And now back to 1968, and a show I’ve only seen a single episode of: Department S, one of the famous ITC adventure series from the day. This one was never purchased by an American network, and only aired in a few markets in first-run syndication. It’s never been released in Region 1, although weirdly the sequel series, Jason King, was. Some years back, before I got a multi-region player, Marie and I watched all of that. I said that if our son enjoys Department S, we’ll add it to our blog rotation, but I’m afraid we’re not off to a very strong start with him.
Department S is one of those special international investigation units common to the day. Joel Fabiani is the American leader of the team, Stewart Sullivan. Peter Wyngarde is, of course, the show’s star, the ideas man and novelist Jason King, and Rosemary Nicols is Annabelle Hurst, who can operate computers and break into locked rooms. They report to Interpol’s Sir Curtis Seretse, played by Dennis Alaba Peters, and none of this is made at all clear in “Six Days,” the episode chosen to start the program’s run in the UK’s ATV region. Our son was baffled; there were far too many characters in this, he wasn’t sure who the heroes were, probably because, as I read after we finished, this was actually the sixth one made. Maybe it was chosen to be shown first because it has a powerhouse guest cast more familiar to me than three of the stars, including Peter Bowles, Geraldine Moffat, the great Bernard Horsfall, and Neil Hallett.
At one point, Annabelle and Jason start talking about somebody called Mark Caine, as though he’s another member of the team. Now, Marie and I know, because we’ve seen the sequel show, that Mark Caine is the star of a successful series of adventure novels that Jason writes, and he approaches every problem as though it’s a challenge for Caine to solve. But that’s not mentioned at all in “Six Days.” We’re going to segue into the production order and start with episode one next time. Maybe they’ll introduce the characters. I guess the TV stations in April 1969 were waiting for their publicity department to do that for them or something.
The case this time involves an aircraft that everybody assumes went down with no survivors on July 11th suddenly showing up at Heathrow on the 17th, with none of the passengers or crew apparently aware they have been missing for six days. Someone’s gone to a great deal of trouble to get their hands on something or someone on the flight, and is happy to start killing their inside men. There’s lots of nice location filming at Heathrow and around London, but it’s not a particularly action-oriented story, and it left our kid behind. Hopefully the next – first – episode will smooth things over for him.
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