Sergeant Mann’s investigation into a soldier who went AWOL is an open and shut case. But it indirectly leads onto a more puzzling affair – why has a previously upstanding officer, Captain Lynne (Keith Barron), suddenly started to act in a very erratic manner? Maybe it’s connected to his wife’s recent breakdown ….
Airing between 1964 and 1966, Redcap offered John Thaw his first starring role. Sergeant Mann, a member of the army investigative unit, has free reign to travel the globe, unearthing crime, corruption and disorderly conduct wherever British soldiers might be stationed. This gives Mann the air of a permanent outsider who’s always faced with an uphill battle to bring any perpetrators to justice. In retrospect, this sort of character fits Thaw like a glove – it’s easy to see echoes of Jack Regan in Mann (both, at times, are no respecter of authority).
Although Mann visited a fair few countries, the series never left the UK (and indeed rarely ventured outside of the studio). Some might view this as a weakness but if you love 1960’s studio-based VT drama, then Redcap will be just your cup of tea.
There was plenty of quality on the technical side – it was produced by John Bryce (who helmed The Avengers during 1963/64) and script-edited by Ian Kennedy-Martin (later to write Regan, the Armchair Cinema pilot which spawned The Sweeney). Plenty of familiar names pop up on the writing front such as William Emms on this opening episode.
The mystery as to why Lynne has gone to pieces is eventually revealed – his wife (played by Miranda Connell) was raped after leaving a mess party. With the crime having taken place inside the army compound, this makes it more than likely that a soldier was responsible. But even after this revelation there’s still an air of mystery – why is Lynne so reluctant to admit what happened?
Barron plays Lynne as an upper-crust type and manages to nicely suggest the conflict and turmoil that lies behind his apparent passivity. He eventually does come clean, and to Lynne’s credit he wasn’t acting purely out of self-interest (although he does admit that public knowledge about his wife’s rape would damage both his career and reputation).
Emms’ script briefly attempts to tease out the puzzle concerning the guilty party by offering us several possibilities. But since we only focus on one – Private Bolt (Kenneth Colley) – this mystery soon dissipates. There are still several different ways the story might play out though – Bolt is guilty and confesses, Bolt is guilty but doesn’t confess, Bolt is innocent.
In the end, everything is wrapped up slightly too neatly. Mann has very little evidence, but contrives a situation where Bolt and Lynne are left alone. Lynne, having already been told by Mann that Bolt is the most likely suspect, snaps and viciously beats Bolt up. And having been pulped by Lynne, Bolt then helpfully confesses his crime to Mann.
Hmm, given this confession was extracted under duress it’s possible that it might not stand up in court. Mind you, it’s the kind of stroke you could imagine Jack Regan pulling. Indeed, Thaw does glower throughout with the same sort of barely supressed fury that he’d later display in The Sweeney, so maybe even this early on Kennedy-Martin was taking notes ….
As with each episode, It’s What Comes After is immaculately cast. Keith Barron is good value as Lynne, whilst Colley slips in enough off-kilter gestures to suggest that Bolt is indeed the man we’re looking for. Derek Newark, as the long-suffering Mess Sergeant (who has to deal with the insubordinate Bolt on a daily basis) also catches the eye.
It may not impress as a great example of detective work, but It’s What Comes After is certainly a strong opening episode.