Last updated : 15th November 2015
|Story Synopsis||CI5 teams up with Hong Kong police to crack a heroin smuggling operation that uses innocent Chinese.||Writer||Roger Marshall|
|Guest Stars||James Marcus, John Forgeham, Sharon Duce, Gary Shail, Chai Lee||Director||Douglas Camfield|
& Filming Dates
Block 3, Episode 12
|Original UK Transmission||Season 4, Episode 6
12th October 1980
A very interesting underlying idea, bringing together a number of issues that are still relevant today: drug addiction, homelessness, the use of crime to stir up political difficulties and, most significantly, support and protection for minority races in the UK. The episode does have its failings, though...
The main plot isn't clear as the direction is a little "unfocussed" at times and the script largely follows Bodie and Doyle's undercover activities rather than the villains. But the performances from the stars and main guest cast are all superb - notably John Forgeham as the gloriously bonkers - but deeply racist - Detetective Sergeant Colin and his sidekick Jack, as played by James Marcus.
There is much excellent, sharp, funny dialogue to keep the story simmering along. It's essentially an episode that takes the show's format and stretches it... but ultimately to breaking point, sadly.
The plot itself is that Chinese Triads and an East German agent are shipping illegal drugs from Hong Kong to US servicemen stationed in West Germany. The contraband is routed through the UK in an effort to stir up political trouble between the Brits and Americans. Furthermore the Triads are forcing innocent members of the London Chinese community to act as couriers. However in the key "establishing" scene with Cowley and the American ambassador, it isn't at all clear what's going on. And that is where the episode ultimately fails: it needs a few viewings to understand. Given very few of us had VCRs in 1980, the original transmission must have left most viewers rather bewildered by it all!...
... And it isn't clear where the plotline concerning young Jimmy fits in. If the connection is simply that his dead girfriend was American, the significance of this point is completely missed. The means by which he comes to the attention of the Triads is unexplained, too. Much time is spent with his sister, Annie, but it has the same problem and ultimately leads to nowhere. No disrespect to Roger Marshall or the actors but Sharon Duce's scenes are rendered obscure and redundant - which doesn't tally with Roger's usual ability to handle ancilliary characterisation and plot subtleties. (Some Australian repeats of this episode in the 1980s dropped her scenes entirely.)
There are some great scenes here, though, such as Doyle being "interrogated" by the maverick cops - they make a fantastically obnoxious double-act! Then there is Bodie's convincing stint as the junkie, the continual playfully teasing banter between Esther and Doyle, the fight between them and the Triads and the scene with Cowley and the property dealer eager to have the houses used by the junkies declared unsafe so he can tear them down - "You tell me two people have died. Tell me twenty-two people have died and I could get excited!". Great cameo by George Little here - why did he never become a high-profile actor? - portraying an outwardly genial chap but with dark motives - indeed some of the more controversial aspects of the character's ideas were cut for during post-production editing.
Even the odd couple in the shalet are treated to some great dialogue and characterisation. ("Don't forget the family album!")
On the subject of Colin and Jack, their dialogue is peppered with racist terms but I think Roger Marshall's objective here was to make them offensive in order to show how increasingly unsuitable they and similar police officers were becoming during those troubled times. And, unlike 'Klansmen', this time around London Weekend Television appears to have understood and accepted the motivation.
But the humour is well-balanced by scenes of suffering and death. For example Ngan Hung's daughter tells of the murders of her uncle and brother because they refused to act as drug couriers. She complains how poorly Chinese people are represented in the UK - "No Chinese MPs"*... still true today, surprisingly. (* MP = Member of Parliament)
There is a rather odd little scene towards the end of the episode in which Doyle and Esther are waiting - both half-asleep - in the car to hear news of one of the couriers returning to the UK. It serves absolutely no purpose...
... And although the return of the maverick cops towards the end of the ep provides more comedy value, their presence in terms of the plot is pointless.
When one of the couriers, Chi Sang, returns to the UK, he is to pass the drugs to master criminal Cheng on a tube train but we don't see this scene: it's merely implied using post-production voiceover. Indeed it's not clear that they are even on the same train together as the two characters share no screen time.
Also the script never dwells on the main villains, Kroll and Cheng - indeed the former only has a single scene!
The showdown by the shalets is rather moronic, to be honest, with hard, ruthless Bodie massacring a perfectly innocent set of garden furniture for no apparent reason.
Still, there's a nicely unusual downbeat ending for CI5. And, as ever with a Roger Marshall script, there are stacks of characterisation on display: Esther distraught at having to leave Ray to return to Hong Kong, yet he clearly doesn't reciprocate as strongly, responding with an enigmatic "Come on, cops can't cry - it's not allowed. It says so in 'the book'". Nice but rather odd at the same time! That said, what was possibly intended here was that Esther was also upset about the seeming futility in trying to protect Chinese people in the UK.
Overall an episode with some great individual scenes but ultimately doomed by rushed or missing links in the plot - in a similar manner to the third season's 'Runner'. It really needed to be a two-parter.
I love this episode. There is a great deal wrong with it but when it's right, it's terrific.
For instance Bodie, dirty and in leather, smoking a joint is worth the price of admission and Doyle's role as a fruit-seller is a replay over-and-over.
But so much is going on that to cram it into one hour was a huge mistake. Further there are numerous scenes which ought to have been either eliminated or cut. You have to wonder what the editor was doing - clearly not working!
Good things: The dialogue between Bodie and Doyle in the market. Doyle, making jokes and laughing at them. Bodie, as mentioned in dirt & leather. Doyle naked to the waist in his jammies, sipping wine and fooling around with Esther. Bodie, dealing with the sister of the dead kid. The bit of dialogue about the "heart attack hump" and Bodie shooting up the lawn. Doyle, getting a bit of his own back from the coppers who'd rousted him.
Very nice editing cut from Doyle drinking wine to Bodie slurping milk from a bottle. Nice little jokes in the scene with Cowley - "sock soup, yummy. They think I'm an American actor."
The plot itself is excellent and I like the unresolved ending. But this story needed more than the fifty minutes or less than it got. My recommendation for this one is forget the story, use your fast forward and just watch the Lad parts. Even though they're not together much when they are, it sings and on their own they still are wonderful.
Esther: "What are we celebrating?"
Doyle: "The fire that gutted Jackman's winebar."
Esther, bemused: "It's an ill wind..."
Doyle: "That's what Jackman said... as he picked up the insurance cheque!"
Doyle, Yiddish accent: " 'Sorry to hear about your fire, Hymie'. 'Shut up, you fool, Moshie - it's not until tomorrow night!' "
Esther doesn't react.
Doyle, explaining: "Traditional Western joke!"
Esther, still not laughing: "Traditional Eastern inscrutability!"
Cowley, about to be introduced to Jimmy: "Who does he think I am?"
Bodie: "A man from the ministry."
Cowley: "How did we meet?"
Bodie, slightly reticent: "Errr... well I said I do a bit of work for you."
Cowley, fuming: "Oh, thank you! Couldn't have been something legal, I suppose?!"
Cowley: "You own some properties off the Talgarth Road?"
Property developer Meyer, genial: "Be truer to say there are some properties off the Talgarth Road that I do not own... but not many!"
Cowley: "37 Chesterton, to be precise."
Meyer shudders: "Oh, don't remind me!"
Cowley: "What's the problem?"
Meyer: "I have no problem - the local council is the problem! You ever heard of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood?"
Cowley, thrown: "Er... a group of painters and poets... Millais, Rossetti..."
Meyer: "Yeah, yeah. Well a lesser member - William Morris' brother-in-law or somebody - spent a couple of nights there once. Next thing you know, some snotty hotshot slaps a preservation order on me: 'Architectural Interest'. Eighteen perfectly good service flats not being built because of a no-talent artist and some long-haired fairy in the Town Hall."
Cowley: "Hence the squatters. You realise there have been two deaths there in the last six weeks?"
Meyer, sincerely: "Mr Cowley, I would like to help you, really I would. But my hands are tied."
Cowley: "I could help you evict - unofficially, of course."
Meyer, laughing: "You really don't understand the property business, do you? I want those squatters out like you want another hole in your head!"
Cowley, confused: "You don't want them out?!"
Meyer, darkly: " 'Course I don't. I want them to burn the damned place down! Every day my secretary calls North Thames Gas to ask them to reconnect. Late at night I drive around there, my chauffeur pushes firelighters through the letter-box. We leave cans of paraffin on the doorstep and fly-blown sausages. A fire, a plague, a bit of botulism - they are my only hope!"
Cowley, now understanding: "You want it condemned!"
Meyer, grinning: "You're learning! Yes, a fire hazard, a health hazard, any damned sort of hazard, I don't care! You tell me two people have died... tell me twenty-two people have died and I could get excited!"
Esther: "Do you like Peking Duck?"
Doyle, in amourous mood: "I like peeking at anything Chinese!"
Doyle, after Bodie has machine-gunned some garden tables: "You missed one!"
Bodie takes aim but...
Doyle: "Get out of it, hotshot!"
When young Jimmy first enters the house we see that Bodie has just lit up a new joint. The camera quickly cuts back and forth between the two so that just a few seconds later the joint is nearly finished! (Thanks to Mike Morgan)
Cowley complains of the heat in the American Embassy and the Ambassador says that it's like that to keep the computers running. Eh???!!! Surely what the computers actually need is to be kept cool!?!
Not too sure of this one. When Chi Sang leaves his restaurant in the blue Datsun, agent 2-4 tails him in what initially appears to be Cowley's red Granada but is subequently the red Cortina used later in the ep. (Thanks to John Hammond)
In the scene where Doyle and Esther wait in the car to hear news of Chi Sang returning to the UK, they are sat in the red Ford Cortina rather than Doyle's usual Ford Escort RS2000. Yet the Cortina is actually in use by another CI5 agent at the same time!! I suspect what happened here is that because there was no other need for the Capri or RS2000 in this episode, for reasons of budget/time/logistics, the production team decided to "recycle" the Cortina.
Bodie, Doyle and a CI5 driver are sat in the red Cortina at the end of the episode - but when the scene switches, it only contains the driver!
|Sidenotes||Bit of a family affair, this one. John Forgeham played maverick cop DS Colin while his real-life wife Fiesta Mae Ling played Siu Sang, whose children were played by Jason and Jonesta Forgeham!|
After progressing from a regular in early episodes of the original Crossroads soap and as a Mini driver in The Italian Job, John Forgeham usually guested as either villains or coppers in series such as Sweeney, Minder, Shoestring, Juliet Bravo and then to Prime Suspect. Most recently seen in the dire ITV drama Footballers' Wives.
James Marcus (Colin's sidekick, DC Black) appeared in the 1970s kids show Grandad but is best known for the long-running fire brigade drama London's Burning.
Sharon Duce (Annie, Jimmy's sister) played Ray Brooks' wife in the 1984 BBC comedy drama series about an addicted gambler, Big Deal. Still occasionally guests in dramas such as Casualty and Mersey Beat.
Pik Sen Lim (Chai Ling, the restaurant owner's daughter) also appeared in the superb New Avengers episode 'The Midas Touch' and then in Martin Shaw's dreary Cream in My Coffee.
Gary Shail (Jimmy) starred in the classic Mod drama Quadrophenia (a proving-ground for many upcoming young actors at the time) but followed it up with the dire 1980 robot comedy Metal Mickey (created by Monkee Mickey Dolenz). Also appeared in David Wickes' productions of Jack the Ripper and Jeckyll and Hyde.
Vincent Wong (one of the Triad kidnappers) had a much meatier part in Discovered in a Graveyard'. Passed away in 2015.
Rex Wei (the other kidnapper) also appeared in Graveyard! Quite an active guest artist in the early 1980s, perhaps most memorably in an episode of Only Fools and Horses as the unfortunate owner of a restaurant who gets his establishment decorated with luminous paint!
Chai Lee (Esther) seemed to have an ascending acting career, having already starred as the Triad leader in the delightfully bonkers second season of the BBC's 'Gangsters'. She can be briefly spotted in the 1981 James Bond pic 'For Your Eyes Only' but inexplicably dropped out of acting shortly afterwards.
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