Danger Man: s03 e23 – Not So Jolly Roger


Thus ended the third series of Danger Man, the last black and white episode, with an unintended slice of history and a trivial tale lacking in mystery but heavy on the wrong sort of atmosphere, notable only for the unique sight of a fight between the two female guest stars and the landing by one of them of some pretty hefty and masculine punches. Yet more evidence, I’m sorry to say, as to why Patrick McGoohan was not prepared to film a fourth full series, colour or no colour.

‘Not So Jolly Roger’ was an immediate, and hardly subtle, signal to the boys and girls of 1966 that we were delving into the controversial world of Pirate Radio, Radio Jolly Roger that is, broadcasting on 219 metres in the Medium Wave from a clutch of abandoned sea forts outside the three-mile limit, rendering them impervious to action by the British Government. The episode used a lot of location footage at Red Sands Fort, off Whitstable in Kent, and was indebted to a genuine Pirate, Radio 390, of whom I’ve never heard.

The story is simple. A DJ finishes his programme, goes outside, radio-telephones that the station is sending coded signals to enemy submarines and is shot and killed. That’s it, basically. There’s no mystery to be teased out, no enemy to be uncovered. DJ Johnnie Drake joins the crew, of whom everybody but two are in on the plot, goes through the usual technical routine of setting up this week’s elaborate spy gadgetry, plays DJ when the part requires – the patter is convincing enough but Patrick McGoohan as a DJ takes a lot of swallowing – gets into fights with the burly heavy, Mullins, and ends up cleaning up the culprits as we always knew he would. There’s not a great deal more to it and story-wise it’s a bit of a flat send-off.

What we do get is little bits of character play. Station manager and owner, Marco Janson (Edwin Richfield) is insistent the schedule be kept to, rigidly. He also seems suspicious of his wife, Linda (Lisa Daniely) who seems to have an eye for handsome younger men. The cook, Corrigan (Wilfred Lawson, a notorious lush) is a notorious lush, so much so that you suspect him automatically of playing a part, as indeed he is. Radio Engineer Jerry Summers (Jon Rollason) doesn’t want to get involved until JD the DJ forced him to be and is promptly killed, and the cast is made up by the only other DJ on the station, Susan Wade, played by Patsy Ann Noble, an Australian Actress beter known as Trisha Noble, who’s a dull DJ but fills out a rib-knit sweater conspicuously, and who’s the one who will swing them at the sardonic Linda.

All the story logic you’d normally want, like what secrets are being passed, how they’re obtained in the first place, who they’re being passed to, are no more than cardboard outlines, leaving the ‘story’ to get on with itself whilst removing its point.

I found it very difficult to get into. This was because the show simply could not allow itself to set up the right atmosphere for a Pirate Radio Station in 1966. There was a lot of music being played, more than half a dozen songs introduced, from artists I’ve never heard of, under tirles genuinely representing the songs we then part heard. One record, the closer, ‘He Who Rides a Tiger’, was certainly real, because it was a single by Patsy Ann Noble herself. Were any of the others ‘real’? Given the cost in paying copyright fees for broadcast, I can only assume not, and take them all to be created by musical director Edwin Astley (a hint was that one track was credited to ‘Ted Astley’) in which case kudos for so much creativity, but minus marks for the overall sound.

I’ll repeat that this was 1966. Obviously the show is not going to play, and it doesn’t even mention The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, The Animals, The Small Faces, Cliff Richard, Dusty Springfield, Sandie Shaw, etc., etc., etc., because it can’t afford to pay for the music and because it won’t condescend to recognise the pop music of the day – so juvenile compared to Jazz – in a show for adults, but in tuen that means that the music is out-of-date. nothing played or created shows the least sign of being infected by the energy, the freshness, the enthusiasm of the pop of the time. It’s a pre-Beatles sound, bloodless, inoffensive, lacking in any feel: 1962 and earlier. It’s incongruous, even though that kind of sound is only a handful of years back, and was still there, although it was fighting a dying cause. For anyone like me, the episode simply cannot be believable, because the music is in no sense convincing.

And that was (almost) that. What remains are the two colour episodes, which I shall watch individually, even though they were subsequently edited together as a full-length film, which is also available on the DVD box-set. We will soon be looking for a new subject for Tuesdays: I am already prepared.

2 thoughts on “Danger Man: s03 e23 – Not So Jolly Roger

  1. I also liked this episode a LOT, while I still agree that in-universe it explained why Drake would want to “resign”, although evidence for “his” resignation goes back to Don’t Nail Him Yet & That’s Two of Us Sorry back in season 2. Part of my fascination with this episode is probably due to living in the US, where Pirate Radio wasn’t a “thing”. Anglophiles like myself read about it and were jealous.

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