Written by Tony Barwick
Directed by David Lane
This is one of two key episodes (A Question of Priorities is the other) which examine Straker’s personal life in detail and reveal how it impacts on his other, more secret, life.
When a SHADO operative’s wife gives birth, the cigars are broken out. Straker is given one and it causes him remember back ten years to when his own son was born. This framing device enable us to see a much younger Straker, his marriage to Mary (Suzanne Neve) and the early days of SHADO.
This is only one of two episodes (the other is The Pyschobombs) that doesn’t open with the traditional credits sequence. It’s an early indication that this is going to be quite a different episode as there are no aliens to fight – all the drama here comes from human interactions.
The flashback starts with the marriage of Straker and Mary. Whilst we know that their marriage broke up and they are now irrecoverably estranged (Mary blames Straker for the death of their child as seen in A Question of Priorities) we get to discover here exactly how their relationship foundered.
When they marry, Straker is still working for the Air Force, but urgent business causes him to cancel their honeymoon. You know that this is going to the first of many times that he puts duty first. He’s been called to a meeting with General Henderson (at this time Straker’s immediate boss) who is unable to attend an important conference at the United Nations. It’s been called to discuss the formation of SHADO and although Henderson had planned to be there, he’s still recovering from the injuries which he sustained from the UFO attack seen in the opening episode Identified.
Straker makes a very favourable impression at the meeting and although he expects Henderson to be made SHADO commander, instead the job is offered to him. After some soul-searching he agrees, but he can’t tell Mary about it, so he can’t explain to her why he’s never at home. Even her announcement that she’s pregnant doesn’t seem to make any difference. He, of course, is torn – he loves his wife but he also has a duty and in the end it’s the duty that wins, meaning that he ultimately loses both his wife and child.
His refusal to explain his constant absences means that his relationship with Mary quickly deteriorates. Her mother hires a private detective who photographs Straker with a beautiful young woman (Nina Barry). Straker was with her on SHADO business, of course, but when Mary confronts him, he can’t tell her the truth and this is the final straw – she packs her bags and leaves. The marriage is over.
Undoubtedly this is Ed Bishop’s episode. Something of an underrated actor, he was never better than he was here, showing us (at the start of the episode) the younger, happier Straker and what happens to change him into the man we know today. Confetti Check A-O-K is a very solid character piece that clearly highlights the loneliness of command. The cost in human lives from the alien’s attacks over the years has been high but this episode shows that personal lives have also been lost.