Monday, 26 May 2014



A campaign of racist violence brings out the worst in Bodie - 
and the best in Doyle.

001 ‘Klansmen’ is a controversial episode, so controversial that it was pulled from broadcast and has never been shown on UK terrestrial TV. I don’t intend to get into whether I think it is inflammatory or not, but I will say this: if you want to watch a television show about the hugely complex and emotive subject of racial prejudice, then I wouldn’t suggest an episode of ‘The Professionals’, that’s not what it’s for. As it is, we’re left with an often cack handed mish mash of cliché, genuine offence, condescending liberalism and a twist ending that is simultaneously a cop out, a two fingered salute and the most ironic the programme ever gets. It's also very violent and fast moving: too raw to be entertaining, perhaps, but very engaging.

002 As you might expect from such a hand grenade of a subject, there are any number of contrasting attitudes on display here. Within thirty seconds, the loathsome Tony Booth (one of my least favourite actors of all time, EVER) has dropped the ‘n’ word, kicking off a prevailing mood of violent hatred. The ‘surprisingly liberal for a blunt instrument of the government’ Mr George Cowley, however, makes it very clear that he HATES prejudice and Doyle, of course, will go on to read The Guardian, so is already pre-disposed to agree with his Boss on this particular hot potato. Despite it never having surfaced before (even when talking about his time as a mercenary in Africa), for the sake of this episode, it transpires that Bodie is a racist.

There’s a scene where Bodie and Doyle are interviewing a black lawyer at his nice home in the suburbs. Bodie doesn’t like the lawyer’s self-assurance, his smooth manner, his intelligence, his smart suit, the Merc on the drive. When Bodie is introduced to the lawyer’s white wife, he is sulkily unimpressed, a reaction that does not go unnoticed.

003 Have you ever heard the expression ‘Black Town’? No, neither have I, but Bodie and Doyle go there to conduct an investigation, i.e. wander around aimlessly looking for trouble. Eventually, Bodie happens across some black men playing craps in a disused building and decides it’s a good time to start playing the colonial overlord. Within seconds, he has been stabbed twice. It’s a shocking and unexpected moment but, guess what, he sort of asked for it.

As he is wheeled into the hospital, close to death, he grabs Doyle’s sleeve and says ‘tell Cowley a  couple of spades did this. A couple of big black spades!’ which, even if you assume that there were less black people in the country in 1977, is not a lot of help.  Excruciatingly, the Doctor and Nurse looking after him are black. To their credit, they don’t put a pillow over his face as soon as Doyle leaves, even though Bodie periodically drifts back into consciousness to give a brief racist rant.

It’s worth mentioning that Doyle cries at the hospital. He actually CRIES. He loves that big, bone-headed black hating bastard, he really does.

004 Cowley says “I’m Cowley the cow. A cow gives milk”. Even in context, it doesn’t make much sense, but I believe he is suggesting that he will offer succour to Bodie in his hour of need. It’s poorly phrased, and creates an unpleasant image that you have to shut your eyes and wish away.

Incidentally, when you get the chance, have a look around Cowley's office. There are some strange things in there, not least a framed picture of Europe with everything north of Edinburgh cut off.  

005 The Ku Klux Klan is a loathsome organisation but, it has to be said, their methods are horribly effective. The silhouette of the Klansman, with the outlandish hood and robes is terrifying, and it is used to chilling effect here. Their initial attack on the black lawyer takes the form of a burning cross planted in his front garden, which is bad enough, but their second attack, in which the Klan decide to ‘scare the arse off that flash n***** lawyer’ by flinging white paint over the lawyer and brown paint over his wife has even more impact: it’s shockingly violent, without actually causing any physical harm. It’s a disgusting act, designed to degrade and demoralise. Pointy headed bastards.

006 Edward ‘think once, think twice, think bike!’ Judd plays Hulton, head of ‘The Empire Society’, the organisation ostensibly behind the attacks. Judd was a star in the early sixties, but he was an egomaniac who liked a tipple and ended up derailing his own gravy train. Here, he seems to have left his toupee, and the ability to act, in the whisky bottle he crawled out of. 

Judd’s character would be a great role for a more committed thespian: he’s a politician first, a nationalist second, a violent racist third: one of those insidious ‘I’m saying what you’re thinking’, ‘preserve our traditions of fairness by treating other people unfairly’ ‘I’m not a Nazi, I’m a patriot’ bastards that try and get some small amount of mainstream power every now and again. To our national credit, we always see them off in the end, though, don’t we? Sort of. We'll see.

As it turns out, this particular Nazi arsehole is the tip of a very nasty iceberg, but not, perhaps, in the way that you might first think.

007 With Bodie in hospital, only now and again emerging from a fever to be really nasty to his black nurse, Doyle takes centre stage. He poses as a fascist bullyboy and infiltrates the Klan, finds out who is behind it all, gets the shit kicked out of him for his trouble, and ends up passed out in the same disused building where Bodie was knifed. There’s a moment when he agonisingly pulls himself into an upright position and then literally whinnies with pain. Don’t worry, he gets his revenge. He can pretty tough when he wants, even if he does have stupid hair.

008 There’s a brief appearance by Willie Payne, who made an indelible impression on me as one of the incarnations of Satan in ‘The Devil Rides Out’. He was the one with the hypnotic eyes, remember? He gets shot to fuck within a few seconds.  

009 The ending, in which (SPOILER!) it is revealed that, gasp, a black man is behind the racial intimidation, is insulting at first, a farcical volte face which seems like a cheap shot, white wish fulfilment. It reminds me a bit of when I told my (lovely) Mum that the word ‘coloured’ could be offensive to black people, “Well” she said “they call us honkies…” No, Mum, they don’t, and that’s NOT the point.

On reflection, however, ‘The Professionals’ never tries to present us with a black and white world, but a grey one: a place where ideologies are bought and sold, where greed outweighs feeling, a ruthless, immoral place where loyalties are flexible and colour is largely irrelevant in comparison to the size of your gun or the weight of your wallet. In that context, the ending is par for the course, although the involuntary groan I emitted when watching was perfectly justifiable.  

010 As a postscript, a remarkably healthy looking Bodie strolls out of hospital hand in hand with the black nurse he previously found disgustingly inferior. His brief stay in intensive care seems to have cured him of prejudice as well as his stab wounds. God bless the National Health!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014



An injured Bodie takes on an international terrorist group.

001 ‘Close Quarters’ was first broadcast on 10th February, 1978, and I can remember watching it at my maternal Grandparent’s house. They lived five miles further south than us, so, although their telly wasn’t as big or as good as ours, it picked up Anglia and Southern TV and London Weekend Television which was very exciting. On Saturday mornings, my parents used to drop me off there so I could watch repeats of the sixties ‘Batman’ series – the most colourful, pop arty show ever made – in humble black and white.

002 This episode is fantastic. It’s all about Bodie, and he’s up against a ruthless political terror organisation (no, not The Angry Brigade) called the Myer-Helmut group, a bunch of hard faced, hairy German radicals who travel around Europe killing working people to make some sort of point about how the system oppresses the common man. They’re a lot like Baader-Meinhof, even down to the mentally unstable female leader, Inge Helmut, who spends half of the episode in tears and the other half shouting and firing a machine gun. Inexplicably, the group are pursuing the cause of anarchy in Maidenhead.

003 In a refreshing change from Cowley’s leg, this episode is all about Bodie’s hand. Bodie got shot in it, and is on the sick (makes a change from diarrhoea, I suppose). Crucially, his injury means that he can’t hold a gun properly, so he’s surplus to requirements until he is able to kill again. For some reason, he and the Doctor are flirting with each other so, when the Doctor rather archly tells him: “give it a little gentle exercise, but don’t overdo it’, his raised eyebrows and pursed lips make it clear that he’s talking about masturbation. Very shortly, Bodie will need that hand for more than wanking – he’ll have a load of German bastards to wipe out.

Later, captured terrorist Myer taunts Bodie about his injury, sneering that it will make him easy meat for the rest of his gang. Bodie’s response is to wrap his sore paw around his pistol butt and to squeeze it so tightly that thick, dark blood blots his bandages and runs down his hand. Injured or not, he’s rock hard, Bodie, and it’s never a good idea to take the piss out of him.

004 David Bradley is an actor who has only really come to prominence in the last decade or so, gradually becoming one of Britain’s best known character actors (the Harry Potter franchise, ‘An Adventure In Space and Time’). Curiously, despite his long career, I couldn’t remember ever seeing him in anything before the year 2000, but here he is, not exactly young, but younger. He has a lot of screen time, but only a couple of lines. After about forty minutes, Bodie shoots him dead – a lot.

Or does he? The bloke who falls off the roof looks more like Harpo Marx.

005 Like much of the series, the episode was filmed in Home Counties environs (locations were in Berks, Herts and Bucks), and some of the action takes place at a very interesting looking weir that features in any number of British film and television productions of the time (including ‘The Sweeney’, ‘Voices’ and, um, ‘Suburban Wives’). Not surprising, really, as it’s picturesque but also dramatic and implicitly dangerous. It's apparently called Boulter's Lock, and it's in Maidenhead. I’d like to go, maybe have a fight and fall in.

006 Let’s hear it for the ordinary people who inadvertently facilitate events that are far more exciting than anything that will ever happen to them, the bit players whose very bad days never make the headlines. This bloke, for example: yes, he dresses like a bloody idiot, but all he wanted was a nice day on the river in his dinghy. Not only does Bodie nick his car and his boat, he also nearly gets knocked down by a car full of terrorists. Later on, the boat will come off the roof of the car and the Germans will crash into it and his car will be abandoned in the woods miles away. All he wanted was a nice day on the river in is dinghy, now he’ll have to call the RAC and get his brother-in-law, Roger, to come and pick him up, and Roger can be a right twat about things like this.

007 In all the excitement, I forgot to mention that Bodie is accompanied throughout by his girlfriend, Julia, played by the large chested, small headed star of, um, ‘Surburban Wives’, Gabrielle Drake. Julia doesn’t take too well to her date turning into a desperate fight for life, especially when she realises that Bodie is a stone cold killer as well as a wisecracking smoothie. Not dealing with this sort of thing on a regular basis, of course, she’s rather naïve - but she doesn’t stay that way for long, and ultimately saves the day by finding her own inner brute. Interestingly, even when things are going terribly wrong, she still calls him Bodie.

008 Bodie and Julia take the captured Myer to a Vicarage in the middle of nowhere, crashing in on the Vicar and his Housekeeper and turning their home into a stronghold. The Vicar, who is a bit of a jittery dick, takes the terrorists’ advice and decides to leave. They shoot him before he even gets out of the window. It’s a brutal, sobering lesson for those inside the house– it’s also a strange move on the part of the terrorists, as they’ve spent the last twenty minutes saying that they don’t want to hurt anyone.

Those inside the house are caught like rats in a trap, but when one of the rats is Bodie, the odds are somewhat more evenly distributed. The terrorists seem to take a somewhat existential view, accepting a violent demise as an occupational hazard: “Hans is dead!” Bradley says to Inge Helmut, who sardonically replies “we’re ALL dead”. Bodie, of course, is a survival machine: the fact that he is out-gunned, outnumbered and under par is inconvenient, nothing more. When Julia asks him why he doesn’t just let Myer go, he says:

“I don’t know why. 
Because I hate his kind? 
Because I don’t like to lose? 
I don't know why. BECAUSE I SAY SO!” 

There’s an idealism there under the instinct and training, a fanaticism that prompts Myer to say to Bodie “we aren’t so very different, are we?” - Bodie punches him in the face.

009 When Julia gets a little hysterical (not surprisingly, really, it’s been a hell of a day) Bodie hits her. Now, there is absolutely no good or recommended way to hit a woman, but Bodie doesn’t give her the cliched 'bring her to bring her back to her senses' tap, he doesn’t even slap her, he punches her - hard.

In a few minutes, having learned the law of the jungle, this nice, gentle woman will kill Inge Helmut to save Bodie’s life. Whether she does it out of love, fear or obligation is uncertain. Funnily, enough, there’s no mention of another date.

010 The episode ends with Cowley laughing, really laughing. It doesn’t happen often but, when it does, it’s fucking terrifying.