Robert and Margaret Gresham (Eric Baker and Joyce Grant) might appear to be a perfectly respectable middle-class couple, but they’re also successful career criminals. Robert’s pulled off one job a month for the last twenty years – each crime nets him some two hundred pounds, which is enough for him and Margaret to live quite comfortably.
But, as he confesses to Margaret, he’s beginning to lose his nerve – which is exacerbated when Gideon comes sniffing around. He decides to retire, but since neither of them have ever held down an honest job, how will they survive? So they decide to do just one more job – and this will be a major crime, one which Gideon will never think of connecting to them …..
Eric Barker first made his name as a radio comedian during WW2 and later moved over to both films and television. He had his own television series – The Eric Barker Half Hour – as early as 1951 and he also featured in several of the early Carry On films. Those films were scripted by Norman Hudis, who also penned this episode (one of three Gideon’s he was responsible for).
From his opening scene there’s an obvious comic feel about Robert Gresham. His smash-and-grab is rather bungled (he drops the brick) and he’s also spotted by the shop owner. Since, by his own admission, he’s carried out some 240 crimes (and only been caught once) this seems rather sloppy. Although as he says, it could just be a symptom of middle age and a loss of nerve.
Unlike some of the other criminals in Gideon’s Way, we’re invited to identify with Robert and Margaret. They may be lawbreakers, but they’re the old-fashioned, old-school type of criminal. They also command Gideon’s respect – he’ll catch them if he can, but it’s plain he’s also got a sneaking admiration for them.
Gideon becomes aware of Robert’s latest small-scale crime in a rather roundabout way. Gideon and Keen are called to a house where the gloriously named Shorty Fleming (Jack Rodney) is holed up. Shorty is another minor-league villain who’s jumped up into the big-time and, armed with a gun, he attempts to take Gideon hostage. John Gregson is at his commanding best here, as we see Gideon inexorably approach the quaking Shorty and coolly disarm him. He’s lucky that Shorty didn’t blow a hole in him (the scene is quite reminiscent of Dixon’s demise from The Blue Lamp) so either Gideon’s a good judge of character or he took an incredible risk.
Gideon is startled to see Robert Gresham pass by in a Rolls Royce as he stands outside Shorty’s house. Shorty’s subplot is designed to show what happens when you attempt to punch above your weight – a lengthy jail term awaits. It doesn’t take a mind-reader to work out that this is exactly the fate that awaits the Greshams, and since they’re obviously devoted to each other it will break their hearts to be separated. This pains Gideon, which surprises Keen – to him they’re only criminals.
William Mervyn is his usual excellent self as Mr Pater, a major league villain who is able to exploit the Greshams, whilst David Keen is, for once, unlucky in love. He tells Gideon that he had the means and the motive, but not the opportunity!
How To Retire Without Really Working boasts fine performances from Eric Baker and Joyce Grant but there’s something of a lack of tension. In other series they might have got away, but since the criminals in Gideon’s Way almost always get run to ground, the episode concludes in a predictable way.