Dan Dare: Underwater Attack… Not

We all of us, Dan Dare fans, think and talk of The Menace from Jupiter as the last story in the saga, omega to The Venus Story‘s alpha, but as I’ve mentioned in passing before, really it’s not.
Prisoners of Space was re-printed, I was properly introduced to Hank and Pierre and Flamer, though the serial was messed around, reformatted, reduced inside to be spread across about two-thirds of the centre spread. And when it finished, there was another new story.
Underwater Attack has never, to my knowledge, been reprinted, nor has there been the remotest enthusiasm for its reprint, nor any notion of incorporation within the Dan Dare legend. I’m not even going to really write about it now. All I know is that it lasted only four weeks – the same length as a story from an Eagle annual – and was drawn by Eric Kincaid, who was an Eagle veteran having, for years, drawn the Roving Reporter page.
All I remember is that it began with Dan and Digby on leave, diving in somewhere like the Mediterranean, when they encountered a party of what seemed to be aliens, green-skinned, goggle-eyed, grill-mouthed. Fearing an alien invasion, Dan and Dig snooped on these creatures, fund and got captured and taken into their base, where they proved to be a Government experiment into new undersea suits. Ho hum.
That was the real end and, just as we traditionally think of the classic Being There as being Peter Sellars’ last film because we cannot bear to recall the horrendous piece of imbecile shit that actually was the last thing he worked on, so do we omit Underwater Attack from our consideration.
Yet though the true canon came to an end in the late Sixties, there have been numerous stories since. For the most part, whether it be 2000 A.D. or the New Eagle, I don’t count these. Irrespective of any real qualities they may possess as stories, they are not Dan Dare as I recognise him.
But there are a handful of stories that aim to contribute to the Dan Dare legend, and which are of a sufficiently high quality – or, better yet, fidelity – that they deserve consideration. For the most part, they are the work of the fans, and not the professionals, although a couple of those stories which ran in Spaceship Away gloss over that seeming boundary as we shall see.
So I’m going to extend this series a little longer, to pay tribute to the works that stretch the boundaries of the mythos and give the long-term readers like myself what we have always longed for: More.
First up, however, is not an actual story, but it is an absolutely fascinating publication that demonstrates a tremendous imagination, applied to the notion of drawing all the stories together into a consistent continuity.

In Praise of Pratchett: The Fifth Elephant

To be honest, the title’s a bit naff. The Fifth Elephant is a pun on the then-current and popular film, The Fifth Element, and is enough of a gimme in Discworld terms as to be irresistible, but Pratchett is then left with the necessity of inserting something in the story that justifies the title, and whilst he comes up with something, it’s too much of an obvious contrivance to ever settle in place, and it’s rather too much of a MacGuffin to ever feel natural.
The Fifth Elephant sees us back to the City Watch, only not so much as before. Though the book makes plenty of room for the rest of the Watch to strut their stuff, and Sam Vimes is still only primus inter pares, this is where the subtle shift in the City Watch books starts. The next book will be Sam Vimes alone, more or less, and the sub-series becomes ever more focussed upon its Commander, His Grace, His Excellency, Sir Samuel Vimes, the Duke of Ankh.
Having brought Uberwald to Lancre, Pratchett now takes his crew to the dark land itself. On the surface, which is where Vimes prefers to stand, it’s nothing more than sending a Diplomatic Representative of Ankh-Morpork to the Coronation of the Low King, the King of the Dwarves. Why it should be Vimes is a mystery to the Duke, whose brush with diplomacy in Jingo has left him convinced he wants nothing of it.
But Lady Sybil believes in him, not to mention the idea of getting Sam out of Ankh-Morpork for some time, and you and I know that if the Patrician considers Vimes to be the right person for the job, then there’s something pretty nasty going on somewhere.
Which there is. Not to put too fine a point on it, Uberwald is dominated by a tripartite arrangement between the Dwarves, the Vampires and the Werewolves (the humans don’t count). It’s not so much an alliance as an armed neutrality where for long decades (centuries?) no side has been prepared to upset the applecart. Only, with Vimes on his way, it’s easy to guess that somebody has reached that point.
All is not well below ground. The wrong, or at any rate unexpected dwarf has been elected Low King, Rhys Rhysson of Llamedos, instead of the traditionalist Albrecht Albrechtson, who represents the powerful but backward-looking faction that fears the influence of Ankh-Morpork and the changes it has wrought on the dwarves that live there. Though it’s being kept quiet (though not quiet enough for Vimes’s perceptions), the Scone of Stone – upon which the Low King must be seated to be crowned, to have true legitimacy – has been stolen.
In time, we find out that this is all part of a plot between the Deepdown faction of the dwarves and the Werewolves, not the Baron himself but his son, Wolfgang, an incredibly strong, charismatic and heedless werewolf, who sees and recognises no rules. Oh, and he’s also Sergeant Angua’s brother.
Which brings us to another thing.
Pratchett cleverly divides his story into three strands. The first is Vimes, on his mission to the town of Bonk (pronounced Beryonk) in Uberwald, accompanied by Cheery Littlebottom, Detritus and Lady Sybil, plus an overly innocuous clerk sent by Lord Vetinari, one Inigo Skimmer, who will prove to be both a spy and an Assassin. Vimes investigates the crimes, is framed for at attempt on Rhys Rhysson’s life, fights for his life.
But at the same time, there’s Carrot, and Angua. News of what is going on back home is brought to Angua by a wolf who goes by the name of Gavin, and who is implied to be a rival for Angua’s attention. The news causes Angua to head home: she, of all her family, can best Wolfgang, and it’s pretty clear that she’s going to need to. Her message of departure causes Carrot to resign from the Watch (though the Patrician elects to regard this as extended leave) to follow her. As guide, and translator, he takes Gaspode the Wonder Dog.
This is a very interesting section of the story. Though Carrot starts as Carrot, the hyper-efficient, preternaturally nice and polite not-King we know him as, this only lasts until he is well within the snows of Uberwald, and in need of the assistance of Angua, Gavin and the wolf pack that the latter dominates. From this point on, Carrot appears to be uncomprehending and slow. It is Angua who is in her element, in exactly the way Carrot is in Ankh-Morpork, and he is the stranger in the city.
And when it comes to the inevitable fight with Wolfgang, it is Carrot who is beaten, ridiculously quickly and destructively, totally out of his depth. And Gavin the wolf who proves better suited to dealing with Wolfgang the werewolf, sacrificing himself to neutralise Wolfgang’s present danger.
But he still sacrifices himself, removing any possibility of choice from the equation (not that, at that point, the choice was there, or rather that it had already been made, a point Pratchett does not make even the least overt gesture towards, leaving it to the readers to work it out for themselves).
And once Gavin is gone, out of the way, Carrot suddenly masters everything and everyone in Uberwald, including the wolf pack itself, restoring his unconscious position at the top of every heap going.
What’s fascinating to observe is how Pratchett alters his distancing technique in this strand. We still only and ever see Carrot from outside, having him interpreted for us by other characters. But this time, Angua’s not there to do it. Gaspode isn’t just required as a translator, not to mention as a glorious comic creation in himself, he stands as our external interpreter for Carrot. And Pratchett is brilliant for then extending Gaspode’s function to Angua, once she comes back into the story.
We do not see inside her head as we normally do. This is an external portrayal, of Carrot and Angua, and by pitching it at Gaspode’s eye level, Pratchett enables himself to say an awful lot without ever overtly saying a thing.
The third strand is the purely comic one. It’s essentially irrelevant to the plot but it’s a rigorously essential development of it. With Vimes in Uberwald and Carrot resigned, the Watch needs a senior officer to run it, and when it comes to seniority, there’s nobody to beat Fred Colon. Who has about as much ability to cope with officering as a snowflake has in coping with a blowtorch.
The speed, precipitousness and inevitability with which things go downhill is hilarious. It’s also a backhand compliment to both Vimes and Carrot in showing how important both are to the ever-growing City Watch.
But the greatest element of The Fifth Elephant comes in watching the further growth of Sam Vimes, who takes to diplomacy like a duck takes to orange sauce, providing his own special flavour to the mix. I can’t remember, exactly, when I decided that the Discworld series, if it ended, should end with Vimes succeeding to the Patricianship, but if it wasn’t before The Fifth Elephant, it certainly was now.
There is one further thing I want to mention, that comes over in this book. When it comes to the Watch, Sam Vimes and Carrot Ironfoundersson are the two principals, the ideals (to a given quantity of ideal) that we look up to. Pratchett, deliberately or otherwise, gives both a hard time in this book on the same ground, their relationship with their ladies.
Carrot’s is the lesser of the two, necessarily because we not only never see into his head but also because here we never see into Angua’s head. Carrot has many idealised qualities, and Pratchett is pretty clear, to his readers, that Carrot knows exactly what he is doing and that he’s working on a very much deeper level than he appears to be. He loves Angua, and the moment he learns she’s left, he goes after her, abandoning the City that, at heart, he probably loves more.
And he gets his way. She comes back with him, without any overt manipulation. But in his sometimes deliberate seeming obtuseness, about who she is, about what she does and needs, he sometimes comes over as unconcerned as to her needs. There are echoes of it in The Fifth Element, never clear enough for us to accuse him of manipulation, but Pratchett does still point out that Carrot always gets what he personally wants, to the full extent that a manipulator would be seeking.
But Pratchett does include one moment that demonstrates the depth of Carrot’s feelings to Angua in a way that means more to her than any declaration. Angua knows what it means to be a werewolf like no other person can, certainly beyond Carrot’s sensibilities. Ultimately, she is what she is and she can only live that way because of self-control. Faced with her brother’s example, she demands from Carrot, and gets, the ultimate promise: that if she ever falls, like Wolfgang, it will be he who ends it.
It’s a moment that simultaneously chills and warms.
That aside, Carrot’s deficiencies seems more alive to me in this book rather than others because I am already aware, from the early part of the book, that Sam Vimes is a bad husband.
It’s all over the first half of the book. Vimes may love Sybil in his way but, just like Carrot, he loves Ankh-Morpork more. The Policeman in his soul doesn’t leave enough room for love for a woman. At every turn, Sam will ignore and neglect Sybil in favour of what he calls his duties, but which are really an excuse to be Copper. This is exemplified by the fact that Sybil takes practically the whole book to tell Sam that she is pregnant, because he never listens, and is off on things more exciting at a moment’s notice.
Hell’s bells, Pratchett even comes out and says it explicitly, in a short but truly painful scene where Sybil, alone of course, folds clothes and muses to herself, in that altogether human way of making light of things that are too deep to be borne, about how lucky she is, compared to other wives in her extensive family tree.
Yet, though it’s done the hard way, Vimes learns for himself how badly he has performed. His love for Sybil is unstated but strong, and his fears when imprisoned are for her rather than him, but it is the news that they are to be parents that resets the balance, and begins the time when Sam Vimes becomes a true husband to his wife. We will see this more than ever in the next City Watch book, the incomparable Night Watch, but without The Fifth Elephant, that book could not have been what it is, and we would be so much poorer for that.

The Fall Season: Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD

Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD goes into it’s third season in a state of rude good health, story-wise, though it’s audiences still aren’t necessarily what the network were hoping for. The show that sold itself as the Marvel Universe without the super-powers promptly put off that chunk of its audience that tuned in expecting to see Avengers every other week, but now it’s gearing itself up to embrace its own superpowers, of which there was a generous helping of that in the season premiere.

It hasn’t always been easy watching SHIELD, at least up to the last half dozen episodes of Season 1 when it suddenly kicked off and has been soaring ever since, but the show itself is full of confidence.

My policy of avoiding all but the most unmissable of spoilers means that I’m aware that this season will see the arrival of the Secret Warriors, which sounds uncomfortably like the unholy mess that has just descended upon Gotham, but I have hopes for better. It isn’t hard to project what that’s going to turn out to be, but Agents of SHIELD has a lot more hinterland behind it, so I expectany transition to be much more smoothly handled.

Even so, I’d forgotten several of the developments at the end of Season 2, like Coulson losing his lower left arm and Simmons being swallowed up by the Monolith, but the show soon brought me up to speed.

Just as Marvel Comics are busy pretending the X-Men have nothing to do with them, just because Fox holds the film licence, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is busy promoting Inhumans as the substitute. For the tv series, that means a whole heap of people are going to start discovering superpowers (resulting from the contamination of fish oil with Terrigen, a sort of ironic steal from Popeye and his can of Spinach).

Such as Joe, not long out of the closet and facing the fact of a lifelong return, just because he can now liquefy metals. There are two organisations after the Joes of this rapidly evolving world, the good guys being SHIELD, who want to help them understand and control their abilities, the other being ATCU, headed by the mysterious Rosalind Price (Constance Zimmer is a disturbingly fetching black page-boy bob).

What ATCU wants is as yet unclear (it wasn’t actually them burning holes through Inhumans’ hearts) but the already xenophobic attitude they display does nothing to dispel the idea that they’re going to be the bad guys.

This set-up of the main season conflict was nicely judged, with SHIELD starting off with the edghe but ATCU clearly are going to have the facilities.

Elsewhere, Fitz is still racing around trying to recover Simmons (Ian de Caestecker whomping the acting ball out of the metaphorical stadium in heartbreaking fashion), though he wasn’t privy to the audience’s revelation in the pay-off that saw a running Gemma high-tailing it across a different planet.

Skye has accepted her true heritage and is now going by her birth-name of Daisy. Bobbi’s still recuperating, filling in time filling in for Simmons in the lab, whilst the ever sardonic Hunter is intent on going after Grant Ward, and not to deliver him milk and cookies either. These last two came as a relief: I’d been reading rumours about their being spun-off to a series of their own so I was glad to see them still in situ.

Henry Simmons, as Mack, has been elevated to Cast for Season 3, as has Luke Simmons as Lincoln, the Inhuman who can fire off electric bolts. At this stage, Lincoln doesn’t want anything to do with SHIELD, though we know that that’s not going to be tenable, don’t we?

Which leaves only Agent May and the aforementioned Ward, neither of whom put in an appearance in this episode, presumably so as not to make things too crowded (the regular cast now numbers ten).

What we got was a very good season opener, in touch with the continuity of previous seasons but setting in motion the new phases to occupy our weeks for the next twenty-one episodes. And hopefully pulling back some of that ‘where’s the superpowers’ audience in the process. Solid ratings will secure a Season 4 in due course, and Agents of SHIELD has been operating at the level that deserves that security for long enough already.

Proper Nostalgia revisited

My recent score on e-Bay of over a dozen back issues of the Eagle has not been a one-off. Though funds (and space) are still at a premium, I have once again begun chipping away at that Wants List I drew up over a quarter of a century ago

A couple of days ago, I wiped a large chunk of it out with the winning of half- a year’s worth of Eagle‘s in one go, Volume 13 nos 27 – 52 inclusive, the back half of 1962. Some of these I already had, but literally only a handful, and the least perfect copy of each duplicate will go back on e-Bay for other collectors to aim to complete their Lists.

The actual comics were delivered yesterday and I spent the morning a long way away in time.

And that took care of Volume 13. It’s a testament to the difficulty of this pursuit to think that it’s taken me over twenty five years (albeit with one very very long gap in there) to get together all the issues for a single Volume, a whole year.

The last time I could boast that was when I was a small boy, getting his weekly comic courtesy of his Dad. And the irony is that this isn’t even one of the complete Volumes of then, but a whole year earlier than discovering Eagle in the first place.

I do have two other Volumes for which I want but two issues each: which will be next?

Sandman Overture # 6

By chance, a couple of days ago, I came across my review of Sandman Overture 1, which I read with a grim smile at its optimistic cheeriness and enthusiasm. In particular, I couldn’t help but seize on the assertion that Neil Gaiman had written this preface to the Sandman series of twenty-five years previously, which is certainly what we were all led to believe: six issues, published bi-monthly, starting in November 2013, ending in September 2014.

Today, I paid a fleeting visit to the centre of Manchester to purchase issue 6, which appears exactly twelve months behind schedule, having scraped in just under the wire to do so.

And though artist J.H.Williams is notorious as a slow artist, it is not he who has to take responsibility for this fiasco. As early as the interminable delay between issues 1 and 2, Gaiman accepted responsibility for failing to provide his artistic collaborator with scripted pages to be drawn. I have heard nothing since that suggests that the ongoing difficulty in producing this book was down to anyone else.

Now, should he choose to exercise it, Gaiman has a ready-made excuse for these delays, in the form of his previous defence of George R. R. Martin. I’d like to say that I agree with every word Gaiman says at the other end of that link. Wearing the hat I wear as a reader of comics for fifty years, bearing in mind that throughout that period, and even now, comics is a serial form of fiction that is heavily dependant on the even rhythm of its schedule, I don’t regard such an explanation as adequate.

I have already said, as much as a year ago, that had I known what would happen, I wouldn’t have even started the story. I would have waited for the Graphic Novel collection, and I don’t mean the hardback volume that is already treading on the heels of this comic with a haste that is indecent in the circumstances. The paperback is at least twelve more months away.

But what, we dare ask, is my impression of the Distinguished Thing now that it is present in its entirety? I have carried the comic home without opening its pages, have written the first half of this blog whilst it remains in the Forbidden Planet bag, and I shall now read the story in its entirety, and only then offer my opinion.


And it is good.

It’s so very good, and so very wide, and it seeps into every part of a story begun twenty-seven years ago, and ended nineteen years ago, as if in every part of it it was in Gaiman’s head during the nights that followed the Great Storm, when the shape and the idea came about.

And Williams draws or paints or does both and neither as if he is shaping the stuff of dream instead of using pencil, paper, ink, or even pixels.

And it will need many more readings for me to appreciate the immensity of this story, including those readings that will be necessary to eradicate the thoughts and feelings that form the first part of this revue.

For it is very good indeed. But it carries within it a sense of completion that makes it very hard to imagine that Gaiman will ever return to The Dreaming again.

In Praise of Pratchett: The Science of Discworld

Terry Pratchett wrote two Discworld books in 1999. I can’t remember the publication dates but, given the general schedule of Discworld novels since he stopped writing two a year every year, I think it most probable that The Fifth Elephant was the later of these two, Which means that I now have to consider the first in the series of collaborations Pratchett produced with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen which, incidentally, featured the first cover drawn by Paul Kidby and not Josh Kirby.
The Science of Discworld books are not usually counted as proper Discworld novels, which is understandable in respect of the amount of story in them. Nor is there any crossover from the books into Discworld continuity as such (except for Rincewind’s honorary appointment to the now-vacant post of Egregious Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography). But come on, there’s Rincewind, and the Faculty, and the Librarian, and if that isn’t enough there’s the D-word up there in the title, so let’s not be pernickety about this.
The Science of Discworld is an unusual book, combining popular fiction with popular science, in alternating chapters. I’ve read the bits by Stewart and Cohen, which seem clear and readable and which contain nothing of so great a scientific complexity as to baffle me (not like A Brief History of Time then). If anything, in a few places, I found that the effort to put things at the level of the ordinary reader a bit too jolly hockeysticks, to the point of being patronising, and I am no science buff.
After the first couple of occasions, I’ve tended to miss out the factual bits, and just read Pratchett’s own contributions. Unfortunately, in this book, that pans out as inadequate.
There are two things here that prevent Pratchett being enough of Pratchett to make this an utterly enjoyable experience. The first is the book’s structure: Pratchett writes the odd-numbered chapters, Stewart and Cohen the even-numbered chapters. We’re not used to reading Pratchett in chapters, nor in any kind of discrete chunks. There’s no flow, no rhythm, no sustainment. And worst of all, after every piece, we have to sit back and have it explained to us in realistic terms. It’s a constant change from chocolate to cabbage: we, and Pratchett, never get a proper run at things.
It’s an effect that’s only magnified the longer the book goes on, as the explanations get longer and longer, and Pratchett’s set-ups – because that’s what they are – get shorter and shorter, and we’re sometimes lucky to get as many as two pages of Discworld at a time.
The other problem is that Prachett is not actually writing a story. There’s no plot, no conflict, no drama. Or rather there is, but it’s not of his doing: it’s being dictated to him because it’s the story of the evolution of the Universe, the Earth and its creatures, including that seriously-late-to-the-party arrival, Man (and Woman).
Pratchett puts a frame on that story by first introducing one of Ponder Stibbins’ experiments that, upon splitting the thaum, creates enough magical energy to swallow the entire University whole, en route to taking everything else with it. That is, until Hex sops up the magic by using it to run the hitherto theoretical Roundworld Project, an experiment in creating a completely absurd world that is not only spherical instead of the normal flat, but also without magic. Or Turtles. Except the ordinary ones.
Once this is in place, Pratchett has his Wizards investigate the phenomenon as only they can. It’s amusing, frequently, but since his primary purpose is to dance through the sequence of events to set up Stewart and Cohen, it’s a story written under built-in constraints that bog him down.
It’s a positive pain to read through this book carefully flipping over all the even-numbered chapters (there are twenty-two of them). In The Science of Discworld, the story isn’t really worth it.

New Tricks: Life Expectancy

Ted Case

At last, a flicker, a story that didn’t end with a simple win, or a a cut-and-dried solution. Indeed, in a sense, you could say that the story did not have an ending at all, not in this life-cycle, to adapt the wording chosen by guest star David Haig, in his final moments.

There was an odd sense of deja vu about the start, as for a second successive week, the ‘boys’ turned up to meet Sasha at the site of some diggings, but the circumstances were very different. The scene was a graveyard that had been affected by a sudden sinkhole, exposing the grave of Gwen Morris, who had died of cancer in 2008. The reason for UCOS’s presence was that it had also exposed a murder weapon – a phrenology bust – used to kill Douglas Hempsey, an alternate medicine practitioner who had been treating her.

Prime suspect had always been Alison Morris, a freelance journalist on scientific issues, who had loudly blamed Hempsey for persuading her mother to cease chemotherapy that could have preserved her life. But Alison had a water-tight alibi.

This was an intriguingly structured investigation from the start, with the usual dissension between Steve and Danny over which subject to pursue, and with very little by way of clues to let the seasoned watcher anticipate who the eventual murderer would prove to be.

And, this being the penultimate episode, it was time to start dropping in little hints as to the possible fate of UCOS this time next Tuesday evening.

On the one side, there was Fiona, offered a Head of Services post that represented a golden chance for her, except that it was in Aberdeen.

On the other, in marched Assistant Commissioner Cynthia Kline to offer Sasha a promotion, to head a Task Force dealing with Honour Killings, and an uplift to Detective Superintendent. All very nice, if a bit steely, and with the underlying assumption that of course Sasha couldn’t refuse, giving AC Kline another elevated female Senior Officer owing her something.

Steve was the aggravated one, fearing getting a bad boss in as replacement, Ted was all encouragement and belief that Sasha should take thre plunge, despite her fears over her own lack of experience, whilst Danny was warning her against the game player AC.

This was generally allowed to rumble quietly in the background of an investigation that was struggling to make its mark. As well as the pale and nervous Alison, there was Hempsey’s ex-friend and business partner, Evan, who’d turned their alternative medicine practice/supply into a very nice little earner, and there was David Hempsey (Haig), who’d been an early part of the business along with his wife Rebecca, but who, after Rebecca’s death, had gotten into cryo-preservation.

As the scientific Hempsey Haig was all quiet smiles, sweet reasonableness, in deep regret for his loss and full of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, Rebecca’s favourite music. You wanted to suspect him, but couldn’t see where he could possibly fit in, especially after Steve’s bull-at-a-gate tactics browbeat Alison into confessing to Hempsey’s murder.

But it was far too soon for a conclusion, and we’d already been set-up to understand that it was a legal disaster: with Sasha not about, Alison panicked and insisted on leaving her questioning, but collapsed into confession when formally arrested by Ted. Except that neither he, Steve, nor Danny are serving Police Officers and have no rights to arrest. The confession was illegal, was promptly withdrawn the moment the Solicitor got there, and the next morning Alison slit her wrists.

Thankfully, the team had gone to visit her and saved her life, but the cock-up was now beginning to spiral. Needless to say, Kline was happy to protect Sasha and ensure none of this farrago touched her.

But by now, little pieces were finally coming together. You see, Gwen Morris and Douglas Hempsey had both died in the same week but, in a superbly held-back piece of information, we learned that Rebecca Hempsey had also died the same week. And was frozen in cryo in California.

The moment Fiona came up with evidence that Rebecca had been subtly poisoned, the case came together. David had poisoned his wife when she refused to end her affair with Douglas: indeed, he killed her when he found she and Douglas had signed up to cryo together. As for Douglas, Alison Morris had indeed fractured his skull with the bust, but it was David who had finished the job with a monkey wrench, ensuring the body could not be accepted for cryo. Rebecca might wake up in some distant future when her bodily ills could be cured, but it would not be to Douglas.

Instead, it would be to David, killing himself before UCOS’s unwilling eyes once it was clear he had been exposed. To David, it wasn’t so much dying as de-animation, the end of a cycle that had disappointed him so much, the inner confidence of a life hereafter, in which Rebecca would love him again, if only because there would be no-one else for her to wake up to.

In some tiny part of me, I had an inkling of what was in his heart, though not what was in his head.

But though Kline tried to smooth it over a a success for UCOS, for which difficulties Sasha would be insulated, it was a different matter when Sasha refused the promotion, went against Kline’s wishes. That wuill carry over into next week’s final episode.

As for Danny, I know of plenty of long-term New Tricks fans who see him as the spoiler who ruined their programme. Needless to say, I don’t agree, though there are times when, especially in questioning, he’s unnecessarilly supercilious. But in his relationship with Fiona this season, we’ve seen a different side of him, a loving, devoted, very rooted side that, delivered with his characteristic dryness, has been marvelous to follow.

And in perhaps a foreshadow of next week, Danny came through: if Fiona takes this chance, as she so very much deserves, he will go with her, to Aberdeen and god know’s what, because she is simply that important to him and ego will not stand in his way.

A quiet, complex episode, with conundrums at the heart of it. Unorthodoxy looks to have invited serious problems, all aimed at forcing Sasha to do AC Kline’s bidding. But it’s that numinous moment, of the killer happy to die in pursuit of the ultimate romantic longing, that is to be taken away.