Department S 1.3 – A Cellar Full of Silence

It’s only a few seconds long, but I love this little shot of Joel Fabiani on location in London. He gets out of a taxi in front of a Marks & Spencer, and winds through a street market on his way to rough up a criminal kingpin played by Paul Whitsun-Jones in a studio. You get so used to seeing the heroes of these shows shot from a distance on location, but never quite far enough away that you can’t tell it’s an extra or a stuntman in a wig, that it’s just refreshing to see the real actors in the real city of 1968, not some rural village, not a backlot, and not sitting in a prop car with a rear-screen projection behind them.

Anyway, tonight’s story is again by Terry Nation, and it’s another good, solid mystery with a great hook. The bodies of four criminals are found dead in the cellar of a building being demolished. It looks like a gang hit, but why are they all dressed in silly costumes: a clown, a cowboy, a devil, and Frankenstein’s monster?

As always, Peter Wyngarde walks away with the story, and I wasn’t surprised that Annabelle doesn’t have all that much to do, because it’s Terry Nation. There’s a subplot involving a witness played by Denise Buckley who saw the four costumed criminals, but she’s being drugged and gaslighted into believing that she didn’t. I was actually reminded of an Avengers story that Brian Clemens wrote about a year later called “Pandora”. Even the way Linda Thorson played Tara in that episode is like the way Buckley acts in this one. Jason gets clobbered again, and suffers from a headache so painful that he doesn’t take any aspirin, because he doesn’t think he can stand the sound of swallowing them. My hero!

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