Callan – Charlie Says It’s Goodbye

charlie

Written by James Mitchell. Directed by Peter Duguid

Hunter believes that a top civil servant called James Palliser (Dennis Price) is due to defect to Eastern Europe shortly.  Palliser is under the impression that the man he loves is waiting for him in Poland – Callan, of course, knows this is the oldest trick in the book.  So before we’ve even met him, the character of Palliser has been quite clearly defined – he may be an important man, but he’s also a gullible one (it’s later reveled that Palliser’s lover died under interrogation some time before, but faked messages are being used to lure him out).

Callan is assigned to watch him and it seems to be a quite straightforward brief.  But there’s a distraction as Palliser has a friend called Susan Morris (Beth Harris).  He introduces himself to both Palliser and Susan and makes no secret that he works for security (Hunter’s suggestion – as he thinks it might spook Palliser into running earlier than planned).  Susan reacts sharply when she meets Callan for the first time – her husband was investigated by security and later took his own life.  But a later meeting is more cordial and Callan becomes more and more attracted to her ….

With Charlie Says It’s Goodbye, series creator James Mitchell crafts a story which takes a closer look at Callan the man.  There’s already been plenty of evidence provided during the series to date which makes it clear that Section operatives like Callan can hardly expect to lead a normal life.  All the previous relationships we’ve seen him enjoy have tended to be short (and usually terminated by death of the female  – such as Suddenly – At Home, for example).

He makes a valiant effort here to try and convince Susan that he’s nothing more than a nine to five pen-pusher, but she senses that he’s not being honest with her.  And finding he wears a gun is something of a giveaway of course.  It makes a change to see a more vulnerable Callan.  This is demonstrated when he gives her a present of a box of chocolates and she remarks that it’s a little old-fashioned.  Callan (obviously somewhat out of date when it comes to any form of relationship) is rather discomforted by her gentle chiding.

If the Callan/Susan relationship is the emotional heart of the story then Palliser’s attempted defection provides the more conventional spy angle.  Dennis Price, best remembered for the classic Ealing film Kind Hearts and Coronets, is a solid presence as Palliser whilst Richard Morant plays the hip-and-happening Trent, who’s been assigned by Komorowski (John G. Heller) to guard Palliser until he’s cleared to leave for Poland.

Trent does seem to be an unequal opponent for Callan as he’s far too young and casual.  There is a reason for this – Komorowski wishes to defect to Britain and therefore deliberately sabotages Palliser’s defection by entrusting him to someone he knew would be no match for Callan.

Callan is easily able to disable Trent and bring Pallsier in, but there’s a complication.  Hunter’s received an anonymous letter stating that Callan has been spending his free time with Susan.  There’s a telling moment when Hunter questions Liz about it, and she declines to answer his questions.  It’s a sign that her affection for Callan has overridden her duty to the Section.  And for somebody like Liz, who has even less of a life outside the Section than Callan does, this is quite noteworthy.

Is there a happy ending for Callan? He loves Susan and would be happy to leave the Section, but he knows in his heart he wouldn’t be allowed to walk away, whilst Susan loves him in return but detests the job he has to do.  It’ll probably come as no surprise that things don’t end well.  Trent targets both of them and Callan kills him (with a harpoon, no less).  He had no choice, since both their lives were under threat, but Susan’s total shock at seeing violent death close-up brings their relationship to an end.

Nearly everybody loses in this one.  Palliser’s hopes of being with the man he loves are cruelly dashed when Hunter tells him he’s dead, whilst Susan’s revulsion at seeing the sort of violent man Callan is can only serve to harden him a little more and make it unlikely he’ll ever decide to open up again.  The only winner therefore is Komorowski, who will no doubt be able to live a comfortable life as a defector.

Whilst not the absolute best the series can offer, Charlie Says It’s Goodbye is still pretty compelling, thanks to the emotional dramas that are played out over its fifty minutes.

Callan – None of Your Business

none of your business

Written by Trevor Preston. Directed by Voytek

After a brief spell as a (reluctant) member of the establishment, Callan now finds himself on the outside.  He’s been relived of command and placed on “special leave” by Bishop, pending the appointment of a new Hunter.

Callan quickly understands that he’s persona non grata.  Lonely tells him he’s been ordered not to drive him and Liz is unable to hand over his passport.  As an aside, it’s always struck me as odd (and rather unbelievable) that Lonely would have been drafted into the Section, even as just a lowly driver.  But it does mean that at the start of the episode his inability to help serves to increase Callan’s sense of isolation.

There’s rarely been any love lost between Bishop and Callan and this is made evident by their early exchange.  “All you want to do Mr Bishop is keep your paperwork neat. but then you are a very neat man, aren’t you Mr Bishop? You have neat hands, neat clothes, neat manners, neat mind.  Place for everything, everything in its place. Cross/suicide/file closed/what’s for lunch. Neat.”

As Callan’s on “leave” he decides to take a holiday, but Bishop won’t release his passport.  The reason why is never made clear, is Bishop simply being awkward or does he fear that Callan might defect?  Either way, Callan decides to obtain a fake passport and this is where the story really starts.

What stops None of Your Business from being a top-drawer Callan episode is the somewhat unlikely chain of coincidence.  Meres and Stafford are investigating how a Russian agent came to be in possession of fake, but very convincing papers.  They have a lead, West (Peter Eyre), but his sudden suspicious death stops them in their tracks.

Of course, the people that Callan approaches are the same ones that Meres and Stafford are interested in – and it’s this rather clumsy plotting which is the problem.  It’s also rather out of character that Callan would be so driven to try and leave the country – he has to be otherwise the story wouldn’t work, but it just doesn’t feel quite right.

But if some of the plotting is a little suspect then there’s still plenty of incidental pleasures to be found with the guest cast.  Tony Selby plays Lucas, the man who seems to be in charge of the forgery ring.  He starts off as a confident figure, convinced he’s got the measure of Callan, but it’s plain he has no idea what he’s let himself in for.  Brian Murphy, as Reeves, first appears as one of Lucas’ potential customers (presenting a cowed, shambling figure) but it’s later revealed that he’s the brains behind the whole operation.  It’s a nice enough twist, even if Reeves’ motivations (and the precise nature of the forgery ring) remain somewhat nebulous.

There’s several small character touches which enhance the episode.  The first comes after Callan realises that Lonely’s told Lucas where he lives.  A spasm of anger crosses his face and he punches Lonely – hard.  Seconds after you can see that Callan regrets this, especially when Lonely tearfully tells him that he didn’t have any choice – Lucas’ heavy had hurt him.  Woodward and Hunter had shared so many scenes together by this time that they were able to display a world of meaning even in non-verbal ways.

And when Squire’s Hunter returns to the Section late in the episode, both Meres and Stafford automatically stand up but Callan remains seated.  This is a nice unspoken sign of Callan’s disdain for authority – although his relationship with this Hunter was always more cordial than with some of his predecessors.

The new Hunter is revealed – in fact it’s the old one as William Squire returns to the series.  It would have been the ideal time to bring in a new actor but given how good Squire always was I can’t really complain.

Callan – That’ll Be The Day

that'll be the day

Written by James Mitchell. Directed by Mike Vardy

That’ll Be The Day certainly has a strong opening – we begin at David Callan’s funeral.  The mourners include Hunter, Bishop, Colonel Leslie, Cross and a clearly distraught Liz.  A late arrival is Lonely, who comes complete with an impressive floral display (which he’s naturally pinched).

One of the few moments of levity in the episode occurs when a disbelieving Lonely hears the vicar’s fulsome tribute.  He describes Callan as a humble man of peace – a far cry from the person that Lonely knew.  So Lonely comes to the conclusion that they’re burying the wrong man!

Arresting as this is, it’s not very logical.  If Callan had been a public figure (a politician, say, or a civil servant) it would have made sense to stage a mock funeral.  But as he’s not, the only thing the funeral does is to make Lonely convinced that Callan isn’t dead after all.

In Mitchell’s original draft script, Callan and his Russian counterpart (originally called Lonsdale, later renamed Richmond) were apprehended at the same time – both sides then agree on a publicity blackout so they could be exchanged.  This makes the reason for the mock funeral slightly more plausible, but it’s still a problem.

Also present at the funeral in Mitchell’s draft script was Toby Meres.  He didn’t feature in the final program, but he is mentioned (and will return later in the series).  Somebody who does make an appearance is a previous Hunter, Colonel Leslie (Ronald Radd).  Since he doesn’t speak a word, for anybody not familiar with the first two series he could be taken for just another extra.  But for those who’ve seen the black and white episodes it’s a lovely touch.

Callan isn’t dead of course, he’s a prisoner of the Russians and currently undergoing interrogation at the Lubyanka.  The first time I saw this episode I assumed it was the second part of an existing story – mainly because of the cold open.  We’re told that Callan was on assignment in East Germany, that the girl he was with was killed and that he was then taken to the Lubyanka.  It’s very jarring that this is all tell, not show.  A modern series would have no doubt set this plot-line up at the end of the previous series, closing on a cliffhanger of Callan’s abduction.

He’s clearly in a bad way – his head is shaven and he’s been pumped full of drugs.  In many ways he’s in a similar state to how he appeared in Death of a Hunter, although it’s true that here he’s more aware of what’s happening – in Death of a Hunter his moments of lucidity were few and far between.

Karsky (Julian Glover) is given the task of interrogating Callan.  Just as Callan has his counterpoint in Richmond, Karsky has an obvious opposite number in Snell (Clifford Rose).  Whilst Karsky is using drugs to interrogate Callan, Snell is doing the same to Richmond.  And Karsky and Snell are very similar character types – neither are cackling villains, instead they view their subjects with detachment and, especially in Karsky’s case, seeming compassion.

Karsky knows that Callan will eventually tell them everything – the drugs will ensure that.  But if Callan cooperates then the drugs won’t destroy him.  So why fight?  Naturally Callan replies in the negative, but it doesn’t shake Karsky’s composure at all.  As might be expected, Julian Glover is excellent in these scenes, as is Woodward, and these two-handed moments are the highlight of the episode.

T.P, McKenna’s Richmond is an interesting character.  At this point he seems to have been created simply to solve the problem about how to extract Callan from the clutches of the Russians.  But he makes an unexpected return towards the end of the series in several key episodes.  He doesn’t have a great deal of screen-time here, but he still manages to make an impression.

Another indication that Callan and Richmond are two sides of the same coin is demonstrated when it’s decided to exchange them (much to Hunter’s displeasure – he considers swapping Richmond for Callan is a bad bargain).  Both Callan and Richmond are holed up in adjoining hotel rooms in Helskini – and they each offer their handlers a drink (which are refused).

Callan’s miraculous return from the dead comes as a shock to some, especially Cross.  You get the sense that he’s just started to enjoy being the top man in the Section and now that’s cruelly taken away from him.  Patrick Mower would leave the series after episode five, so Cross only has a limited character arc in series four, but it’s still quite effective.

In series three, Cross was several rungs below Callan – the older man was quicker, sharper and always more capable.  He’s maybe slightly closer in ability now, but he also possesses character flaws which will prove to be his undoing.  He’s always had a certain sadistic attitude – witness how he plays Russian Roulette with Lonely (admittedly with blanks) – and over the course of the next few episodes we’ll see how he gradually steps further and further over the mark.

Hunter’s meeting with Callan is a rather frosty affair.  He admits that if it was his choice he wouldn’t have had him back.  But Callan is back and since Richmond was a top man it’s a matter of prestige for the Section that they can’t be seen to have swapped him for a lesser prize.  But how can they prove to the Russians that Callan is Richmond’s equal?

Promotion is the obvious course …..

Blakes 7 – Horizon

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Allan Prior contributed five scripts to Blakes 7 (Horizon, Hostage, The Keeper, Volcano and Animals).  It’s fair to say that none of these episodes would feature in most people’s top tens (unless it was a top ten of least favourite stories).

Prior’s work on B7 tended to range from the competent to the mediocre, which is slightly surprising given his very lengthy list of writing credits.  He wrote over a hundred episodes of Z Cars and also contributed to many other popular series during the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s (such as Sergeant Cork, Armchair Theatre, Dr Finlay’s Casebook, Warship, The Sweeney, The Onedin Line, Secret Army, Juliet Bravo, The Charmer, etc etc).  It’s an incredibly impressive CV, but it’s notable that apart from Blakes 7 he never wrote for any other science fiction or fantasy series.

His debut script, Horizon, is possibly his best.  The science fiction in this one is laid on fairly gently – as it’s essentially a colonial story that could easily have been set in any African country (for the Federation just substitute the British Empire).

The regime on the planet code-named Horizon is one with obvious parallels in history.  The Federation needs the minerals it has in abundance (such as Monopasium two-three-nine) but a full occupying force would tie up too many people.  So the Federation “educates” the elite of the planet who remain nominally in charge whilst the Federation rule behind the scenes and siphon off the resources for their own use.

Ro (Darien Angadi) is a textbook example of a native who has been educated to think and act as a member of the Federation.  His former teacher is now the Kommissar ultimately response for the planet (played to perfection by William Squire) and he’s confident that he can continue to bend Ro to his will.

The heart of the episode is the relationship between Ro and the Kommissar.  Partly this is because the only other native speaking role we see is Ro’s finance Selma (Souad Faress).  The remainder of the natives tend to toil in the mines and are hairy, grubby and mute.  It’s slightly surprising that Ro doesn’t have a council of leaders that he has to report to – that would have created some decent dramatic tension, but restricting everything down to just a single man does work as well.

It’s interesting that Ro is aware that the mortality rate in the mines is high, but he’s just not terribly bothered about it.  To him they’re savages, little more than animals.  The fairly heavy irony that he was in exactly this position before he was lifted up by the Federation never seems to occur to him.

Blake and the others turn up to Horizon after they follow a Federation supply ship.  It’s travelling to Zone Nine – far off the beaten track – and Blake is intrigued.  But everybody else is exhausted from a series of close shaves and it’s fair to say they don’t share his curiosity.  The ratty, bad-tempered banter at the start is a nice touch and it gives all of the regulars a few decent character moments before the episode proper begins.

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Blake and Jenna teleport down and are captured.  When they don’t return Gan and Vila teleport to look for them and are captured.  Cally then teleports down to look for them all and she is captured as well.  This leaves Avon by himself (“and then there was one”) apart from Orac and Zen.  We then see Avon wrestling with his conscience – can he simply run out and leave the others?

AVON: If I go alone, can I pilot the Liberator indefinitely?
ORAC: With the help of the automatics, of course you can.
AVON: I know that.
ORAC: Then why did you ask the question?
AVON: I didn’t. How long can I maintain myself?
ORAC: Is that a question?
AVON: Yes.
ORAC: We have concentrated food for one person for a thousand years.
AVON: And our power is self-regenerating.
ORAC: Affirmative.
AVON: Can you plot courses to keep out of the range of any known spaceship manned by the Federation?
ORAC: The battle and navigation computers can handle that perfectly adequately.
AVON: I asked if YOU could.
ORAC: Of course, should it be necessary.
AVON: Failing that, we are powerful enough to resist all but an attack by three Federation pursuit ships at once.
ORAC: Is that a question?
AVON: No. If we go now, we can sail the universe for as long as we like in reasonable safety, provided we keep out of everybody’s way and we do not do anything rash.

When he learns that three Federation pursuit ships are en-route to destroy the Liberator he decides to stay and fight.  Was he ever seriously intending to cut and run?  Maybe not, as I’m sure the pleasure he derived from rescuing everyone else was immense!  And once he teleports down Paul Darrow looks like he’s enjoying himself as Avon turns into a Wild West gunslinger, cutting down Federation troopers left, right and centre.  He nearly blows Blake’s head off as well, but luckily(?) the shot goes wild.  There’s a lovely expression on Gareth Thomas’ face as he deadpans the line “missed”.

If there’s a weak part to the story then it’s when Blake is initially captured and interrogated by both Ro and the Kommissar.  Blake’s quickly able to gain Ro’s trust by telling him that he knew an old friend of his, Paura.  Blake and Paura were both convicts on the ship London, bound for Cygnus Alpha.  This just seems a little contrived – had Blake travelled to Horizion, armed with this knowledge, expressly to talk to Ro it might have seemed more reasonable.

This niggle apart, Horizon is a pretty good stuff.  As I’ve said, William Squire (best known as Hunter in the Thames version of Callan) is perfectly cast as the arch-manipulator.  Darien Angadi also has a decent amount of screen-time as the apparently subservient puppet ruler.  Brian Miller and Souad Faress exist to act as sounding-boards for the Kommissar and Ro respectively, so have less chance to impress – but both are capable enough.

And Sally Knyvette looks rather lovely, which is always a plus point for me.

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Callan – Amos Green Must Live

amos

Written by Ray Jenkins
Directed by James Goddard

Amos Green Must Live is a bit of a misfire.  Although Amos Green’s views are just as topical today as they were over forty years ago, a slightly incoherent script does tend to drag the story down.

Amos Green (Corin Redgrave) is a politician with a clear message – Britain is full to bursting point, so he advocates sending the immigrants back home.  He’s clearly a man who likes to court controversy and when his life seems to be under threat, the Section are tasked to protect him.

Corin Redgrave is by far the best thing about this story.  He’s very watchable in all his scenes and Ray Jenkins’ script provides him with plenty of good material.  Whether Green actually believes what he says or whether he’s simply making political capital is left to the view to decide.  Later in the story, Hunter (who for some inexplicable reason is attending one of Green’s dinner-parties) does make the point that before 1967 Green never spoke about immigration, which does visibly ruffle the politician’s feathers.

As for the worst, Annette Crosbie as Green’s housekeeper May Coswood, takes some beating.  It’s probably not Crosbie’s fault, rather it’s the way the part has been written.  May is besotted with a black man called Casey (Stefan Kalipha).  Naturally, she keeps this from Green, but she starts to act very oddly – stealing a dress, for example.  Her erratic behaviour only draws attention to herself (and Casey).

If May’s motivations are sometimes hard to understand, then the same can be said of Casey.  Towards the end we learn that he’s the prime mover behind the plot to kill Green – but there are various plot-holes along the way which are never resolved.

The Section are originally drawn into the case after a black civil rights activist from America called Arrillo is fished out of the river.  In his pocket was a book of matches with a picture of the Ace of Spades.  A similar book of matches is sent to Green, so it’s surmised that his life will also be under threat.

Casey admits that he was the taxi-driver who picked up Arrillo.  As the American was carrying a considerable sum of money, we can surmise that Casey killed him for it – which he planned to use to finance an attack against Green.  If this is so, why would he place the matches in Arrillo’s pocket and why send a similar matchbook to Green?  If it hadn’t been for the matches, then Green wouldn’t have known that his life was in danger.  But frankly, it’s a very obscure clue – what are the chances that somebody would have made the connection between Arrillo and Green?

Although Casey is organising the attack against Green (with gas weapons and guns) it’s actually carried out by several Americans (well, I think they’re attempting American accents, it’s hard to be sure).  Were they recruited with the money Casey stole from Arrillo?  Or since Arrillo was an American, did they follow him over?

Whilst there are a few nice moments (Lonely buying Callan the most hideous tie imaginable as a thank you present, for example) it’s certainly one of the less engaging episodes of the series.  When a General Election was called in 1970, the episode was pulled from the schedule and transmitted later in the run (as previously mentioned, Breakout should have been the series finale).  So there is a certain historical curiosity in watching this (albeit-temporarily) “banned” episode.

The character of Amos Green tapped into the debates of the day (he’s clearly a thinly-veiled portrait of Enoch Powell, notorious for his “Rivers Of Blood” speech) but whilst Redgrave is fine, the episode in general is just a little too heavy handed and from a modern viewpoint feels rather crude.

Callan – Breakout

break

Written by James Mitchell
Directed by Reginald Collin

Hunter wants KGB agent Lubin (Garfield Morgan) picked up.  He possesses a list of names that would prove incredibly damaging to the Section if he were able to deliver them to his masters.  And since Hunter knows that Lubin hasn’t had the chance to communicate with them yet, speed is of the essence.

But Lubin surrenders himself to the police.  He faces a lengthy spell in prison, but Hunter knows exactly why he’s done it (inside prison he’d be out of Hunter’s reach).  Hunter has a plan though – Lubin will expect to be broken out by the KGB, so he plans to arrange for Callan to spring him and then kill him.

Breakout is more of a straightforward action story than many episodes of Callan, but though it lacks the depth of characterisation that we usually see, it still has plenty of interest – not least for the central role played by Lonely.

In Where Else Could I Go? we saw Callan stand bail for Lonely.  Now, Lonely finally faces trial for his numerous petty crimes.  As ever, Russell Hunter is a pleasure to watch – even when he has no dialogue he’s capable of expressing so many emotions.  This is highlighted when the judge comments that Lonely’s crimes were carried out with “great expertise ” (a pleased expression plays across his face) but “little intelligence” (which instantly changes to downcast).

When he’s sentenced to six months imprisonment for each of the twenty-five offences (to run concurrently) he displays a whole range of shocked emotions, especially when he sees Callan laughing.  Eventually he understands that he only has to serve six months instead of twelve and a half years, but it’s clear that it doesn’t quite sink in (as he still asks Callan for reassurance later on).

If there’s a major flaw in Breakout, then it’s the idea that Lubin is untouchable in prison.  It’s hard to believe that Hunter lacks the ability to transfer him and it’s even harder to accept that he couldn’t pull some strings to infiltrate a man into the prison to eliminate him without having to break him out first.

But whilst these possibilities are never discussed, they are able to put a man on the inside – the unfortunate Lonely.  Lubin is on remand at Castle View (where Callan once spent “six lovely months”).  Lonely is dismayed to hear that he’ll be transferred there – but Callan is delighted, as he tells him that he’ll be able to do a little job for him.

Woodward and Hunter shared many lovely two-handed scenes during the four series of Callan and there’s another cracking one here.  When Callan tells him that he’s arranging a breakout from Castle View, Lonely’s first response is that he doesn’t mind doing his time.  Callan gently tells him that he’s not the person to be sprung – Lubin is.  Lonely is dismayed. “I don’t hold with spies. Mr Callan, that man is a traitor to the Queen.”  To which Callan ironically mutters “Rule Britannia”!

Russell Hunter continues to have good material to work with, especially in the aftermath of the breakout.  As Callan enters the cell, he says “good luck, Mr Ca-” before Callan brutally pistol-whips him.  This was because Lubin knew Callan’s name (although he didn’t know what he looked like) so it was vital that Callan silenced Lonely before he revealed all.  Of course, in the light of this, it was rather silly to put Lonely in his cell (as we later learnt he spent most of his time taking about Callan!).

Callan is the leader of the small group tasked to breakout Lubin.  Cross and Mellor (Billy Cornelius) are the others.  Something we’ve seen over the years is that the Section seems to have very few decent agents and Mellor is the latest, somewhat inept, example.  Lubin is easily able to deal with him – but Callan is a different proposition.  After a brief gun-battle, Callan finishes him off.

Breakout was originally intended to be the final story of the third series and this is reflected in the final scene which sees Hunter and Callan sharing a cup of tea on a cold and deserted beach.  Hunter tells him that the KGB now regard him as a top man and so in the future he’s bound to be targeted.  This would have lead nicely into the opening story of series four, That’ll be the Day, in which Callan was picked up by the KGB and underwent a harrowing interrogation.

Unfortunately, the running order was re-juggled at the last minute – so the rather less satisfying Amos Green Must Live was the last transmitted story of this series.

Callan – God Help Your Friends

god

Written by William Emms
Directed by Peter Duguid

In Callan’s world, the innocent often have to suffer. They frequently find themselves used as pawns, sacrificed in a game they don’t even know they’re playing.  God Help Your Friends is a prime example of this – it also demonstrates Callan’s disdain for the work he has to do.

Hunter tells Callan and Cross that the engagement between Beth Lampton (Stephanie Beacham) and Mark Tedder (Michael Jayston) has to be stopped.  Beth works as a top-level interpreter for NATO whilst Tedder is suspected of being an agent for the opposition.  Hunter accepts that they have no definite evidence about Tedder, but the merest hint of suspicion is enough to make their union highly undesirable.

It’s not a job that Callan relishes, so he spends the episode in a very bad mood, taking every opportunity to rile Hunter and Cross.  Callan and Cross spend their time digging for dirt on Tedder and then making sure that Beth knows about it.  This isn’t a problem for Cross, who shares none of Callan’s scruples,  although he does come to believe that if they end the relationship it will be for the girl’s benefit.

At the start, we see that Beth and Tedder are very much in love.  But once a little suspicion and paranoia are introduced, even the strongest relationships can be destroyed.  Hunter is keen for them to achieve this as quickly as possible, but he’s adamant that he doesn’t want anything untoward to happen.  Callan bitterly reassures him that “there are other ways of killing people than with a bullet.”

Hunter assigns Cross to keep an eye on Beth (posing as a time and motion expert) whilst Callan roots around for incriminating evidence.  Initially, Callan assumes that Hunter will want him to romance the girl, but by assigning Cross we can assume that the intention is to infer that Callan’s getting slightly too old to play the lover ….

Beth is a nice girl – possibly too nice and innocent for the world she’s found herself in.  She’s surprised that, despite her sensitive job, her immediate superior wants to know about her engagement.  Given this, it seems clear it would never occur to her that the security services would be at all interested in her or her fiance.

Mark Tedder is a smooth, charming man (played to perfection by the always impressive Michael Jayston).  We never discover if he was actually an agent or not, but that’s not the point of the story.  In the shadowy world of the Section, there’s no judge or jury (although there’s certainly plenty of executioners).

As good as Russell Hunter always was (and Lonely has some nice moments in this one, especially in his first scene, when he’s dressed in a very smart suit, complete with umbrella!) by this point it was sometimes difficult to include him in the episodes without stretching credibility to breaking point.  During the first series (when Callan was still officially out of the Section) Lonely was a useful character, since he could obtain things (such as guns) which Callan couldn’t get any other way.

But by series three he doesn’t fulfill any function that a trained member of the Section couldn’t provide – so it’s sometimes harder to justify his presence.  For example, Callan asks him to break into Tedder’s flat and look for anything that could be used against him.  Callan then waits in the street below and only goes up to the flat once Lonely signals that he’s found something.  Lonely’s ability as a burglar is well-known, but do we really believe that Callan couldn’t have picked the very simple lock on the door or that he’d let Lonely search the flat by himself?

This does, however, give us the one moment of levity in the story – as Lonely excitedly thrusts a series of red-hot letters into Callan’s hand.  “Now the bird that wrote that, that is terrible, that is shocking, she’s got no shame. Now read that, read that.”

But the letters (referring to an old love-affair before Tedder met Beth) don’t do the trick and so Callan has to resort to other methods.  Eventually they succeed, but by the end of the episode there’s no particular cause for celebration.  The final words of the story go to Woodward and once again he delivers the goods.

God Help Your Friends was William Emms’ second and final script for Callan (he also wrote the wiped story The Running Dog for series two).  Active as a writer during the 1960’s and 1970’s he contributed to a number of popular series, such as Redcap, Public Eye, Doctor Who, Mr Rose, Ace of Wands, Z Cars and Owen M.D.

Peter Duguid would eventually direct eleven episodes for Callan, of which this was the eighth.  His direction here is unshowy and straightforward, but he manages to capture good performances from both Beacham and Jayston (who carry many of the key scenes).  Woodward is pushed more into the background, but he’s a constant, brooding presence and plays  Callan’s disgust with the job (and with the way it turned out) to perfection.