Saturday, 19 April 2014



An embittered chemist threatens to poison London's water supply unless 
the government destroy all their biological weapons. 

001: 'Private Madness, Public Danger' was actually the first ever episode of 'The Professionals' to be broadcast, on 30th December 1977. Perverse as ever, I'm sticking to production order, mainly because this whole damn thing was prompted by the DVD release of the first series, and that's how they are presented there. This particular episode seems an odd one to open with, though - it is more or less entirely self-contained, and has none of the scene setting of 'Old Dog, New Tricks' - although it does have Cowley's explanatory monologue over the opening credits. It's also rather slow and, if I'm being perfectly honest, a bit of a drag. But nine and a half million people watched it on transmission, so what do I know?   

002: Keith Barron. Keith's long career has always slightly baffled me. I have nothing against the fellow but, essentially, he just wanders around being dour with a face like a Cornish pasty - and has done for almost fifty years. He's so non-committal that he can suck the energy out of a drama quicker than Bodie can pull a Nurse - sometimes the other actors in a scene seem unsure if he will even answer them so carry on as if he isn't there. When he does shake off his torpor to become even slightly animated his voice becomes wheedling and whiny and really annoying. As I say, I have nothing against him. 

Here, he plays a psycho chemist, a 'nutty activist' who will happily kill and freak out thousands to make his point. There are two indicators for just how bonkers he is: the first is that he is often lost in thought (hardly anyone in this programme ever STOPS to think) and, secondly, the camera keeps zooming in on his blank, dead eyes. That said, he had the same blank, dead eyes in 'Duty Free' and that was supposed to be a comedy.

Barron's character has a contact who is helping him in return for Heroin, by the way, and the pre-credits sequence features her tying off with a belt while Barron sterilises her needle over a lighter flame. It all looks slightly staged now, but the message is clear: this is adult stuff, an adult world - and things are going to get ridiculous, sorry, nasty. 

003: Pipette. Pipette is one of the loveliest words in the English language, up there with 'plinth' and 'gossamer' and 'felicitous'. And pipettes are are marvellous looking, too, so simple yet so tactile, a design classic. Beautiful things all 'round pipettes, even when they are filled with drugs and used to contaminate a coffee machine with bad dreams and death.  

004: Barron is going to contaminate a reservoir with a drug called 'ADX' which makes people who take it hallucinate, so the fish eye lens comes out and casting calls on a number of big nosed actors to take part in the trippy, convex fun. 

This gentleman has had a coffee (black, no sugar) and is now absolutely ripped to the tits. Typically, he decides that 'the sky is very big' and cheerfully jumps out of a window to his death. Taking drugs and flying is like thinking you're a tangerine and peeling all your skin off, or trying to dry a wet kitten in the microwave. Drugs clichés: don't do 'em, kids.

Actually, there's a massive narcotics thing going on throughout this episode. Aside from Heroin and ADX, Barron also appears to be bonging it at one point. Bodie? He's just high on life - and testosterone. 

005: Here's Bodie and Doyle trying to assess the quality of some 'H'. I don't know why both of them needed to try it, by the way, 'procedure' maybe? Doyle confidently pronounces that the sample is 'uncut'; Bodie is going to need some orange squash to take the taste away.

006: Before CI5 identify him, Barron sends a letter to the Prime Minister with a strong ultimatum and a clear threat. Bodie rather desperately asks 'was it signed?', to which Cowley angrily responds 'NOT signed'. Then they both look really disappointed. 

007: This man is a drug dealer who knows where Barron is and what he is planning to do. He tells CI5 that they will get nothing out of him because he has already been worked over 'by the best', I.E. other criminals, whipping off his ginger toupee to show Cowley where he was 'scalped'. It's clearly male pattern baldness, however, so Cowley says 'get me a needle and some Heroin' before elaborating on his plans:

"I'm going to hoist you with your own petard, Mr Sutton. 
I'm going to turn you into an addict. A crash-course in addiction, because we have access to the purest stuff. A craving, crawling, do-anything-for-money junkie."

The bald, bullshitting bastard tells them everything before Cowley even squirts a bit out of the end of the needle as a tester (Why do people do that, anyway? Isn't that shit expensive?)

008: Bodie and Doyle get to drive a nice dark blue TR7 in this episode. Cowley, however, is reduced to getting from A to B in a red Austin Princess, a car with a body shape which makes it resembles a large slice of mobile cheese. There's a great but daft scene in which both cars roar up to Barron's hide out, spraying gravel and dust everywhere. The cars screech to a halt, and Bodie, Doyle and Cowley jump out, guns at the ready, and run up to the door. Then Cowley rings the bell.

009: I love Bodie and his many faces. I could watch them all day. Which is sort of what I am doing. RIP, Lewis, have a rest now, mate.

010: The ending is a bit hurried, mainly because we've been watching Barron mooch about looking miserable for the last forty five minutes. A young DCI Burnside turns up as a CI5 agent who is on guard at a reservoir - you can tell he's on an important mission because he's slowly getting pissed. Anyway, Barron gets shot; Bodie and Doyle get wet and cold; London gets saved - but only because Bodie and Doyle ignore Cowley's express orders - twice. At the end, he hands them a hip flask full of scotch and tells them to warm up a bit. As they cheerfully pass it around he goes all steely and Scottish and tells them he's prepared to overlook their disobedience - this time. Pretty good of him considering that, if they had listened to him, thousands of Londoners would be dead. 

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