He didn’t complain aloud, but our son really didn’t enjoy tonight’s episode of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) all that much. Guest star George Sewell plays an escaped con who is unable to take revenge on Marty, the man who put him away, so he targets his widow. The criminal’s just too mean and violent, and Jean, while occasionally possessed of quick wits, is one of the least resourceful regular characters we’ve seen on any TV series that we’ve watched together. She’s simultaneously being romanced by an old friend who has taken her in with a lie about being a widower himself. I wouldn’t say that it’s always nice to see Annette Andre take center stage when Donald James’s story makes her a double victim.
On the other hand, Kenneth Cope is so entertaining to watch that his selfish jealousy over Jean thinking about moving on is really amusing. And it’s nice to see Jeff win a fight. Unfortunately, the fight he wins is with a supporting character. Once George Sewell’s brute gets his paws on Jeff, he doesn’t last very long.
A powerhouse trio of fine actors playing villains in tonight’s episode. That’s Patrick Newell, Neil McCarthy, and Michael Gwynn, and the story keeps us delightfully in the dark for almost the whole of the episode wondering what on earth they’re up to. It really was a joy watching this story unfold, as a criminal acquaintance of theirs tries to con Jean into believing that he is the reincarnation of Marty for some reason or other. Unfortunately, the question of why in the world did he go to all that trouble – I mean, an enormous amount of trouble – to get such a simple question answered is a plot hole so mammoth that Jean and Jeff actually wonder aloud about it at the end of the show, and they can’t find a satisfactory answer.
Also, Jeff wins a fight for once. He almost wins two!
Our son wondered about Marty’s powers, noting that in ghost stories that he’s read, ghosts typically do have the power to possess people, which makes the scam sound almost plausible. But Marty doesn’t actually have that power, probably because it would be far too easy a crutch for a show like this. He was also curious about Michael Gwynn’s character being so polite by gently touching his hat with greetings and goodbyes. He asked us to pause the show so we could talk about the lost art of men’s hats and the body language that came with wearing them. He’ll probably pay more attention when we watch the next episode of Brisco County Jr. in a couple of nights, or how Steed greets people when The New Avengers returns to our lineup next month.
Our son enjoyed tonight’s episode of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) much more than the previous one, but it still left him cold for a good while. The problem is that Ivor Dean’s character of Inspector Large jails Jeff on suspicion of heisting half a million pounds of very used notes that were en route to be destroyed in a furnace. Donald James’s script leaves it open as to whether Jeff knows a lot more than he’s saying… and he’s saying nothing, not to Marty, and not even to his attorney, played by Sue Lloyd.
Once everything comes out in the open, our favorite eight year-old critic came around and started liking this one a lot more. He even noted an similarity between this story and the Hardy Boys episode “The Flickering Torch Mystery,” which we watched in the spring. He likes it when the police foil the bad guys’ plans to escape via airplane, apparently!
I was thinking that tonight’s episode of The Champions, written by Donald James, might have been too complicated for our son, but he breezed right along with it and quietly said “This is really exciting!” as Craig executes a prison break. At its core, the story is a mystery: who is paying a man who broke into an embassy in London to photograph plans, and what did he do with the film. The ambassador believes the British government is behind the theft and has imprisoned their own agent, so while Craig and Richard are planning to break him out, the ambassador engages an underworld fixer and his gun-toting moll, played by Gabrielle Drake, to bring the convict to him.
The most surprising moment of the story comes when Richard loses a fight. Even superhumans have an occasional off day, but in Richard’s defense, there were three of them, they were huge, they caught him by surprise, and he did kayo two of the thugs before losing consciousness.
Ah, well, we had to hit an episode that the grownups didn’t enjoy eventually. No series bats a thousand. At least Donald James’ “All Work and No Pay” starts out incredibly entertaining, with guest villains Dudley Foster and Alfred Burke playing very well-dressed brothers who are up to something. For a good chunk of the story, it was really entertaining trying to figure out what in the world they’re actually doing, and why they’ve targeted Jean with a fake poltergeist. But the truth isn’t so much disappointing as it is utterly nonsensical, and not even Adrienne Corri, playing an actress friend of Jeff’s who ends up in the villains’ clutches, can really save this one.
But on the other hand, our favorite eight year-old critic had a very different experience. There is one moment about half an hour in where the story seems to take a very uncharacteristically gruesome turn, and he didn’t like that at all. But the rest of the episode had him on the edge of his seat and smiling. He loved the villains’ fake poltergeists, even while his fuddy-duddy parents were squinting and asking “…how?” And when Marty saves the day by exercising a little previously unseen control over the output of power plants, he was in heaven. The closing revelation that things hadn’t ended so gruesomely earlier had him guffawing, because Adrienne Corri gets to ride home wearing nothing but a newspaper. That’s not sexy to an eight year-old, that’s just funny.
This afternoon’s episode of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), written by Donald James, is another example of the more hard-boiled route the program might have taken in its earliest days before they landed on a sillier formula. Tracey Crisp plays a courier / hostage between two rival criminal gangs, one in London and the other in Glasgow, and Jeff has to escort her back to England and then take a receipt back to the mob boss in Scotland. You know that at least one double-cross is coming, but when? Poor Jeff gets the absolute daylights thrashed out of him three times in this adventure. The grown-up stuff kept our son entertained, but his favorite part by far was Marty using his supernatural powers at a small public works site and whipping up a sandstorm.
I swear it feels like Donald James wrote everything that we’ve watched for the last month! “The Night People” isn’t one of the best episodes of The Champions. In its favor, there’s some great location filming around the iconic Knebworth House, and Stuart Damon chose to play Craig as being an incredibly bad mood, short-tempered, worried about the missing Sharron, and snidely patronizing to everybody, including his friends and guest star Adrienne Corri, who plays a white witch in Cornwall. Thirty episodes of that would have been twenty-nine too many, but everybody’s due a bad day once in a while.
On the other hand, it feels too much like the far superior “Shadow of the Panther” from earlier in the season. It starts as a Sharron-centered adventure involving some fake magic hocus-pocus to cover up a more mundane crime, and the boys show up when Sharron goes missing. The problem is that Sharron was in command of the situation in “Panther,” and while she’s staying put and quietly learning about the situation while allowing herself to be imprisoned by guest star Terence Alexander, she is really sidelined and left out of all the physical stuff again. Watched after last night’s New Avengers, in which Purdey isn’t sidelined by anybody, it feels incredibly retrograde.
We’ll take a short break from The Champions to keep things fresh, but we’ll be back for the final seven episodes in about three weeks. Stay tuned!
Earlier this month, I had a little giggle over a red Renault going over a cliff in an episode of The Champions and wondered when we’d see the white Jaguar doing its famous tumble. Well, the footage, which was originally shot in 1965 for The Baron, made its way into this series with this episode. John Hallam is the unfortunate driver this time out.
I had wondered how many more times we’d run into this footage over the course of this blog, and the answer seems to be at least three more. The good people at Randall and Hopkirk (Declassified) have a page devoted to the four Jags used in the footage as well as the Renault. I made sure our son knows that anybody getting into a white Jag by himself in one of these shows is asking for trouble. Let’s see whether he remembers.
I have to say that this episode, written by Donald James, doesn’t quite live up to the promise of its thunderously good pre-credits sequence. A very old man in a horse-drawn carriage commissions Jeff to take an envelope to his nephew for a much-needed fee of £50 (that’s like $1100 today). Jeff accepts, and then the guy drops the surprise: his nephew is an escaped convict who jumped the wall six weeks previously.
So I was a little disappointed that Jeff finds the nephew almost instantly, and this quickly turns into the second “somebody’s killing all the relatives” inheritance story in three weeks. But I liked this more than “Who Killed Cock Robin?,” in part because Liz Fraser plays the unlikely suspect – slash – survivor who latches onto our hero, and she’s delightful. She plays the assistant to a stage magician, which is convenient when the plot makes its way to the usual scene of Jeff getting in trouble and Marty needing to get help. Marty just has to wait until she gets put into a hypnotic trance!