Wednesday, 16 April 2014



An American senator is assassinated in front of a large number of people, 
so his killers try to take out the witnesses one by one.

001 For a man in charge of a secret government enforcement agency with a licence to kill, George Cowley can be surprisingly liberal. There’s that bad leg that he got in the Spanish Civil War, for instance, and, in this episode, he also gives a right wing American Senator called John Jerry Patterson a right verbal duffing up: “ You’re a bigot”, he says, “loud mouthed, rich, stupid.  A clown”. He tries to rationalise his outburst by saying that it is merely a case of practicality (there's a hit out against Patterson, and Cowley doesn’t want him ‘bleeding on my doorstep’), but it goes deeper than that. This guy is a real fascist, and Cowley hates his guts for it.

Patterson is played by Bruce Boa, a Canadian actor who specialised in crass, obnoxious Yanks dripping with contempt for little Britain, perhaps most notably in the ‘Fawlty Towers’ episode ‘Waldorf Salad’. I usually feel like punching him in the face when I see him, and have broken several televisions as a result. Happily, he gets blown away very early on in the proceedings, thereby negating the need for yet another new telly.

002 The assassination of Patterson is a dramatic tour de force. It all takes place on the motorway, and the action unfolds slowly, introducing a number of characters who just happen to be in their cars on that stretch of road at that particular time but will play a pivotal part in proceedings.

The various members of the public don’t appreciate a man being murdered in public, so, without thinking, group together to ‘have a go’ at the perpetrators. This scenario rapidly gets out of control, with one vigilante lifting a Ford Anglia with a conveniently placed Digger and literally throwing it at the hit-men, who are, not surprisingly, now running for their lives. Not content with this grand gesture, the vigilante jumps out of the cab and starts throwing traffic cones and lights after them – it’s pretty ineffective, but it’s a hell of a gesture. It’s a great sequence, and you get to see down Luan Peters' top (in actual fact, she’s completely wasted here in a very minor role - she could have at least made a decent, feisty love interest).

Interestingly, the sequence also has two men who jump out of their cars with cameras and cine-cameras to record the incident on film, neatly predicting a world where people’s first reaction to anything out of the ordinary is to record it on their phone and stick it on YouTube.   

003 Interesting Bodie insight 1: Doyle: “Don’t you read the papers?”; Bodie: “Only my stars” 

Interesting Bodie insight 2: He has a vest on. Not a bullet proof vest, just a vest. 

004 We now get to the best part of the episode, Tommy McKay. Normally, the CI5 operatives who aren’t Bodie and Doyle get fairly short shrift, tending to be bulky, unattractive, red faced  middle aged men who look like they’ve recently been demobbed. Most of their job seems to entail watching stuff, rolling up after the event or, as above, unsubtly stalking suburban streets while armed to the teeth. Tommy McKay is different, though. Tommy is a real character, the proverbial loose cannon, a psychotic blend of Robin Askwith and Charles Bronson. His ‘whole family were wiped out by terrorists’ and it sent him, perhaps understandably, a bit loopy.

I don’t know what dark places he goes to at night, but McKay (played by the usually brooding John Castle) seemingly enjoys every moment of his day, especially the killing. Towards the end of this episode he thwarts an attack on a witness by using a grenade launcher to blow up a boat and take out two men. Afterwards, he raises his arms in triumph, and chortles at his own lethal efficiency.

Sadly, he doesn’t last out the episode but, briefly, he provides a tantalising glimpse of a parallel universe where the Bodie and Doyle bromance becomes a threesome. He should have had a show of his own. ‘The Unprofessionals’,  perhaps.

005 A note about locations. This first series picked up some criticism for mainly being filmed around a fairly small area of Berkshire but, every now and again, they go somewhere gritty and urban and it really gives the production a jolt. An old brewery is used to great effect here, providing a grim, run down backdrop to a gun fight. There’s something enormously photogenic about an abandoned factory or derelict warehouse, those great signifiers of decay and decline. Luckily, this is Britain, so there are plenty about.

Later on, the killers hole up in a deserted mansion house, a formerly grand place that now has mould creeping across the expensive wallpaper: it looks great, like a damp cave filled with antiques.

006 Cowley has a lot on his plate all the time but, in this episode, where members of the public are being gunned down in transport café car parks or while on their honeymoon, the weight of responsibility becomes almost unbearable. Luckily, Bodie is on hand to offer him a ‘single malt scotch’ and a succinct but sincere pep talk. Cowley spends most of his time stomping around and shouting but, at heart, he’s really rather sensitive.    

007 There's a scene where Doyle is after information about a Heroin user called Tin Can so he crashes an Afro-Caribbean club filled with, gulp, black men. The men are all playing snooker, during the day, a sure sign not of sport, leisure or even unemployment, but criminality: these men are loitering between jobs, and not the sort that run from 9 to 5. After some eyeball tennis reminiscent of a spaghetti western (some of it almost certainly prompted by Doyle's perm), Doyle pushes the Boss against a wall and it all kicks off. Luckily for Doyle the black men rather cheaply give up their overwhelming advantage by only attacking him one at a time. Doyle has just smashed a snooker cue across one of the men's backs when the Boss shouts "Cool it! He's a friend!". Yeah, right.

We'll come back to Race in later episodes. What's interesting, I suppose, is that these are the first black faces we've seen so far. They're all criminals - probably - so Doyle has no qualms about beating them up over a matter that is more or less completely unrelated to them.  

Incidentally, for those of you who may remember later episodes where Martin Shaw reinvents Doyle as an apple eating Guardian reader, it's worth pointing out that this Doyle is far more aggressive than Bodie, much less concerned with human rights and really, really, really angry almost all of the time.

008 In a seemingly throwaway fashion, this episode highlights what, today, would be seen as a major issue for CI5: the dependence on alcohol that many of its operatives seem to have. God knows what Bodie has seen and done in his past but, when he demands beer just before a job and jokingly says  ‘I’m a finely tuned machine, I need lubrication’, it hints at a world of pain; especially when Doyle pointedly says that he didn’t forget the beer, he remembered not to bring any.   

009 Pathetically puerile Cowley quote of the day:

“I’ve got men on you for your protection; 
I’d like to pull them off”.

010 This episode ends with one hell of a shoot up and the tragic, crazy, blaze of glory death of Tommy McKay. My abiding memory of the climax, however, is this sit on mower. It’s a far better model than the one Johnny Shannon trundled around on in ‘Old Dogs With New Tricks’, but there’s still something completely ridiculous about seeing a grown man riding around on one. Bodie fucking hates it.

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