Last updated : 9th November 2014
|Episode 'A Stirring of Dust'|
|Story Synopsis||Treacherous spy Thomas Darby escapes from Russia and arrives home with secrets to spill about British Security. He must evade CI5's attempts to capture him, a KGB unit ordered to ship him back to Moscow and vengeful ex-MI6 colleagues out to kill him!||Writer||Don Houghton|
|Guest Stars||Carol Royle, Robert Urquhart, Alan McNaughton, Andre Morell, George Murcell, Billy Boyle||Director||Martin Campbell|
& Filming Dates
|Block 2, Episode 8
|Original UK Transmission||Season 2, Episode 8
25th November 1978
At first this appears to be a fairly routine espionage story but it progresses and develops nicely and is very watchable.
Some good action/violence scenes, too, such as the battle with the two hitmen (a superb stunt with Calinari being flung backwards through the window) and the shoot-out at the solicitor's office.
The killing of agent Forrester by hitmen O'Leary takes place off-screen for some reason - maybe it was filmed but later cut during post-production editing. Also an odd reaction when Doyle says he knew him and Cowley fires back "Then you knew a bloody fool!" - seems overly harsh, even by the Cow's standards.
The plot works well except it seems odd that everybody's been looking for Darby's manuscript for all these years without success, yet nobody except O'Leary thought of asking Helen about it!
This week's guest CI5 agent is played by Miles Hoyle but he was an odd choice of casting as his performance doesn't convince us that his character is one of The Cow's tough guys! On the other hand Alan MacNaughtan looks and plays betrayed ex-spy Sorenson with a wonderfully and appropriately "haunted" demeanour. Hitman O'Leary is supremely terrifying - a fantastic performance from Billy Boyle there.
Not one of my favourites, but a good ep nonetheless.
'Stirring' is one of my favorite episodes and the reasons are in the details. First, it contains one of the finest collections of older character actors I've ever seen. Second, the editing and camera work are as good as it gets. The plot is well done. The dialogue is clever and snappy. While we don't see enough of The Lads, what we do see is fine.
Teamwork and trust: at the stakeout and in the lawyer's office the way they move and think indicates partnership savvy at an amazing level. When Doyle goes into the house to check it, Bodie becomes nervous almost immediately. And when Doyle boots the Italian hit man through the window, Bodie is already running toward rescue. The shootout in the lawyer's office is great! Clockwork timing. Doyle was completely dependent on Bodie there.
Also note that Bodie goes to make sure of the kill while Doyle takes care of the sobbing woman (who is wearing far too much mascara, by the way). Watch Bodie's expressions in this scene. Nice work by LC.
After the kidnapping and before the shootout when Cowley is fussing at his two agents, the writing and acting is terrific. Personalities come through loud and clear. All three are very comfortable with their characters and it shows. No artificial feeling at all - we're actually watching "real" people!
Bodie's idiot lines: "Was she stacked?" (Doyle's reply: "You're a moron."... pause... leer... "Yeah.") and "Dust. Goes right up me hooter." Got to love a man with a keen sense of his own ridiculousness!
Both men get to jump over the bonnet (hood) of Bodie's car (nice to watch in slow-mo), and the car-chase action sequence when the Soviets block them is yet another example of fine physical direction and choreography. The melding of dialogue, character development, plot, relationships and action is reaching a high level of quality at this stage in the show.
Brigadier Stadden: "Fool - he should have stayed in Moscow. Sentimentality is a mortal handicap for spies!"
Cowley, appreciating elderly Stadden's advice: "Thank you, Brigadier."
Stadden: "Oh, please - I like to give you new boys all the help I can!"
Doyle, preparing for a shootout in Pulford's small office: "It's gonna be tight in there."
Bodie: "Like a spinster's girdle, mate!"
KGB agent Yashinkov planning to deal with Darby: "I think that you will find he died next Monday!"
When Darby arrives in England, he has a suitcase but this seems to disappear after he gets into the taxi! (Thanks to Priscilla Aiken)
When Darby is forced into the car by Sorensen, the sound effects of the car accelerating and moving up through gears don't always match what we see on screen. (Thanks to Glen Rea)
In the shoot-out at Pulford's office, Bodie's weapon appears to keep changing between a Smith & Wessson Model 39 and his usual Browning 9mm HP. The scene was shot on two days a fortnight apart, so this may explain the slip-up, although the Browning's tendancy to jam when required to fire a series of blank rounds may have been a reason for switching. (Many thanks to Mark Granat for the info!)
Robert Urquhart (Darby) was another regular guest in ITC's stable and also starred with Gordon Jackson (as Scots brothers) in the Avengers story Castle De'Ath. Best TV role arguably came with the 1982 BBC nuclear threat thriller The Old Men at the Zoo. Passed away in 1995.
Andre Morell (Brigadier Stadden) came briefly out of retirement to film this episode. It was, in fact. his last role and he died just three days after it was first transmitted. He was a veteran support actor starring in classic films such as Bridge on the River Kwai and Ben Hur. Also appeared in various Hammer horrors but may be best remembered for the BBCs 1950s adaptation of Quatermass and the Pit. (Thanks to Andrew Houghton and Shaun Raven)
Alan MacNaughtan (Martin Sorenson) also starred in 'Cry Wolf'. Earlier career highlights include the classic Avengers episode 'Town of No Return' plus the usual rounds of ITC's myriad shows. He later starred in the espionage series The Sandbaggers. Also guested alongside Martin Shaw in an episode of The Chief, playing a neo-Nazi. Passed away in 2002
Carol Royle (Helen) would reappear playing a similar character in 'Dead Reckoning'. Hasn't done a great deal of TV since but did appear in the aborted resurretion of naff soap Crossroads.
George Murcell (Yashinkov) is another of those actors who would pop up regularly in ITC shows of the 1960s - usually playing a Russian! Died in 1998.
Billy Boyle (O'Leary, the Irish hitman) is best remembered as sidekick to popular TV puppet Basil Brush. Has done very little TV work since.
Robin Parkinson (taxi driver) is a comedy actor perhaps best remembered for sweeping Miss Jones off her feet - much to the chagrin of Rigsby - in the classic sitcom Rising Damp. Later would replace the late Jack Haig as Monsieur Leclerc in 'Allo 'Allo.
Michael Petrovitch (the Italian hitman Callinari) had a low-key but busy acting career in the 1970s. Probably best remembered by New Avengers fans as the amnesiac agent Larry in the episode 'Three-Handed Game'. Like many British actors, moved to Australia in the early 1980s but then appears to have quit the business around 1987.
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