Dixon of Dock Green – The Vagrant

vagrant

A vagrant (John Carson) is knocked down by a car in the street.  An eye-witness, Fred Smethwick (Bill Treacher), is insistent that the car deliberately drove into him and his statement catches the interest of the Dock Green police.  The vagrant is later identified as Joseph Conway, a career criminal who turned Queen’s Evidence a few years previously.  He helped to put two criminals, Gerald Tate (Johnny Shannon) and Bert Flower (John Hartley), behind bars and since they’re both now back in circulation it seems likely one of them was the driver.  But the truth is rather more complicated …..

The Vagrant benefits from John Carson’s guest turn.  Whilst he’s rarely been a leading man, he’s a quality actor who enhances any production he appears in.  Still active (he popped up in an episode of Midsummer Murders a few years back) he’s enjoyed a lengthy career stretching back to the 1950’s.  The Doctor Who story Snakedance and the Out of the Unknown episode This Body Is Mine are two of his credits which have been covered previously in this blog (both of which are enriched by Carson).

He’s rather cast against type here as a down-and-out.  The part calls for him to adopt a hoarse and hesitant voice and a rather vague manner, but it’s obvious from fairly early on that there’s more to Conway that meets the eye.  He may appear now to be a broken wreck of a man but that wasn’t always the case (in fact he’s not even Joe Conway).

His real name is Francis Spurling and the reason for him changing his identity helps to spin the story off in another direction completely.  After Spurling and Joe Conway swapped identities, it allowed him to drop out of circulation (Conway’s dead body was mis-indentifed as Spurling).  His wife, Margaret (Suzan Farmer), has since remarried and naturally views his return with horror.  But Spurling hasn’t returned to make trouble – he simply wants to try and make amends with Margaret and also help his friend Percy (a lovely turn from Paddy Joyce).

The Dock Green boys take a back seat in this one as the bulk of the episode revolves around Conway/Spurling, although Clayton and Bruton do entertain themselves by questioning Tate and Flower (Johnny Shannon is wonderfully belligerent as Tate).  As I’ve said, Paddy Joyce is very entertaining as Conway/Spurling’s fellow vagrant Percy and whilst he adds little to the plot, he’s a colourful character who enriches the episode no end.

There’s little for George Dixon to do and the story does somewhat splutter to a conclusion, but as ever, the first-rate guest cast (John Carson, Paddy Joyce, Johnny Shannon, Suzan Farmer), helps to keep the interest bubbling along.

Dixon of Dock Green – The Job

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Sgt Wills fishes a barely conscious petty criminal called Phil Harvey (George Innes) out of the river.  It wasn’t suicide though – as Harvey was bound and gagged.  After he’s taken to the hospital Wills in unable to get any useful information from him.  DC Clayton is equally unsuccessful with Harvey’s wife, Jessie (Mela White).

The first breakthrough comes when Harvey’s car is found – close to the office of Stephen Gilles (David Lodge).  Gilles is a target criminal and therefore of special interest to the Serious Crimes Squad.  Dixon contacts DCI Bassett (Stephen Greif) who’s been keeping Gilles under observation and suggests they pool their resources.

There’s some effective film-work at the start of The Job as we see Wills rescue Harvey.  It once again shows that one of Dixon‘s strengths during this period was the dock-based location filming (which helps to break up the generally studio-bound, static feel of the series).  There’s not a lot of location work in this one but every little helps to open out the show a little.

The opening of the story also brings Sgt Johnny Wills a little more into the centre of the action.  Between 1960 and 1976 Nicholas Donnelly chalked up over two hundred appearances and was therefore as much a fixture at Dock Green as Jack Warner or Peter Byrne were.  Donnelly was able to give Wills a likeable, friendly air which fitted in well with the general tone of the series.

Here, he spends most of the story at the hospital – cadging endless cups of tea from a friendly young nurse (played by Glynis Brooks).  She only appears to have eyes for the dashing young DS Bruton though and later views Wills’ habit of listening at doors with a little disfavour.  Wills is unabashed though – if it means gaining information then it’s a legitimate tactic.

As ever, there’s a very decent guest cast.  George Innes (Upstairs Downstairs, Danger UXB) gamely opened the episode by being caked in mud and submerged in the river (kudos to him, considering the early hour the scene was shot and how cold it looked).  Mela White (best known as Diamante Lil from Bergerac) is gloriously vacant as his wife.  But is she really that slow on the uptake or is it just a way of concealing what she knows?

It’s possibly not a surprise that it’s Dixon (rather than Bruton or Clayton) who realises that Serious Crimes have been keeping tabs on Gilles which is confirmed after he arranges a meeting with DCI Bassett.  It’s another subtle demonstration that whilst he may be getting on, Dixon’s knowledge still remains formidable.  Greif’s scenes are rather distracting, thanks to his false-looking moustache, but his meet with Dixon is a good excuse to get Jack Warner out of the studio and onto film.

David Lodge, an actor with an impressive list of comedy credits (appearing alongside the likes of Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan), has a fairly small role but casting a name actor helps to make it a memorable appearance.

As so often with television of this era, it’s the period feel which makes it an interesting watch.  The Harvey’s house (especially the wallpaper) screams out that it’s the 1970’s and some of the film-work – as Bruton and Clayton tail Gilles down the local high-street – is also rather evocative.  This filming also highlights the somewhat ad-hoc way these programmes were made.  Often it appears that they’d just turn up and start filming, without attempting to close off the street.  Meaning that you’ll often see members of the public unable to resist the temptation of staring straight down the lens!

The second of Derek Ingrey’s five scripts for series twenty-two, it’s another effective, character-based story.

Dixon of Dock Green – Domino

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When Annabelle Sturmer (Sally Faulkner) moors her impressive-looking yacht at Dock Green she instantly catches the eye of dock-worker Ron Mason (Alan Lake).  Annabelle and Ron share a drink and everything seems friendly enough – but in an instant her mood changes and there’s a struggle.  She returns with a gun and then a shot is heard.

Ron is seen leaving the boat, pausing to throw something in the water.  When Annabelle’s disappearance is noted, the boys at Dock Green investigate.  All the evidence suggests that Ron murdered her – but things aren’t quite as straightforward as they first appear …..

Domino was the first episode of Dixon of Dock Green‘s twenty first and final season.  This series saw several changes to Dixon‘s tried and tested format.  Firstly, we’re told that Andy Crawford (Peter Byrne) had transferred to another area, so there’s several new faces in CID – DS Alan Bruton (Richard Heffer) and DC Len Clayton (Ben Howard).

As for Dixon himself, he’s moved from being the desk sergeant to taking up the post of collator.  In some ways this wasn’t too drastic a change – as per the previous few series George stays in the station and provides the others with nuggets of information that enable them to run the criminals down.

As is probably well known, Jack Warner had some trouble moving about, so Dixon tends to remain either seated or standing upright.  He does walk about a bit, but not very far (his days of pounding the beat were long, long over).  But the job of collator was an inspired one, as it allowed him to still have a decent input into the stories as well as giving him a chance to mentor a younger officer, PC Harry Dunne (Stephen Marsh), who we’re told will take over from him in due course (was there thought given to continuing the series following Warner’s retirement?).

Whilst Peter Byrne’s departure was a loss, Richard Heffer is a very welcome addition to the cast.  A familiar television face already (Captain Tim Dowling in Colditz and JImmy Garland in Survivors were amongst his numerous roles) he brings a touch of class and charm to Dock Green nick.  Ben Howard, as Len Clayton, provides a nice contrast, since he seems to have an ironic sense of humour as well as possessing a harder streak.

Derek Ingrey’s script sets up a mystery which isn’t resolved until the closing minutes.  Sally Faulkner doesn’t have a great deal of time to make an impression, but still manages to do so.  Annabelle Sturmer appears to be a spoiled little rich girl, who took her father’s yacht without permission and sailed it back to Britain.  The implication is that she’s an alcoholic, which would explain her fondness for drinking early in the morning as well as her violent mood swings.

Alan Lake, who died at the very early age of forty three in 1984, might be best remembered as Diana Dors’ husband, but he also had an impressive list of acting credits (including eight appearances in Dixon, playing eight different characters).  He didn’t tend to do subtle very often, but that works perfectly well here. Ron Mason needs to be a twitchy, unpredictable character, that way it makes the question as to whether he’s harmed the girl harder to answer

Lake is one of the episode’s chief attractions and he enjoys a generous amount of screen-time.  Also worth watching are Gwyneth Powell (in her fifth and final Dixon appearance) as Mason’s long suffering wife and Simon Lack (later to star with Richard Heffer in LWT’s Enemy at the Door) as Annabelle’s father.

The down-beat ending might have been easy to guess, but it still has a certain impact.  A solid, if not spectacular, series opener.

Dixon of Dock Green – Conspiracy

conspiracy

No police series could ever hope to avoid the thorny topic of corruption within the force, but it’s fair to say that it was always a difficult one for Dixon of Dock Green to face.  This is due to the overwhelmingly positive picture of the police force always painted by the series (which by the mid 1970’s made it clearly something of an anachronism).

Z Cars’ first episode (Four of a Kind, tx 2/1/62) showed us coppers who made bets on duty and would think nothing of giving their wife a black eye.  So for all of Dixon’s strengths, Z Cars (and other later series including The Sweeney) did tend to be streets ahead when it came to showing the police’s weaknesses as well as their strengths.

But Dixon did occasionally tackle police corruption.  The most famous example is The Rotten Apple (1956), largely because it’s one of only a handful of episodes from the 1950’s and 1960’s to survive.  And the fact that the bent copper was a very young Paul Eddington also helped to keep it in the public consciousness (via clips in documentaries, for example).

A more recent episode, Eye Witness, also had an interesting throwaway moment – when the villain told his henchmen that they’d be able to track down the witness currently held in police protection since they had a pipeline into most police stations up and down the country.  Nothing actually comes of this in story terms (the witness is found another way) but it’s an subtle acknowledgment that corruption was rife in the 1970’s.

N.J. Crisp’s Conspiracy (originally transmitted on the 10th of May 1975) is essentially a three-hander – shared between Dixon, Crawford and PC Len Warren (Andrew Burt).  Dixon receives an anonymous letter claiming that Warren was seen drinking with a criminal out on probation, Ben Randall (Jon Laurimore).  Warren is the chief prosecution witness in Randall’s upcoming case, which makes the allegations even more damaging.

Dixon regretfully tells Andy that ten years ago they could have simply thrown this letter in the bin, but now it has to be investigated.  Andy’s keen to call in A10 (the department created to investigate matters like this) but Dixon wants to keep it in-house for now (which causes friction between them).

Warren is portrayed as an ambitious man, keen for promotion.  His over-zealous nature and his strict adherence to the law means that he has few friends (either within or outside the force).  He’s a loner, who likes to bend the rules occasionally, and Dixon tells Andy that he sees much of the young PC Crawford in him (although Andy doesn’t take this as a compliment!).

Although the circumstantial evidence of Warren’s guilt is strong (and the story does throw in a few scenes that seem deliberately designed to show him in a bad light, which is something of a cheat) eventually it’s proved that he didn’t accept a bribe from Randall.  But he’s already decided to resign, since he found the investigations into his private affairs (such as questions about how he could afford to buy a new car) to be incredibly intrusive.  Dixon tells him that it’s part of the price he has to pay for being a police officer, but for Randall it’s clearly unacceptable.

Conspiracy was originally planned to be the final Dixon episode (another series was only given the go-ahead very late in the day).  When you know this, it’s easy to see how it was crafted in order to conclude the series.  For one thing, Dixon is much much centre-stage than normal (by this time he’s usually relegated to giving sage advice from behind the station desk).  There’s also several key speeches from Dixon which make specific points.  The first is directed at Andy.

I remember, a long time ago now, a young copper on the beat pressing hard to get into CID. I remember that same young copper as a detective constable, always convinced that he knew best. And later as a detective sergeant who wasn’t above ignoring the book when it suited him. You, Andy. You’ve crossed your fingers and taken a few shortcuts in your time. Mostly they worked out but sometimes they didn’t. Do you know why it took you so long to become a detective-inspector? You got the reputation for bending the rules. But you’re a good copper. And so is Warren.

The second occurs a few minutes later and is directed at Warren.  It’s a signature moment for Jack Warner and it’s very clear that he feels every word.  As the camera slowly closes in on Dixon’s face, Warner seems to be struggling to hold his emotions together – as presumably he believed this would be the last time he’d play the role.  It’s a beautifully delivered monologue.

All the years I’ve spent as a copper, I think every minute’s been worth it. Oh, the police force isn’t perfect. It can’t be. It’s manned by ordinary men. I know we talk about red tape and frustration when a villain goes free and the harm done by the occasional bent copper. But, for all the criticism, the police are there to protect the public, and that’s what we do. We curb violence. We do our best to deal with villains who want to prey on society. I’ve been proud to have been a part of that. Even a small part. It’s been my life for a long time now and I don’t regret any of it.

Dixon and Andy then exit the station as the camera tracks up to show the blue lamp above the door, which is followed by the end credits.  This is a subtle nod to the original film and had the series ended there then it would have been a very decent conclusion.

Instead, we’ve one more series to look forward to, although Conspiracy is still the end of an era as Peter Byrne decided not to return.  As a regular since the very first episode in 1955 (which was titled PC Crawford’s First Pinch) Crawford was as much a part of the fabric of the series as Dixon himself and his presence will certainly be missed.

blue lamp

Dixon of Dock Green – A Slight Case of Love

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A Slight Case of Love opens in a non-linear fashion, but the reason why quickly becomes clear.  We see a woman telling her fiance that their marriage is impossible, since she has to care for her invalid mother.  This is repeated twice more – with different men but the same woman (although her appearance changes each time).  We then see each of the men hand over a cheque for one thousand pounds.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg as the woman, Kate Harris (Moira Redmond), has also conned at least four other men.  Crawford and Brewer have little to go on – apart from the irate responses of her victims.  One of them, George Bunning (Alec Wallis), can probably be taken as typical, as he’s incredibly angry and demands immediate action from Crawford – warning him that if there’s not a satisfactory conclusion he’ll make Crawford suffer.  Needless to say, Andy’s neither impressed or cowed by this.

This makes the response of Harris’ eighth victim, Lewis Naylor (Julian Glover), even more extraordinary.  He’s also keen to find her, but he doesn’t want her to go to prison – he still wants to marry her and so wouldn’t want his wife to have received a prison sentence.

Naylor is a powerful man (a merchant banker) and it’s hard at first to know if his motives are quite what he claims them to be.  This is due to Julian Glover’s icily efficient and clipped performance.  It’s one we’ve seen from him many times before (his career has often consisted of him playing villains and rogues) so there’s a certain ambiguity in his playing.  But it soon becomes clear that he’s completely sincere and, though he knows he’s not the first she’s conned, to him it doesn’t matter.

Later, we see why Kate has carried out these deceptions – together with her sister Fleur (Isla Blair) she owns a pottery business that is suffering from considerable financial difficulties.  If they don’t find eight thousand pounds then the bank will foreclose on their loan.  It explains why, although when the law catches up with her it’ll hardly be a defence.

Naylor does visit Dock Green but it becomes clear to him that whilst they also want to find the woman, when they do she’ll suffer the full penalties of the law.  So he leaves to hire a private detective to track her down whilst Brewer ponders on the two mugshot pictures he’s picked out.  No other victims were able to identify anybody from the photos held by the police, which strikes Brewer as a little odd.  Dixon surmises that it may be because although Naylor knows they’re not the ones, he wants to question them to see if they know Kate’s true identity.

This is a reasonable assumption, but it’s never followed through and the true reason seems to be that it allows the Dock Green boys to visit the two suspects, add them both to the identity parades, and also bulk out the running time of the episode.  But both encounters are good fun, especially Andy’s run-in with Heather (Mela White).  Andy and Heather are old acquaintances, although she insists that she’s now going straight and tells him she’s writing a memoir of her colourful career entitled Horizontal Confessions.  Andy caustically responds that it should be titled A Hard Time Was Had By All (!).

A Slight Case of Love is an interesting tale of morality.  Both Kate and Fleur are unrepentant – they needed eight thousand pounds and they took it from people who wouldn’t miss a thousand each (Kate considers they would be able to write it off as petty cash).  As a hard-headed, rational businessman, Naylor’s desire to marry her (even though he knows that she’s a serial con-artist) seems inexplicable – and can only be explained away by the fact that he’s in love.

Naylor’s private detective manages to find Kate, which allows the Dock Green coppers to take her into custody.  Five of her victims are lined up to pick her out of an identity parade – four do so and one doesn’t (the one who doesn’t is, naturally, Naylor).  Dixon’s outro tells us that Kate was convicted but also that on her release Naylor was waiting and he closes by saying that it’s “not every discharged prisoner who comes out to spend her honeymoon in the Bahamas.”

Julian Glover gives an excellent performance and he’s the main reason why this episode works as well as it does.  A lesser actor might have struggled with the apparant contridications of his character, but Glover is never less than totally assured.  Moira Redmond (a familar face from both films and television) has a hard role to play – does she love Naylor or is she simply marrying him for his money?  But this ambiguity is something that Redmond can play with and it helps to provide a little spark to the story.  Glover’s real-life wife, Isla Blair, played Fleur.  It’s the less rewarding, more passive role, but it’s always a pleasure to see her.

This is one where the detection is pretty minimal (and it’s the private detective that does most of the work anyway, although Crawford is happy with that).  Instead, the focus is on the rather mismatched pairing of Kate Harris and Lewis Naylor.

Dixon of Dock Green – Looters Ltd.

looters

Charlie Barnet (Sam Kydd) is an old time villain, newly released from prison.  In his prime he could scale any building – but a bad fall on his last job put paid to that and now he’s reduced to walking with a stick.  On the way back to his welcome home party he notices a man (played by Robin Ford) being mugged and intervenes.

He leaves his name and address with Sgt Wills and promises to pop into the station later to make a statement.  But when Dixon learns his identity, he realises that it’s unlikely that he’d make an appearance under his own steam, so he decides to gently gatecrash his party.

The relationship between Dixon and Charlie is a familiar one from the series (and in fact you can date it right back to the original film The Blue Lamp).  Charlie may be a criminal, but he’s an honourable one and there’s something of a grudging respect shown by Dixon towards him – one professional to another.  When Dixon crashes the party, there’s an awkward silence from most of the guests (mistrust of the police is obviously ingrained) but Charlie’s polite and hospitable, offering him a drink.  Dixon accepts (compare this to Harry’s Back where we see Dixon look askance at a drink bought for him by Harry).  George then offers to find Charlie some work.

At the start of The Blue Lamp, a voice-over contrasts the type of decent old-school criminal (like Charlie) with the younger, wilder criminal element who use violence without thinking.  It’s an interesting dichotomy –  which is also expressed in this story as on the one hand we have Charlie and on the other we see his son Ray (Terry Cowling).

By a remarkable coincidence, Ray was one of the muggers who attacked the man in the street (Ray later gave Charlie the mugged man’s gold wristwatch as a present).  Charlie tells his son he’s ashamed of him, but doesn’t want him to go straight.  “I’m talking about you learning a proper trade. I don’t want no son of mine to turn out to be a small-time mugger. A proper trade. Like I had.”  He offers to have a word with one of his friends, but he’s told that “the young-un’s today, they’re too wild.”  which reiterates the chasm between old-school career criminals and the younger ones.

The rest of the family are doing nicely – Charlie’s wife Olive (Margery Mason) and their daughter Diana (Gwyneth Powell) run a thriving business, offering virtually anything for sale at reasonable weekly installments.  Naturally, all of their stock is stolen – they’re prolific shoplifters.

Sam Kydd delivers a nice turn as the head of a thoroughly criminal household and Gwyneth Powell (previously seen in Eye Witness), Margery Mason and Terry Cowling offer very solid support.  And the opening party scene is great fun, with the sort of bad-taste visuals that clearly mark this as the mid seventies!

Gerald Kelsey was a prolific writer for Dixon (forty three episodes between 1963 and 1976) although the majority no longer exist.  But on the evidence of this one he had a good grasp of what made the series tick – namely the conflict between the police and their prey.

Dixon of Dock Green – Baubles, Bangles and Beads

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Baubles, Bangles and Beads opens with a scene that could have come from The Sweeney.  A police car is in hot pursuit of another car which contains three dangerous-looking characters (played by Brian Glover, Johnny Shannon and Frank Jarvis).  They’re desperately looking for a place to stash a bag of stolen jewellery, but the police car is too close behind.  In desperation they fling it out of the window and it lands in somebody’s back garden.  Unfortunately for them, it doesn’t remain there for long …..

Given how much of Dixon is lost (only thirty two episodes exist from over four hundred made) it’s hard to get a feel for the variety of stories that the series might have tackled.  And one thing we haven’t seen so far with the colour episodes is one played for laughs, until Baubles, Bangles and Beads.

It’s an interesting culture clash as we see three old school villains – Chuck (Brian Glover), Bert (Jonnny Shannon) and Syd (Frank Jarvis) – confronted with the bewildering world of alternative religion.  The bag of jewellery was found by Eric (Leon Vitali) who has been squatting with Phil (Peter Denyer).  Both are seeking enlightenment – although Phil seems to be further down this road than Eric (which is something he takes great pleasure in pointing out to his unfortunate friend several times).

Eric’s a simple trusting soul whilst Phil is rather humourless and dogmatic.  When Eric expresses dismay over Phil’s purchase of tomatoes (Eric can’t eat them as they make him sick) Phil has no sympathy.  “That’s what I call giving in to your lower centres. Don’t you realise the body is always trying to subvert your higher consciousness?”

They move from the squat to another location and in the room opposite is Marion (Kitty Stevenson) and several of her friends.  Like Eric and Phil, Marion and the others are also seeking enlightenment, although they do so in ways that shock Eric.  When he pops over to ask for a match, he rushes back to Phil to tell him that they’re meditating – but with no clothes on.  Phil takes the news quite calmly.  “That’s nothing. That’s your trouble, that is. You’re carnal oriented. I’ll go see ’em.”  Marion later explains that “to deny the body, one must first see it as it is, in all its gross intransigence.”

She’s learnt this from Guru Rhum Rhaji.  His Temple – the Temple of Godly Effulgence – is close to their flat and Eric, iimpressed with what he’s learnt about him, joins Marion to pay homage.  Eric’s delighted to hear that Rhaji doesn’t charge people to enter his Temple (unlike Phil’s guru, Shashti Ap Davies, who requires 10% of all his disciples earnings).  Rhaji is pleased to accept gifts though – although he refuses the one offered by Eric (a rather indifferent picture).  So the next time he goes along, Eric takes something that he’s sure will be acceptable – the bag of jewellery.  And unsurprisingly, Rhaji accepts this offering.

Rhaji bears some similarity to the likes of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.  By the mid seventies, he would have been best known by many people for his brief association with The Beatles (and also for their later denunciation of him as a fake).  Baubles, Bangles and Beads also takes this line – that some religions are nothing more than a con.  As Sgt Wills says, the people who believe (like Eric, Phil and Marion) are decent enough, but the inference is they’re nothing more than fools being misled by tricksters.

This is made plain when Rhaji and his sidekick are exposed as two very English con-men – Ernie Bishop and Gus Todd.  This is a funny scene (although the fact they’re browned up and affecting cod Indian accents probably means that not everybody will see the joke).  Once they’ve been rumbled by Dixon, they remove their false beards and turbans (with Gus changing from an Indian accent to a Cockney one, telling Dixon that it’s “nice to get this clobber off. Don’t half make you sweat, you know.”)  Ernie’s unrepentant, telling Dixon and Wills that “we’ve all got to earn a crust haven’t we?”  He then admits that there’s “more money in religion, pays quite well.”

Although the message of the story may strike some as a little narrow-minded, the comedic performances of Peter Denyer, Leon Vitali and Kitty Stevenson make up for it.  Denyer (who died far too young, at just 62 in 2009) had two signature roles – Dennis Dunstable in Please Sir! and Ralph in Dear John.  Both of those characters were rather dim, as is Phil here, but the difference with Phil is that he doesn’t realise it.  Denyer perfectly captures Phil’s parrot-like nature (it’s clear that everything he says has been learnt by rote from Shashti Ap Davies and he has no original thoughts of his own).

Leon Vitali also appeared in Please Sir! (although just one episode) and later was a regular in the spin-off series The Fenn Street Gang.  He also seems to have been a favourite of Stanley Kubrick (appearing in both Barry Lyndon and Eyes Wide Shut).  Although Eric seems somewhat naive, he ends up in a much better position than Phil – since he elects to stay with Marion (who’s going to teach him mediation and maybe other things).  One delightful scene later in the story occurs when Marion decides that the only way for Eric to conquer his carnal thoughts is to confront them head on – and as the camera tastefully pans away, the audience can guess the rest.

This was Kitty Stevenson’s sole television credit, which is a little surprising since she gives a deft comic performance.  Elsewhere, Brian Glover, Johnny Shannon and Frank Jarvis are three very familiar television faces who help to enliven proceedings.

This is one of two episodes from series twenty one that only exists as an off-air recording (presumably made at the BBC, although domestic video recorders were available at the time).  There’s some picture interference, but for a recording of this age it’s not too bad.  It’s obviously several rungs down from the original VT, but it’s better to have it than not.

An unexpected comic episode, it may not be to everyone’s tastes but I found plenty to enjoy.