Special Branch – The Children of Delight (5th November 1969)

A cult orgainsation called The Children of Delight pique the interest of Special Branch. Are they simply a group of people who have found a better way to live or is there something sinister lurking beneath their tranquil façade?

Adele Rose’s sole SB script, The Children of Delight declines to answer this question directly – although there’s plenty of evidence to sift through. With Jordan and Eden remaining mostly office bound, it falls to Detective Sergeant Sarah Gifford (Sheila Fearn) to infiltrate the group. It’s a very decent guest role for Fearn (a pity her character didn’t return).

Sarah is welcomed by Mrs Bishop (Georgine Anderson), who seems reassuringly normal – a middle-aged woman who doesn’t look in the least brainwashed. But it’s not long before the first discordant note is struck – poor Mr Turner (Arnold Ridley) has transgressed their rules and is required perform manual work (scrubbing floors, etc) for a week. Anyone who could do such a thing to a nice old man like that must surely be evil.

Two cult members on the lowest of the three rungs – Mr Turner and Jimmy Cole (Wilfred Downing) – are given a chance to speak. Both seem happy and content, although we’re told that Turner has left his home and family whilst Jimmy’s mother, Mrs Cole (Anna Turner), is a constant tearful presence throughout the episode. Desperate to be reunited with her son, he nevertheless rejects her when the pair finally meet again.

The fact that John Abeneri (playing a character called Comber) is one of the Children of Delight’s higher ups doesn’t inspire confidence in their benign aims – he spends most of the episode lurking in corners, acting in a sinister way.

There’s an extraordinary scene just before the second ad break – Comber and Mrs Bishop attempt to initiate Sarah via a remarkably rough series of questions (is she a lesbian, has she committed incest, etc). Under such relentless abusive questioning she can’t help but break down and admit to being a police officer. This leads Moxon to later mutter that he knew it was a mistake to ask a woman to do this job.

For a short while it appears that a subplot – a key American scientist is one of the Children of Delight – will assume prominence, but that doesn’t really go anywhere. However, his suicide does get Jordan out of the office – his impatient conversation with a distinctly unimpressed uniformed sergeant (played by Tony Caunter) is a late highlight of the episode.

As touched upon earlier, there’s no closure to the story of the Children of Delight. They may be breaking up homes but Eden is prepared to let them be. After all, he maintains, they’re entitled to their freedoms just like everyone else. But Moxon – who initiated the investigation – bypasses Eden’s recommendations and gets the result he was looking for anyway. Sometimes you wonder why Moxon bothers to involve Special Branch, since he so often ignores their advice …