Last updated : 9th November 2014
|Episode 'Private Madness, Public Danger'|
|Story Synopsis||A biochemist, appalled by the potential military use of his expertise, threatens to contaminate London's water supplies and arranges small but deadly "demonstrations" to force the government into ceasing further research.||Writer||Anthony Read|
|Guest Stars||Keith Barron, Trevor Adams, Donald Douglas, Christopher Ellison||Director||Douglas Camfield|
& Filming Dates
|Block 1, Episode 6
|Original UK Transmission||Season 1, Episode 1
30th December 1977
A disturbing episode – it would seem so easy for somebody to do this. Indeed the story seems partly based on the alleged plot by the IRA's "Balcombe Street" active service unit to poison a London reservoir. However I still cannot understand why LWT insisted this be the opening story, when 'Old Dog with New Tricks' was clearly intended to be the pilot and is a better episode, anyway.
Nevertheless this segment has some fine moments and dialogue: the "Music Hall Act" scene, of course, the interrogation of Sutton is superbly acted by all three participants and the way Bodie handles the drug-racked Susan shows that even in these early stories he was a more complex character than people usually give him credit for.
The episode moves along at a splendid lick and the action scenes are well-choreographed but none of the support characters really captured my imagination. Indeed it really needed to afford more time to Nesbitt's background so we could sympathise with his ideals - the story rather portrays him as simply a dangerous lunatic rather than somebody with a desire to stop research into biochemical weapons.
Favourite line: "What are you two? Some kind of Music Hall act?" / "Whatever we are, you made us!"
The ongoing theme (remember, this is supposed to be the second episode!) of competitiveness between B and D is shown in opening scene where they're shooting at targets. Here we also see the continuation of the bad "jokes" from Bodie and participation in the comedy angle from Doyle. The dialogue in this episode is more natural and Doyle has lost some of his "staginess". However, he does wear the Infamous Plaid Jacket for the first time, foreshadowing some serious wardrobe-challenged moments in later eps. Doyle is still driving here. Doyle also is acquiring interesting personal characteristics: e.g. the "sniff" he gives just before he decides to wait with Benny for the strip show to end before arresting Sutton. MS seems to be "getting" the character now (IMO Lew had Bodie from the start).
The plot is scary and possible. Nice use of an idealistic nutcase who actually wants to do harm. One false note: the "tasting" of Susan's heroin stash – c'mon, guys! Good technique with the two interrogations: Bodie of Susan and Cowley and Doyle of Sutton. One done with kindness and some mild emotional brutality and the other with near extreme brutality! Nice cuts back and forth here.
Bodie's character doesn't have a lot of development in this one, but Doyle's nasty side comes through loud and clear: first the scene where he fakes beating up Benny but definitely intimidates the real villians in the bar and second when he deals with Sutton. The way he says "CI5" and gives poor Sutton that Look... my, my! When Cowley is actually preparing (and I think he would have) to shoot up Sutton we can see Doyle's concern. He seems willing enough to go along, though. And at the end of the show when Nesbitt, defeated utterly and wounded, lies in the bottom of their boat for the ride back, Doyle shakes his fist at the man. Ray has a multi-faceted personality!
Twice B and D go counter to Cowley's direct orders - this in contrast to their unquestioned obedience in 'Old Dog with New Tricks'. As they move into action during the climax of the story we see real physical teamwork and get to see Doyle almost fly as he crosses the wooden bridge. MS was in marvellous shape!
Bodie manages to kid around during what was a potential disaster of tremendous proportions, and Doyle chides him.
But at the end they again walk off together!
Cowley: "World Chemical Products. Man just fell out of a seventh-storey window."
Doyle: "That's police business"
Cowley: "He jumped."
Bodie: "That's his business!"
Cowley: "Somebody had just slipped him a drug - him and half the staff there."
Bodie and Doyle: "Well that's Drugs Squad business!"
Cowley, now exasperated: "What are you two, some kind of music hall act?!"
Bodie: "Whatever we are, you made us!"
Cowley, on Susan: "Will she live?"
Bodie: "God knows."
Cowley: "Yes but unfortunately I haven't been in touch with Him for some time."
Bodie: "Mammoth overdose."
Cowley, dismayed: "She's a pretty girl. ADX."
Bodie: "Mind-blowing drug in the coffee."
Cowley: "We know why, now. Demand arrived on the PM's desk an hour ago."
Bodie: "What, 'Pay up or else..'?"
Cowley: "I wish it was. No, this is idealism. God save us from idealists!"
Bodie: "Thought you and He weren't talking?"
Cowley, "Oh, He does me the occasional favour!"
Susan, waking in hospital from her drug-addled state: "George."
Bodie, keen to keep her attention: "I'm here Susan."
Susan: "Can't be. He was my cat. White Persian. Had to have him put down."
Bodie: "Well I'm the next best thing. Not white and fluffy but plenty of girls think I should be put down!"
Susan, still recovering in hospital: "Who are you?"
Bodie: "Well let's just say I'm the Not Very Bad Samaritan!"
Cowley: "I'm going to hoist you with your own petard, Mr Sutton. I'm going to turn you into an addict. A crash-course in addiction - a craving, crawling, do-anything-for-money junkie."
On Nesbitt's arrival at the reservoir in the pre-titles, the camera pans past a sign announcing "World Chemical Products Sports and Social Club". The sign misspells the word "secretary". (Well-spotted Jamie Davis!)
When Bodie and Doyle arrive at World Chemical Products, they meet some of the senior staff in Mr Harvey's office. Revealing that chief chemical analyst Mr Cummings would be able to test the vending machines for ADX, Harvey appears to pick up the telephone to talk to Cummings.... despite the fact he is stood in the very same office!?! (Thanks to "Nicolas")
The original title for this episode was "Timebomb".
Some time after this episode was repeated by ITV in 1979, a cut was made which has endured on subsequent UK TV transmissions (and the Video Gems release of 1992). Just prior to the title sequence we see Nesbitt hand Susan some drugs. In uncut versions we then see Susan tightening her belt around her arm. Using Nesbitt's cigarette lighter to sterilise a needle, she then shoots up. The excision may have come about because of a tightening up of censorship rules by the Independent Broadcasting Authority (or Independent Television Committee as they are now known). Thankfully the missing segment is present on the VCI's 1988 release, Contender's video and DVD issues and Network's 2014 DVD and BluRay issues. Very many thanks to DanaJeanne Norris and Ros Connors for info!
Keith Barron (Nesbitt) has been a well-known face on TV since the early 1970s, with myriad leading roles in various sitcoms (eg Duty Free, Haggard, The Good Guys) and one-off police dramas such as '1998' and Police 2020. Recently starred in the BBC's National Crime Squad: Manhunt mini-series.
Di Trevis (Susan) appeared in a great Sweeney episode, 'Bait' but dropped out of acting in the early 1980s until the early 2000s.
Trevor Adams (Benny) was a regular in the 1970s sitcom The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin but quit acting in the 1990s and sadly passed away in 2000.
Penny Irving (Pam the, ahem, "exotic dancer") was a nurse to young Mr Grace in Are You Being Served? and starred in early seasons of the holiday camp sitcom Hi-De-Hi. Nothing since as far as I'm aware.
Christopher Ellison - in a small role here but later to appear in 'The Rack' - became a major player in ITV's long-running police drama The Bill as Detective Inspector Burnside. Also starred in the terrific 1986 children's drama Running Scared concerning small-time villains running inner-city protection rackets. More recently seen as a dodgy land developer in Martin Shaw's Judge John Deed series.
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