’s able to open the door (did neither of them think to lock it?) and he then proceeds to spend the next few minutes walking around it.

It’s not entirely clear why the cab should be of such interest.  Did no cab driver ever park their vehicle outside their house?  If this was such an usual sight on a London street in the early 1970’s then it probably would have been wiser for Callan to have used an unmarked car, rather than something so distinctive as a black cab.

As Callan and Lonely work on, we cut back to the Section where Hunter explains to Meres (and the viewers) exactly what’s going on.  The house belongs to Professor Rose (Peter Copley), a notable scientist who intends to hand over the plans of a new radar network to the Russians.  The Professor is a familiar character-type from television drama of this era – the misguided scientist.  He’s not selling secrets for personal gain, he simply wants to ensure that all sides have access to the same knowledge.  This doesn’t cut any ice with Callan who later tells him that “you’re not even a real traitor are you? You’re just a woolly headed do-gooder trying to play god.”

Everything seems to go off fine – Callan photographs the documents that the Professor is intending to hand over to his contact (who he believes is a Dutch bookseller called Amstell, but is actually a KGB hitman called Tamaresh) and returns to the Section.  But Lonely takes a fancy to a small trophy in the Professor’s study and steals it.  When the Professor returns home the next day he notices that it’s missing and calls the police.

This is a part of the plot which stretches credibility a little.  It might have been possible to believe that the series one Lonely would have been so foolish, but it’s less credible that the series four Lonely would have done so.  And as the police have a record of the cab parked outside the Professor’s house they put two and two together and pick up Lonely and Callan.

Callan and Lonely aren’t in police custody for long though, as they’re bailed out by Detective Superintendent Brown (Windsor Davies) of Special Branch.  This disgusts Detective Inspector Vanstone (Michael Turner), the officer in charge of investigating the break-in.  Vanstone might accept that people like Callan are necessary to defend the security of the realm, but it’s the sort of person he is (an ex-con) which seems to upset him.

Hunter’s far from pleased that he had to ask Special Branch to release Callan and Lonely.  This then develops into the major theme of the remainder of the episode – the uneasy relationship between the Section and Special Branch.  Both organisations operate in similar areas, which often means that their interests overlap – but neither Hunter or Brown would dream of pooling information with the other.  This, as we’ll see, will have tragic consequences.

Special Branch also have an interest in Tamaresh (Ralph Nossek).  Two officers, Mary (Jean Rogers) and Allan (Roy Herrick) are assigned to tail him, but it’s clear that neither know who he really is.  We see Callan and Meres monitoring their radio transmissions as they follow Tamaresh to Epping Forest and both Section men know that the officers are going to their deaths.  They could have warned them, but since they shouldn’t have been monitoring their radio in the first place it’s not surprising that they didn’t.

Tamaresh quickly kills Allan (who followed him into the wood) and then emerges to find Mary.  Whilst he killed Allan without speaking, he’s slightly more sadistic with Mary – he tells her that her partner’s dead and lets the news of that sink in before he kills her as well.

When Callan realises that Special Branch had no idea who they were trailing, he launches an angry tirade against Hunter.  Hunter’s unmoved though – the Section doesn’t share information with other departments and that’s an end to it.

It’s an attitude which Callan finds hard to take – at least when he goes up against men like Tamaresh he knows what to expect, but the two unarmed police officers (who Callan says were little more than kids) never had a chance.  Hunter orders Callan to kill Tamaresh (which he naturally does) and the Professor is brought in.  Nothing will happen to him, but he’ll have to live the rest of his life knowing that nobody will ever trust him again.

Peter Hill’s only script for Callan is a decent effort, although several parts of the story (Lonely’s cab and his light-fingered pilfering) do detract a little. It’s possibly no surprise that the police feature strongly in this episode since Hill had worked for the Metropolitan Police for thirteen years, ending up as a Detective Inspector in the Murder Squad.  He left the police in 1969 to pursue a writing career and by this time had already contributed to several popular series, such as Public Eye, Armchair Theatre and Special Branch.

Since there was no real need for Callan and Lonely to be arrested, it might have been better to remove those scenes from the script (it wouldn’t have affected the later conflict with Special Branch).  But it does give us another one of those wonderful scenes where Callan browbeats Lonely.  When Lonely calls round to see him, Callan is unblocking the sink (another thing you never see James Bond doing) and he proceeds to berate Lonely whilst waving a sink plunger in his face!

Callan – I Never Wanted The Job

i never

Written by John Kershaw. Directed by Jim Goddard

I Never Wanted The Job is a non-spy story.  There’s a vague mention of a (very minor) job that Callan and Meres have to attend to, but in the end they never get to it – because they’re busy dealing with Lonely’s spot of trouble.

Lonely’s been moonlighting in his cab again, but when his latest fare is shot dead he naturally turns to Callan for help.  The murdered man, Ted Dollar (Val Musetti), was a known criminal and his murder bears all the hallmarks of a gangland execution.  This is a strong hook into the story, especially as director Jim Goddard elected to use a crane to pull back from Dollar’s dead body.  It’s certainly a striking piece of camerawork – we see Dollar’s dead body face down on the road outside his house, with a large pool of blood from the shotgun blast which hit him directly in the chest.

Callan has a stinking cold and so isn’t best pleased when Lonely comes calling.  This is another nice character touch as his cold has no importance in story terms, it just reminds us that Callan isn’t James Bond, he’s simply an ordinary man with extraordinary skills.  When Lonely pours out his story it soon makes him forget his sniffles though, and gives us another of those wonderful two-handed scenes between Woodward and Hunter.

Indeed, this episode is an excellent one for those who enjoy the Callan/Lonely relationship.  There’s plenty of resigned whining on Lonely’s part, whilst Callan responds with his trademark bitter humour and anger.  But although Callan’s highly displeased that Lonely has potentially involved him in a situation that’s attracting the attention of the police, for once Lonely is able to stand up to Callan.

As the title tells us, Lonely never wanted the job of taxi driver for the Section and wants to pack it in.  Callan is quick to remind him that if he hadn’t taken on the job he would most likely have wound up dead.  And it could still happen, since Hunter has become aware that something is going on with Lonely and has asked Meres to keep an eye on things.  He hasn’t ordered Lonely’s death – not yet – but circumstances may yet force his hand.

Dollar was killed on the orders of Abbot (William Marlowe).  Although Marlowe was probably best known for operating on the other side of the law (in The Gentle Touch) he was no stranger to playing villains and he does a good job here.  He’s suitably menacing, but the audience knows that Abbot isn’t going to be a match for Callan.

A key moment is the scene where Callan confronts Abbot in his club.  After easily disabling several of Abbot’s minders, Callan has a simple message – leave him and Lonely alone.  Simple though this is, Abbot has trouble believing it.  Surely nobody would confront him just for someone so insignificant like Lonely?  He’s convinced that Callan is attempting to muscle in on his manor and can’t be convinced to back down.  As expected, this is the last mistake he makes.

Although the story features several deaths (and Dollar’s is particularly bloody –  taking a shotgun blast to the chest at point-blank range) there’s also something of a light-hearted feel about it.  Possibly it’s because for once the stakes are low – the security of the nation isn’t at risk and the only trouble comes from a few members of the underworld.

The closing moments, with Callan and Meres squirming in front of Hunter like two naughty schoolboys, is particularly telling.  Hunter might have been aware that something was going on with Lonely but he asked Callan to fix it – with the implication being that he didn’t want to know the details.  Of course, Hunter knew exactly what had happened and after they leave the office he allows himself an indulgent smile.

It’s possible to feel a little sorry for Abbot, as he was dead the moment he decided to target Callan.  William Marlowe brings a touch of class to proceedings and Paul Angelis and Michael Deacon are effective as Abbot’s henchmen, Steve and Sunshine.  They’re the pair who threaten Lonely (and smash up the cab, much to Callan’s annoyance).

For Doctor Who fans there’s an appearance by John Levene in a minor role and the ever dependable Ron Pember also turns up as a cafe owner.  Although tonally different from the rest of the fourth series, I Never Wanted The Job foregrounds the Callan/Lonely relationship, which is a major plus point in its favour.

Callan – Charlie Says It’s Goodbye

charlie

Written by James Mitchell. Directed by Peter Duguid

Hunter believes that a top civil servant called James Palliser (Dennis Price) is due to defect to Eastern Europe shortly.  Palliser is under the impression that the man he loves is waiting for him in Poland – Callan, of course, knows this is the oldest trick in the book.  So before we’ve even met him, the character of Palliser has been quite clearly defined – he may be an important man, but he’s also a gullible one (it’s later reveled that Palliser’s lover died under interrogation some time before, but faked messages are being used to lure him out).

Callan is assigned to watch him and it seems to be a quite straightforward brief.  But there’s a distraction as Palliser has a friend called Susan Morris (Beth Harris).  He introduces himself to both Palliser and Susan and makes no secret that he works for security (Hunter’s suggestion – as he thinks it might spook Palliser into running earlier than planned).  Susan reacts sharply when she meets Callan for the first time – her husband was investigated by security and later took his own life.  But a later meeting is more cordial and Callan becomes more and more attracted to her ….

With Charlie Says It’s Goodbye, series creator James Mitchell crafts a story which takes a closer look at Callan the man.  There’s already been plenty of evidence provided during the series to date which makes it clear that Section operatives like Callan can hardly expect to lead a normal life.  All the previous relationships we’ve seen him enjoy have tended to be short (and usually terminated by death of the female  – such as Suddenly – At Home, for example).

He makes a valiant effort here to try and convince Susan that he’s nothing more than a nine to five pen-pusher, but she senses that he’s not being honest with her.  And finding he wears a gun is something of a giveaway of course.  It makes a change to see a more vulnerable Callan.  This is demonstrated when he gives her a present of a box of chocolates and she remarks that it’s a little old-fashioned.  Callan (obviously somewhat out of date when it comes to any form of relationship) is rather discomforted by her gentle chiding.

If the Callan/Susan relationship is the emotional heart of the story then Palliser’s attempted defection provides the more conventional spy angle.  Dennis Price, best remembered for the classic Ealing film Kind Hearts and Coronets, is a solid presence as Palliser whilst Richard Morant plays the hip-and-happening Trent, who’s been assigned by Komorowski (John G. Heller) to guard Palliser until he’s cleared to leave for Poland.

Trent does seem to be an unequal opponent for Callan as he’s far too young and casual.  There is a reason for this – Komorowski wishes to defect to Britain and therefore deliberately sabotages Palliser’s defection by entrusting him to someone he knew would be no match for Callan.

Callan is easily able to disable Trent and bring Pallsier in, but there’s a complication.  Hunter’s received an anonymous letter stating that Callan has been spending his free time with Susan.  There’s a telling moment when Hunter questions Liz about it, and she declines to answer his questions.  It’s a sign that her affection for Callan has overridden her duty to the Section.  And for somebody like Liz, who has even less of a life outside the Section than Callan does, this is quite noteworthy.

Is there a happy ending for Callan? He loves Susan and would be happy to leave the Section, but he knows in his heart he wouldn’t be allowed to walk away, whilst Susan loves him in return but detests the job he has to do.  It’ll probably come as no surprise that things don’t end well.  Trent targets both of them and Callan kills him (with a harpoon, no less).  He had no choice, since both their lives were under threat, but Susan’s total shock at seeing violent death close-up brings their relationship to an end.

Nearly everybody loses in this one.  Palliser’s hopes of being with the man he loves are cruelly dashed when Hunter tells him he’s dead, whilst Susan’s revulsion at seeing the sort of violent man Callan is can only serve to harden him a little more and make it unlikely he’ll ever decide to open up again.  The only winner therefore is Komorowski, who will no doubt be able to live a comfortable life as a defector.

Whilst not the absolute best the series can offer, Charlie Says It’s Goodbye is still pretty compelling, thanks to the emotional dramas that are played out over its fifty minutes.

Callan – None of Your Business

none of your business

Written by Trevor Preston. Directed by Voytek

After a brief spell as a (reluctant) member of the establishment, Callan now finds himself on the outside.  He’s been relived of command and placed on “special leave” by Bishop, pending the appointment of a new Hunter.

Callan quickly understands that he’s persona non grata.  Lonely tells him he’s been ordered not to drive him and Liz is unable to hand over his passport.  As an aside, it’s always struck me as odd (and rather unbelievable) that Lonely would have been drafted into the Section, even as just a lowly driver.  But it does mean that at the start of the episode his inability to help serves to increase Callan’s sense of isolation.

There’s rarely been any love lost between Bishop and Callan and this is made evident by their early exchange.  “All you want to do Mr Bishop is keep your paperwork neat. but then you are a very neat man, aren’t you Mr Bishop? You have neat hands, neat clothes, neat manners, neat mind.  Place for everything, everything in its place. Cross/suicide/file closed/what’s for lunch. Neat.”

As Callan’s on “leave” he decides to take a holiday, but Bishop won’t release his passport.  The reason why is never made clear, is Bishop simply being awkward or does he fear that Callan might defect?  Either way, Callan decides to obtain a fake passport and this is where the story really starts.

What stops None of Your Business from being a top-drawer Callan episode is the somewhat unlikely chain of coincidence.  Meres and Stafford are investigating how a Russian agent came to be in possession of fake, but very convincing papers.  They have a lead, West (Peter Eyre), but his sudden suspicious death stops them in their tracks.

Of course, the people that Callan approaches are the same ones that Meres and Stafford are interested in – and it’s this rather clumsy plotting which is the problem.  It’s also rather out of character that Callan would be so driven to try and leave the country – he has to be otherwise the story wouldn’t work, but it just doesn’t feel quite right.

But if some of the plotting is a little suspect then there’s still plenty of incidental pleasures to be found with the guest cast.  Tony Selby plays Lucas, the man who seems to be in charge of the forgery ring.  He starts off as a confident figure, convinced he’s got the measure of Callan, but it’s plain he has no idea what he’s let himself in for.  Brian Murphy, as Reeves, first appears as one of Lucas’ potential customers (presenting a cowed, shambling figure) but it’s later revealed that he’s the brains behind the whole operation.  It’s a nice enough twist, even if Reeves’ motivations (and the precise nature of the forgery ring) remain somewhat nebulous.

There’s several small character touches which enhance the episode.  The first comes after Callan realises that Lonely’s told Lucas where he lives.  A spasm of anger crosses his face and he punches Lonely – hard.  Seconds after you can see that Callan regrets this, especially when Lonely tearfully tells him that he didn’t have any choice – Lucas’ heavy had hurt him.  Woodward and Hunter had shared so many scenes together by this time that they were able to display a world of meaning even in non-verbal ways.

And when Squire’s Hunter returns to the Section late in the episode, both Meres and Stafford automatically stand up but Callan remains seated.  This is a nice unspoken sign of Callan’s disdain for authority – although his relationship with this Hunter was always more cordial than with some of his predecessors.

The new Hunter is revealed – in fact it’s the old one as William Squire returns to the series.  It would have been the ideal time to bring in a new actor but given how good Squire always was I can’t really complain.

Callan – If He Can, So Could I

if he can so could i

Written by Ray Jenkins. Directed by Peter Duguid

The opening of If He Can, So Could I has a deliberate echo of the season three opener, Where Else Could I Go?. Then it was Callan who was deemed to be unfit for duty, but now it’s Cross.  In both cases we see a rigorous physiological evaluation undertaken by Snell (Clifford Rose).

Rose, later to play Kessler in the classic series Secret Army, was always a little underused in Callan, but this episode does give him a little more exposure than normal.  Snell is convinced that Cross should be replaced (he likens him to a tightly wound watch spring – which has to give eventually) but Callan is less sure.

Snell certainly plays all the tricks he can, such as asking Cross to fire at the target of a woman and then revealing that behind the target was a female dummy.  This recalls a similar moment in Where Else Could I Go? – Callan was perfectly fine when asked to shoot circular targets, but missed every time he was presented with a target in the form of a human body.

Interestingly though, Cross has no such qualms and when Snell questions him afterwards he maintains that he feels perfectly fine.  Although his actions in Rules of the Game were responsible for paralyzing a fourteen-year old girl he’s adamant that it’s left no lasting scar.  He tells Snell that he’s trained to not feel remorse – it was an unfortunate accident, but nothing more.

Another fascinating moment occurs when Snell asks him what he feels when he kills.  Cross says that it gives him a sense of security, which makes Callan (watching events from the close-circuit television in his office) shake his head ironically.  Although he may not share Cross’ opinion about killing, Callan is very much on the side on his colleague and reinstates him.

He’s sent right back into the thick of things as he’s assigned to guard a Russian dissident poet called Trofimchuk (Peter Blythe).  Probably best known for playing Soapy Sam Ballard in Rumpole of the Bailey, he’s almost unrecognisable here, thanks to a moustache and a strong Russian accent.  Trofimchuk’s interaction with Cross is key to the episode – especially the part which sees Trofimchuk speak in favour of suicide.

Do his words maybe hit home?  Shortly after, Cross spies an intruder on the roof and leaves to investigate.  A single shot is fired and Cross is dead before he hits the ground.  When Callan later catches up with Cross’ killer (and Trofimchuk’s would-be killer) Burov (played by Morris Perry) his dying words are “he let me kill him”.  And Snell later finds a number of books in Cross’ flat which have passages dealing with suicide highlighted.

It’s all circumstantial evidence, but together it adds up to a compelling case that Cross did have suicide on his mind, although there isn’t any real evidence of this from the film sequence that covers his death.  We see Cross looking for Burov, he’s distracted by a shout from below and a split second later he’s shot.  But we’ve already seen Callan and Snell debate that life and death can be a matter of split seconds, so it could be that this infinitesimal hesitation was key. Or did Cross just forget his training?  This is Callan’s opinion, but it could be just what he wants to believe.

The death of Cross hits both Callan and Liz hard, but for different reasons.  Although he treated her badly during their brief relationship, it’s probable that Liz still had a certain amount of affection for him, whilst Callan’s feelings are much more complex.  Towards the end there’s a spell-binding scene with Callan and Lonely (Russell Hunter’s only appearance in this episode).  A very drunk Callan tells an uncomprehending Lonely how difficult it is to control the darkness that exists inside.  Edward Woodward was always so good, but this scene is something special even by his high standards.

Callan’s decision to leave the office after Cross’ death (something that Hunter is strictly forbidden to do) and his murder of Burov (the first time he’s killed someone he’s not been authorised to) brings his brief stint as Hunter to an end.  Whilst it could have lasted a few more episodes, largely confining Woodward to the office has been a bit of a problem so it’s not surprising that he’ll now be back in the field.

No matter how many times I rewatch these episodes they never lose their impact.  If He Can, So Could I is yet another exceptional installment from one of the true classics of British television.