H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man – The Gun Runners

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Brady teams up with American investigator Zena Fleming (Louise Allbritton) to investigate the gun-running activity which is occurring in the small Mediterranean state of Bay Akim.

Given the recent terrible terrorist activity in the UK, the opening of The Gun Runners has now been granted an added resonance.  We see a British engineer and his wife gunned down in a foreign market whilst their horrified young child looks on.  Whilst there’s no blood, it’s still an extremely jolting moment, especially the aftermath which shows the uncomprehending child desperately attempting to shake his dead father back to life.

It’s an interesting dramatic touch that we see the murders taking place. They’re not the focus of the episode (since Brady reads about them in the newspaper, this second-hand report could have sufficed). But the fact we witness the crime provides the episode with a dramatic impetus it otherwise would have lacked.

There seems to be a simple solution to the problem – the terrorists are only a threat if they have guns in their hands, so if their weapons supply could somehow be cut off then they’d be nullified.  Sadly, real-world events have shown that guns aren’t necessary to create mayhem ….

Zena, an accredited investigator, has already been out to Bay Akim and remains convinced that someone there is gun-running, although she found no evidence to support her belief.  Now she wants to go back in an unofficial capacity and has very little difficulty in persuading Brady to join her.  But when she returns, the gun-runners are uncovered with such ridiculous ease that it makes you wonder just how incompetent she must have been in the first place not to discover them.

Bay Akim is your typical ITC Middle Eastern country.  It’s populated by British actors putting on funny accents (and who are slightly browned up to boot).  Fezzes are also very much in evidence.  James Booth has a certain swarthy villainy as Ali whilst Paul Stassino has the most substantial role as Sardi.  Whilst he initially appears to be on Zena’s side, in possibly the least unsurprising twist ever he’s revealed to be one of the baddies.  You can almost guarantee that in adventure serials like this, the authorities will turn out to be corrupt.

The fact that Brady is invisible and incognito during his time in Bay Akim is the cue for plenty of invisible fighting.  It also means that Sardi is somewhat perplexed as to how a mere woman like Zena could possibly beat up his men (he’s in one room, listening with incredulity as Brady’s next door and giving them an invisible going-over!)

As so often with the series, The Gun Runners is good, solid fare.  Ian Stuart-Black ended up writing thirteen episodes for the show (which included some of the best instalments) and it seems clear that he had a very definite ideas about what would work and what wouldn’t.  As with many of the better episodes, The Gun Runners doesn’t attempt to overextend itself – it’s content to tell a fairly simple, linear story in an efficient way.

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