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!

Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) 1.9 – The Trouble With Women

Our favorite eight year-old critic doesn’t have a lot of experience with poker games on TV, other than seeing Doug McClure win a few big hands in Barbary Coast, so I think it’s just window dressing to him, and he doesn’t know to watch for the “tells” in the actors’ faces as they communicate what’s going on, especially when the game is fixed. So he missed a big clue in Tony Williamson’s “The Trouble With Women” that leaves Jeff in debt to the club to the tune of £240. But that’s all right. He brings Marty along to the crooked game the next night.

Watching Marty spoil the bad guys’ hands was just one fun moment in a very entertaining story. It’s a play on the old detective story about the client who’s lying about her identity, with one obvious-in-retrospect twist and another that I really would never have seen coming. This week’s installment of Marty looking for help takes him to The Society of Spiritualists, which is a funny enough concept, but the obstacle that Marty finds when he gets there is completely hilarious – and spoiled by even a cast list, so don’t go looking – and revealed to the audience with one of the most perfect visual punch lines in any kind of program like this. All three of us were roaring with laughter.

Joining the fun this week are two actors we’ve seen in The Champions literally in the last month – Edward Brayshaw and Paul Maxwell. Denise Buckley, who plays the client, wasn’t in The Champions, but she was in The Avengers, The Prisoner, and Department S, so she’s familiar to fans of these shows.