Twenty years ago a number of officers, including George Dixon, were involved in a major operation at the Docks. Information received suggested that a well-known villain called Trunky Small was planning to steal half a million pounds in silver from a ship called the Galveston Bay. Trunky and his gang were caught, but the operation wasn’t without incident as one of the officers lost his life that night.
Cope (Glynn Edwards), now a detective sergeant, has organised a reunion dinner. It appears at first to simply be a chance for old colleagues to meet up and compare notes, but Cope clearly harbours animosity against Ashe (Jack Watson). At the time Ashe was the DI in charge, today he’s risen to the rank of Commander. As the evening wears on it seems obvious that revelations will be made.
The final episode of Dixon of Dock Green, Reunion doesn’t acknowledge this, even obliquely, so when Dixon bades us good night at the end there’s no sense that it’s a final goodbye. But when you consider that the last episode of the previous series, Conspiracy, was very obviously crafted as a farewell episode (Dixon’s final monologue about his life in the police, the shot of the blue lamp as the credits rolled) it’s understandable they didn’t decide to play the same trick twice.
It does place Dixon more in the centre of things though, which was reasonable enough, although even here he’s still in his familiar role as an observer – watching proceedings, occasionally asking the odd question, but never directing events. It’s Cope who’s in charge. He set up the dinner and also arranged for an extra place to be set (in honour of their dead colleague). Like the rest of the evening this is for Ashe’s benefit – as is the fact that the waitress, Joyce (Jo Rowbottom), was the dead officers wife.
Glynn Edwards might be best known as the long-suffering Dave in Minder, but his CV is a long and impressive one. He guest-starred in many popular series during the 1960’s and 1970’s, such as The Baron, The Saint, The Avengers, Public Eye, Out of the Unknown, Callan,Target and many others. He also had a regular role in the later series of The Main Chance and appeared in films such as The Ipcress File and Get Carter.
And like many other actors he also racked up a number of credits in Dixon, playing several different characters. He appeared as Jackie Silver in two 1963 episodes and would later play Chief Inspector Jameson in several stories during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s (one of these, Jig-Saw, still survives). The fact that he then turned up several years later playing a different copper shouldn’t come as a surprise, as it was a very common occurrence.
Alan Tilvern is another example of this. In Reunion he plays Morrie Finn, now an ex-policeman and someone doing very nicely indeed on civvy street. This was Tilvern’s seventh Dixon appearance, each time playing somebody different. His previous role had only been the year before – in the wiped episode It’s a Gift (although an infamous outtake still exists, showing Tilvern sharing a scene with Victor Maddern who finds it impossible to say the words “Dock Green Nick”).
I’ve mentioned it several times before, but the guest-casts of this final series have been very strong. Apart from Edwards and Tilvern, there’s also Jack Watson as Ashe. Another very familiar face from both films and television, Watson pitches his performance perfectly – showing an increasing unease as the evening wears on.
The resolution of the story is quite understated and low-key. It later becomes clear that Ashe was made aware that one of his officers had fallen into the dock. He could have stopped and rescued him, but that would have meant Trunky Small would have escaped. So he chose to ignore this and press on.
It’s a mystery why nobody has ever brought this up during the last twenty years, but even after it’s made public here that’s as far as it goes. Joyce has the chance to finally confront Ashe, but there’s no anger as she tells him that “I feel sorry for you. It can’t have been easy. Not then, nor since.” And that seems to be that, as there’s no suggestion that any proceedings will follow. As Joyce makes clear, the burden Ashe himself carries is punishment enough.
Another piece of the puzzle is supplied by Sam Platte, a man rescued from drowning by Harry Dunne. For most of the episode this appears to be just a secondary story, but at the end Platte’s connection to the events of twenty years are uncovered. He’s Joyce’s father and was the man who tipped off the police that Trunky Small was planning to rob the Galveston Bay.
It’s an outrageous coincidence that Platte should turn up on the same night as the reunion dinner and it can’t help but feel like rather clumsy plotting, but Bill Dean is excellent as a merchant seaman reflecting on a lifetime of toil with little to show for it. It also allowed Stephen Marsh (as Dunne) a chance to shine. For the majority of this series he’s had the fairly unenviable task of operating as the junior collator (largely existing to feed Dixon lines).
Low-key it might be, but Reunion is also a satisfying fifty minutes of drama. With one exception, it’s very pleasing to have all the colour episodes of Dixon of Dock Green available on DVD and hopefully the black and white ones will follow soon.