The first noticeable thing about A Fixed Address is that it’s in colour. The original broadcast, back in 1969, was in black and white, but the programme was recorded in colour as a test for the forthcoming switchover. It takes a little getting used to, as after six episodes of moody, black and white stories it’s something of a jolt.
The story opens with Frank and Mrs Mortimer working together on the dishes. It’s another example of how comfortable he’s become with her – he’s now essentially one of the family. The only guests staying are a young couple – Peter (Barrie Rutter) and Rosemary (Deborah Grant). Peter is rather oafish and irritating whilst Rosemary is quiet and polite. They don’t seem to be enjoying themselves especially and Frank wonders why. This allows Mrs Mortimer to demonstrate her detective skills for once. She tells Frank that they’re not married (she knew this when Peter didn’t know whether Rosemary liked kippers!) and this explains why they don’t quite seem at ease with each other. She tells Frank that apart from enjoying love-making “they’ve nothing else in common. They’re going to make themselves very miserable.”
It’s a nice moment that forges the bond between Mrs Mortimer and Frank a little tighter, although we’ll see upcoming events threaten this. Frank’s looking to start up on his own again, as an enquiry agent, and he’s searching for offices. When his probation officer, Jim Hull, calls round, she lets slip this information – which comes as a surprise to him. He then offers Mrs Mortimer a word of advice (“Marker’s a very lonely man, I mean he’s a lone wolf. Don’t make too many plans involving him.”) Needless to say, this doesn’t go down well.
Events then take an unexpected turn when Mrs Mortimer’s estranged husband, Denis (Philip Brack) appears on the doorstep. This provides the meat of the episode as he enjoys several spiky encounters with Frank as well as some memorable sparring matches with his wife. He’s a charmer – but he walked out of his marriage seven years ago and it’s clear that his presence isn’t welcomed by her. But why has he come back?
Eventually it becomes clear. He offers her the chance to travel to Malaya with him. It’s a three year trip and there’s plenty of benefits. “House servants, change of air three times time a year. Free travel, Siam, Penang, Hong Kong.” It sounds tempting, but it’s obvious that the offer wasn’t made out of love or affection – as Denis’ company favours married employees, rather than single ones. Mrs Mortimer has great pleasure in telling him no and her refusal means he doesn’t waste time hanging around.
Rosemary and Peter’s relationship also founders, so this isn’t the best episode for relationships. Unless we count Frank and Mrs Mortimer? Series four of Public Eye was essentially the story of Frank Marker’s journey back into society. At the start, he’d just come out of prison and was something of a drifter, with no home or friends. By A Fixed Address, he has a friend (and she clearly wants to take things further) and a home, plus the chance to start his business again in Brighton.
But series five would see all of this jettisoned in favour of a move to Windsor. This may have been down to a change in the production team. Series four was entirely written by Roger Marshall, but he didn’t contribute a single script to the next series. Presumably the new producer (Michael Chapman) decided that the Brighton location had run its course and decided to move Frank on again. This is something a of shame, since there was still areas that could have been developed (for example, Mrs Mortimer’s guest house would have been a rich source of potential clients and problems for Frank).
But notwithstanding this, series four of Public Eye saw the series hit a consistently high standard – thanks to the scripting of Roger Marshall and the fine casts, headed by the incomparable Alfred Burke.