Callan – Charlie Says It’s Goodbye

charlie

Written by James Mitchell. Directed by Peter Duguid

Hunter believes that a top civil servant called James Palliser (Dennis Price) is due to defect to Eastern Europe shortly.  Palliser is under the impression that the man he loves is waiting for him in Poland – Callan, of course, knows this is the oldest trick in the book.  So before we’ve even met him, the character of Palliser has been quite clearly defined – he may be an important man, but he’s also a gullible one (it’s later reveled that Palliser’s lover died under interrogation some time before, but faked messages are being used to lure him out).

Callan is assigned to watch him and it seems to be a quite straightforward brief.  But there’s a distraction as Palliser has a friend called Susan Morris (Beth Harris).  He introduces himself to both Palliser and Susan and makes no secret that he works for security (Hunter’s suggestion – as he thinks it might spook Palliser into running earlier than planned).  Susan reacts sharply when she meets Callan for the first time – her husband was investigated by security and later took his own life.  But a later meeting is more cordial and Callan becomes more and more attracted to her ….

With Charlie Says It’s Goodbye, series creator James Mitchell crafts a story which takes a closer look at Callan the man.  There’s already been plenty of evidence provided during the series to date which makes it clear that Section operatives like Callan can hardly expect to lead a normal life.  All the previous relationships we’ve seen him enjoy have tended to be short (and usually terminated by death of the female  – such as Suddenly – At Home, for example).

He makes a valiant effort here to try and convince Susan that he’s nothing more than a nine to five pen-pusher, but she senses that he’s not being honest with her.  And finding he wears a gun is something of a giveaway of course.  It makes a change to see a more vulnerable Callan.  This is demonstrated when he gives her a present of a box of chocolates and she remarks that it’s a little old-fashioned.  Callan (obviously somewhat out of date when it comes to any form of relationship) is rather discomforted by her gentle chiding.

If the Callan/Susan relationship is the emotional heart of the story then Palliser’s attempted defection provides the more conventional spy angle.  Dennis Price, best remembered for the classic Ealing film Kind Hearts and Coronets, is a solid presence as Palliser whilst Richard Morant plays the hip-and-happening Trent, who’s been assigned by Komorowski (John G. Heller) to guard Palliser until he’s cleared to leave for Poland.

Trent does seem to be an unequal opponent for Callan as he’s far too young and casual.  There is a reason for this – Komorowski wishes to defect to Britain and therefore deliberately sabotages Palliser’s defection by entrusting him to someone he knew would be no match for Callan.

Callan is easily able to disable Trent and bring Pallsier in, but there’s a complication.  Hunter’s received an anonymous letter stating that Callan has been spending his free time with Susan.  There’s a telling moment when Hunter questions Liz about it, and she declines to answer his questions.  It’s a sign that her affection for Callan has overridden her duty to the Section.  And for somebody like Liz, who has even less of a life outside the Section than Callan does, this is quite noteworthy.

Is there a happy ending for Callan? He loves Susan and would be happy to leave the Section, but he knows in his heart he wouldn’t be allowed to walk away, whilst Susan loves him in return but detests the job he has to do.  It’ll probably come as no surprise that things don’t end well.  Trent targets both of them and Callan kills him (with a harpoon, no less).  He had no choice, since both their lives were under threat, but Susan’s total shock at seeing violent death close-up brings their relationship to an end.

Nearly everybody loses in this one.  Palliser’s hopes of being with the man he loves are cruelly dashed when Hunter tells him he’s dead, whilst Susan’s revulsion at seeing the sort of violent man Callan is can only serve to harden him a little more and make it unlikely he’ll ever decide to open up again.  The only winner therefore is Komorowski, who will no doubt be able to live a comfortable life as a defector.

Whilst not the absolute best the series can offer, Charlie Says It’s Goodbye is still pretty compelling, thanks to the emotional dramas that are played out over its fifty minutes.

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