Zodiac – Sting, Sting, Scorpio!

scorpio

Written by Roger Marshall
Directed by Piers Haggard

Madame Lavengro (Anne Dyson) is a fortune-teller who lives and works in Brighton. Two maids from a local hotel visit her for a reading. Brenda (Jeananne Crowley) waits in the other room whilst Peggy (Susie Blake) goes first.

Whilst she looks like the archetypal fake fortune-teller (complete with headscarf and crystal ball) it’s clear that she has genuine insight. She knows that Peggy has problems with her boyfriend and that he possesses money that doesn’t belong to him.  A moment later she realises that he’s the Brighton Hotel robber.

Like Peggy, her boyfriend Brian (Robert Powell) works at the same hotel. He knows that he has to silence the fortune-teller – which he does. The day after, Esther pays a visit to Madame Lavengro and discovers her body. Esther was a friend and admirer of Madame Lavengro, so she takes the lease on her shop and tells Gradley she’s determined to track down her murderer.

Esther’s in something of a huff with Gradley as he’s reluctant to get involved in the case (it’s well outside his patch). He does eventually travel down to join her, after taking some leave, but they still indulge in a good deal of bickering once they do team up. There’s also another sighting of Anton Rodgers in denim (not good) and later he sports an interesting cravat (also not good).

A curly-headed Robert Powell is the villain of the piece. He’s not really known for playing baddies, which is probably why the character doesn’t quite have the dangerous edge he should have. The rest of the cast also features some familiar faces. Wensley Pithey (a regular in the early series of Special Branch) is Inspector Duggan, Susie Blake is the sadly doomed Peggy and Frank Gatliff brightens up the screen briefly as the camp-as-anything Felix Pettigrew.

Another eyebrow raising performance is given by Bob Sherman as the hippy singer Bob Thomas. Sherman’s probably best known for playing an American spook in The Sandbaggers, so this role is something rather different. Although the 1960’s was long over by this point, Thomas is obviously a throwback (“Yeah baby, I’d really freak out man”). He doesn’t contribute anything to the plot, but he’s a nice bit of local colour.

Anouska Hempel obviously had a cold whilst the story was being recorded, as her voice is pretty strained at times. This is referred to right at the end, presumably via an adlib, as Gradley declines to kiss her because of her cold and she threatens to spit all over him!

Sting, Sting, Scorpion! is a nicely plotted tale. There’s one example of Esther’s special powers (she receives a vision that Peggy has drowned) but that doesn’t affect the solving of the crime too much, so it isn’t a particularly large cheat.

Another strongly-cast and well-acted story.

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