Belinda Dean (Erica Rogers) is a beautiful, albeit incredibly spoilt, heiress. Indulged from a very young age, she’s developed a shocking temper (hapless waiters tend to wilt under her intense all-out attack). Since Belinda is shortly due to marry one of his best friends, Simon has developed a professional interest in her and decides she needs to be taught a lesson in humility before the big day. So he forces her to join him on a hundred mile trek through the unwelcoming Spanish countryside …..
One of the more notorious Saint episodes, The Golden Journey is a rum old tale. I have to confess that my jaw dropped and my eyebrow raised during the opening few minutes after Simon confided to the audience that his friend Jack could easily tame the wild Belinda (but alas, he loves her too much to hit her). Strap yourselves in, I think it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Was it just a coincidence that Simon and Belinda were staying in the same hotel? Or did he decide to stalk her? I’ve a feeling it’s the latter, which makes his behaviour slightly more creepy than it already is.
Whilst she’s sleeping (again with the creep factor) Simon burgles her hotel room and steals her money and passport, leaving her stranded and helpless. This is the first step in the Saint’s somewhat cruel plan to strip her of her self assurance, but not the last – as Simon then drops a heavy hint to the hotel manager (a fleeting appearance by the wonderful Roger Delgado) that she’s a criminal!
Goaded by Simon’s manipulation, she does then break the law – by attempting to steal a scooter – which means that she’s bonded ever closer to Simon after he bails her out of prison. So the scene is set for their journey, where she will learn about the true values of life …..
Although we’re only around a dozen episodes in, it does seem a little strange that various actors have already popped up twice in different roles. We’ve already seen Bill Nagy and Shirley Eaton return, today it’s the turn of Erica Rogers whilst the following episode features another appearance by John Carson. Some – like Carson – take very different parts, but both of Erica Rogers’ appearances to date have seen her cast as fairly annoying females. But whilst Joss Hendry in The Pearls of Peace was irredeemable, Belinda Dean is another matter altogether.
Left with no alternative, she’s forced to follow the impossibly smug Simon as he sets off on his walking trip. He’s nattily attired of course – sensible clothes and shoes – whilst she’s wearing an expensive, if scanty, dress and high heels. No doubt the fact that she’s not dressed for the occasion is all part of Simon’s “treatment”.
Apart from a few fleeting appearances from others (the aforementioned Roger Delgado, Stella Bonheur as Belinda’s Aunt, Paul Whitsun Jones as a cackling woodcutter) The Golden Journey is essentially a two-hander. Lacking any sort of crime element, it’s simply an exercise in who will crack first (need you ask?)
The action switches from location (it’s not quite Spain, but the Welsh mountains are very striking) to studio on a regular basis, often from scene to scene. This isn’t surprising for an ITC series of this vintage as they tended to be made on a very strict timetable and budget, meaning that a lengthy location shoot with the stars would have been impractical. Therefore we see plenty of back-projection studio shots of Moore and Rogers mixed in with film footage of their doubles striding across the countryside. They do feature in some location footage though, and after a while this mix and match approach becomes less of an issue.
Given Belinda’s misadventures (plunging into a raging stream, tumbling down a steep hill) it’s remarkable how her white dress stays pretty clean throughout. True, it does get a little grubby but it holds up remarkably well. Though I guess in the name of decency it couldn’t be allowed to get too frayed.
Half an hour in, we have the story’s most infamous scene. Simon, tiring of Belinda’s backchat, puts her over his knee and treats her to a firm spanking. There’s not a lot you can say about this, except that Simon seems to be enjoying himself enormously.
It’s not Moore’s fault, but Simon is written throughout as remarkably irritating and obnoxious (but then it’s true that the Saint is attempting to goad Belinda). The locations are lovely, as is Erica Rogers. although the ending is remarkably predictable and pat (she learns her lesson and no doubt will be a good girl from now on).
There aren’t too many changes made from the original story (although in Charteris’ tale, Simon isn’t an old friend of Jack’s – he had only met him and Belinda a week before. This of course, makes his behaviour towards her, a virtual stranger, even less admirable).
It’s hard to defend the strong misogynistic tone of The Golden Journey, but since it’s an entertaining travelogue I feel it just about scrapes three halos out of five.