Callan – A Village Called ‘G’

village

Written by James Mitchell
Directed by Mike Vardy

Hunter’s secretary, Liz, is an absolute model employee.  She’s never late and she’s never ill, so when she fails to turn up one morning it sets the alarm bells ringing.  Hunter decides to give her another hour and if she still hasn’t appeared then the department will be on red alert.  Cross queries whether that isn’t a little excessive, but Hunter spells it out to him.  “Liz has never been late here in her life, she’s never missed a day.  She’s an example to you all.  You think I’m fussing, but I’d sooner be foolish than careless.”

Hunter’s fear is that she’s been picked up by the opposition – she knows all of the Section’s secrets so she’d be an invaluable asset.  The truth of the matter is rather different though – she’s embarked on a personal mission of vengeance and Callan, naturally enough, is right in the thick of things.

Lisa Langdon made her first appearance as Hunter’s secretary at the start of series one.  It wasn’t a terribly auspicious start, as for the first few stories she was nothing more than a disembodied voice on an intercom.  After a while she started to appear in the flesh and gradually was given a little more to do.  During the black and white years, Heir Apparent is probably the best example of this – following the death of Michael Goodliffe’s Hunter, Liz was a useful character to place between Callan and Meres.

But A Village Called ‘G’ was the episode that put her firmly in the centre of the action.  Written by series creator James Mitchell, we find out about Liz’s background – and this provides the explanation for her disappearance.

After searching her flat, Callan reports on her lack of personal documents.  “There’s no letters, there’s no memos, there’s no diaries. Nothing. She’s a sad one, that. Yeah, well, it’s pretty sad if you’re that lonely.”  The lack of information means that Callan has little to go on, so he asks Hunter if he can see her file.  Hunter refuses, but fills him in on her history.

Liz was born in Poland.  Her village was totally wiped out by the Germans in 1944, when she was just three years old.  Every man, woman and child were killed (except for Liz, who had been hidden behind a bookcase by her father).  She was later adopted by a British couple called March in the early 1950’s.  March had worked as a cypher clerk, so the Section kept a watching brief on Liz.  When her foster parents were killed by a hit-and-run driver some five years earlier, it was decided that Liz would be an ideal employee for the Section (since she was fluent in numerous languages and had no family ties).  As Hunter says.  “The Section is all she has, David. Her mother, father, her home.”

Callan goes back to Liz’s flat and asks the caretaker (a wonderfully grimy performance by George Innes) if he’s noticed whether Liz has had any regular male visitors.  When he says yes, and that the man’s name was James Cross, this immediately catches Callan’s interest.  It becomes clear that Liz and Cross have been enjoying a relationship strictly against departmental regulations.  Callan, of course, makes it clear to Cross just how stupid he’s been (in the way that only Callan can!).

Cross tells Callan that he thought that Liz was worried about something, although she didn’t say what.   She did speak about her childhood though – which given what we’ve learnt, seems to be significant.  Cross and Callan hit the archive, looking for any recent activity regarding Poland.  They find a file on a war criminal called Klist and also discover that Liz checked out a file on a man called Sabovski (Joseph Fürst).

There’s evidence to suggest that Sabovski and Klist are one and the same and that Klist was involved in the massacre of Liz’s village. Hunter decided that no action would be taken and it’s this which pushes Liz over the edge as she decides to take the law into her own hands and kill Klist.

Fürst had previously appeared in the Armchair Theatre pilot A Magnum for Schneider.  Infamous in certain circles for his incredibly ripe performance as Professor Zaroff in the Doctor Who story The Underwater Menace, he’s much more restrained here.

Liz fails to kill Klist and Klist drugs her, takes her back to her flat and puts the gas on.  Luckily Callan, Cross and Lonely reach her in time (Lonely’s comment to Callan “you haven’t croaked her?” is priceless).  There’s also a nice cameo appearance by Graham Crowden as the Groper (a struck-off doctor who Callan calls in to check Liz over).  Quite why Callan didn’t call the Section is a bit of a mystery as surely they have medical staff, but if he had then we’d have missed out on Crowden’s remarkably camp performance!

Klist is dealt with by Cross, although Callan brutally tells Liz that Cross cares more about his job than he does about her.  “Listen darling, don’t you think Liz that he killed Klist for you. He didn’t. He killed him for himself. Killed him because he’s got to finish the case.”

This wasn’t the first story to feature a Nazi war criminal (see The Good Ones Are All Dead from series one).  But Klist is much less central to this story than Strauss was in that episode.  A Village Called ‘G’ is more about Liz, Cross and Callan.  It ends with Hunter and Callan sharing a drink and Hunter complimenting Callan on handling matters effectively.  The two wouldn’t always see eye-to-eye, so this is quite a notable moment.

Callan would be Lisa Langdon’s final television credit.  She only had a handful of other credits, such as a Jackanory appearance in 1968 and a few other minor roles (like ‘Woman in Street’ in an episode of Dixon of Dock Green).   But although her cv wasn’t particularly extensive, she was always worth watching in Callan – as Liz brought a welcome human touch to the often cold and unwelcoming Section.

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