Danger Man: s02 e09 – Yesterday’s Enemies

It gets a bit confusing, the way my box set of Danger Man leaps around in time and space when compared to the order of transmission of the series as laid out in imdb. According to the latter, ‘Yesterday’s enemies’ was not the ninth episode of the series but the first, the return (after three years) of the series, expanded to an hour slot and with John Drake completely revamped.

And an excellent ‘first episode’ this would have made, establishing effortlessly what this series would be about and especially that the series, and especially John Drake, would be the anti-Bond, and thank heaven for that.

The plot is superficially simple and routine. A British businessman in Beirut, John Brett (Peter Copley) is discovered to be passing British trade secrets to the ‘Opposition’. The Admiral (Peter Madden, equally as cold, austere and deeply cynical as in his previous appearance in ‘It’s Up To The Lady’) despatches Drake to investigate. Drake is promised all assistance from M9’s section chief, Mrs Jo Dutton (Maureen Connell) only to find her overworked, hassled and understaffed. For a time, he gets limited co-operation from the Lebanese Police under their chief, Attala (Anton Rodgers), only for that to be withdrawn when they decide the information retrieved should be reserved solely for their Government.

So far, so plain. It’s espionage as it really is, underhand, dirty, with a faintly unclean atmosphere. Untilnow, the story is only complicated by the sheer number of British ex-pats introduced. There’s the slightly dotty Mrs Curtis, played wonderfully by Joan Hickson), the journalist and lush Edwin Carter (Howard Marion Davies) and his wife Catharine (Patricia Driscoll), Brett’s gorgeous blonde secretary Mary Wilson (April Wilding) and the self-important Second Secretary Harries (Aubrey Morris, who, along with Madden, who plays the undertaker in the opening credits, makes a total of three future Prisoner alumni).

But that is to underestimate the show. Drake and Mrs Mullen confront Brett, who doesn’t understand what they’re accusing him of. He’s working for British Intelligence, passing on informtion at request. His contact? Edwin Archer.

And indeed Archer is an M9 agent, or rather a former Agent: recruited 1939, dismissed 1942, classed as Unreliable. Drake tries to get him into the embassy, from where he can be controlled. Archer refues to go. He admits he’s been operating solo for ten months, a private network, him and seven agents. He has a box-folder of information that he intended, once he had a year’s worth, to present to British Intelligence as a bundle, for M9 to take over his network entire, with him installed as its Chief.

What motivates Archer? Some of it is resentment, for a dismissal he regards as unjustified, a triumphal see-you-were-wrong return, but a lot more of it is the money he’ll make. Either way, when Drake is held an gunpoint and refuses to talk, he’s well prepared to have his men stick a lit cigarette in Drake’s eye, a fate from which our man is saved by the unexpected return of Catharine, with Mrs Curtis and Harris. It’s a somewhat bathetic rescue but who cares.

Attala confirms Archer is to leave the city for Baghdad, but supplies Drake with allthe information for Drake to intercept him, disable him with a nerve pinch, fake a stroke and kidnap him to the Embassy. Where the jovial Archer offers his network to ‘London’, in exchange for his freedom. London accepts.

It’s dirty, it’s underhand, it’s two wrongs making a right. Drake doesn’t like it but it’s a done deal. His job is done, he’s preparing to go home. But before he does, his path is crossed by another Agent from London, Bernard (Ivor Salter). Quiet, undemonstrative, regretful Bernard is recognised by Drake for what he is,in part because he knows nothing about Bernard’s arrival. Bernard is an assassin: Archer dies in a car crash and Bernard leaves Beirut almost as soon as he gets there.

Drake bears the brunt of everyoe’s reproaches, from Jo Mullen to Catharine archer, to whom, at last, he breaks cover, to tell her a white-washed tale that Edwin was killed after completing an intelligence mission, that he died a hero. The Admiral tears him off a strip for that: he had no authority, though what he did secured Catharine’s silence: she willnot now stir up an inquiry. Indeed, as Drake leaves, the Admiral confirms that they will be giving Archer a posthumous award…

Yes. As in Madden’s previous appearance as the Admiral, we’re seeing unreliable, underhand and deeply cynical practices that were meant to do no more th n show espionage in a non-fantasy fashion, and to distinguish Drake as not merely the hero but, in relative terms, the man Raymond Chandler envisioned in Phillip Marlowe: down these mean streets a man must go who is not in himself mean. No-one imagined Number Six and The Prisoner in 1964, but the man who resigned casts a long and unexpected shadow backwards.

2 thoughts on “Danger Man: s02 e09 – Yesterday’s Enemies

  1. The last time I watched the series, I did so on Amazon Prime (free) rather than drag my DVD boxes out. Amazon is apparently following the imdb order, because this was the first they showed.

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