Drake is assigned to eliminate Hans Vogeler (Derren Nesbitt), an assassin responsible for a number of recent kills. He’s reluctant to murder him in cold blood (electing instead to bring Vogeler to justice) but an unexpected chain of events looks like it will force his hand ….
Carl Jaffe (as the unfortunate Professor Barkoff) is today’s actor killed off before the opening credits roll. His death is dramatic, although it’s also slightly comic (see the expression on Barkoff’s face as he slowly sinks to the floor). It’s plain from first sight that Vogeler is an expert – cigarette in mouth, he lines up his target with an almost contemptuous ease.
Drake’s refusal to kill Vogeler chimed with McGoohan’s own feelings on the subject, but it’s also fair to say that the television climate of 1960 probably wouldn’t have countenanced the thought of Drake acting as an assassin. David Callan did so later during the 1960’s, but ITC shows (always with one eye on foreign sales) tended to be more conservative.
It’s learnt that Vogeler has gone bear hunting in Austria, so Drake is dispatched to track him down. Oswestry in Wales stands in for Austria and does so rather well. This is an episode with a hefty amount of film work, although it’s a pity that we have to keep returning to the studio for the dialogue scenes as the transition between film and studio is always going to be noticeable.
Austria is a police state where travel is strictly regulated (the eagle eyed will spot a young Edward Hardwicke playing one of the frontier guards). En route to his destination Drake is waylaid by Lisa Orin (Sarah Lawson), who appears to be a friendly sort of person.
This is the point of the story where you start to wonder about Lisa’s motivations. Drake’s been told that travel along a particular strip of road is forbidden after 4 pm and yet Lisa managed to follow him after this cut-off point. How had she done this and why does she speak the local language so fluently? Everything seems to suggest that she’s an enemy agent, assigned to keep tabs on Drake. And yet …
I like the scene where Drake, having pulled off the road, assembles his rifle. Parts of it are hidden inside several loaves of bread and the rest are scattered about in various different places (in the torch, inside the boot of the car). It’s another little James Bond touch (the episode in general has a feel of the short story For Your Eyes Only).
More homages seem to be in order after Lisa innocently discovers part of Drake’s rifle and a passing patrolman handcuffs them together. Drake knocks out the patrolman and drags the unwilling Lisa cross-country in order to complete his mission (take your pick from The Defiant Ones or The 39 Steps).
Given that Drake is now handicapped with Lisa, it looks like he’ll have to kill Vogeler. But if she wasn’t present, just what was his plan to get him out of the country? And how would the rifle had helped? These are questions to which there’s no particular answer.
After some toing and froing, Drake and Vogeler struggle over possession of another rifle. It goes off and Vogeler dies (killed accidentally by his own hand). You can either view this as poetic justice or a bit of a cop out (the baddy is dead but Drake hasn’t had to soil his own hands).
Even as we get to the end of the story, Lisa’s involvement seems a little hard to credit. Presumably the programme-makers also felt this, as the episode ends with a brief voice-over from Drake confirming that she really was nothing more than an innocent schoolteacher.
Sarah Lawson (who later made several memorable appearances in Callan as Flo Mayhew) provides a good counterpoint to Patrick McGoohan’s dour Drake. And although Derren Nesbitt’s screentime is limited, he’s still able to radiate sneering menace with ease. And I’ll award bonus points for Vogeler’s Austrian hat.
A decent script by Brian Clemens and Ian Stuart Black then, but it’s one where the 25 minute format feels a tad constrictive. A little more time spent with the handcuffed Drake and Lisa, developing their differing views on the rights and wrongs of killing, would have strengthened the episode considerably.