Bruce Carroway (Jack Hedley) might be England’s greatest motor racing driver, but he’s a rotten businessman. Jeff Grant (Geoffrey Palmer) co-owns a garage with him and is shocked, after checking the books, to find there’s a substantial sum of money missing.
Grant confronts Carroway, but gets nowhere so he decides to head for the police station. A fight breaks out and Grant is clubbed to death. Along with his trusty mechanic Eric Little (James Culliford), Carroway creates an alibi which places him far from the scene at the apparent time of the murder. But Gideon smells a rat …..
The episode opens with some vintage (or at the time, current) motor racing action. Hedley, via rather unconvincing back-projection, is shown winning yet another race. Possibly the most noteworthy aspect of the sequence is how relaxed Jack Hedley looks as he drives his car around the circuit. From the casual expression on his face you’d have assumed he was simply out for a Sunday drive! I’m sure that steering a racing car of this era took just a little more concentration.
Hedley, probably best known for his later portrayal of the Senior British Officer in Colditz, is excellent as the amoral Carroway. He may be a fine driver, but as a man he’s severely deficient. We see him treat his wife with contempt (telling her she’s as much fun as a broken hip) and isn’t too kinder to his mistress, Marjorie Bellman (Jennifer Daniel). Marjorie is a bought woman – she lives in a beautiful flat, paid for by Carroway – but it’s plain she’s not a gold-digger. She really loves him, although it’s doubtful whether he’s capable of responding in kind.
It’s nice to see a young Geoffrey Palmer, although we don’t see him for long, as after a fairly brutal fight (for Gideon’s Way anyway) he gets clobbered. If Carroway’s shown to be a poor businessman, then he’s not much better as a murderer. He tells Eric to smash one of the windows in the office in order to give the impression of a break-in, but neither thinks of actually entering through it – meaning that the police (thanks to the undisturbed dust on the ledge) quickly work out that no-one came through that way.
Carroway also tries the old clock trick, which I’m sure never works outside of detective novels. He turns the clock to just after 9.00 pm and then smashes it – so anybody finding it will automatically think that was when the crime must have been committed. And since he and Eric plan to be somewhere else at that time, they therefore have a cast-iron alibi. Except that it’s obvious to Gideon and the others that the clock has been deliberately destroyed in order to create such an alibi.
In some ways, this works as a proto-Columbo. Gideon strongly suspects that Carroway is guilty, and the audience knows he is, but he lacks any evidence. So the Commander has to keep chipping away at Carroway, trying to push him into revealing his true nature. But the ending of this one is most atypical for Gideon. Normally we see the Commander always get his man (or woman) but here there’s a much more open-ended feel – which is unusual for the series, but more accurately reflects real life.
As I’ve said, Hedley is perfect as Carroway and Jennifer Daniel is also strong casting as Marjorie, the woman who loves him but also (since she knows he went to meet Grant) proves to be something of a problem. A young Nicola Pagett also pops up, as Marjorie’s younger sister Cathy.
The relationship between Carroway and Eric is an intriguing one. Eric’s badly scarred thanks to a bad motor racing accident some years previously, but he’s indebted to Carroway as he was responsible for pulling him from his burning car. It’s therefore understandable that Eric will do almost anything for Carroway including murder (he disposes of Marjorie). But Eric’s comment, just as he’s dispatching the unfortunate Marjorie, is quite telling. He says that the old days (just the two of them – Carroway and Eric) are now back. It’s only a throwaway moment, but the possibility that Eric wants a deeper relationship seems quite plain. Quite what the womanising Carroway would make of Eric’s feelings is anyone’s guess.
Another strong story with a first-rate guest cast.