Dixon of Dock Green – Seven for a Secret – Never to be Told

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Seven for a Secret – Never to be Told has an eye-catching opening.  A man enters a house, cigarette in mouth.  Once inside he strikes a light and there’s a deafening explosion.  Gas is the culprit, but it wasn’t a leak – all the gas points had been deliberately turned on.  The discovery of a woman’s body points to suicide, but there’s a few things (such as an open window) which strike Dixon as odd.

The dead woman was called Mrs Pengelley.  Her neighbour paints a less than flattering picture of her – an alcoholic who also enjoyed the company of many male friends.  She did have a husband, Alf (Forbes Collins), but he claims not to have seen her for several years.  One of her recent liaisons, Ralph Harding (Andrew Bradford), has disappeared – and what concerns the Dock Green officers is that he has the Pengelley’s sixteen-year old daughter Chrissie (June Page) with him.

Dixon’s pieces to camera, which traditionally top and tail the programme, can often set the mood of the episode as well as informing the viewer about the type of story they can expect.  Here, Dixon’s quite upfront in telling us that there wasn’t actually a Pengelly case at all – which leads the viewer to suppose that no crime was committed.  That’s a nice piece of misdirection and it keeps the story ticking along until all the pieces of the puzzle are put into place right at the end.

It’s clear from the start that there’s a bond of secrecy between Ralph and Chrissie (hence the title).  The obvious inference is that he’s killed Mrs Pengelly and taken the girl away for reasons of his own.  There’s certainly several indications that this might be so and Bradford gives a nicely off-kilter performance.  Later, we learn that Ralph suffered as a boy at the hands of his abusive father and was institutionalised for several years.  As for Chrissie, her father told Crawford and Brewer that she was “a bit backward, like.”  June Page captures this well – giving her a child-like naivety and a blankness that marks her out as a potential victim.

This was another all-film episode and moving into the countryside in the second half (as Crawford and Brewer pursue Ralph and Chrissie) allows for a sharp change from the normal visuals.  The Dock Green environs are rather grimy and rundown, so the beauty of the open countryside is very different.  It’s just a pity that, as with all the film inserts we’ve seen, it now looks so poor (a decent restoration would have made a considerable difference).

Jack Warner has a few nice scenes, as he questions several witnesses, although his lack of mobility is pretty obvious.  He’s either very static or if he has to walk, we only see him take a few steps before the camera cuts away.  The most obvious example of this is at the fairground, where the brief shot of him walking makes it painfully obvious just how slow he now is.

Seven for a Secret – Never to be Told was the second story of the twenty first series (originally broadcast on the 22nd of February 1975).  It’s odd that it followed the series opener, Target, since that was another all-film production (you would have assumed they’d want to spread the few film stories out a bit).  It’s undeniably a slow, character piece but June Page and Andrew Bradford are both worth watching – as they’re a strangely mis-matched couple whose bond with each other only becomes clear right at the end.

Also good value is Denis Goacher as Sgt. Dawes, the country copper who assists Crawford and Brewer in tracking down Ralph and Chrissie.  His performance has a delightful slowness to it and this clashes with the urgency of the London officers.  But he’s no fool – he spots a clue that Crawford and Brewer miss and his knowledge of the area proves to be invaluable.

Not the most memorable Dixon episode to have survived, but Derek Ingrey’s script is not without merit.  He was quite a prolific writer for the series – penning nineteen episodes between 1972 and 1976.  Two more of his scripts from this series (Baubles, Bangles and Beads and A Slight Case of Love) exist as do all of the five stories he contributed to the final series in 1976.

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