Last updated : 1st August 2016
|Episode 'Operation Susie'|
|Story Synopsis||The head of shady Government department MI17 tries to cover up a catastrophically bungled drugs raid involving South American nationals who are trying to topple their own corrupt regime.||Writer||Ranald Graham|
|Guest Stars||Harold Innocent, Alice Krige, P H Moriarty||Director||Ian Sharp|
& Filming Dates
|Block 4, Episode 12
|Original UK Transmission||Season 5, Episode 2
14th November 1982
Fantastic episode! The complex, twisty plot never allows itself to be sidelined in favour of the usual fast-moving, explosive action. In many ways this is almost the perfect Professionals story. If ever the mooted movie is made, arguably this ep could be a strong contender for big-screen adaptation.
The opening scenes are violent and essentially set the tone for the rest of the episode, with MI17 head Northcott prepared to use extreme measures to protect his decidedly extra-curricular interests.
There are some question marks over the plot's credibility, however. For example Diana and her gang don't look like they could tackle a corrupt traffic warden, never mind an entire South American government! Northcott's true motives are never revealed - why is he siding with the new Escondian rulers against official British Government policy? And why are some of his subordinates prepared to be accessories to treason? (See Sidenotes).
The wider political implications of Northcott's actions are glossed over rather quickly in the script - see Sidenotes below. Without putting "spoilers" here, Escondia had been a democracy, enjoying mutually-beneficial trading links with Britain. However there had been a coup d'etat by corrupt military forces, which flout international Human Rights law. As countries, including Britain, turned their moral backs on the new regime and imposed trading sanctions, Escondia and its citizens were thrown into poverty and the only source of income became home-grown cocaine. But, recognising the increasing plight of Escondia's people, the British Government secretly hatches a plan with a large trade union to restart legitimate economic relationships, while Diana's group attempt to garner funds for their own support campaign by hijacking Escondia's state-sponsored drugs deals. And yet Cowley's contact in the union reveals a final twist in the tale.
Overall it's an episode that needed more than the usual 50 minutes.
Missing details aside, this is a great episode in many ways. Cowley's fight against Government bureaucracy to protect the students is supremely scripted and believable. And the aspects around Escondia's takeover, the sanctions against it leading to illicit drugs becomings it sole means of income and inevitable poverty of its citizens are very much reflective of some real-life countries. Top marks there to writer Ranald Graham for tackling such a tricky subject.
On the action side of things, fave scenes include the opening (and rather alarming!) shoot-out, Harris chasing Diana and Rudi through the hospital, ultimately leading to another firefight (Laurie's simple but effective music adds greatly to the tension here - and the same theme is used again when the lads take to the railway sidings for safety) and the rescue from the hotel.
The guest cast is on top-form as usual - even some of them with minor parts, such as Jim Wiggins as Dr Roberts. Maggie Henderson plays a great foil for Cowley - huge pity she wasn't used in other eps. Whatever happened to her? John Line plays reclusive Security Liaison man Somerfield with just a touch of seediness and resignation of his character's dubious occupation, never quite managing to look Cowley in the face.
"Anticipate interference with maximum prejudice - you are not alone!"
This one has a very complex plot and needs to be watched carefully, otherwise it's possible to misjudge George Cowley's behavior. Given the complexity, I think it ought to have been a two-parter.
Doyle is gorgeous throughout. The dark jacket and scarf, the curls, the slightly thinner face. Ah.
Bodie's a bit "puffy", though it may be the clothing he wears. Nevertheless, I rather prefer him that way, so it wasn't a problem for me.
Listen to the banter in the first part during the scene where they're starting investigation at the university – lovely, witty stuff with that gentle casual familiarity which makes the pair so believable as long-term partners.
The "interrogation" scene with Diana and the trio is excellent from the point of view of dialogue, camera work and acting. Well, well done on all parts. Miss Krige is quite good throughout, though her character is made rather flat. Again, a longer teleplay might have fixed that problem.
Judging from the dialogue, this is not the first "Operation Susie" the boys have been through. Again, no back story, leaving us wondering.
Bodie seems to have a bit of a death-wish toward the end, though once the shooting's over, he restrains Doyle.
Some lovely close ups of faces and, uh, other parts. Doyle's jeans provide some magic moments.
Not a favorite episode, but worth fast-forwarding through once you've seen it just to watch Our Lads. Very beautiful.
Smith: "We leaned on them - shouldn't be any more bother."
Northcott, pleased: "Well done."
Smith: "We, er, had a slight problem. An accident. Some shooting."
Northcott, temper starting to flare: "Oh, my God."
Smith: "We had no alternative."
Northcott: "How serious?"
Smith: "They drew weapons on us. Pretty serious. One of them very badly wounded and a girl almost certainly killed."
Northcott, now visibly angry: "For God's sake, Smith - they were meant to be kids!"
Smith, defensive: "They were armed - we had no choice! It was them or us!"
Northcott: "What about the 'stuff'?"
Smith: "Powell's got it."
Norhcott: "Do they have any more?"
Smith: "Don't know - no time to check."
Northcott, considering: "We can't take the risk. We've stirred up a hornet's nest. Police, Customs & Excise - sooner or later they'll track down those kids... then Powell and then us. They'll have to 'go'!"
Smith, disbelieving: "The kids?!!"
Forensics man Geoff Dodds: "This stuff is like nothing we've ever tested!"
Cowley: "It is cocaine?"
Geoff: "Ha - that's almost a philisophical question! Either it's cocaine with a lot of other things added - or it's something similar to cocaine but not exactly cocaine!?"
Cowley: "Don't they cut it with other stuff to make it go further?"
Geoff: "Usually. But when I isolate the substance that responds to the cocaine separation, it doesn't behave like cocaine anymore!? It's as if there are two, possibly more, active substances, neither of which is cocaine but when combined together, they produce the same effect."
Cowley: "Is that feasible?"
Geoff: "If it is, it means that somebody has succeeded where every other chemist in the world has failed: making artificial cocaine!"
Cowley: "MI17 - otherwise known as 'DDT'."
Jane, laughing: "DDT?!"
Cowley: "A light-hearted epithet but accurate: the Department of Dirty Tricks!"
Jane: "Regarding Somerfield, sir, Security Liaison denies all knowledge of anyone with that name."
Cowley: "How far did you get?"
Jane: "Assistant Control."
Cowley: "Call him again and repeat the request. Advise him that if I can't talk to Somerfield right away, CI5 will issue an emergency internal requisition to interrogate."
Cowley: "The poor girl that got killed - who you said was completely innocent..."
Diana: " 'Poor'? POOR?! What do any of you in this country know about poverty?! Do you have starving peasants, malnutrition, children dying of tuberculosis and curable diseases?! Young people going blind through vitamin deficiency?!"
Cowley, remaining calm despite Diana's outburst: "Interesting..."
Diana, still flaring: " 'Interesting'?! You find the Third World 'interesting'?!!"
Cowley, still unable to comprehend Diana's motives: "No, Miss Molner - I find you interesting."
Ambassador Torres: "Miss Molner is in the service of our country and has full protection of Diplomatic Immunity. As co-signatory of the Geneva Convention, we request and demand that you release her forthwith."
Cowley, sharp as ever: "There seems to be a mistake. We do hold a Diana Molner here under the Special Powers (Terrorism) Act - and we also have her passport which is West German and not Diplomatic... perhaps there are two Diana Molners?"
Northcott, having anticipated Cowley's doubts, hands him a document: "She holds dual nationality."
Cowley, in mock surprise: "Dated today!"
Torres: "Miss Molner, you and your brother were trafficking in illegal drugs. In order to prevent great disgrace and shame falling on our country, our rulers have given you honorary Diplomatic status."
Northcott: "The Foreign Office is prepared to accept a retro-active emendation, on condition that you are repatriated within 24 hours."
Diana, desperate not to be deported: "What if I refuse?"
Northcott: "You cannot!"
Diana: "Then I can claim... Political Asylum! Can't I...?"
Torres: "If you should choose that course and if asylum is granted, you will bring international humiliation on our country... and possible retribution upon your friends and relatives. You must not think only of yourself."
Somerfield: "I'm afraid no-one can help you very much with Northcott. His department is one of the 'funny' ones, it has complete autonomy."
Cowley: "A Prime Ministerial appointment?"
Somerfield: "Good Lord, no. Like as not the PM has never heard of its existence!"
Cowley: "Then how is it answerable?"
Somerfield: "Long, exhaustive process. Official complaint, sub-committee, closed hearings and so forth."
Cowley: "By which time it's always too late!"
Somerfield: "You really are much too moral, George. If it wasn't for your threat of an emergency requisition, I would have preferred to spare you the seamy details of the barely forgiveable face of secret diplomacy."
Somerfield: "You have a much cleaner job keeping the domestic house in order, don't you, George?"
CI5 lawyer, Deville, aside to Cowley: "I've been through all of this with the Attorney General's office and there is no position we can take. We must comply with whatever MI17 requests."Northcott: "Our information is that two of your men, Bodie and Doyle, have kidnapped Diana Molner, who has Foreign Diplomat Status. If that is true, then according to the Act under which CI5 is authorised, you must disclose their whereabouts if known to you. Failure to do this could technically constitute treason - the penalties of which you are fully aware."
Deville takes Cowley aside again: "We must comply."
Cowley: "The computer recorded the suspensions from duty of 3-7 and 4-5 before the time of the abduction."
Cowley: "Suppose I don't know where they are?"
Deville: "If they are found on our property or are found to have used our property during the course of the abduction, that'll give MI17 enough to hang us!
Cowley, desperately needing time to work out a strategy: "Can't we delay?"
Deville: "That is non-cooperation. At its worst, it's obstruction!"
Cowley: "Your union is one of the most powerful and militant in the country."
Alex Maclean: "Most powerful, yes."
Cowley: "You contributed £100,000 to the left-wing resistance in Latin America."
Alex, assertively: "Famine relief."
Cowley, smiling knowingly: "Of course! What would you do - what your union be likely to do - if they were to discover that the British Government is secretly funding the Olivarez Military Government?"
Alex: "If that was true, you know damn well we'd pull the rug out and force an election. But, George, I have to tell you that you've been misinformed. Our union has been involved in secret trade agreements between the Workers Revolutionary Party in that country and our own Prime Minister. There's going to be a coup! There was even a General present - one of Oliverez' Chiefs of Staff - who's going to lead it!"
Cowley, realising that the entire situation is even more politically complex that he'd imagined: "My God!"
Alex, aware that his union courts controversy in Government circles: "The PM wouldn't mess us around, George - even though some of the Cabinet and no doubt half of Whitehall would love it. There'd be a revolution in the Cabinet - it would be the end of the PM's career!"
Cowley, still politically astute: "Don't answer this - was the General in question called Alexander Molner?"
Alex, pausing for a moment: "I won't answer it!"
Doyle: "Sir, just one thing."
Bodie: "Two things."
Doyle: "His job and mine."
Cowley picks up his R/T: "Alpha One to Control. Operation Susie is closed, as of now. 3-7 and 4-5 are reinstated."
Doyle recalls the onslaught he and Bodie have just faced while Cowley drives away: "Did he thank us?"
Bodie: "Does he ever??!!"
(SCENE SCRIPTED BUT UNFILMED)
In the railway carriage scenes, the actors appear to occasionally change positions between cuts. (Thanks to Mark Gibbon)
Just who is the 'Susie' of the episode's title? It's probably a cheeky reference to a huge police undercover investigation in 1976 called 'Operation Julie' - named after one of the cops involved - in which a ring of drug-dealers in rural Wales was under surveillance. It was dramatised by ITV regional company Tyne Tees Televison in 1985, having been written by Professionals script editor Gerry O'Hara.
Vital expositionary dialogue was unfortunately cut somewhere between the draft script and the final edit for transmission. For example the key scene between Cowley and Somerfield in the cafe was originally longer and made the complex situation regarding the British government's awkward position with Escondia rather clearer.
Also the very last scene - which was not filmed due to the episode's production being over-budget and behind schedule - saw Cowley speculate that Northcott and Smith were in the pockets of the Escondian military junta.
Alice Krige's (Diana) career was just starting to take off when she landed this role, having had her TV debut in a BBC adaptation on A Tale of Two Cities in 1979. Immediately after filming Susie, she had a small part in Chariots of Fire and then a leading role in the American movie Ghost Story with Fred Astaire. Returned to the UK in the 1990s to star in the popular swashbuckling (actually what exactly is a "swash" and why would one desire to buckle it??) TV series Sharpe. Probably best remembered as the Borg Queen in a couple of Star Trek movies, though.
Ewan Stewart (Rudi) popped up as a terrorist in Who Dares Wins. Still acting today but nothing particularly high-profile.
Maggie Henderson (Jane) was a regular on Eric Idle's Rutland Weekend Television, guested in shows such as Hazell, presented a few kids' shows in the late seventies but then practically disappeared from acting altogether.
Robert Morgan (Philip, who barely lasts sixty seconds into the episode!) started his TV career in Roman epic I, Claudius. Usually plays psychopaths/villains in stuff like Spender, BUGS and the great comedy caper Nuns on the Run.
P H Moriarty (Harris) starred in Scum, Quadrophenia and The Long Good Friday but struggled to maintain a decent acting profile throughout the 80s. His fortune changed, however, when he was cast as Hatchet Harry in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
Jim Wiggins (the doctor who attends to Rudi in the hotel) will be familiar to fans of 1980s Brookside. After the producers made the fatal mistake of dumping most of their best characters, Jim moved into rep and a major tour of Me and My Girl (which Mr Shaw had toured with several years earlier) but, surprisingly, was seldom seen on TV again. Passed away in 2000. (Thanks to Kerry Wiggins)
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