Last updated : 15th November 2015
|Story Synopsis||A gangland breakaway faction are trying to start up a street war, but the leader has an ulterior motive.||Writer||Michael Feeny Callan|
|Guest Stars||Michael Kitchen, James Cosmo, Ed Deveraux, Barabara Kellerman, Billy Murray||Director||Martin Campbell|
& Filming Dates
Block 3, Episode 2
|Original UK Transmission||Season 3, Episode 7
8th December 1979
A fast-paced, complicated episode that really needs watching a few times to try to make sense of what is happening! The ep is also high on well-choreographed action sequences. In fact the chase scenes involving the RS2000 are fantastic! Much of the dialogue is clipped and snappy, too. However the ep as broadast has a number of problems...
The plot concerns a crime/terror group with certain political aims that is currently enjoying a period of peaceful negotations between its head, Mr Albie, and the authorities. However two of its members, Duffy (Michael Kitchen) and Glover (James Cosmo), are vehemently opposed to the talks and want to get the Organisation "active" again. They decide to frame Albie for raids on a gun shop and a casino and, ultimately, a bomb planted outside some Government buildings. The two villains carry out these acts themselves but precede each with an anonymous tipoff to CI5 with a codeword usually used by the Organisation. As anticipated, Cowley's mob and the Organisation are soon at each other's throats, the latter protesting its innocence. Although Albie suspects Duffy and Glover, after a frosty meeting with Cowley, he elects to deal with them himself, rather than ask CI5 to help. An ex-CI5 man, Morgan, becomes embroiled in proceedings as he had once tried to infiltrate the Organisation, while his girlfriend, Sylvie, works at a club frequented by Organisation men. Using the ensuing confusion to his advantage, Duffy pursues an additional agenda: he also wants to hit back at Doyle in revenge for the shooting of his brother a few years previously.
All this should have made for a superb rollercoaster ride of an episode but unfortunately the wheels fall off as too many little elements just don't figure or connect...
In fact I'm going to have to use spoilers here to try to explain the myriad problems, so if you'd rather not know what happens, look away!
The political motivations of the Organisation are never explained at all, so Albie and co simply come across as murderous gangsters.
Although the sequence where Bodie is almost "knee-capped" makes for some great action, it doesn't make sense in the context of the story. Following Bodie's brief detention of one the Organisation's henchmen, Albie sanctions deadly revenge - in which he is happy for Doyle to be hit, too. Yet Albie tells his deputy, Ted, that he doesn't want to start a "war" with CI5. Huh?
Morgan's motives are utterly obscure. Having been thrown out of CI5 for reasons never explained, he makes it clear that he doesn't want to get involved with helping Doyle to investigate the gun robbery as he now has a new life. Yet throughout the episode he wants to know what is going on in the Organisation. Is he looking for a way in to hit back at CI5 ?...
We learn that when Morgan was in the squad, he was felt ideally placed to infiltrate the Organisation because his wife at the time, Alice, had relatives who were connected with it. Doyle meets with Alice who claims she is now "well out of it" but immediately following the conversation Doyle catches her making a mysterious phone call (her claim that she was trying to reserve a room at the high-class hotel Claridge's was clearly sarcastic). Naturally he suspects that she was warning somebody in the Organisation that she had been approached by CI5 but we never learn who she was calling and this thread of the story is never taken any further. (See Sidenotes below.)
Later we see a surveillance photo of Duffy and Morgan talking together but it's not explained why they would associate with each other - particularly given their stand-offish chance encounter at the club. And when Morgan later tells Doyle he has some information somebody gave him, what exactly is this and from whom did he get it? Presumably he was referring to Sylvie and the fact that she has been told of the planned casino robbery. But who is Morgan referring to when he says he wants to "see somebody who deserves to be pushed aside get what's coming"? Does he mean Duffy? Again, all this is left unexplained.
Sylvie's involvement with proceedings is confusing to say the least! Although the audience knows that Duffy feeds her the information about The Organisation being "active" and the planned casino robbery as a further ploy to frame the group, surely both she and, especially, Morgan should have been suspicious that a barmaid would be freely given such information?! Of course we know that she and Duffy have started an affair but Morgan isn't aware of that.
My take on this is that Duffy discovered from Sylvie that Morgan was Doyle's contact. So Duffy used Sylvie to ensure Morgan received more "dirt" about Albie in the full knowledge that Morgan would run to Doyle with it, thus bringing the latter out into the open to be killed with the one gun that he had kept from the earlier raid. So Doyle would be dead, killed with a gun apparently stolen by the Organisation: Duffy would have achieved both of his aims.
When Doyle meets Alice again, he makes no mention of her ex-husband's fate - he acts as though nothing has happened. (See Sidenotes below.)
The ending is rather unbelievable, too. A bomb is planted somewhere in a vast car park containing hundreds of vehicles, yet the lads chance upon it in a matter of seconds!?!
When watching this episode, you really have to forget trying to piece together the plot. Although Duffy's motives are very clear, those of other main characters such as Morgan, Alice, Sylvie and Albie are anything but. Despite the confusion, all cast members put their hearts into it with great and believable performances. There are also some nice subtleties such as the scenes of the carefree children playing in the park set against the deadly world that the episode centres around. And the final stand-off between Duffy and Doyle compensates to a fair degree for all the problems.
Some great action - as one would expect from director Martin Campbell - and a nice underlying theme but, while writer Michael Feeny Callan drew up numerous sublime elements, he failed to knit them together into a cohesive whole. One also has to ask question what series Script Editor Gerry O'Hara was doing when this was presented to him.
This could have been one of the best stories of the entire series but it is actually by far the worst because so many fundamental plot points simply lack coherency. I agree with Sharon's suggestion below: this should have been a two-parter.
This is an episode with so much backstory that one viewing is not enough to even begin to understand what's going on. Great failure in overplotting - this should have been done as a two hour film or a to-be-continued in order to give us all we need to know to follow the main plot. As it is, Duffy acts in inscrutable ways and has the oddest connections and very late in the story tells us why he hates Doyle, but... It never, ever gels. Which is too bad because it has great potential.
Further, for non-UKers the "Organization" means nothing. (See the Sidenotes section below -Dave) After a few viewings I figured out it was "organized" crime, but, hey. A little info would have saved a lot of "huh?"
Morgan's character, his ex-wife, Sylvie and Doyle's connection with the first two are all murkily defined. When I show it to newbies I just tell them to watch The Lads and forget the plot.
That said:It's nice to see Bodie snarling at Cowley (again, there must have been something in the past to make Bodie so touchy here). And Cowley snarls right back to the point of humiliating Bodie in front of others, notably Doyle, who seems quite appalled at the put-down and does his best (the wink) to make Bodie feel better as soon as he can. Bodie is clearly hurt and pouting. Nice, matey stuff there.
Bodie at work causing mayhem with the sunglasses and the attitude is fun to watch. Doyle plays a good counterpart to him in this episode. And the finale with the bomb and the two of them less than a second from death, then giggling in relief, is marvelous.
We get to see a bit more Bodie-skin (a rare and choice treat) when Doyle wakes him up in a girlfriend's flat. Since her keys were still in the door, according to Ray, Bodie must have been very preoccupied the evening before to have been so careless. <G> The dialogue here indicates how close the two men are in matters outside the job, IMO.
Fun to watch: the entire scene where Bodie is nearly shot in the knee. They run and scramble so nicely. Bodie in the betting shop, being brutal. The girlfriend's bedroom scene: are there handcuffs on the bedside table? The bomb defusing. Bodie pouting and Doyle winking. Both Lads walking and talking right after leaving a pub. Doyle from the waist down right after Sylvie shoots Duffy – another grand slo-mo moment.
Good viewing, all in all. But ignore the attempt at a complex plot. It doesn't work.
Cowley: "One more sniff of your lot and every Organisation man between here and Inverness spends Christmas in the nick!"
Duffy, on the condemned apartment block where he is hiding out: "Apologies for the regal splendour - the butler's on holiday!"
A few bloopers related to clothing here: firstly Doyle's sunglasses keep disappearing when he and Bodie are ambushed. The same happens to Bodie when he raids the betting shop. And when Doyle is chasing Glover after the casino robbery, his jacket changes! Actually, it's clear from the changes in the weather that the sequence was filmed over two different days... indeed the registration number of Glover's Datsun 180B car changes as well (from FLA 941T to its genuine UMD 25P)
Linda Clarke kindly advised me that "The Organisation" is a term used in Ireland to mean the IRA. Given that one of the characters in the story is Irish, knee-cappings are widely used by the IRA as a form of punishment and Albie's comment that "things are politically favourable for us at the moment", I think this story could very well be about that particular group, though it seems odd that Albie is clearly an Australian!
Post-production, the episode was found to under-run by several minutes. As such new scenes were written by series script editor Gerry O'Hara (rather than the episode's original author, Michael Feeny Callan) to introduce the character of Alice. Unfortunately these hurriedly-written additions exacerbate the story's existing plot flow issues, notably Doyle not telling her of her ex-husband's fate.
In the episode's original script, when the lads try to make the car park bomb safe, they discover that Glover has forgotten to wire up the detonator, rendering the bomb useless. Perhaps Glover simply didn't have the stomach to go through with the bombing? We'll never know. Either way, the modification was an attempt to make the finale more dramatic.
Michael Kitchen was a long-time boyfriend of Joanna Lumley in the 1970s. Previously seen in an episode of Brian Clemens' Thriller series and a string of guest spots in many TV shows during the 1980s. But didn't really come to prominence until playing Prince Charles in the controversial mini-series To Play the King in 1994. More recently has appeared in a couple of Pierce Brosnan Bond films and can presently be seen alongside Martin Shaw in Always and Everyone.
Barbara Kellerman (Sylvie) played a lead in the Edward Woodward series "1990" and starred as the White Witch in the BBC's Chronicles of Narnia. Also landed a tragic role in my fave horror flick The Monster Club (yes, I just had to give it another mention!)
Australian fans may remember Ed Devereaux (Mr Albie) for the 1960s childrens' series about a cuddly kangaroo, Skippy. He also appeared in The New Avengers episode 'The Midas Touch'. In fact he shuttled between the UK and Oz quite a bit, appearing in some of the early Carry Ons, while landing hard-men roles in The Sweeney and the neat Oz thriller Money Movers. Turned to comedy in Whoops, Apocalypse! and a guest role in Absolutely Fabulous. Passed away in December 2003.
James Cosmo (Glover) has been a very busy character actor throughout the last three decades, notable roles including episodes of The Sweeney, Minder, Spender. Was a regular in the BBC drama series Warship.
Billy Murray (Morgan) went on to great success as a dodgy CID sergeant in The Bill. Now a regular in EastEnders.
|Technical Notes||For current TV transmissions and earlier VHS/DVD releases, the picture quality on this episode benefits from a virtually no dirt or damage. However the dialogue track is rather muted in comparison to the music & effects track. There is also a brief audio problem towards the end of the ep: Duffy fires two shots at Doyle which slam into a chimney stack but there is no accompanying sound effect - presumably the Music&Effects track was damaged at this point and it was decided to remove it altogether. Happily this is not a problem on Network's BluRay and (future) DVD releases.)|
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