Target – Big Elephant

big elephant

Hackett and his colleagues have been keeping Ceti (Walter Randall) under close observation as the word is that half a million pounds worth of heroin will shortly be delivered to him by a sailor called Pink (Alan Rebbeck).  As soon as Pink is spotted entering the house the team pile in – but they find nothing.

Pink knew that he was under observation, so he passed the drugs over to Sharkey (Ken Hutchinson) for him to deliver.  But the police got there first and Sharkey beats a hasty retreat.  So he’s at loose in the city – with a fortune in drugs and both sides of the law tracking his every move.

The second of Douglas Camfield’s two Target episodes, Big Elephant was written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin (two more familiar faces from Doctor Who).  It’s grim stuff – especially when depicting the squalid reality of drug dependance.  This is highlighted by Joanne (Katy Manning) – a hopeless addict.  Best known for Doctor Who, this is obviously a major change of pace for her but Manning is convincing as a woman who can’t think any further ahead than her next fix.  Increasingly twitchy, pallid and hysterical as the episode wears on, it’s a memorable performance.

Sharkey is such a loose cannon (the pre-credits sequence see him “borrowing” a fork-lift truck and taking it for a ride along the docks, before getting nabbed by the police) it’s impossible to believe anybody would entrust him with such a package.  It’s also slightly odd that as Pink knew he was under observation he didn’t change the drop-off point for the drugs.

Ken Hutchinson starts the story as a stereotypical drunken Scot, but gradually more of a character emerges.  Sharkey forms an unlikely relationship with Joanne – they seem to be two lost souls clinging together for comfort.  He wants to help her kick her habit but Hackett tells him that it’s not worth it – she’s a junkie and she’ll never change.  Hackett does later tell him that he’ll arrange treatment, but it’s too late.  She overdoses, leaving a scribbled note on the wall which reads “Dear god I’m only little, love Joanne.”

There’s plenty of action in Big Elephant.  The initial raid on Ceti’s house is played at a frantic pace and the final confrontation between Hackett and Ceti also packs a punch.  Hackett does finally get his man, but the trail of destruction which has led to Ceti’s arrest means that there’s no real cause for celebration.  This is confirmed by the final shot of the episode which sees Hackett alone and isolated.

Target – Blow Out

blow out

We open with three men attempting to open a safe with an oxyacetylene torch.  The man operating the torch, Rocky (Michael McKevitt) is injured, so the others have to take over.  Harry Skeats (Maurice Roëves) is clearly the leader of the three and he assumes command.

Later, Harry and Rigby (Tom McCabe) drop off Rocky’s body at the hospital, but it’s too late – Rocky’s already dead. Had they not decided to continue with the job then they probably could have saved his life – but these are career criminals, with little or no conscience.

But Rocky’s body is the first solid evidence that Hackett and his team have concerning the wave of robberies which have swept the area. And since this latest robbery netted the villains a cool eighty seven thousand in uncut diamonds, the pressure is on to find the gang.

Roger Marshall’s list of credits is impressive (co-creator of Public Eye, creator of Travelling Man and a skilled writer on numerous series including The Avengers, The Sweeney, Survivors and The Gentle Touch).  This would be his only contribution to Target though, due to his unhappiness with the way it turned out, so much so that he asked for his name to be taken off the credits (the in-house BBC pseudonym David Agnew was used instead).

Douglas Camfield was a highly experienced director who specilised in precisely this sort of material (with episodes of Special Branch, The Sweeney and The Professionals to his credit).  He was able to assemble a cracking cast, featuring impressive turns from Maurice Roëves, Christopher Benjamin, Kenneth Colley and Ron Pember.

Actors who would later make an impression in other series also pop up, such as Geoffrey Leesley (later to be a regular on Bergerac) sporting a very impressive moustache and Sandy Ratcliff (one of the original series regulars on Eastenders).

Given the long-standing disagreement that existed between Camfield and Dudley Simpson (which dated back to an incident at a party in the mid sixties) it comes as no surprise that Simpson didn’t provide the music for this episode.  With no credit on the closing titles, it’s probable that the sparse incidentals were drawn from library cues.

Ex-jailbird Tom Farlow (Ron Pember) is somebody that Hackett attempts to use to infiltrate the gang.  But instead of keeping the meet, Farlow, recently released from prison, has gone to find his wife – who’s left him for another man.  This leads into the most memorable scene of the episode as Farlow methodically fills a large pan full of scalding water and walks upstairs to confront his wife and her lover.

After advising the man to leave, he throws the water over his wife.  Despite the fact that don’t actually see anything (we only hear her screams) it’s still very disturbing.  It’s a good example of how a poweful effect can be created purely in the mind of the viewer.    Tate is far from impressed with the way things have turned out and tells Hackett that “you get a phoney tip-off, she gets a face-full of scalding water. That’s one hell of a day’s work.”

The episode ends with another action-series cliche (Hackett rugby-tackles Harry Skeats into a swimming-pool).

Blow Out isn’t a particularly good example of Hackett’s detective skills as he tends to flounder from one situation to the next (and even though he catches Skeats, the story ends with the news of another robbery.  So the squad seem to be back at square one).

It’s fairly light on action, but Camfield and the excellent cast keeps things moving at a very decent pace.

Target – Shipment


If Target is remembered today, then it’s usually because of its reputation as a cheap Sweeney knock-off or possibly due to its Doctor Who connection (incoming Doctor Who producer Graham Williams created Target, outgoing Doctor Who producer Phillip Hinchcliffe would become Target’s producer).

The lack of a DVD release or recent screenings (series one aired on BSB in 1990, whilst series two hasn’t been seen since selected repeats back in 1980) have no doubt added to the series’ mystique. It’s not a classic by any means, but there’s plenty to enjoy (although Patrick Mower’s performance is an acquired taste, it must be said).

Mower had starred in the Euston Films revival of Special Branch (generally regarded as a dry-run for The Sweeney) as well as two episodes of The Sweeney itself, so was ideal casting as Det Supt Steve Hackett. Mower is never less than totally unsubtle, rampaging through the series like a bull in a china shop. I can’t decide whether he’s playing it tongue-in-cheek or if he’s being serious – either way you can’t take your eyes off him (although not always for the right reasons).

One of Hackett’s snouts gives him a tip-off that an incoming ship (containing a supply of silver) will be robbed.  Hackett and his men organise a stake-out but no attempt is made. The infuriated Hackett runs back to his car to remonstrate with his snout, only to find him murdered.

It’s a very decent pre-credits hook scene, even if it makes no sense. Who would be stupid enough to kill a police informant when there are so many police nearby?

Naturally, Hackett is out for vengeance and he’s convinced that he knows who’s responsible – Maynard (Jon Laurimore). The quality of actors is one of Target’s main strengths (we also see Bernard Kay as a forensic officer and Jack May as the ship’s Chief Officer in this episode).

Another actor it’s always a pleasure to see is Philip Madoc as Hackett’s boss, Det Chief Supt Tate. Sadly he’s got very little to do, so on the basis of this episode it seems odd to cast an actor as good as Madoc in such an unrewarding role.

It may come as no surprise that the episode ends in a punch up. David Wickes’ direction is suitably muscular (he also co-wrote the episode with Hinchcliffe) and the lessons he must have learnt earlier on The Sweeney are put to good effect here (it’s also not surprising that he directed several episodes of The Professionals the following year).

Given his work on Doctor Who, it seemed an obvious choice for Hinchcliffe to draft in Dudley Simpson to compose the theme tune and incidental music, but it’s a little distracting. Dudley always had a distinctive style, shall we say, so hearing music not dissimilar to his Doctor Who scores on Target is rather disorientating.  It’s also worth pondering how he had the time to work on Doctor Who, Target and shortly afterwards Blakes’ 7 all at the same time. It’s no wonder that occasionally all his music does sound rather similar!

A decent opener, then. Low on subtlety but high on action, with the character of Hackett clearly defined.