Upstairs Downstairs – Married Love (4th November 1972)

Relations between Elizabeth and Lawrence are worsening due to his inability to consummate their marriage. Shuddering at the thought of such gross physical activity, he turns to his publisher and mentor – Sir Edwin Partridge (Charles Gray) – who may be able to assist ….

The opening of this episode feels a bit abrupt (the UpDown website confirms that the first few lines are inexplicably missing from all copies currently in circulation). Thomas’ incredulity that bootlaces and newspapers need to be ironed raises a smile (as does his suggestion that he could do the same to the bacon). The truculent cook, Mrs. Fellowes, also helps to create an air of sour comic relief – it’s all to do with her leg you know.

Laughs are thin on the ground when we move upstairs to Elizabeth and Lawrence’s bedroom. His total disinterest in that side of their relationship (as a poet he apparently finds it too ghastly to contemplate) is made plain – which launches Elizabeth into the realms of deepest despair. Matters get no better over the breakfast table and they part – he to visit Sir Edwin – on the worst of terms.

Elizabeth has very few role models to turn to. It would be impossible to speak to her mother about such a delicate subject, so instead she sounds out Rose. This is a gloriously uncomfortable scene – the pure and innocent Rose is just about the last person to advise anyone on sexual matters (all she can do is pass on second hand information about her aunt and uncle’s strained relationship and how all working men are only after one thing).

Given that the first half of the episode is claustrophobic and rather unhappy, it’s a jarring (but not unpleasant) change of pace when the action switches to Thomas and Elizabeth taking a drive. The wily Thomas has persuaded the Kirkbridges that buying a car would be a wise move – he, of course, will be more than happy to act as chauffeur.  Although the OB VT makes things look a little cheap, it still must have been quite an expensive scene to mount as there’s a fair number of extras dotted about the park.

Whilst Elizabeth is getting the colour back in her cheeks, Lawrence is unburdening his soul to Sir Edwin. Charles Gray is on typically mesmerising form throughout – purring like a particularly well-fed cat as Sir Edwin elects (with Lawrence’s blessing) to try and lift Elizabeth’s spirits by any means necessary.

By seducing her? During a party held by Lawrence to celebrate the publication of his new book, Sir Edwin and a rather tiddly Elizabeth do visit her bedroom, but it’s not specified in this episode exactly what they get up to.  Sir Edwin does look satisfied when he later bids Lawrence farewell, but then that seems to be his default setting.

Elizabeth and Sir Edwin’s conversation during the party is fascinating. Although he toys with her, Elizabeth does possess some intellectual tools of her own (even though, as events during previous episodes have proved, she still has a strong streak of naivety).

The champagne flows freely at the party, which is just as well as the sample we have of Lawrence’s poetry (all doom laden stuff) would no doubt sound a little better after a few stiff drinks.

In some ways Married Love serves as a prologue to the drama of the next episode, but John Harrison’s script (the second of his two UpDown efforts) is still a strong vehicle for Elizabeth. Since Harrison’s previous effort was The Path of Duty (Elizabeth’s debut in the series) it’s possibly not surprising he was chosen to move her character on to the next stage.

Return of the Saint – The Diplomat’s Daughter

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When Simon observes a beautiful young woman, Marie de la Garde (Lynn Dalby), in distress he has to intervene.  She tells him that her brother, Pierre (Murray Head), has fallen into bad company and that they are forcing him to courier drugs to England (his father is the French ambassador and has diplomatic immunity, which is the reason why Pierre is so useful to them).

The opening seems to be a direct crib from Ian Fleming’s James Bond novel On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  We see Simon driving down a deserted road, minding his own business, when he’s overtaken at high speed by an attractive young woman in a red sports car.

Marie’s been marked for death by the villainous Shriber (Karl Held) because she offered to pay Pierre’s gambling debts (Shriber, of course, knows that Pierre is much more useful to them as a drugs mule).

Unlike many of the foreign episodes, this one features British actors putting on accents of varying credibility (although there’s a later twist with this).  Lynn Dalby, best known as the long-suffering partner of Budgie Bird in Budgie, is appealing as Marie (who is a more complex character than she first appears to be) whilst Murray (One Night In Bangkok) Head has the more thankless role of Pierre.

Michael Pertwee’s script is well tailored to Ian Ogilvy’s talents.  Simon seems to have a little more spark and verbal byplay in this one (referring to the villains as the “ungodly” brings to mind the literary Saint).  It would have been nice if all the episodes had featured a similar level of characterisation – rather too often Ogilvy wasn’t called upon to be anything more than a conventional leading man.  His comic timing is used to good effect here though.

The twist in the tail – Marie isn’t Pierre’s brother (they’re boyfriend and girlfriend) and is keen to acquire the drugs herself – poses more questions than it answers.  The whole plan seems to have been organised in order to smuggle the drugs in Simon’s car – but that makes very little sense.  Were the attempts Shriber made on Marie’s life simply mocked up for Simon’s benefit?  If so, it seems an incredibly over-elaborate scheme.  The slightly strange scripting means that The Diplomat’s Daughter rates three halos out of five.

Had ROTS returned for a second series, according to Ian Ogilvy it would have been much more of a British-based series.  That would have been interesting and if the scripting had been a little tighter then it could well have become a classic.  At it was, ROTS was probably made at the wrong time, being the last of the ITC adventure series meant it seemed a little out of place in the late 1970’s (when harder-edged fare such as The Sweeney and The Professionals were on offer).  But overall it’s a very solid series – helmed by experienced hands, both in front of and behind the camera.

It may be predictable at times, but as Ogilvy once said it was simply an adventure series and designed to entertain.  Which it certainly does, making it a pleasure to revisit.

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Return of the Saint – Appointment in Florence

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When a friend of Simon’s, Christian Van Esser (Bryan Pinero), is kidnapped and later killed by a faction of the Red Brigade, the Saint is quickly on the trail.  One of the terrorists, Ingo (James Aubrey), reacts badly to Christian’s murder and absconds – along with the ransom money.  With both his former associates and the Saint on his trail, he’s certainly a man in demand.  His girlfriend, Lea (Carla Romanelli), is a strong lead – but can Simon convince her that the man she loves is a terrorist?

By now you should be aware of the drill.  If Simon’s spending time in the pre-credits sequence with an old friend, it’s reasonable to assume that his lifespan will be somewhat limited!  A nice touch is that the episode opens with Simon and Christian enjoying a skiing holiday (no doubt these scenes were shot during the making of Hot Run) and we then relocate after the first ten minutes to Florence.  The two very different locations help to give the story an extra gloss.

Before the credits roll, we see Christian abducted, but we don’t know why.  It’s interesting that immediately after, time has clearly elapsed – we learn in very short order that Christian was kidnapped, the ransom was paid, the Saint had promised not to do anything to impede his return but all to no avail (his dead body arrives at the rendezvous in a cable-car).  All of this is dealt with in a minute or so, whereas it would have been more usual to develop the drama of Christian’s kidnap during the first act.

The least impressive piece of dubbing in the episode comes when Christian’s wife spies his lifeless body in the cable-car and screams.  The shape of her mouth in no way corresponds to the heart-wrenching wail which was no doubt added on much later in London!

Terrorism rarely featured in ROTS (One Black September was a notable exception).  It’s not hard to understand why, as the fanaticism of terrorists sits rather uneasily with the series’ escapist tone.   As might be expected they’re painted with rather broad brushstrokes – the terrorists’ beliefs are briefly touched upon, but if they had been ordinary criminals the story wouldn’t have been too different.

Their leader, Manfred (Stuart Wilson), is slightly more sadistic than the run of the mill ROTS baddy though.  When he corners Lea, he tells her that “I’m going to hang you from your own balcony. And when you are choking, I will come and cut the rope and watch while you fall and break your neck.”  Not surprisingly, he doesn’t get to carry out his threat as Simon arrives in the nick of time.

Carla Romanelli gives a nice performance as Lea – she doesn’t have a great deal to do, but comes over in several key scenes very well.  An eye-catching turn comes from Nicole Stoliaroff as one of the terrorists, Gaby.  Although it’s true that her character is something of a cliche – blond, beautiful and deadly – and is never really  developed.  As I’ve said, it would have been better had the terrorists had more strongly defined characters and motivations, but perhaps that was outside of the series’ parameters.

Despite the feeling of deja vu, this is a solid episode which rates four halos out of five.

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Return of the Saint – Dragonseed

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Leo (Andrea Occhipinti) is a young man with everything to live for.  His father Domenico (Sam Wanamaker) is a millionaire businessman, grooming Leo to take over the reigns one day soon.  Although it’s his birthday, Leo is keen to close a multi-million pound deal by himself.  But after the helicopter he’s travelling in crashes, killing both Leo and the pilot, the question has to be, accident or sabotage?  And since Domenico was originally due to take the trip, was he the intended victim?

Another Italian episode, filmed in the highly picturesque area of Tuscany, Dragonseed is certainly an installment that makes full use of its locations.  Especially impressive are the scenes shot around the dockside – with the sun glinting on the water it looks gorgeous.

This originally aired immediately after Vicious Circle, which was slightly unfortunate – both are Italian shot episodes which feature Simon investigating the death of a friend who initially appeared to have died in an accident.  Another similarity is that they both include beautiful but deadly females …..

It’s hard to understand quite how Simon and Leo became friends, as Leo was in his late teens it’s difficult to imagine they would have moved in the same circles.  Had Simon been a friend of the family that would have made sense – but Domenico’s never heard of him.

Having directed the previous episode, Sam Wanamaker now steps in front of the camera.  He was an actor with presence and range, although he’s not best served by the script.  Domenico is a ruthless businessman who loves his family and vows to avenge his son’s death by whatever means necessary.  If this sounds a bit cliched, then it is, and Wanamaker does struggle at the start to make something out of the fairly unpromising material.  He’s better later on though – as we see Domenico start to crack up a little as his loss really begins to sink in.

However, there are worse performances, such as Barbara Pilavan who plays Domenico’s ex-wife Lucia.  She may be another victim of unsympathetic dubbing, but Pilavan doesn’t impress – especially in the scene where she arrives at the hospital (where Leo is hovering between life and life) and emotes in a very unconvincing way.

More pleasing are Shane Rimmer (a familiar television and film presence, well-known for his work with Gerry Anderson) as Domenico’s shady security man and Annamaria Macchi as Domenico’s daughter Carla.  Macchi is on hand to provide the customary dollop of glamour as well as a few surprises.

Both this episode and Vicious Circle feature friends of Simon who are killed off before the credits roll.  This is another problem as it makes it hard to care about them, since their screen-time has been so limited.  On its own, Dragonseed is entertaining enough, but the sense of familiarity means that it only rates three halos out of five.

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Return of the Saint – Vicious Circle


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Roberto Lucci (Massimiliano Baratta) is killed in a car accident en-route to a meeting with Simon. His widow, famous fashion designer Renata (Elsa Martinelli), isn’t surprised – Roberto was a former racing driver with a love of driving far too fast.  The Saint is convinced that his car was forced off the road deliberately – but as there’s no evidence the police aren’t interested. Simon, of course, isn’t discouraged and starts to dig about …..

Shot on location in Italy and directed by Sam Wanamaker, Vicious Circle has a mainly local cast.  This is something of a mixed blessing – it’s better to have native Italians rather than English actors putting on fake accents (as happened in the Collision Course two-parter) but the drawback is that they tend to be less fluent in English, hence their performances can feel slightly broader than normal.  Part of the problem with this one may also be that the dubbing on this episode is more obvious than usual (series like ROTS would tend to redub the majority of the dialogue as a matter of course).

Elsa Martinelli is icily detached as Roberto’s widow.  Following the accident that cut his career short, she was forced to nurse him – and Simon suspects she may know more about his death than she admits.  She’s a character drawn in fairly broad strokes – not helped by the dubbing which does create a little distance.

Tessa Wyatt (as Renata’s assistant Anna) seems to be initially positioned as this episode’s female helper, but the revelation that her ex-husband may have killed Roberto is an unexpected twist (and there’s more revelations to come).  It helps to isolate the Saint even further – most episodes see him paired up with female company and enjoying the tacit assistance of the authorities (something which doesn’t happen here).

The harder edge of this episode is demonstrated in several ways.  Firstly, Simon finds Anna drugged and hysterical in her room and we also have the unusual sight of Simon brandishing a gun (even if he doesn’t fire it).  And apart from a few quips, he’s in a pretty serious mood throughout.

The mystery of the episode – who killed Roberto and why? – is maintained until the end.  This is another break from the norm as normally the narratives are much more straightforward.  It’s a pity there weren’t a few more episodes like this scattered through the run, but partly because it’s a rarity Vicious Circle rates four halos out of five.

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Return of the Saint – The Obono Affair

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President Obono (Thomas Baptiste) is the universally loathed leader of a minor African nation.  His visit to Britain has generated death threats and Simon is on hand to prevent one such attempted assassination.  Although the Saint receives Obono’s thanks he makes it quite clear that he was simply in the right place at the right time and has no desire to associate with him any further.

But when Obono’s son Joey (Paul Medford) is kidnapped, the President turns to Simon for help.  The Saint is initially reluctant, but eventually teams up with the President’s right hand man Colonel Dyson (Jack Hedley) to track the kidnappers down …..

President Obono is a pretty thinly-drawn caricature of Idi Amin, who at the time was the President of Uganda.  His fondness for outlandish military uniform (with plenty of medals) and an appalling record of human rights are just two similarities.  No attempt is made to present Obono as a likable or reasonable character and early on we see him berate his double (the man designed to draw the assassins bullet).   He tells Simon that “men like Jopo enjoy brutalisation. They know no other way of life.”

Simon’s distaste for the man is made plain from their initial meeting and his loathing also extends to Colonel Dyson.  Dyson is as much of a cliche as Obono is – a former British soldier who’s accepted blood money to train Obono’s army (we’re told that the army is the one of the main reasons why the country is broke).  Hedley, a veteran character actor probably best known for playing Colonel Preston in Colditz, is suitably solid and is easily one of the best things about the episode.

Thomas Baptiste’s performance is a little odd at times – it’s somewhat non-naturalistic.  I’m assuming this was intentional, an attempt to give Obono a larger-than-life persona.  Baptiste is rather better towards the end, once it’s known that the President is dying of natural causes.

Although there’s some decent actors cast at the kidnappers (including Derek Newark and Robert Gillespie) they act in a rather inept way, which means that there’s no particular threat from them.  Although Rose (Marie Lawrence) who we see looking after Joey does have an interesting backstory.  She was one of Obono’s former mistresses and still mourns the death of her child (presumably killed on Obono’s orders).

The first of two scripts by Michael Pertwee (The Diplomat’s Daughter was the other) there’s nothing subtle about The Obono Affair but it’s agreeable enough.  It has to be said though that the closing scene, where Simon persuades Obono to pardon all political prisoners in his country, feels uncomfortably pat.  One of the reasons why series like ROTS had trouble dealing with complex, real world issues was because there’s no easy solutions to difficult problems – and this scene demonstrates it.  Will everybody live happily ever after?  Probably not and it would have been better to acknowledge that.

Three and a half halos out of five for this one.

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Return of the Saint – Murder Cartel

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After witnessing the attempted assassination of Sheikh Kemal (Marne Maitlaind) on television, Simon has a sense that he’s going to be involved, although he doesn’t know how.  He doesn’t have long to wait – shortly afterwards he receives a call from a senior man in American intelligence, Hendricks (Roger Brown).

Hendricks is convinced that Kemal will be targeted again and this time the hit will succeed, as an expert assassin called Brown (Sergio Doria) has been hired.  Hendricks is less concerned with Brown, he wants the organisation financing him – a shady murder cartel responsible for most of the major assassinations over the last five years.

Moments later Hendricks is murdered in front of Simon’s eyes and that makes things very personal for the Saint.  He assumes Brown’s identity and goes undercover to break the cartel.  There he runs into the beautiful but deadly Laura (Britt Ekland) …..

Shot on location in Rome, Murder Cartel, like all the foreign episodes of ROTS, certainly makes full use of the locale.  Back in the 1960’s, whenever Roger Moore’s Saint visited Rome it would be courtesy of back projection and filming at Elstree Studios.  There’s no substitute for the real thing though, as this episode shows.

An impressive moment occurs when an accident is staged with two taxis in one of Rome’s busy streets.  It’s probably not the sort of thing that could easily happen today (red tape and clearances would make it prohibitively difficult).  Although the illusion is slightly shattered just after the crash – we see quite a few people standing about watching from the pavement (clearly they had been there quite a while, enjoying observing the film crew at work!)

Ogilvy gets to don a pair of dark glasses as he pretends to be a ruthless assassin.  It’s the third story in a row where Simon pretends to be on the side of the baddies – pity these episodes couldn’t have been spread out throughout the run, lumped together they don’t work quite as well.

Britt Ekland is statuesque but wooden as the head of the murder cartel.  She’s given a brief speech to justify herself (it’s all to do with her father) although since she’s a fairly sketchily drawn character it doesn’t really help to flesh her out.

The main problem with Murder Cartel is that it’s difficult to get involved with the story.  Simon is upset about the death of Hendricks (an old friend, apparently) but as we’ve never seen him before his death doesn’t have any resonance.  The question of whether Kemal will die or not is another part of the plot which remains undeveloped – his screen-time is so limited (and we only hear him utter a few words throughout the whole episode) that it’s impossible to feel invested in his fate.

Having said that, the story chugs along quite agreeably, the locations look lovely and Ekland, whilst hardly the best actor in the world, is very easy on the eye.

So this rates three halos out of five.

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Return of the Saint – Hot Run

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Simon is pretending to be a poor skier, purely so he can enjoy the attentions of the beautiful instructor Maria (Lorraine De Salle).  But just as things are hotting up on the slopes, the arrival of Maria’s brother Andre looks set to dash Simon’s plans.

Events then take a tragic turn – both Maria and Simon watch in horror as Andre is murdered (shot by a sniper in the trees).  He seemed to have lived a blameless life so who would have wanted to kill him?  One possible lead is an American called Diane Lang (Rula Lenska) who runs a ski display team.  As Simon investigates, he uncovers a plan to steal millions in bullion …..

We’re very much in James Bond territory here – indeed, the location of Cortina used in Hot Run would also feature in the 1981 Bond film For Your Eyes Only.  But the picturesque backdrop is very much the star, as it helps to lift what is, sadly, a rather humdrum story.

There are a few points of interest though.  This is another story where Ian Ogilvy has the chance to play the Saint as a morally dubious character.  Because he’s convinced that Diane killed Andre (and is also planning something else) he does his best to persuade her that he’s just as crooked as she is.  When she learns that he’s Simon Templar, she does comment that nobody ever knows which side he’s on.

Rula Lenska is, suitably, hard as ice – but her henchman are much less impressive and it’s their rather obvious villainous dialogue which does drag the story down.  It also doesn’t help that we have to travel quite a way into the episode before we learn Diane’s plan (and by then I have to confess my interest had waned somewhat).

Diane plans to rob a delivery of bullion by causing an avalanche (Simon is recruited to let off the explosion which causes it).  It seems to be an elaborate way to go about things, when they could have just as easily staged a car accident and flagged the lorry down.

Another strange piece of plotting is Andre’s murder.  Yes, it provides us with a very strong pre-credits hook, but it’s just bizarre.  We’re later told that Andre had second thoughts and wanted to pull out of the robbery – it’s understandable that Diane would want to silence him, but to do so in public?  Why not quietly kill him and then drop his body down one of the numerous ravines?  The snow would soon have covered him and he’d never have been found.

Take the picture-postcard images away and there’s not a lot else to recommend in Hot Run, so it only rates two halos out of five.

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Return of the Saint – Collision Course: The Sixth Man

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It’s only a few minutes into this episode before Simon and Annabel are released by Inspector Lebec.  It’s almost as if their arrest was arranged simply to provide us with a decent cliffhanger …..

Who was the sixth man?  It’s now been established that six men were responsible for the gold robbery.  Oscar West was one, whilst the man who died in the boat accident with him, Bonaparte, was another.  We met three of the others in the previous episode – the baccarat-loving Frenchman Duchamps, the guitar-loving sadist Berndotti and the deaf, mute knifeman Pancho (Leon Lissek).

Because Simon knows so much about the robbery (he admits he was in the area at the time) there’s a lingering suspicion on Annabel’s part that he’s the sixth man.  But since this story aired fairly late in the run it’s hard to believe that the Saint could have been involved.

But it’s interesting that this two-parter was the first to go into production, so had it been transmitted early on then Simon’s guilt or innocence wouldn’t have been so clear cut.  There’s a nice edge to Ogilvy’s performance in this episode – so it’s a pity that for the majority of the episodes Simon is presented as a straightforwardly heroic figure (with little of the reckless zest of the early, literary Saint).

Simon and Annabel have located the Brave Goose and onboard is Captain Finnigan (Joe Lynch).  Finnigan is a drunken Irishman and Lynch’s comic performance is broad, but nonetheless quite amusing.

Also aboard are Duchamps, Berndotti and Pancho and they all head out to sea in search of the treasure.  Needless to say, there’s some tension among this mismatched party – the three crooks elect to throw Simon overboard at the first opportunity, but he manages to convince them that he could be of use (and also that he possibly may be the sixth man).

After the travelogue nature of episode one, this feels more enclosed since a good part of it takes place aboard the Brave Goose.  It still has a glossy feel though, helped by the location filming in France.

There’s a mystery to be solved – Pancho is murdered, but who was responsible?  Was it one of the people we’ve already seen or the mysterious sixth man or even somebody else?  The solution to the mystery is quite neat, although it’s probable that a sizeable part of the audience would have worked it out before Simon does.

Whilst the unconvincing accents sported by the likes of Stratford Johns, John Hallam and Derren Nesbitt are a little amusing (it’s understandable that the production team preferred to cast British actors, but you’d have thought they could have found the odd French-born thesp) it doesn’t detract too much.  A major plus is Gayle Hunnicutt, who is one of the more fleshed-out female leads in the series (helped in part by the length of the story).

The Sixth Man rates four halos out of five.

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Return of the Saint – Collision Course: The Brave Goose


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Simon is indulging in one of his favourite pastimes, powerboat racing.   He has a strong competitor though – the boorish Oscar West (Edward Brayshaw).  Soon, Simon and West are way out in front and it seems inevitable that one of them will win.  But then Simon sees the other boat veer out of control and through his binoculars observes West struggling with his co-pilot.  Moments later, West’s boat explodes and both men die.

West’s widow, Annabel (Gayle Hunnicutt), is staggered to learn that West died apparently penniless.  This isn’t the case though – he was a rich man (thanks to a bullion robbery some eight years ago).  The problem is that his associates have recently been released from prison and are keen to collect their share – but they don’t believe that Annabel doesn’t know where the money is hidden …..

The first episode of a two-parter, The Brave Goose opens with a confrontation between Simon and West.  Edward Brayshaw only has a very limited amount of screen time, but it’s made very clear that he’s a wrong-un – he’s swigging from a bottle of champagne (before he’s won the race!) and is rather curt to the lovely Annabel.

As for the race itself, it’s a mix of real footage, stock footage and painfully obvious studio shots.  But even the James Bond films of the time used back projection of a similar quality, so ROTS is in good company.

When Annabel learns that the only thing she possesses of value, a yacht called the Brave Goose, is moored in the South of France, she heads off to find it.  It’s a remarkable coincidence that along the way she stops for a meal and runs into George Duchamp  (Stratford Johns).  Duchamp was one of West’s former partners.

He’s also a expert backgammon player and when Simon learns from Annabel’s housekeeper that her mistress has left the country and is playing backgammon with a fat Frenchmen he’s clearly worried.  Just as it’s something of a stretch to believe that Annabel would stop for a meal at the same place where Duchamp was eating, it’s equally implausible that Simon is rather perturbed to learn that Annabel was playing backgammon (even if he knew that one of the bullion robbers played the game).  Surely there’s more than one Frenchman who does so?

Johns exudes a sort of menace, but it is hard to shake the impression that it’s just Chief Inspector Barlow with a funny accent.  John Hallam (as one of the other gang members, Bernadotti) does have a certain presence, although he’s much more menacing once he loses his hat and guitar.  Bernadotti punches Annabel – a rare instance where a female character is attacked – and even though it’s edited, the moment is still unusual for ROTS, which had a very low violence count.

Gayle Hunnicutt was very game in this episode – she dodges a bull (although doubled for the most dangerous parts, she still had to do a great deal of running around) and she then becomes thoroughly disheveled after trudging through the swampland to escape Duchamp and Bernadotti.  But when she’s not covered in dirt, Hunnicutt is rather gorgeous and forms a strong partnership with Ogilvy.

The Brave Goose ends on a cliffhanger as Inspector Lebec (the ever-dependable Derren Nesbitt) arrests Simon and Annabel for murder.  We know they didn’t do it – and also that it won’t be long before they’re released – but it’s a strong hook to end on and it helps to give the episode a solid three and a half halos out of five.

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Return of the Saint – The Debt Collectors

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After Simon comes to the aid of a runaway horse ridden by Jeri Hanson (Mary Tamm), he finds himself embroiled in the murky world of espionage.  Jeri’s sister Christine (Diane Keen) was convicted of passing military secrets and is six years into a prison sentence.  But just one day before she’s due to be released on parole she escapes.

This was engineered by Sir Charles Medley (Geoffrey Keen) of the Ministry of Defence.  Jeri tells Simon she’s convinced her sister is innocent and it appears that Sir Charles arranged Christine’s prison-break in order to flush out a traitor in MI5.  But who can be trusted?  In the world of intelligence, things are not always as they appear to be …..

The Debt Collectors was written by George Markstein.  Given his background (script-editor/writer on series such as The Prisoner, Callan and Mr Palfrey of Westminster) it’s no surprise that he delivered a dense story set in the world of British Intelligence.

And after finding some of the previous episodes to be rather linear and straightforward, it’s a pleasure to have one where people’s motivations aren’t immediately obvious.  Things appear to open normally enough, with Simon coming to the rescue of an attractive young woman.  But she’s under surveillance and when Simon is later told not to speak to her again this only strengthens his interest.

By the time this aired, in December 1978, Mary Tamm was already more than half-way through her single season as Romana in Doctor Who.  Here, she seems to be the archetypal ROTS heroine – her function in the plot being little more than providing a decorative presence and also the excuse for the Saint to become involved in the story – but there’s a twist in the tale later.

Of more immediate interest is Diane Keen as Christine.  An actress who hardly seemed to be off the television screens in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, her first scene (behind prison bars) sees her playing a hard-bitten old lag.  This is rather a stretch for Keen and it’s no surprise that once she goes over the wall Christine becomes much more of a vulnerable character.

With the revelation that there could be a traitor in MI5, several possibilities present themselves.  There’s Sir Charles and also Simon’s MI5 contact Geoffrey Connaught (Anton Rodgers).  Geoffrey Keen, best known today for playing the Minster in the James Bond films, is perfect casting and Rodgers, later to carve a niche as a sit-com performer, shares some decent scenes with Ogilvy.

The story does have a few niggling plot-holes.  Why was Christine stuck in prison for six years before Sir Charles elected to use her to flush out the mole?  And since she was due to be released the following day why engineer a prison break?  If she’s on the run then presumably that makes her more of a target for the mole.  But since she doesn’t know his identity, Christine is ultimately something of a red-herring.

Whilst the looseness of the plot (which is a little surprising given Markstein’s background as a script-editor) is a slight irritation, there’s more than enough happening to negate these quibbles.  Apart from the already mentioned performers, the likes of Neil McCarthy (a familiar television face) and Bob Shearman (best-known for his regular role in The Sandbaggers) help to bolster an already impressive cast.

The Debt Collectors is a cut above the average ROTS script and rates four halos out of five.

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Return of the Saint – Tower Bridge is Falling Down

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Jenny Stewart (Fiona Curzon) is concerned about her father Charlie (Sam Kydd), so she turns to the Saint for help.  Charlie has been having disagreements with his business partner Ray Dennis (John Woodvine).  The two of them built up a thriving building firm but Charlie is convinced that Dennis has conned him out of a substantial sum of money.

Dennis is a highly amoral figure and after a brief fight with Charlie he has no compunction in leaving him in a building scheduled for demolition.  And when Charlie’s lifeless body is recovered from the rubble Simon vows to exact the maximum amount of revenge on Dennis.  So he puts his plan into action – an elaborate con involving transporting Tower Bridge to America ……

Written by the creator of Minder, Leon Griffiths, Tower Bridge is Falling Down was his sole contribution to the series.  It’s basically Hustle, thirty years early, and it sees Simon posing as Sir Malcom Street, a top government official.  In order to hook Dennis effectively, first Simon contrives to lose ten thousand pounds to him at a rigged poker game.

And when the man he believes to be Sir Malcolm proves unable to settle his debt Dennis is slowly reeled into the con.  This involves his company being awarded the contract to demolish Tower Bridge (provided he can sweeten the deal by paying Sir Malcolm off).

All the familiar tricks from a normal episode of Hustle are present and correct.  For example, Sir Malcolm is a real person and the Saint brazenly takes over his office in order to meet with Dennis.  And as so often happens, the real Sir Malcolm returns just as the Saint is leaving (the two pass each other in the corridor).  Dennis is easy to con because, as seen in Hustle every week, he’s a greedy man.  Had he been honest then he wouldn’t have fallen for Simon’s ploy, but he sees the chance to make a quick and illegal profit and jumps at it.

It’s a pity that Leon Griffiths didn’t contribute any further scripts (although he would have been busy at the time setting up Minder).  John Woodvine is excellent as Ray Dennis.  Dennis’ lack of morality is clear right from the pre-credits sequence when he casually disposes of Charlie Stewart and although he isn’t the most complex of characters, Woodvine still manages to dominate proceedings whenever he’s on the screen.  A chilling moment occurs when he threatens to permanently disfigure Jenny if she doesn’t reveal Simon’s whereabouts.  It’s obvious from the parameters of the series that this is a threat which won’t be carried out, but Woodvine is intense enough to make you believe for just a few seconds that it might.

Alfie Bass, as Sammy, has a nice role as a con-man who works with Simon to rope Dennis in (he’s the sort of character that could easily have cropped up in Minder or indeed Hustle).  And although Simon’s involvement is down to Jenny, for once this is a very male-dominated episode and she only takes a minor role in proceedings.

It”s a pity that the con doesn’t play out to the end, since Dennis learns about Simon’s true identity.  This means there’s a more traditional conclusion (a punch up) followed by Ray Dennis’ arrest for murder.  Whether his confession about Charlie’s murder (secretly taped by Simon) would actually have stood up in court is a moot point, so it would have been more dramatically satisfying for him to have been conned.

Even allowing for this, thanks to John Woodvine and the unusual plot, Tower Bridge is Falling Down rates four halos out of five.

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Return of the Saint – The Roman Touch

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Michelle (Kim Goody) is deeply unhappy.  She may be an international singing star, with a string of hit records to her name, but she’s also worn out thanks to a grinding schedule of tours and recording sessions.  Michelle doesn’t even have the satisfaction of having made any money, due to the repressive contract she signed with her manager Bruno (Laurence Luckinbill).

Simon’s known her since she was a teenager and is anxious to help.  So he kidnaps her …..

The Roman Touch sees the return of the old-style Saint.  Although he kidnaps her with the best of intentions (he demands a ransom from Bruno of a million dollars, which is enough to pay Michelle the money she’s owed and also cover his expenses) it’s still an example of him operating on the wrong side of the law.  This is something of a rarity in ROTS, where he tended to be allied with the authorities more often than not.

Kim Goody, an actress with some musical talent, is perfect casting as Michelle.  Whilst her career in the music business is painted with broad brushstrokes (complete with a grasping manager) she still manages to give some solidity to her character.  Linda Thorson plays Diamond, her personal assistant.  At first she seems to be yet another person who is interested only in exploiting Michelle, but over time it becomes clear that she has her best interests at heart.

Simon’s attempts to help Michelle are hindered by the local Mafia, headed by Capo (Danielle Vargas).  The script is obviously written to present them as the villains of the piece – which is negated when Capo reveals that Michelle is his daughter and he’s been secretly keeping watch over her.  This is quite a neat reversal – as is the fact the somebody kidnaps Michelle again (with Simon unable to stop them).

Another foreign episode, the sunny visuals help the episode no end (had it taken place in rainy London it may not have been so effective).  But the basic problem is that there’s no particular tension since it’s obvious that Simon will rescue Michelle.  The question isn’t if he’ll do it, but how.  For a formula series like ROTS, predictability of events can be an issue and after an interesting setup things plays out pretty much as you might expect.

Nothing earth-shattering then, but solid enough.  The Roman Touch rates three halos out of five.

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Return of the Saint – Signal Stop

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Simon Templar and Janie Lennox (Ciaran Madden) are both passengers on a train bound for London.  When the train stops at a signal, Janie sees what she believes to be a murder taking place in a nearby warehouse.  Simon, who moments earlier was wishing that something would happen to break the monotony, is naturally intrigued.

The next day, Simon, Janie and the police travel to the building – but the body that Simon and Janie found earlier in the day is no longer there.  Inspector Grant (Frederick Jaeger) later tells Simon that since Janie has a history of psychiatric illness it’s probable her story was nothing more than a delusion.

Following on from the picture-postcard stylings of The Imprudent Professor, Signal Stop has a very different feel.  Most of the story takes place in dirty or run-down locations – an abandoned warehouse, a scrap-yard, etc which gives it something of a Sweeney/Professionals feel.

Just as The Arrangement owed more than a little to the novel Strangers on a Train, Signal Stop also seems to have been inspired by a crime classic.  In 4:50 From Paddington by Agatha Christie, a character witness a murder from her vantage point on a train – but with no body she finds it impossible to convince the authorities and only her friend Miss Marple takes her seriously.

The notion of observing a murder from a train (and therefore being helpless to intervene) is a decent one – although it’s fair to say that this story is a little flawed.  The major problem is that it’s baffling why the body was simply not taken away before Simon and Janie turned up the next day to find it.  No body = no crime.

Instead, the murdered man is left on site for them to find.  Simon then drives Janie all the way back to his house before phoning the police and driving back.  Naturally enough, by the time he returns the body has vanished.  Since he has a phone in his car, why didn’t he call the police and wait for them at the warehouse?

But despite these rather serious plotholes, there’s still a very decent, and unusual, story here.  Ciaran Madden impresses as the vulnerable Janie.  Unlike most of the other Saint heroines, she’s a flawed and damaged individual – although Simon’s faith in her never wavers.  It’s possible to argue that the script missed a trick by allowing the viewer to see the attack take place though.  Had this not happened, and we only had Janie’s word, it would have allowed the viewers to wonder if it maybe was just a figment of her imagination.

Ian Cullen is hardly stretched as one of the police officers, especially since he’d had a been a regular in Z Cars and could presumably have played this sort of part in his sleep.  Brian Glover, George Sweeney, Ralph Arliss, Heather Wright and Sabina Franklyn help to round out the cast.  Franklyn has a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it role as a uniformed police officer who Simon effortlessly charms whilst Arliss makes a brief appearance as a hells-angel sort of biker.  Although as so often with ROTS, the biker gang never really exudes any sort of menace.

Frederick Jaeger’s rather good as Inspector Grant.  It’s the sort of part that seems at first to be fairly routine but by the conclusion of the episode he’s moved more into the forefront of the action.

Despite some flaws, Signal Stop rates a healthy three halos out of five.

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Return of the Saint – The Imprudent Professor

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Professor Edmund Bartlett (Bill Simpson) is a philanthropic scientist who wishes to share his new invention (synthetic petrol) with the world.  But his daughter Emma (Susan Penhaligon) is concerned for his safety.  She’s well aware that certain countries and interest groups would be very interested in her father’s discovery and could be inclined to use force to extract the information from him.

Emma hires Simon to keep an eye on him, much to the disgust of Boothroyd (Anthony Steel), the local representative of the British government.  Posing as a disgruntled ex-colleague of the Professor, Simon strikes up a friendship with the alluring, but deadly, Samantha (Catherine Schell).  Samantha works for Genius Inc, an organisation who sells geniuses to the highest bidders.

When the Professor disappears, Simon faces a race against the time before Bartlett is spirited out of the country and lost forever.

After a couple of London-based episodes, The Imprudent Professor is literally a breath of fresh air.  Filmed in and around Nice, it certainly uses the location to its maximum advantage.  And as well as the gorgeous visuals, there’s a sparkle about Terence Feeley’s teleplay that means it’s a definite cut above the norm.

Unlike Feeley’s previous script, The Armageddon Alternative, there’s an intriguing hook in the pre-credits sequence.  Simon interrupts a speech from the Professor by claiming that Bartlett is a fraud and he – Simon – is the true inventor of the synthetic petrol.  Since ROTS normally has fairly straightforward narratives, this is something of a jolt.

It doesn’t take long before the truth emerges though.  Simon’s decided that the best way to keep the Professor safe is to act as a judas goat and lure any people interested in his invention out into the open.  His tactics don’t meet with whole-hearted approval by everyone though, especially the Professor – who’s incredibly stubborn and unwilling to believe he’s in any danger.  Bill Simpson, best known for Dr Finlay’s Casebook, is (as might be expected) very Scottish.  He’s also quite an imposing figure and certainly makes an impression, even with his limited screen-time.

Susan Penhaligon (not even remotely Scottish) is suitably winsome as his daughter Emma.  Like many of the female roles in the series she’s only lightly sketched – but whenever she and Samantha meet there’s a nice tension between the pair of them.  This is because she clearly believes Samantha has designs on Simon (you can feel the waves of jealousy emanating from her!)

Ian Ogilvy looks like he’s having great fun and is certainly given plenty of good material.  When acting the part of the Professor’s disgruntled ex-employee he affects a Scottish accent (badly!) and wears a pair of glasses (obviously he thinks they make him look much more studious).  It’s also a nice touch that he uses the alias of Sebastian Tombs (a favourite of the literary Saint).

Simon gets to tangle with Samantha (some lovely comic moments between Ogilvy and Schell) and also crosses swords with Boothroyd of DI6.  His initial meeting with Boothroyd (the always classy Anthony Steel) is pure James Bond – we see Boothroyd relaxing by the poolside of a impressive looking house surrounded by a bevvy of gorgeous girls in bikinis.

Simon quips his way out the situation and at the same time is easily able to outwit some of DI6’s less able operatives, like Cartwright as played by Peter Childs.  If there was ever an episode of ROTS that could have been designed to showcase Ogilvy as a potential James Bond, then this was the one.

The plot may be a little routine (there’s a slight twist, although it’s not difficult to guess), but the location-work, guest-cast and the sheer spirit of the production help to make this one of the most enjoyable episodes of the series.  Four and a half halos out of five.

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Return of the Saint – The Armageddon Alternative

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Simon is abducted by a masked man and driven to an unknown location.  He’s shown an atomic bomb and the man tells him (via pre-recorded taped messages) that unless his demands are met the bomb will be detonated in the heart of London.

The mystery man’s demands are quite simple – he wants Lynn Jackson (Anouska Hempel) to be guillotined in public.  He gives Simon and the authorities until early evening to accede to his request – and in order to prove he’s serious, a conventional explosion will be set off every hour, on the hour ….

The Armageddon Alternative is a somewhat flawed story and the flaws are apparent from the pre-credits sequence.  Why does the masked man never speak?  The logical answer is that he’s a member of a team and the taped messages were recorded by somebody else.  Alas, logic has rather taken a holiday in this episode.

Simon later explains that the voice was recorded in order to disguise it (otherwise he would have instantly known who it was).  But that makes no sense – as soon as we hear the tape it’s obviously George Cole putting a funny voice on.  And when we see Fred (George Cole) a few minutes later it hardly takes a nuclear scientist to put two and two together.

Fred looks after the cars in Simon’s block of flats and is clearly the last person in the world you’d assume would be in possession of an atom bomb or have the skill to use it.  The mid episode reveal that he’s responsible should be a shocking twist – but it’s no surprise at all.  This possibly isn’t the fault of Terence Feeley’s teleplay though.  He would no doubt have assumed that director Leslie Norman (father of Barry) would be able to effectively disguise Cole’s voice.

What is a mystery is why Fred should want a gorgeous young woman like Lynn executed.  Although when it’s revealed that her father, Professor Loder (Frank Gatliff), is the Government’s chief psychiatric vetting officer, things begin to fall into place.  It seems obvious that someone who Loder filed a negative report against has decided to take the most drastic of revenge.

A likely suspect is Parkinson (Gordon Gostelow).  He turns out to be innocent, but takes a perverse delight in stringing Simon and the police along.  It’s a nice cameo from Gostelow who plays unhinged very well.  Indeed, the cast here is very strong – George Cole is his usual dependable self, whilst Anouska Hempel is also very watchable.  True, she’s not the strongest-drawn female character that ROTS has ever offered us, but Hempel manages to make something out of nothing.

Although laughs are thin on the ground, there was one (although I’m not sure whether it was intentional).  When Simon is kidnapped, he asks the man a question and amazingly the next thing on the tape is an answer to the question!  This is either an incredibly sloppy piece of scripting or a good joke.  It does rather bring to mind the Monty Python sketch featuring Michael Palin as a barber who has an uncontrollable fear of cutting hair though.

Great cast, but as the identity of the bomber is blown before we see the opening credits I can only give it two and a half halos out of five.

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Return of the Saint – The Arrangement


When Lady Greer Stevens (Carolyn Seymour) and Sheila Northcott (Sarah Douglas) share a drink on a flight back to the UK they discover they have something in common.  Both are trapped in unhappy marriages and Greer suggests that each of them should kill the others husband.  Sheila idly agrees, not realising that Greer is quite serious and also quite mad.

Greer fulfills her side of the bargain by killing Guy Northcott (Michael Medwin) and now expects Sheila to murder Sir Trevor Stevens (Donald Pickering).  Fortunately for Sheila, she has the Saint on her side …..

The Arrangement is essentially a rewrite of Patricia Highsmith’s novel Strangers on a Train (later filmed by Alfred Hitchcock).  Strangers on a Plane, as it were.  Carolyn Seymour is mesermerising as the completely unhinged Lady Greer Stevens.  We get an early example of her disregard for others when she trips up a rather loud American at the airport (he’d been annoying her on the plane).  Simon’s there to tend to him, although given that the man had just fallen a long way down an escalator it seems rather reckless for the Saint to roughly drag him away!

Sir Trevor Stevens is an influential politician, but it’s clear that he’s not satisfying his wife’s needs, despite her (somewhat half-hearted) claims to the contrary.  An interesting moment occurs when their servant Nina (Vikki Richards) announces that Greer’s bath is ready.  Greer mentions suggestively that Nina might like to scrub her back and this – together with a zoom into Nina’s expectant face and a shot of Sir Trevor looking disgusted – broadly hints that there’s more to this mistress/servant relationship than meets the eye.  Given that ROTS was a pre-watershed series it’s not surprising this is never explicitly spelt out – but the inference is clear enough.

Seymour’s mad-as-a-hatter turn is highly entertaining and by far the best thing about the story.  The second best thing is the Survivors mini-reunion, as Ian McCullough has a small role as Inspector Stone.  Seymour and McCullough only exchange a few words but it’s nice to see them together again.

As Greer Stevens is such a vivid character, Sarah Douglas’ Sheila Northcott can’t help but seem rather pallid when the two are put side by side.  Sheila is the typical sort of Saint heroine, utterly dependent on Simon to get her out of trouble.  And she’s not the only one in danger, as later on Greer kidnaps Sheila’s sister Aileen (Jane Hayden).

Aileen is younger than Sheila and quite a different sort of character.  Nina drugs Aileen’s drink when the pair of them are at a new-wave/punk club.  It’s not the first time that ROTS has dabbled with the underbelly of modern Britain and like the previous examples it doesn’t feel totally convincing.  Although the band are vaguely shouty, the club still seems rather sedate and well-behaved.  Later, we see Aileen kept captive and docile (she’s been pumped full of drugs).  Again, this is something that sits somewhat uneasily alongside the series’ more usual escapist atmosphere.

The ending might be a little predictable (and obviously shot in the studio) but The Arrangement easily rates four halos out of five.

Return of the Saint – The Poppy Chain


The episode opens with Simon Templar and Sandy Platt (Jenny Hanley) desperately racing across London to try and reach Sandy’s sister, Jane.  But they’re too late – when they get to her flat she’s dead (killed by an impure batch of heroin).

Sandy is naturally distraught, but her father, General Platt (Laurence Naismith), is even more so.  An old-school, but now retired, soldier, he vows to find and kill the pushers.  But he only serves to drive them underground.  So it falls to the Saint to risk his life by travelling to to Carmague region of France as he attempts to destroy the business at its source.

The Poppy Chain certainly has an arresting opening as Simon and Sandy discover Jane’s lifeless body.  It gives the episode a harder-edged feel than many of the others in the series.  Laurence Naismith’s pig-headed General Platt drives the action in the first half or so of the episode (with Simon trailing behind somewhat).  This plotline has the advantage of enabling the General to do all the spadework, but then allowing Simon to step in when things get really dangerous.

Along the way, the General tracks down the pusher who sold the drugs to his daughter.  A well-spoken, well-dressed man known as the Gent (Christopher Timothy).  He doesn’t get to kill him though, as the Gent’s wife intervenes (with a heavy object which knocks the General out).  It’s possibly just as well, since Simon tells the recuperating General that the pusher was just small fry – if you’re going to bring down the operation, then you need to aim for the head.

The Saint does this by posing as a member of the London connection, Rickman, and travels to France to meet the men responsible for supplying the raw drugs.  A change of location helps to keep the interest up and the different locale is quite interesting, as it’s probably not what might have been expected.  Scorbesi (Gregoire Anslan) and his son Dominic (Jonathan Burn) run the operation, but Scorbesi is an apparently friendly, gregarious chap and the patriarch of a village that appears to be happy and prosperous.  The fact that their idyllic lifestyle is founded on drug money is, no doubt intentionally, jarring.

Scorbesi’s realisation that he knew the General back in WW2, when Scorbesi was a Partisan, is a coincidence that’s possibly a little hard to take – especially since this revelation doesn’t really further the plot in any way.  Notwithstanding this, Anslan is good as the cheerful Scorbesi, although Burn is less impressive as his son.  I’m not quite sure why, it’s just a slightly off-key performance.

The best part of the second half of the episode is Simon’s infiltration of Scorbesi’s setup – although it’s rather bizarre that he takes no backup with him.  So it’s lucky that when the General learns about Simon’s efforts he makes the trip over and comes to the rescue.  It’s hard to believe that the Saint didn’t think that drafting in some younger assistance might have been a good idea, but this moment does allow the General a chance to prove that he’s not entirely over the hill.

I also like Ogilvy’s cockney accent when he’s pretending to be Rickman.  He makes a very effective criminal!

It’s a solid episode and rates three and a half halos out of five.

Return of the Saint – Yesterday’s Hero

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Several years ago, Simon Templar, Roy Gates (Ian Hendry) and Diskett (Tony Vogel) were part of an unofficial mission in Aden.  Mid-way through the mission something went wrong and Gates was captured by the Yemenis.  Simon and Diskett weren’t aware of this though – they thought he was dead.

But Gates was alive and, having lost an arm during the fighting, languished in an Arab prison until he was bought by the Bader-Meinhoff gang of terrorists (who wanted his expertise to train their people).  Gates was initially reluctant, but he finally realised that any life was better than the life he currently had.

Eventually he was caught by the Germans and ended up in prison there.  He’s shortly due to be released and Simon pays him a visit to caution him not to directly approach his young son Michael (Matthew Ryan) before his ex-wife Sandy (Annette Andre) has had a chance to talk to him (as Michael has grown up believing that his father is dead).

But Gates is a bitter and vengeful man and once released he’ll be set on a course of revenge.  Which will inevitably bring him into direct conflict with the Saint …..

This is a bleak and atypical Return of the Saint story.  The usual humour and byplay is pretty much absent and it’s also notable that there’s few “good” characters featured.  Gates does have his compassionate side (especially when we see him spend time with his son) but it’s obvious that his various imprisonments have warped his judgement.

Normally, you’d expect the character of the ex-wife to be written in a sympathetic way, but that’s not the case here.  Simon tells her that “in your own way, you’re as crippled and bitter as Roy is.  And that’s a pity.”

It eventually becomes clear that Gates is targeting Cleaver (Gerald Flood) who ran the Aden operation and betrayed Gates.  Cleaver (now an arms dealer) is yet another unsympathetic character (which robs his death of some of its impact).  Prior to this, we see him demonstrating some weapons to the military – although the stock footage is so grainy it’s not terribly convincing,

At the centre of the episode is Ian Hendry.  In another unusual move, he dominates the action whilst the Saint has to react to events and remains, until the end, a few steps behind.  There’s an undeniable sense of melancholy hanging over the whole episode – partly because of the script, but it’s also down to Hendry’s performance (and the reading that anybody familiar with his personal life will bring to the viewing).

Yesterday’s Hero is an uncomfortable summation of Ian Hendry’s life and career.  In the early sixties, as the star of The Avengers, he seemed to have a glittering career ahead of him, but various factors (most notably a dependance on alcohol) ensured that whilst he remained a familiar presence in films and television, he never attained the heights he should have done (and he also died rather prematurely, aged just 53 in 1984).

The following comments from Annette Andre (as quoted in the book Send in the Clowns: The Yo-Yo Life of Ian Hendry by Gabriel Hershman) about her work with Hendry on this episode tend to bear these observations out.

I didn’t have many scenes with him. In the morning he was fine. Then we broke for lunch and Ian went off on his own to the pub for lunch. When we went to get him later to take him to the location for filming he was falling down drunk. We managed to get him into the car and into the make-up room and then he walked out and did it.

There was an unhappiness to him. I never really experienced Ian being unpleasant – I was fine with him and he really liked me – but I could see that when I was trying to get him out of the pub that he could get difficult. He didn’t want to eat. I sensed a deep hurt, a sense of dissatisfaction that affected his whole career. He looked older than his age, he’d lost his hair and was on a downhill spin.

This real-life unhappiness is very much mirrored in his portrayal of Roy Gates, which means that the lines between fantasy and reality become somewhat blurred.  There’s a point later in the episode where Gates breaks into Simon’s flat and is clearly drunk – it’s an uncomfortable thought that there may not have been any acting involved.

But although this knowledge does make Yesterday’s Hero a rather hard watch at times, Hendry is always solid and professional – so whatever turmoil he felt off-screen, he still commands the frame when the camera is rolling.  Thanks to his performance, this rates four halos out of five.

Return of the Saint – Assault Force


Catching the bus at Heathrow, Simon notices that one of his fellow passengers is receiving unwelcome attention from several men.  And since the passenger is female and attractive, the Saint simply has to step in – he can never resist helping a damsel in distress.

Jeanette (Kate O’Mara) has information about Nodiam Mataya, the new strong-man of South-East Asia.  She plans to take it to the newspapers and expose Mataya’s appalling record of human rights (which include a group of nuns held captive and awaiting imminent execution).  Simon’s foreign office contact, Randolph Smith (Neil Stacey) is polite, but noncommittal.  He tells them that the British government is continuing to explore all diplomatic avenues, but that’s all they can do.

The Saint, however, is keen for more direct action.  A key member of Mataya’s government, Surinit, is due to land in the UK shortly.  Simon suggests to Jeanette that they kidnap him and offer to exchange him for the nuns.  Jeanette agrees and Simon assembles a crack force to carry out the plan.  But when Surinit disappears after the kidnap is successfully carried out, Simon bitterly realises that he’s been used …..

Assault Force sees the Saint team up with a group of mercenaries and it’s a departure from the episodes we’ve seen so far (where Simon is either operating on his own, or with limited help).  Here, he’s the leader of a well-drilled gang who abduct Surinit with military precision.  It’s the planning and the actual raid which forms the heart of the episode, and the realisation that Surinit is actually a good guy (and the one man who can expose Mataya’s crimes) drives the story onwards to its conclusion.

Kate O’Mara is suitably histrionic as the damsel in distress, whilst Carolle Rousseau (as Colonel Dibha) is rather alluring as a woman who appears to be on the side of the angels but turns out to be working for Mataya.  Although to be honest, this probably isn’t a great shock since she does give off a rather “evil” vibe in all of her scenes!

Elsewhere, we see the Saint recruit some colourful characters, such as O’Hara (Bryan Marshall) and Morgan (Norman Bird).  Marshall sports a broad Irish accent which occasionally crosses over into parody, but he’s still convincing as a resourceful mercenary.  Bird provides some welcome comic relief as the bookish Morgan.

Although everything is resolved in the end quite neatly (too neatly, you may say) there’s still a slightly discordant note struck which implies that the new status quo may not last forever.  Simon rescues Surinit, who returns to his country as leader after Mataya’s downfall.  Colonel Dibha seems unconcerned though, as she tells Simon that Surinit is a weak man (who clearly won’t last long in the bitter and dangerous world of South-East Asian politics)

The plot is driven by coincidences which means that it’s probably best not to examine it too deeply (although that’s not going to stop me!)  Surinit arrives in the UK to testify at a Human Rights Commission in order to expose Mataya’s crimes.  It seems obvious that Mataya’s people would try and silence him (but they don’t seem to have had any plans to do so).  Instead, rather fortunately they were able to learn of Simon’s plan to kidnap him and took advantage of this.  But had Simon not run into Jeannete at the airport by chance then nothing would have happened.  If Mataya’s men simply needed to silence Surinit why didn’t they, say, put a bomb on the plane?

Minor plot quibbles apart, the “caper” feel of the episode makes it a break from the norm and earns it three and a half halos out of five.