Last updated : 15th November 2015





Episode 'The Acorn Syndrome'
Story Synopsis A British Government engineer working on a defence project must betray secrets to enemy agents in return for his kidnapped daughter. Writer John Kruse
Guest Stars Ronald Hines, Alan Igbon Director Martin Campbell
Production Order
& Filming Dates
Block 3, Episode 9
10th to 26th September 1979Main shoot, although 18th and 19th September were used exclusively for delayed shooting on 'Fugitive instead.
Original UK TransmissionSeason 4, Episode 1
7th September 1980
Dave's Comment
Story
Action
Pace
Humour
Violence

A greatly over-used plot, of course, but the pacing keeps it going well and the chase scene with the antique desk is hilarious!

At the end of the chase, Lewis rounds the corner and bashes the car onto the kerb I suspect this wasn't supposed to happen! Apparently the car was badly damaged and required a suspension rebuild.

There's also some great banter, too again, usually in the famous "car scenes". And the scene with B, D, C, Lucas and McCabe discussing the fate of Cowley's desk is great, camp stuff. Cowley is NOT amused by any of this! (And one marvels at how Gordon managed to keep a straight face!) Bodie simply keeps quiet.

Doyle reckons that England will soon have electric fences and guard dogs around every house. Well that ain't happened yet and it's the only occasion I can think of where social commentary from the characters doesn't stand up.

The hostage-taking scene, although not overly violent, is heart-stopping - top marks to director Martin Campbell and to actor Alan Igbon as the terrified and terrifying villain.

The ep moves along very nicely and even Doyle's long drive around the countryside isn't drawn out. The scene with Mrs Forbes (Sue Nicholls) was fun - did Doyle fancy this attractive, well-to-do woman? We'll never know!

The finale is the usual action blockbuster and well-staged, with great camera-work providing a neat surprise for the villains and audience. My only gripe - and this is in direct opposition to Sharon's comment below - is the exhange of fire is far too dangerous with the young girl being present and seemed like too much of an easy way out. A similar situation arises in 'Cry Wolf' but Bodie doesn't take such risks.

A young Oona Kirsch gives a wonderful performance as Sandy - particularly in the terrifying shootout.

A routine story but dressed up in so many terrific individual scenes - one of the best episodes of the whole series, I think.

Sharon's Comment

This was a good episode to start off the fourth series. It begins and ends on a light note, both Lads look great and the dialogue is excellent. While the "chase scene" with the desk is pure burlesque, the rest of the hostage segment is played with such excellent direction and attention to small detail we might as well be at a real crime scene.

Notice the frequency here of "exchanged glances" between the two men. They have their characters now to where one knows what the other is thinking and vice-versa. (Keep this in mind for 'Wild Justice'.) Very believable partnership. Also a nice touch with Cowley having sent them on a personal errand on their day off they gripe but they do it.

Once Bodie loses the Awful Gray Jacket, the visuals take on a new level of enjoyment. Bodie in Black with the brown leather jacket is a delight to behold. And could Doyle's trousers be much tighter? Don't think so. When he dons the high boots late in the show are those "wellies" (yes Dave) it's not just the "handsome country matron" who's salivating. <G>

The scene at the school with the well-mannered young lady and Doyle in dialogue is terrific fun. Oh, forgot to mention: in this show we get several examples of Doyle laughing at his own jokes. Nice use of an ongoing annoying-but-endearing character trait by Martin Shaw.

Lovely series of Bodie close-ups during the stake-out of the house. Lewis does look good through a night filter. And Bodie in Black, running and laying down on the porch to read the ransom note Yum. I also enjoyed Bodie stranded and whining about it.

The final scenes are well done with cuts to show what both Lads are up to. Doyle's killing the bad guy was clean, neat and very professional. Easy to forget with the cuteness that these men are deadly!

An enjoyable show.

Dialogue

Bodie, after ruining Cowley's new desk: "Don't look back!"

Doyle: "Eh? Why not?"

Bodie: "Cowley - he'll turn you into a pillar of salt!"


Cowley: "I suppose you heard what happened to my desk? Smashed beyond recognition... minus its drawers."

Mac: "Nasty. On that evidence I'm surprised you don't charge them with anything less than rape!"

Doyle, seeing the Apex Macinross office: "Bet there's plenty of desks going spare in there!".


Guthrie, accepting that his assistant is being forced to betray Defence secrets: "Suppose Copeland shows up here?"

Cowley: "Say nothing."

Guthrie: "What?!!"

Cowley: "Nothing! Kidnap parents cannot be appealed to... or relied on."

Bloopers

The initial car chase seems to have been filmed on different days as interior shots of the lads' car seem to show raindrops on the windows, yet the exterior shots show it is clearly a fine day. (Thanks to John Herring). Also, in the shot following the opening titles, one of the students' car's wheel hubcap flies off - but they are all intact in subsequent scenes.

When Copeland turfs the lads out of his house, we glimpse Doyle and Bodie go to the driver's and passenger's doors of the Capri respectively - yet in the next scene, with them backing out of the driveway, it is Bodie who is driving. (Thanks to Ian Bradbury)

Bodie bounds across the road to plant a tracer on the blue Hillman Avenger but the bug promptly falls off the speeding car! Playing the scene in slo-mo helps here. (Thanks to Tom Moorcroft)

When Doyle reverses the truck, the camera crew can be clearly seen in the reflection of the window. (Thanks to Scott Boydle).

Sidenotes The car chase and subdsequent hostage-taking was possibly inspired by the infamous Balcombe Street siege of December 1975 in which a small IRA unit, being chased by police through London, burst into a Marylebone flat and took the occupying couple hostage. (The siege lasted six days, with full television coverage throughout and thankfully ended peacefully.)
Deja Vu

Actress Lynda Marchal (Mrs Copeland) is now better known as TV crime thriller writer (Prime Suspect, Widows, etc) Lynda La Plante.

Michael Craig (Guthrie) is probably best remembered (though doubtless he'd like us to forget it!) as the ship's captain in the BBC's infamously ludicrous soap Triangle. According to the IMDB he also co-created a great little 1976 Australian series called The Outsiders about a couple of wealthy guys who turn their backs on the high-life and head off into the outback - anybody remember this show?

Alun Lewis (McCabe) starred in the naff but long-running sitcom Birds of a Feather and had a long stint on farming soap Emmerdale. Is brother of Shelley star Hywel Bennett.

Nigel Humphreys (Joe, the curly-headed villain at the farm) starred as a prison officer in the BBC's highly controversial 1975 drama Scum and its 1979 film version. Also starred in Who Dares Wins as the officer who leads the rescue of Skellen's wife and child. More recently seen as a semi-regular on The Bill.

Alan Igbon (the black student) will always be remembered as Loggo in the classic anthology series Boys from the Blackstuff. Also starred in the contraversial Borstal drama Scum and played a villain in a few episodes of soap Brookside during its heyday in the mid-1980s.

Sue Nicholls (Mrs Forbes) is of aristocratic extraction but chose singing and acting as a profession. Best remembered roles are the for classic sitcom The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin and a very long stint in soap Coronation Street. Fans of classic kids' TV may also recall her regular appearances in Pipkins and Rentaghost.

Hilary Crane (Miss Kendall, Guthrie's PA) played the long-suffering mother of Tucker Jenkins in Grange Hill. Sadly passed away in 2009.

Despite several lines of dialogue in the opening scene, Billy Kerry, playing the workshop owner, doesn't receive a credit in the closing titles for some reason.

Technical Notes During the siege, the team is supplemented by a police presence and Cowley speaks with Detective Inspector Grainger (played by John Michael McCarthy) a number of times. However this character's lines of dialogue are barely audible. I am guessing that McCarthy's microphone had turned out to be faulty and his lines needed to be re-dubbed - occasionally failing to lip-sync correctly! - in post-production but this seems to have gone wrong as well. Despite the excellent remastering of the visual and audio elements of the episodes for the BluRay release, this particular problem remains. Additionally, later in the story, whenever Doyle contacts CI5 HQ via R/T, the (offscreen) voice of the duty officer sounds the same as that which was used to redub Grainger!
Locations
Cowley sends the lads to pick up a new office desk from a workshop in Ossian Mews, Ossian Road, Stroud Green.
When two students threaten Doyle after he accidentally exposes his gun, the chase is on! Firstly on Ellington Road, Muswell Hill. In the screenshot a tall building can be seen in the right background. In reality it's actually a lot further away than it appears - the shot having been taken with a telephoto lens.
The second shot in the car chase sequence is a bit of a cheat as we're now coming back along Ellington Road but in the opposite direction, turning into it from the junction with St James' Lane.
Next we're on Linden Road. This was a bit tricky to positively identify until the last fraction of a second in the scene when Bodie's Cortina whizzes past a distinctive-looking house.
The next shot is another cheat as we're now further back up Linden Road.
The lads, ahem, lose their drawers on Leinster Road!
The entire desk makes a successful bid for freedom at the junction of Ellington Road, Linden Road and Leinster Road.
By now the local cops are on the trail, here on By The Wood, Carpenders Park, Oxhey (near Watford). Again a tele-photo lens appears to have been used here as the row of garages seen in the background is much further away from the post-box than they appear on-screen.
The students dump their car and take a family hostage at 37 The Hoe, By The Wood, Carpenders Park.
Discovering a possible link between the students and a nearby weapons research centre, the lads head for Apex McInross, via the aforementioned By The Wood, Carpenders Park. This one was tricky to spot but the screenshot here shows the junction with what seems to be the easternmost entrance to the small "Margeholes" estate - certainly the buildings in the proximity appear to match.
Most of the exterior and interior shots of Apex McInross were actually Combermere Barracks, Saint Leonards Road, Windsor. The forensics lab may have been shot here, also.
Apex is headed by Guthrie, whose offices are documented as actually having been filmed at 46 High Street, Slough.
The lads search the students' lodgings, which is documented as having been filmed at 35 Loraine Road, Holloway. During the scene we see them talk to Cowley on the R/T - he's actually parked outside.
Having ordered a watch be put on Guthrie, Cowley collects the lads and all three head to the surveillance house, via Holloway Road, Holloway. Note, however, that the house itself was actually the aforementioned 35 Loraine Road!
Guthrie's assistant, Copeland, is the next target for investigation. Ostensibly attending his daughter's school sports day, the lads investigate. The school is actually All Saints Pastoral Care Centre, Shenley Lane, London Colney. Photo reproduced by kind permission of Philip Russell of the St Albans Branch of The Church of England Guild of Vergers
Copeland's house is "The Trees", Barham Avenue, Elstree. Unfortunately it's a private road and therefore can't be reached on Google Street View.
The lads realise they are being watched but turn tables and pursue along Watling Street, Elstree.
Information from the forensics man examining the students' car suggest that it travelled across a small water stream. This is documented as having been filmed somewhere in Black Park, Fulmer.
The farmhouse where the Copelands' daughter is being held was Shenleybury Farm in Shenley but it's since been demolished and replaced by houses.
Evidence from the students' car suggests they drove it to a farm. Doyle visits a local estate agent to check on possibilities. This is documented as having been filmed at what was Bucklands & Son Estate Agent at 44 High Street, Slough, though we only see the interior.
The first and third farms Doyle visits are the same location: Buckettsland Farm, Shenley. Previously this had been an easy one to spot but shrubbery growth has almost completely obscured the view of it now.
The second farm is Ravenscroft Farm, Mimms Lane, Rabley but it now seems to be called Ashbridge Lodge and the house has been significantly redeveloped and extended.
Having received instructions from his daughter's kidnappers, Copeland sets off to make contact with them, first stopping at a phone box on London Road, Shenley. This was a little tricky to spot but when he drives away, the White Horse pub can seen in the background.
Copeland arrives for further instructions at the second phonebox, coming via Brook Road, Borehamwood and stopping by the junction with Warenford Way. Again not easy to positively identify - particularly with the ludicrous photography used for the shot, much of it obscured by bushes. However the surrounding houses do largely match what we see on-screen. In the screenshot I've highlighted decorative brickwork which can be seen on the Google Street View.
The final phonebox was on Stratfield Road, Borehamwood.
Additional scenes representing Copeland's house - notably those of Mac in the greenhouse - were later shot on Pinewood Green, Iver and this was used for mobilising Bodie's colleagues in the Ford Cortina. This location was a little tricky to identify as the house in the background has had significant re-construction work since 1979, most notably losing the nice porch - but at least the white lintil, lamppost and telegraph pole remain as tell-tales!
Copeland continues along Stratfield Road...
... in the next shot, however, he's coming along the same road in the opposite direction!
Copeland meets with the kidnappers at North Thames Gas Works, Uxbridge Road, Slough. Many thanks to Sue Curtis for the photo!



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