Department S 1.27 – The Bones of Byrom Blain

That problem of using a recognizable actor for a “dead before the credits” moment rears its head again. We see this a lot in shows from the period, including, just last month, the Department S story “Dead Men Die Twice”. This time, it’s the great character actor John Barron, who gets skeletonized, somehow, in the back seat of a Rolls Royce.

I have to say that it’s a remarkably good hook before the credits, but even the great Tony Williamson can’t make this one work. Somebody went to a lot of trouble to make the police believe that the bones are indeed that of the victim, but even in 1969, the investigators surely would not buy this, and even if they did, they’d keep digging remorselessly to find out how and where the mysterious super-weapon that killed them was introduced. The show tries using the logic that this is somehow going to make less of a ruckus than kidnapping their targets without leaving a skeleton behind. The main villain is played by John Carson, and he’s pretty awesome, at least.

The kid really enjoyed this one – the skeletons certainly helped, because he’s nine, and, like nine year-olds, thinks skeletons are cool – and I had one great big laugh. Jason apparently spends all day getting out of the room where the bad guys locked him. Annabelle asks how he did it and he tells her to read the next Mark Caine book to find out. That feels a little bit like this episode’s writer just not wanting to bother any longer, but it is nevertheless in character.

There was one other interesting moment. Briefly, Stewart flies to New York to follow up a lead, and it occurred to me that for a globetrotting adventure, this show never really went to the United States. To be fair, this isn’t something that ITC had the resources to do with a great deal of credibility – their color library film of New York City for the establishing shot is, shall we say, not very contemporary – but it might have helped them sell the show to an American network if they could boast a couple of reasonably big-name American guest stars. ITC didn’t even need to cast from their bench of Canadian or American actors (Damon, Maxwell, Healy, Bishop, Rimmer, etc.) to play the diplomat; the character doesn’t even have any lines.

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