Jimmy Watson (Griffith Davies) is a stable lad who’s been bribed to ensure one of his horses doesn’t win the big race. But security was too tight for Watson to get to the horse and he goes on to win easily. Later, Watson is beaten up in revenge and dies of his injuries. Asked to investigate the continuing doping problem by the chief security officer of the Jockey Club, Bill Campbell (Robert Brown), Gideon counters that he’s more interested in Watson’s murder. But as Campbell says, if they solve the doping mystery then the identity of the murderer should also be revealed. So Gideon agrees to look into it.
Gideon’s rather proactive, as he sets off immediately for a meeting with the wonderfully named Bookie Thompson (Max Bacon). Bookie is able to info-dump a great deal of information very quickly (how horses are drugged, etc) which is very useful for the plot, but Bacon’s comic timing gives the scene a little extra depth.
Following Watson’s death, the gang need another inside man, so they select Jo Short (Michael Ripper) who works for the prestigious stables run by Colonel Alec Middleton (Maurice Hedley). Jo has worked for Middleton for twenty years and seems totally incorruptible, but it soon becomes clear that he’s heavily and debt and so reluctantly agrees to dope Port Arthur, a well-backed favourite in a forthcoming race.
Ripper, a very dependable film and television face (well known for appearing in a score of Hammer films), is perfect as the conflicted Jo. When we see his homelife – a young child, an unruly teenage daughter and a tearaway teenage son who’s been fined fifty pounds for criminal damage – it’s obvious that he’s under great strain and is therefore ripe for the picking. Apart from the general day-to-day problem of feeding his family, there’s the more pressing issue of his son’s pending fine. So he agrees to dope the horse, although it’s clear from the misery on his face that it’s far from an easy decision. But once he’s in, he finds it impossible to get out, as the gang then ask him to dope another one – if he doesn’t, they tell him that his daughter will never look the same again.
This is a dream assignment for Keen. Gideon suggests he goes undercover at Middleton’s stables and the first thing he does when he arrives is to passionately kiss Middleton’s gorgeous daughter Janet (Penelope Horner). Keen insists this is because they’re being observed by Jo, and he wants to keep the pretence up that he’s nothing more than an interested visitor, but you know that he would have done it sooner or later! He also seems quite comfortable when he and Janet stake out the next horse to be doped, as they lie together snugly in the hay.
The seedy world of the on-track bookmakers is captured quite well, although cutting between the film shot specially for the episode and stock footage of real race days never quite convinces. And there does seem to be slightly more of a studio-bound feel to this one, for example there’s no filming in the streets of London. We do see several establishing shots, but it’s only stock footage used to set the scene for studio locations.
Gideon’s plan is to fool the gang into thinking they’ve doped another favourite, when the real horse is actually somewhere else and well protected. This works well, but neither Gideon or Keen seem to have realised that the gang will then decide to extract retribution from the hapless (and innocent) Jo. The police do turn up, just about in the nick of time, although not before Jo’s been kicked unconscious. This also enables them to make some arrests, but you’d have assumed that Gideon would have ensured that Jo would have been under strict surveillance the whole time. Although I guess that the last minute dash to save his life has a dramatic feel to it.
Michael Ripper is always worth watching, Penelope Horner is very easy on the eye and it’s also nice to see Robert Brown (later to become a regular in the James Bond films) in a small role. This isn’t the best the series can offer, but it’s amiable enough.