Minder – You Lose Some, You Win Some

lose some

Professional gambler Maurice Michaelson (Anthony Valentine) has organised a group of ordinary punters who, under his instructions, intend to make a killing at the roulette table. Unfortunately for Maurice, casino boss Parsons (Leslie Schofield) is keeping tabs on him, which makes it essential he protects his team from Parsons’ intimidating ways.

Ever the good Samaritan, Arthur suggests that Terry’s flat would be the ideal place to keep them safe, although Terry – who had planned to spend some quality time alone with Penny (Ginnie Nevinson) – needs a little convincing ….

Following on from his S1 appearance in Aces High and Sometimes Very Low, Anthony Valentine makes a welcome return as Maurice (although sadly this would be the last we’d see of him).

Maurice has assembled together a mixed group of individuals who include the lovely Beth Morris as Jackie, the imposing Peggy Thorpe-Bates (probably best known as the long-suffering “She” – wife to Leo McKern’s Horace Rumpole) as Mrs Beecham and Ronald Leigh-Hunt (a very familiar television face) as Major Lampson.  And after appearing, uncredited, in Gunfight at the O.K. Laundrette, Lynda Baron has a more substantial role – here she plays Sadie, a friend of Maurice’s long-suffering wife Maureen (Lesley Joseph).

Penny’s disdain for Arthur, and his manipulation of Terry, is made plain.  She tells him that “you never make any plans, you just drift around letting that Arthur con you out of your hard-earned wages”.  And when Arthur calls round to Terry’s flat, her antipathy is even more pronounced.  After she angrily tells Arthur that he needs Terry more than Terry needs him, Arthur responds derisively (George Cole is on great form here).

Terry is adamant that he’s not interested, but it would be a rather short episode if that was the case.  So when Arthur mentions that there’s six hundred pounds in it for him, Terry starts to waver.  Arthur then explains the mathematics to him.  “Look, my agreement with Maurice is 10% of his 50%.  He reckons they can clear five grand a night, work it out for yourself.  No maybe not”.  For once it appears that Arthur’s not diddling him, Arthur’s 10% would work out as £1,500.00 – 60% for him and 40% for Terry.  Although you might want to wait until the end to see if Arthur keeps his word.

Once Terry’s togged out in a nice suit provided by Arthur (at a price of course) he’s able to start protecting his charges, although the odds seem to be against him.  How can he look after six people when they all go their separate ways at the end of the night?  This leads them to bunk up at Terry’s (luckily Arthur’s got a consignment of sleeping bags from the last Everest expedition!).  Poor Terry, he’s no match for Arthur.

There’s some nice comic moments during this section, from the Major’s bitter comment that he was more comfortable out in Kenya, fighting the Mau Mau to Penny’s forced politeness as she takes the drinks order (tea, coffee and either a cocoa or hot chocolate, if possible).  Penny’s quiet week with Terry has suddenly become very crowded ….

When Terry sets out to find Maurice’s wife, Maureen (who’s disappeared) it’s Arthur who’s left in the flat, minding the punters.  He later bitterly remarks that even ‘Er ‘Indoors would be preferable to this.  There’s another lovely scene when Arthur attempts to wake Penny, who is occupying the sleeping bag next to him.  In her sleepy state she mistakes him for Terry and prepares to give him a fond embrace.  He mutters “geroff” whilst she reacts in horror once she wakes up!

Anthony Valentine’s on fine form as usual (since there was clearly more mileage in Maurice, it’s odd that he never appeared again).  Stock music makes an unwelcome comeback (it’s rather strident and electronic) as Terry and Maurice attempt to find Maureen.  And when Maurice finds himself getting a beating from Parsons’ goons there’s a touch more stock music (this time it all goes a bit funky).

Although the casino stuff is entertaining (especially when Terry tangles with – and bests – Parsons) the hunt for Maureen is a little less involving.  Not quite top tier then, but with a cast of familiar faces and Terry’s relationship with Penny placed under extreme pressure, the episode zips along nicely.

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Callan – The Richmond File: A Man Like Me

a man

Written by James Mitchell. Directed by Reginald Collin

A Man Like Me opens with Hunter under extreme pressure to locate Richmond.  He tells Meres that he’s offered fifty thousand pounds to any freelancer who can find him, but as yet there’s nothing.  Quite why Hunter should be so keen to run him to ground isn’t clear.  Richmond did kill Flo in the previous episode, but since she was a fellow Russian agent that can’t be the reason why they want him so badly.

Snell suggests using a computer to locate Richmond.  Today, of course, that would be the first thing they’d do, but back in the early 1970’s it would have been a much more novel idea.  Hunter is initially reluctant – but he eventually appreciates that a computer could cross-check all the available information they have on Richmond (and suggest likely people who would assist him) much quicker than a team of people could.  Meres tells Hunter that the FBI computer in Washington could produce half a dozen suspects out of million possibilities in six seconds – although the British computer will take a little longer (a day).

Callan keeps fairly quiet during this exchange, although he does close the scene by wondering if human beings are becoming redundant.  Hunter and Snell’s visit to the computer, run by the boffin Routledge (Peter Sallis), is an eye-opener.  It’s located in the sort of area that’s quite typical for computers of this period – a windowless room packed with shelves of magnetic tapes.  Routledge is very proud of Edna (Electronic Distributed Numbers Assessor) although Hunter still remains jaded – his only interaction with computers has been when he receives his bank statements, which is why he’s not confident!

Edna eventually spits out a list of nine possible people that Richmond could contact.  The one that he’s actually visited is Harris (Robin Ellis).  Harris has been a sleeper agent since the mid sixties and this is the first time he’s been called on to do anything.  The arrival of Richmond out of the blue is obviously unwelcome, but he has little choice but to obey.  Ellis (later the star of Poldark) starts by sporting a lovely tanktop, which, perhaps thankfully, he changes shortly afterwards.

Callan’s dislike for computers only increases when Hunter tells him that he’s been named as one of the nine possible contacts.  A running theme during the Richmond trilogy is how alike Callan and Richmond are – which is one of the reasons why the computer has linked them together.  But to be fair to the computer it did also come up with Harris’ name, although Callan also tracked him down the old-fashioned way (by pounding the streets, asking questions).

Callan seems confident that Richmond is holed up in Harris’ house, although the way they attempt to flush him out is odd (to say the least).  Firstly, they lure Harris away, drug him, and then bring him back.  By the time they return it’s not surprising that Richmond has left – so it’s difficult to understand why they didn’t simply stake-out the house and wait for Richmond to leave.

Hunter has a lead – Richmond’s likely to be at a Russian Vodka factory, waiting for a ship to take him out of the country.  Although the majority of Callan‘s location work was shot on videotape, all of the factory scenes (which take up most of part three) are shot on film and this does help to give the sequences an extra sheen.  But it does seem more than a little contrived that Callan has to go to the factory alone (apart from Lonely) since Hunter can’t spare anybody else.  It helps to make the final showdown between Callan and Richmond more tense, but it’s a pity that it was set up in a rather artificial way.

Callan is a man who rarely shows fear – at the end of If He Can, So Could I he told Lonely how he had to constantly maintain an aura of hardness – but here he does show a twinge before he enters the factory.  This scene is notable for Lonely calling Callan by his first name – something he hardly ever did, which demonstrates that Lonely has picked up Callan’s sense of unease.

There’s a nice nod to the iconic title sequence as Callan shoots a light-bulb (although it’s not swinging).  He then proceeds to stalk Richmond through the factory, eventually shooting him just after Richmond looses off a shot at Lonely.  Richmond is still alive, but begs Callan to finish him off – he doesn’t want to end up in Snell’s hands.

Callan may be a killer, but he’s always been a reluctant one.  To murder somebody in cold blood – and who’s asking to die as well – is clearly hard, but he does it (although he closes his eyes as he pulls the trigger).  Woodward and Hunter then share a lovely scene together, in which Lonely decides that after all they’ve been through they’re now pretty much equal – although he still ranks Callan as his friend, indeed the only friend he has.  In some ways, this points towards the restructured relationship that we’d see in the comeback episode The Wet Job (1981).

Hunter promises to break Callan for deliberately killing Richmond but Callan tells him that he’s too late and walks away.  Callan’s future therefore remains uncertain – we’ve seen before how leaving the Section isn’t an option, so it seems inevitable that Hunter will now place him in a Red File.

Although A Man Like Me was the final regular episode, it wasn’t quite the end of the story.  There would be a film two years later (based on the original Armchair Theatre story A Magnum for Schneider). And in some ways the story does work better as a postscript to the series (since it deals with Callan being brought back into the Section after leaving) as it did when it was a prologue.

Alas, the story didn’t end there as in 1981 a one-off television special was broadcast (the aforementioned The Wet Job).  Although it was written by Mitchell and starred Woodward and Hunter, it was in so many ways a massive disappointment.  It’ll be something that I’ll rewatch in due course, but it seems wrong to do so immediately after the end of A Man Like Me.

A Man Like Me offers no happy ending or comfortable closure, just the image of Callan walking out into an uncertain future.  Callan is a series that may be superficially dated in certain aspects, but the core themes of deceit and dubious morality remain just as relevant today.  Thanks to the magnetic central performance by Edward Woodward and the impressive supporting cast headed by Russell Hunter it’s a programme that’s still so compelling – nearly fifty years after the Armchair Theatre pilot first aired.

Callan – The Richmond File: Do You Recognise The Woman?

do you

Written by Bill Craig. Directed by Peter Duguid

Richmond makes contact with two sleeper agents, Dowsett (John Moore) and Norah (Sheila Fay).  Dowsett is a radio operator whose job is to ensure that Richmond’s messages are relayed back to Moscow.

This is one of the most obvious ways that Do You Recognise The Woman? can be dated to the early 1970’s.  Today it would be the matter of a few seconds to send an email to a location anywhere in the world – back then communications were much more limited.  Dowsett’s receiver is deliberately not very powerful (the greater its range, the easier it would be for the British to detect it) and they also have to rely a Russian trawler being close at hand.  When the trawler is in position it can pick up Dowsett’s Morse message and relay it onto Moscow.

This part of the story does have a rather WW2 feel about it, since it appears this type of technology has stayed the same for decades.  It’s a frustrating time for Meres, who’s been cooped up in a television detector van for the past week.  The van has been reconnoitering the area, constantly on the lookout for any suspect transmissions, but Meres ironically mentions that they’ve achieved very little – except panicking people to rush to the post office to renew their television licences!

With it proving difficult to track Richmond down this way, the Section try a different tack.  Flo Mayhew (Sarah Lawson) was a Russian spy arrested in the episode Call Me Sir! and both Callan and Hunter believe she can lead them straight to Richmond.  Flo is currently in prison and is looking at a sentence of some fourteen years.  Callan and Flo had an uneasy relationship in Call Me Sir! (which wasn’t really surprising since Flo was coordinating an attempt on his life) and it continues in this episode.

If the radio transmitter used by Dowsett seems like a relic of a different age, then so does the prison where Flo is currently incarcerated.  Due to Callan‘s regular use of VT for outside broadcast shooting it’s not clear whether the prison was a well-designed studio set or shot on location.  Either way, it has a very bleak and Victorian institutional feel – enhanced by the uniform of the warder (played by Bella Emberg).

Although Callan tells Hunter that he has no qualms about using Flo to serve their purposes, as he spends more time with her he starts to unbend a little.  Later, they take a walk in the park (handcuffed of course – he doesn’t trust her that much) where she muses that “people like us, you and me. Are we really committed to any cause or do we just do what comes naturally and enjoy the game?”

Hunter and Bishop demonstrate their ability as arch manipulators.  They’ve allowed Flo to have a taste of freedom and she’s also been told that she’ll be exchanged for another prisoner (similar to the Callan/Richmond handover in That’ll Be The Day). But after expressing their regret, they inform her that the Americans have asked them not to continue – so she’ll be going back to prison.

To have the prospect of freedom suddenly taken away creates the correct psychological atmosphere to enable them to make their intended play – Richmond’s location.  If Callan had initially approached her with this request it seems obvious she would have refused.  But now, with her hopes raised and dashed, she should be more pliable.  Callan’s expression makes it clear that whilst this might be necessary, he doesn’t have to like it.

But in Callan nothing can ever be taken for granted and Flo isn’t quite the broken woman she appears to be.  She manages to overpower Callan and leaves him handcuffed in the bathroom (much to Meres’ amusement).  Flo’s able to make contact with Richmond, but both he and Norah are suspicious – is she now working for the British?

The last minute twist that Richmond and Flo have a daughter has all the more impact when he executes her shortly after.  Part of him might believe she hadn’t been turned by the Section (as well as the personal regard he felt for her) but his duty to the KGB overrides everything else.

Four characters dominate this episode – Callan/Flo and Richmond/Norah.  Given that we later learn of Flo’s links to Richmond, it’s possibly not surprising (and obviously intentional) that Flo tells Callan they have more in common with each other than they do with their respective employers.  In some ways the Callan/Flo interaction is similar to the sparring between Callan and Richmond.  Both are so steeped in deceit that it’s difficult to know when to believe them – but it’s evident that her death does affect him.

In this episode we see a Richmond effortlessly in command (although his ultimate objective is still nebulous).  His decisions are questioned by his subordinate Norah though and it’s the tension between them which gives T.P. McKenna’s scenes a certain spark.

Do You Recognise The Woman? moves the Callan/Richmond story on, although they don’t actually meet in this one.  But there’s a sense that their story is entering its final chapter as we reach the episode A Man Like Me.

Callan – The Richmond File: Call Me Enemy

call me

Written by George Markstein. Directed by Bill Bain

Call Me Enemy, the first in a trilogy of stories which closed Callan‘s fourth and final series, sees the return of the KGB agent Richmond (played by T.P. McKenna, who had previously appeared in the series four opener That’ll Be The Day).  Richmond is, in some ways, Callan’s opposite and equal and this might be the reason why Hunter has decided to leave him in his care.

We open with Lonely driving the pair of them down to a palatial country house, where Callan and Richmond will stay until their business is concluded.  All the rooms are wired for sound, which means that every word is recorded and relayed to Hunter back in London.  Richmond is well aware of this, hence his ironic toast “to the British taxpayer” as he and Callan tuck into a particularly fine meal (with some decent wine).  For Hunter, listening to their exchanges back in London (and with only a sandwich) it’s rather galling!

Jarrow (Brian Croucher) has been seconded to the Section to maintain the recording equipment.  His long hair appalls the highly traditional Hunter, who’s astonished to discover that Jarrow was formerly a captain in the Royal Signals.

Why is Richmond speaking to the British?  He doesn’t want to defect, but he does want to fade away.  Richmond asks Callan if he’s ever “wanted just to disappear. Have you never got tired of the whole business? Had just one wish, to forget and be forgotten.”  He has something to sell.  Whilst he has no intention of betraying his own people, he’s happy to reveal the identity of a mole within the Section.

George Markstein had story-edited the first thirteen episodes of The Prisoner (he’s the man behind the desk in the title sequence) and following his departure from that series joined Thames as a writer and story editor.  Apart from serving as Callan‘s story editor during the third and fourth series, he worked on several other series, including Special Branch, in the same capacity.  He always had an interest in spy and espionage stories (he would later write several episodes of the mid eighties series Mr Palfrey of Westminster, which had something of a Callan feel) so it’s rather surprising that this was the only episode of Callan that he wrote.

Call Me Enemy is a character piece and it’s very much a two-hander with Woodward and McKenna both excelling.  Richmond is an arch dissembler – he’s made a career out of lying, so how much credence can we place on his claims of there being a traitor in the Section?  Possibly he’s only here in order to sow dissent and confusion.

This seems to be working as he starts to needle Callan.  Richmond claims to do what he does out of strong ideological convictions, whilst Callan does it because “it’s a job.”  Richmond decides that Callan owes the Section everything.  “Your father was on the dole, you never had a decent schooling. The army even took away your medal. You owe them a lot, don’t you?”  This section of the story offers a brief insight into Callan’s earlier life (something that’s rarely been mentioned before) with Richmond asserting that the Section blackmailed him into joining.  It’s notable that Callan doesn’t contradict him.

We also learn something of Mere’s backstory.  He was an officer in the Brigade of Guards, but was kicked out after the death of a private soldier.  However, his father (a Lord no less) was able to pull some strings and ensure that he wasn’t court-martialed.

Richmond names Meres as the mole and makes a compelling case.  Meres’ sudden appearance comes as something of a surprise – has he come to silence Richmond, Callan or both of them?  But it becomes clear that Meres is there with Hunter’s blessing.  So if Richmond is playing an elaborate game it appears the Section is doing so as well, although Callan’s life is very much at risk.  Hunter seems sanguine about this, but it’s telling that Bishop is much more agitated.  He rates Callan as the Section’s best man and doesn’t want to lose him.

In the closing minutes, Richmond asks Callan to defect. “For people like you and me, safety can only be found amongst our enemies. It’s our friends who will kill us.” They seem on the verge of leaving together, when Richmond knocks Callan out and escapes on his own.

Meres congratulates Callan.  He believes that Richmond hadn’t convinced Callan and so decided to cut his losses and leave.   What does Callan believe?  He seemed very keen to leave with Richmond – was this simply part of the plan, or did he genuinely see an exit?  Like so much of the episode, it’s open to interpretation and this is one of the reasons why Call Me Enemy is an episode that only gets better with each rewatch.

Callan – The Contract

contract

Written by Bill Craig. Directed by Reginald Collin

Callan, Meres and Lonely are keeping Major Harcourt (Robert Urquhart) under observation.  Harcourt was an officer and is still a gentlemen, but these days he earns his living as a hit-man.  He’s worked for the Section in the past (which will become important later on) but his current contract is very much against the Section’s interests.

Harcourt has been hired to kill a nameless Field Marshall from a nameless country (we never learn any more details than this, but the actual assassination isn’t the point of the story).  Although he’s slightly over the hill he’s still a professional – and therefore dangerous – so Callan and Meres approach with care.

It’s quite interesting that both Meres and Callan are captured by Harcourt at different points in the episode and that they also exhibit a certain amount of fear as Harcourt threatens them with death.  Early in the episode Meres shadows him but ends up as his prisoner.  Callan’s able to overpower him though, but their victory is short-lived as Harcourt escapes.

This isn’t a particularly good episode from the point of view of demonstrating how efficient the Section is.  Meres is captured and then both Callan and Meres lose Harcourt.  It’s all a bit sloppy really and not quite what we’ve come to expect.

Harcourt being at large does cause a problem, but Hunter presses on with his plan of allowing Callan to impersonate the Major.  To do this Callan asks Meres for his coat (which he gives up with a little reluctance!).  Callan’s not really officer and gentleman material, so it would have been more logical for Meres to undertake the masquerade.  But since Callan’s impersonation of Harcourt is the centre of the episode it’s not surprising that Woodward features (and he’s excellent, of course).

It turns out that Harcourt is one of three assassins, all of whom will take four hour shifts.  They know that the Field Marshall will pass a certain window at the Embassy some time over the next few days, but they don’t know exactly when – which is why they require more than one shooter.

This is where the plot starts to feel a little contrived.  One of the other assassins is Lafarge (Michael Pennington).  Lafarge harbours a grudge against Harcourt, since the Major (acting for the Section as a freelancer) killed his friend and partner some years previously.  It’s something of a coincidence that both Lafarge and Harcourt should be selected for the same job – plus it’s also a little difficult to believe that Lafarge knew the identity of his friend’s killer.  And even this is negated at the end when Meres tells Callan that the Major missed and he did the killing anyway.  So why did Lafarge believe it was Harcourt rather than Meres?

Also present is Kristina (Jane Lapotaire).  Kristina claims to be a member of the country’s resistance and wishes to kill the Field Marshall purely for ideological reasons.  Callan gently baits her about this, whilst Lafarge remains aloof.  Indeed, Callan doesn’t get on with either Lafarge or Kristina (Lafarge is young and arrogant, and Callan delights in rubbing him up the wrong way).

Events get more complicated when Harcourt turns up and we see genuine fear from Callan (quite a rarity) as Harcourt comes close to killing him. It doesn’t happen of course, as Lafarge kills the Major first.  It’s a great pity that as the camera switches to a close-up of what should be Harcourt’s lifeless body, we see Robert Urquhart’s eyes move.  Presumably there was no time for a second take.

It turns out that Kristina isn’t all she appears – she’s working for the same party that the Field Marshall belongs to.  Since he’s become too soft and conciliatory they see a chance to kill two birds with one stone – remove the Field Marshall and tarnish the reputation of the resistance groups operating in the UK.

It’s the interaction between Callan/Lafarge/Kristina as all three are holed up in the attic, waiting for the call to kill the Field Marshall, that’s the stand-out part of the episode.  Edward Woodward has two very good actors to bounce off against – Michael Pennington and Jane Lapotaire.  Both have enjoyed lengthy and successful careers – Pennington is a notable Shakespeare actor (who also has plenty of film credits, including Return of the Jedi, to his name) whilst Lapotaire has an equally impressive cv.  They have to sport foreign accents, which can potentially be a problem, but they do so with aplomb.

Apart from this, there’s the usual banter between Callan and Lonely as well as some nice byplay between Callan and Meres.  The tension that existed between the two of them during the time that Callan was Hunter seems to have now dissipated.

Although The Contract does feel a little insubstantial (probably due to the low-stakes feel of the story) the performances help to carry it along.

Callan – The Carrier

carrier

Written by Peter Hill. Directed by Jonathan Alwyn

The Carrier opens with Callan and Lonely indulging in a spot of breaking and entering.  This was something they did on a regular basis during the first three series, but this episode marks the first time they’ve indulged during series four.

What’s very noticeable about this section of the story (which lasts for the first fifteen minutes) is that neither of them speaks a word.  It’s reasonable enough that they would want to keep noise to a minimum, but the complete lack of dialogue was presumably Peter Hill’s choice.  And it does help to make what would otherwise be a fairly routine sequence slightly more interesting.

Lonely’s cab is parked right outside and this will lead to both of them getting arrested.  As they continue to work inside the house, outside we see a policeman take an interest in the parked cab.  Bizarrely, he’s able to open the door (did neither of them think to lock it?) and he then proceeds to spend the next few minutes walking around it.

It’s not entirely clear why the cab should be of such interest.  Did no cab driver ever park their vehicle outside their house?  If this was an usual sight on a London street in the early 1970’s then it probably would have been wiser for Callan to have used an unmarked car, rather than something so distinctive as a black cab.

As Callan and Lonely work on, we cut back to the Section where Hunter explains to Meres (and the viewers) exactly what’s going on.  The house belongs to Professor Rose (Peter Copley), a notable scientist who intends to hand over the plans of a new radar network to the Russians.  The Professor is a familiar character-type from television drama of this era – the misguided scientist.  He’s not selling secrets for personal gain, he simply wants to ensure that all sides have access to the same knowledge.  This doesn’t cut any ice with Callan who later tells him that “you’re not even a real traitor are you? You’re just a woolly headed do-gooder trying to play god.”

Everything seems to go off fine – Callan photographs the documents that the Professor is intending to hand over to his contact (who he believes is a Dutch bookseller called Amstell, but is actually a KGB hitman called Tamaresh) and returns to the Section.  But Lonely took a fancy to a small trophy in the Professor’s study and steals it.  When the Professor returns home the next day he notices that it’s missing and calls the police.

This is a part of the plot which stretches credibility a little.  It might have been possible to believe that the series one Lonely would have been so foolish, but not the series four Lonely.  Since the police have a record of the cab parked outside the Professor’s house they put two and two together and pick up Lonely and Callan.

Callan and Lonely aren’t in police custody for long though, as they’re bailed out by Detective Superintendent Brown (Windsor Davies) of Special Branch.  This disgusts Detective Inspector Vanstone (Michael Turner), the officer in charge of investigating the break-in.  Vanstone might accept that people like Callan are necessary to defend the security of the realm, but it’s the type of person he is (an ex-con) which seems to upset him the most.

Hunter’s far from pleased, since he had to ask Special Branch to release Callan and Lonely.  This then develops into the major theme of the remainder of the episode – the uneasy relationship between the Section and Special Branch.  Both organisations operate in similar areas, which often means that their interests overlap – but neither Hunter or Brown would dream of pooling information with the other.  This, as we’ll see, will have tragic consequences.

Special Branch also have an interest in Tamaresh (Ralph Nossek).  Two officers, Mary (Jean Rogers) and Allan (Roy Herrick) are assigned to tail him, but it’s clear that neither know who he really is.  We see Callan and Meres monitoring their radio transmissions as they follow Tamaresh to Epping Forest and both Section men know that the officers are going to their deaths.  They could have warned them, but since they shouldn’t have been monitoring their radio in this first place it’s not surprising that they didn’t.

Tamaresh quickly kills Allan (who followed him into the wood) and then emerges to find Mary.  Whilst he killed Allan without speaking, he’s slightly more sadistic with Mary – he tells her that her partner’s dead and lets the news of that sink in before he kills her as well.

When Callan realises that Special Branch had no idea who they were trailing, he launches an angry tirade against Hunter.  Hunter’s unmoved though – the Section doesn’t share information with other departments and that’s an end to it.  It’s an attitude which Callan finds hard to take – at least when he goes up against men like Tamaresh he knows what to expect, but the two unarmed police officers (who Callan says were little more than kids) never had a chance.  Hunter orders Callan to kill Tamaresh (which he naturally does) and the Professor is brought in.  Nothing will happen to him, but he’ll have to live the rest of his life knowing that nobody will ever trust him again.

Peter Hill’s only script for Callan is a decent effort, although several parts of the story (Lonely’s cab and his light-fingered pilfering) do detract a little. It’s possibly no surprise that the police feature strongly in this episode since Hill had worked for the Metropolitan Police for thirteen years, ending up as a Detective Inspector in the Murder Squad.  He left the police in 1969 to pursue a writing career and by this time had already contributed to several popular series, such as Public Eye, Armchair Theatre and Special Branch.

Since there was no real need for Callan and Lonely to be arrested, it might have been better to remove those scenes from the script (it wouldn’t have affected the later conflict with Special Branch).  But it does give us another one of those wonderful scenes where Callan browbeats Lonely.  When Lonely calls, Callan is unblocking the sink (another thing you never see James Bond doing) and Callan proceeds to berate Lonely whilst waving a sink plunger at him!

Callan – I Never Wanted The Job

i never

Written by John Kershaw. Directed by Jim Goddard

I Never Wanted The Job is a non-spy story.  There’s a vague mention of a (very minor) job that Callan and Meres have to attend to, but in the end they never get to it – because they’re busy dealing with Lonely’s spot of trouble.

Lonely’s been moonlighting in his cab again, but when his latest fare is shot dead he naturally turns to Callan for help.  The murdered man, Ted Dollar (Val Musetti), was a known criminal and his murder bears all the hallmarks of a gangland execution.  This is a strong hook into the story, especially as director Jim Goddard elected to use a crane to pull back from Dollar’s dead body.  It’s certainly a striking piece of camerawork – we see Dollar’s dead body face down on the road outside his house, with a large pool of blood from the shotgun blast which hit him directly in the chest.

Callan has a stinking cold and so isn’t best pleased when Lonely comes calling.  This is another nice character touch as his cold has no importance in story terms, it just reminds us that Callan isn’t James Bond, he’s simply an ordinary man with extraordinary skills.  When Lonely pours out his story it soon makes him forget his sniffles though, and gives us another of those wonderful two-handed scenes between Woodward and Hunter.

Indeed, this episode is an excellent one for those who enjoy the Callan/Lonely relationship.  There’s plenty of resigned whining on Lonely’s part, whilst Callan responds with his trademark bitter humour and anger.  But although Callan’s highly displeased that Lonely has potentially involved him in a situation that’s attracting the attention of the police, for once Lonely is able to stand up to Callan.

As the title tells us, Lonely never wanted the job of taxi driver for the Section and wants to pack it in.  Callan is quick to remind him that if he hadn’t taken on the job he would most likely have wound up dead.  And it could still happen, since Hunter has become aware that something is going on with Lonely and has asked Meres to keep an eye on things.  He hasn’t ordered Lonely’s death – not yet – but circumstances may yet force his hand.

Dollar was killed on the orders of Abbot (William Marlowe).  Although Marlowe was probably best known for operating on the other side of the law (in The Gentle Touch) he was no stranger to playing villains and he does a good job here.  He’s suitably menacing, but the audience knows that Abbot isn’t going to be a match for Callan.

A key moment is the scene where Callan confronts Abbot in his club.  After easily disabling several of Abbot’s minders, Callan has a simple message – leave him and Lonely alone.  Simple though this is, Abbot has trouble believing it.  Surely nobody would confront him just for someone so insignificant like Lonely?  He’s convinced that Callan is attempting to muscle in on his manor and can’t be convinced to back down.  As expected, this is the last mistake he makes.

Although the story features several deaths (and Dollar’s is particularly bloody –  taking a shotgun blast to the chest at point-blank range) there’s also something of a light-hearted feel about it.  Possibly it’s because for once the stakes are low – the security of the nation isn’t at risk and the only trouble comes from a few members of the underworld.

The closing moments, with Callan and Meres squirming in front of Hunter like two naughty schoolboys, is particularly telling.  Hunter might have been aware that something was going on with Lonely but he asked Callan to fix it – with the implication being that he didn’t want to know the details.  Of course, Hunter knew exactly what had happened and after they leave the office he allows himself an indulgent smile.

It’s possible to feel a little sorry for Abbot, as he was dead the moment he decided to target Callan.  William Marlowe brings a touch of class to proceedings and Paul Angelis and Michael Deacon are effective as Abbot’s henchmen, Steve and Sunshine.  They’re the pair who threaten Lonely (and smash up the cab, much to Callan’s annoyance).

For Doctor Who fans there’s an appearance by John Levene in a minor role and the ever dependable Ron Pember also turns up as a cafe owner.  Although tonally different from the rest of the fourth series, I Never Wanted The Job foregrounds the Callan/Lonely relationship, which is a major plus point in its favour.