Last updated : 1st August 2016
|Episode 'Spy Probe'|
|Story Synopsis||Why is a mysterious organisation assassinating prima facie nobodies? Bodie and Doyle attempt to infiltrate.||Writer||Tony Barwick|
|Guest Stars||Barry Stanton, Nick Stringer, Patrick Ryecart, Paul Daneman||Director||Dennis Abey|
& Filming Dates
|Block 5, Episode 5
(Final episode of original series to be filmed)
|Original UK Transmission||Season 5, Ep 6
12th December 1982
Again, an oddly surreal-comedic quality to this story. However the plot premise is plain ridiculous: I don't care what Cowley says: the KGB wouldn't suddenly decide to murder dozens of ex-security service personnel on the off-chance that they might all meet up one day and discover the identity of a double agent between them.
And the overall storytelling is full of plot holes, too. For example it's never explained why the KGB agent suspects Doyle of being an infiltrator - nor why he does NOT think the same of Bodie. And it seems a bit too convenient that Williams hides himself in the car, petrified by the thought of having to assassinate somebody.
How on earth does Miss Walsh, using some drawing pins and brightly-coloured wool, come to her conclusions? These are simply taken at face value.
There are several other things but if I discussed them that would spoil the episode for those who have yet to see it.
However I'm now going to surprise you all by stating that 'Spy Probe' ranks as one of my favourites from the later years of The Professionals. What is good is that the characterisation and interplay between the two main villains are funny. I liked old Ferris and Twigg, even though they were merciless killers. When they are together doing all the planning, their banter is tinged with humour (Ferris calls his little fat friend 'Twiggy'). Yet when it comes to them actually killing people (eg the guy on the bridge) their facial expressions are those of hardened, ruthless murderers. Immediately after the shooting, though, Ferris returns to his irreverent self.
In fact Barry Stanton (previously briefly seen as Frank the Mercenary in 'The Madness of Mickey Hamilton') as the scruffy Ferris, the sweet-guzzling assassin, really is excellent here. ("I thought he was sweet!" / "Eh?!!" / "Yeah - all the sweets he eats!"). Nick Stringer as his dapper partner-in-crime does well, too - especially as this was very early in his acting career...
With their interplay and opposing attitudes to tailoring, Twigg and Ferris are almost villainous versions of early Bodie and Doyle. They would have worked wonderfully in The Avengers - indeed is Twiggy's constant adjusting of his beloved hat a cheeky reference to John Steed's bowler?
Clemens' and Fennell's earlier production loved to satirise popular culture and we see a touch of this with the motel scenes clearly "inspired by" The Thomas Crown Affair.
Nice directorial touch with the traffic lights in the pre-titles "teaser". The smart way Doyle manages to shake off Ferris is a lovely bit of photography, as is Doyle meeting Cowley at the snackbar, made nicely off-the-wall with the latter's disembodied voice.
Love the daft scene where the lads drive their Capris at each other head-on to see how close they can stop without crashing!! ("Three inches?" / "Nah – four."). Don't try this at home, kiddies!
For more camp, black humour check out Ferris' interrogation scene - see the Dialogue section below.
Overall I suspect this episode has a rather polarised viewership. Originally intended as the series' finale, it's a nice tip of the bowler to its immediate ancestor The New Avengers, so if you're a fan of that show, there is plenty to enjoy here. Other viewers, however, may fairly regard it is simply too daft for a Professionals story. But it is fast-paced with loads of well-orchestrated and photographed action - the shootout across the docks represents the series at its zenith in that respect - and a healthy dose of comedy. For these reasons, I've marked Story a little higher than perhaps it deserves.
Ferris: "So you're ready to go anywhere and do anything, eh?"
Doyle: "If the money's right."
Ferris: "No problem, there, my son. Just how far would you go?"
Doyle: "What do you mean?"
Ferris: "Well, would you break a few heads?"
Doyle: "Ha! Just try me!"
Ferris: "Would you kill?"
Doyle: "Kill?! Kill who?"
Doyle: "What people?"
Ferris: "Just people. Nobodies. You wouldn't even know their names. Extermination: that's what it's about. We kill to order."
Minister: "These cuts are mandatory."
Cowley: "I thought you said 'proposed'?"
Minister: "You must try to master Whitehall jargon. I'll expect your reports on how you plan to implement them within a week."
Dawson: "Yes, sir."
Cowley, dismissive: "I'll do my best."
Minister: "Now, item two: security. After recent unfortunate events, I think the overall picture is satisfactory."
Cowley: "I'm afraid I don't. We never seem to learn. Every few months some new mole, some double-agent, some new scandal is uncovered, the papers are full of it... and then the dust settles. Then we go back to the same smug, complacent attitude I'm hearing here today. I'm sorry, Minister, but I consider the security situation as far from satisfactory."
Dawson: "And what do you propose we do about it?"
Cowley: "Why don't we purge our Intelligence Services clean once and for all?"
Dawson, sarcastically: "Are you recommending a strong purgative for us all, George?"
Cowley: "Don't get clever with me, Dawson - I'm serious!"
Minister: "Frank opinion, Nigel - off the record. George Cowley."
Dawson: "Well he's impetuous, headstrong, a bit too independent, too powerful, not accountable enough to the right people."
Minister: "Of course he's highly thought of."
Dawson: "Yes, I understand the Prime Minister looks on Cowley with favour."
Minister: "He'd make a dangerous enemy."
Dawson: "To you, sir?"
Minister: "To either of us!"
Elizabeth Walsh: "Why don't you tell me the reason you're still sat in that chair and not rushing off putting the world to rights?"
Cowley: "It's a tough one, Elizabeth - and I think it could get tougher. There are loose ends, things that don't fit, don't add up. I need your help!"
Elizabeth: "I'm retired!"
Cowley: "You're the cleverest woman I know."
Elizabeth: "Then you must move in very limited circles!"
Bodie: "End of the line, fat man!"
Ferris, try to destroy all evidence of his operations: "I've got a match here and the whole place is covered in petrol!"
Bodie: "So are you - strike that and you'll fry!"
Ferris, captured for questioning about his employer but determined to tough it out: "Where are you taking me?!"
Doyle: "Don't worry - it's soundproof."
Ferris, bemused with a twinge of apprehension: "What do you mean 'soundproof'?"
Cowley, perfectly straight-faced and levelly: "He means nobody will hear your screams."
Ferris, unconvincingly: "You can't bluff me - I won't talk."
Cowley to Doyle: "OK, get on with it."
Ferris, getting twitchy: "What's he doing?"
Cowley: "Filling a bath... or, at least, half-filling it: we don't want to make a mess."
Doyle picks up a telephone: "Send 'Sparks' down with his box of tricks."
Ferris, now terrified: "What are you going to do?"
Doyle, putting on a show of donning thick industrial rubber gloves: "Give you a bit of a shock. Might jolt your memory."
In the target practice scene, the first victim's head gets blown off before Doyle has pulled the trigger.
For TV transmissions and VHS/DVD relesaes prior to the 2016 release from Network, look at the scene where Bodie and Williams pick up the blue Ford Cortina after receiving their instructions to kill Miss Walsh. Just prior to driving up the lane to her house, we see them turn off a country road. If you look carefully you'll see TWO mistakes: Williams is sat in the back of the car.... while none other than Doyle is sat in the front!! This shot was supposed to have been part of the later scene where Bodie and Williams are taking Doyle into the forest and was inserted in the wrong place by the film editor. Thanks to Robert Moubert for spotting that one! Network has corrected this problem by placing the scene back in its proper place within the storyline.
When Russian agent Kovac is finally caught, members of the film crew can be seen reflected in his "mirror" shades.
In the final scenes, the name painted on the boat keeps losing and then regaining letters! (Thanks to Nigel Whitaker). This was because the waterfront battle was shot over two days with individual shots being subsequently edited into a different order to that of actual filming.
This was the final episode to be filmed. Apparently the boat scenes nearly ended in Lewis being drowned. There is a short scene of him hanging precariously out of the boat - in the first take he did fall out and was dragged underneath the water with his leg trapped in the boat for several seconds before Martin noticed! (Thanks to Louise Tilley for info!)
Keen to keep ratings up right until the end of the series, LWT originally commissioned an "open-ended" script which offered the possibility that Bodie and Doyle might succumb to watery graves in the final scene. Heavily promoted before its transmission, LWT then peformed their usual scheduling incompetence and screened the episode in the middle of the run!?!?!?!
Two years after this episode was shot, the warehouse and its dummies were used again for the Minder episode 'Get Daley'.
Paul Daneman (Dawson) had minor roles in classics Zulu and Oh! What a Lovely War. Perhaps best known for the mid-1970s espionage series Spy Trap. Last seen in Alan Bleasedale's GBH. Passed away in 2001.
Graham Crowden (the minister) starred in the university comedy drama A Very Peculiar Practice and fondly-remembered sitcom Waiting for God. Passed away in 2010.
Nick Stringer (Twigg) has been a ubiquitous character actor for over twenty years, usually playing dodgy-dealer types.
Patrick Ryecart (Williams) appeared in several episodes of the 1979 TV adaptation of Dick Turpin, the 1980 David Wickes film Silver Dream Racer and a couple of episodes of the Young Indiana Jones TV series. Still pretty active in the acting fraternity but has never made leading man material on TV or film. He was married to Marsha Fitzalan, previously seen in 'Wild Justice'.
Click for the complete List of Episodes