Danger Man: s04 e02 – Shinda Shima


Here is where the story ends. Danger Man‘s second and final episode in colour, and it’s last ever episode, is, like its predecesor, set in Japan, to make the most of the location footage ATV’s cameramen had shot. The continuity of background was a fortunate factor in enabling the two episodes to be edited together as a feature film.

There’s an uncanny moment at the start of the film as electronics expert Edward Sharp is arrested on arrival at Tokyo Airport. Sharp is an agent for a branch of British Intelligence, occupying a sensitive post, who has abruptly resigned without a reason and who has gone off to do whatever he now chooses. I didn’t expect it at all, yet there’s probably a very simple and logical explanation, namely the presence of George Markstein as Danger Man‘s new Script Editor, the man who, allegedly, came up with the initial iidea for The Prisoner. Still, I had not realised there was so immediate a link betwen the two series.

Anyway: John Drake replaces Edward Sharp to see where he was going, what he was doing and who he was selling out to. There is the first of several long, time-consuming sequences as he comprehensively – and fascinatingly – takes Sharp’s case apart to discover multiple hiding places for electronic components, to be used to construct a code-breaking machine.

Starting with a jigsaw puzzle of a two-tailed dragon, Drake is led to an island off the mainland, Shinda Shima, the ‘Murdered Island’: unpopulated after a curse killed three leading family heads without a sign. We already know from the open that the curse consists of a skin diver attacking a pearl fisherman and killing him with an underwater karate blow, so we’re not surprised to find that the island has been taken over by another cult organisation consisting mostly of Caucasians again, who are paying ‘Sharp’ to break the UN’s fiendishly complicated ‘Unicode’.

Before that, we’ve had our second long diversion in the form of Kenneth Griffith as Richards, a beachcomber type whose status is blurred. He breaks up the story by offering Drake a drink and telling him about the island in a stilted, highly mannered and above all unnecessarily slow monologue. You can feel time grinding to a halt whilst he does this.

Anyway, Drake arrives where Sharp was going, amongst another cliche tableau of Japanese cult terrorists. Amongst them is Miho, a small, dark-haired woman who is actually an infiltrator, out to kill the organisation that killed her sister in Tokyo, namely the British Agent killed in the open to the first episode, who was also played by Miho’s actress, Yoko Tani. She plans to kill Sharp but Drake catches her. Her intended execution forces his hand and they escape together by swimming to the mainland.

The next time-stretching scene is an awkward one where Drake exhorts the exiled islanders to mount an attack to take their island back despite it being populated with expert men with martial arts skills, guns and bows and arrows and these being pearl divers (at least there’s a diversity, as both male and female islanders join the attack, the women – except for Yoko Tani, in the shortest skirts the series ever showed).

Sadly, this is where the episode descends into farce, with a clumsy, overlong fight scene using half-learned kung fu moves. Still, the good guys win, the day is saved, and the series, and all of Danger Man finishes on an elegiac scene of boats laden with people and belongings setting out to return to their home. It’s by far the best moment of the episode and a high note on which to finish.

After this came The Prisoner, which you can find elsewhere on this blog, if you search. Despite the quite disappointing falling-off of quality as it neared its end, I shall miss Danger Man, as I always do when I reach the end of a long series. It’s the loss of a comforting familiarity, the rhythm of Tuesday morning being devoted to such-and-such, and having to develop a new mindset for something else. What that something else will be has been decided a long time ago and it’s an appropriate successor to this series. Join me next week to discover what it will be.

Danger Man: s04 e01 – Koroshi


After two series in its revamped form, Danger Man (UK)/Secret Agent (US) was such a big hit on both sides of the Atlantic that Lew Grade, boss of ATV, increased the series’ budget to ebable series 4 to be filmed in colour. This would prove to be a somewhat ironic decision.

The first thing to note was how utterly strange and wrong Danger Man in colour felt, especially the opening negative scene, and the second was that how bad the colour balance was for the open and the credits, with far too much orange saturation. Furthermore, the theme music had been re-recorded for the opening credits so as to take all the energy out of it (although the closing credits were as before). The omens were not good.

Nor, sadly, was the episode. We are suposedly in Tokyo, further from England than John Drake, or radion reporter ‘Basil Edwards’ has been before, wvhich in practice meant some location stock shots, mostly of Japanese neon and drunken Japanese men at night, to supplement studio sets that were far too cardboard to trigger enough suspension of disbelief.

The story was basic and unexceptional. A new murder organisation, reviving an old Japanese sect, bent on fascist rule of the world, plans to assassinate a UN Mediator in New York. Ako Nakamura, M9’s local top agent, a Japanese woman in traditional dress, sends a message of warning via a radio transmitter concealed in a flower before being gassed to death from another flower. Enter Drake.

This being the Far East, we expect to see Burt Kwouk and the programme does not disappoint us for here he is, Embassy driver, sent to fetch ‘Mr Edwards’ to a gramaphone shop to meet cultural attache Potter (Christopher Benjamin), yes, he and they of ‘The Girl Who Was Death’. Potter’s a clown: there, I’ve said it.

This being the Far East, we expect to see Burt Kwouk and the programme does not disappoint us for here he is, Embassy driver, sent to fetch ‘Mr Edwards’ to a gramaphone shop to meet cultural attache Potter (Christopher Benjamin), yes, he and they of ‘The Girl Who Was Death’. Potter’s a clown: there, I’ve said it. Drake works on his own, totaly in the dark, starting with Rosemary Wiley (Amanda Barrie), an English student who has taken over Ako’s apartment and who blithley leads him to Philip Sanders (Ronald Howard), an Englishman who is head of this new Assassination business.

Why she does this and why he lets her is a bit of a mystery, only explicable by noting that this is Amanda Barrie we’re talking about, playing Rosemary the same way I’ve only ever seen her play any role, as a ditzy brunette with an odd hairdo. She even grumps at one point that being a traitor isn’t as much fun as she thought it would be.

The thing is that we may be supposed to be in Japan but it’s very noticeable that, with the exception of one brief non-speaking cameo, this resurrected sect of Japanese cultists, steeped in ancient Japanese traditions and devoted to Koroshi, the ‘poetry of death’, are exclusively English. Talk about cultural imperialism.

Needless to say, the dumb brunette Rosemary, whose only saving grace is dancer’s legs, leads Drake to the sect and he brings them down. She gets away unscathed, though the episode makes a bit of a hash of that: the close sees Drake sat morose in the airport awaiting his flight home whilst Kwouk tries to distract him with suggestions of things he could get, but Drake is thinking of what can’t be got – a brave and intelligent woman. Since we’ve been dealing with Amanda Barrie up until a minute of screentime ago, I initially took this as a reference to her having been killed, which we hadn’t seen. But the description of brave and intelligent should have clued me in sooiner to it being Ako Nakamura Drake was mourning.

A final moment of confusion to further downgrade an unsatisfactory episode.

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.

Danger Man: s03 e22 – The Paper Chase


After this there’s just one episode to go in series 3, and by the standards the programme has set for itself previously, it’s just as well. The reviewer of this episode at imdb hails it as one of his favourites, links it to ‘The Girl who was Death’ in The Prisoner and regards it as a deliberately cartoon episode that allowed everyone involved to let off steam. I don’t. To me, it’s evidence of the clearest that Patrick McGoohan – who directed this episode – was right to demur at another full season.

The set-up is serious enough. We’re in Rome in the rain. My apologies for the clarity, or otherwise, of the image above but that’s truly representative of the open, which is so dark as to be invisible at times. Gordon, a British diplomat driving home, stops off at a bar to have a drink wth a pretty, affectionate, dark-haired girl. He attracts the attention of Tamasio (another seriously OTT performance by Aubrey Morris, giving it the full monty as a volatile, loud, deeply untrustworthy small-time Italian crook, on a scooter naturally) who steals his car keys and robs his car of an expensive looking camera, a posh umbrella, put to immediate use, and a briefcase.

Unfortunately, the briefcase contains highly classified documents that shouldn’t have even been removed from the Embassy and which, when their loss is discovered, will lead to Gordon being crucified by the Foreign Office. Fortunately, Gordon’s old friend John Drake has a free weekend and can fly out to retrieve the papers.

Interestingly, McGoohan wears the same white raincoat and white flat cap combination he sports for ‘The Girl who was Death’, whilst underneath he has on the all-black jacket, polo-short and trousers outfit in which Number 6 is kidnapped. Add to this Aubrey Morris and a small part for Peter Swanwick (the Controller) and it’s very much reminiscent of the series to come.

So far, so sensible. But what we’ve got next is a very plot-loose assemblage of scenes in which McGoohan plays it straight and cool whilst the guest stars are allowed to go very OTT before you learn that Tamasio has sold the briefcase on, and Eddie Gelb has sold the briefcase on, and Signora Nandini is professionally sheltering Laprade, who is negotiating to sell the briefcase on to Constantin, who we trust is the Other Side.

Therefore we get Morris at his most extreme, which can be fun except he’s encouraged by McGoohan to be a spectacle you could see from Venus. Then Kenneth J. Warren, a bit-part actor and pretend tough guy, hosts a poker game with a bunch of bald men. Eddie Gelb is supposed to be the guy to look up to, burly, thick head of hair in contrast to everyone else (it’s a wig, sorry to upset the reveal), living in a plush apartment with his photo everywhere and a classy blonde girlfriend in a floor-length dress, tinkling the ivories because she has nothing better to do during the poker game that lasts far longer than it need to and comes over as a time-filler because the story is short on depth.

Then we get Laparde, a straight part by Ferdy Mayne. Laparde is hiding out at Signora Nandini’s, a ‘hotel’ for people on the run from authority. She is played by veteran actress Joan Greenwood, with her beautiful, smokey voice. It’s very noticeable that, with McGoohan himself at the directorial helm, there is no trace of the statutory glam girl amd the leading female guest star is a woman in her mid-Forties but playing easily two decades older. Greenwood is brilliant as the kind of woman who was once a real beauty and even at her advanced age, possesses the kind of delicately boned, fine features that hold the eye. She dresses in a tastefully elegant, floaty style, and acts like a calm, serene, in control woman.

In fact, Greenwood is the best part of the episode. She takes to ‘Troy Davidson’ immediately, professing to have ‘a good feeling’ about him. She is cold watching him ransack Laparde’s room on closed-circuit TV, and her disappointment in ‘Davidson’ for letting her down is evident even as it seems she will have him ‘removed’. When he beats up her two heavies, she crowns him with a vase, only to have him taken to a small hotel from which he is free to go.

It’s a marvellous parting, too good for this episode. Nandina asks for ‘Davidson’s real name, but Drake gives it as Ari Verdecci. Nandina accepts this and leaves. In the hall outside, she pauses as he asks her, with genuine interest at her enigma, what she was. Long ago? she enquires, then turns and walks out of camera shot, only to return once, and merely smile. They should have built the entire episode around her.

After that the pay-off is just a bit drab. Drake sets Laparde up at Tamasio’s crummy little flat, God knows why, pays 100,000 Swiss Francs (genuinely) for the briefcase, Constantin shoots Laparde dead and Drake escapes with an amusing gimmick that is a gimmick, and genuinely more suited to the surrealism of The Prisoner, a hidden go-kart.

No, this does not go down on my list of the ten best episodes of Danger Man, and I suspect it would be hard-pressed to break into the forty-three best episodes I’ve seen to date. When I consider how good the series can be, and was, for so long ago, it’s a terrible shame. But if it helped lead to The Prisoner

Danger Man: s03 e21 – The Man with the Foot


For most of this episode I was hoping that it would all turn out to be a dream, or a hallucination, or even some equivalent of Number 6 reading ‘The Girl Who Was Death’ to the Village kids but my hopes were dashed. ‘The Man with the Foot’ was real, alright, and meant to be taken as an actual story. If that were so, then there was no explanation for why the whole thing made no sense whatsoever.

‘No explanation’ was the common characteristic of the whole episode. Things happened. They’re supposed to lead us into the expectation of introgue, espionage, danger, with the intention of leading us up the garden path, but the looseness of everything, especially the writing, betrayed an underlying laziness. It was supposed to be a puzzle, an enigma, so why botheer to make it at all plausible.

The facts are simple. In the open, Drake arrives at a lonely barn to rescue his superior, Derringham (Bernard Lee), who’s been kidnapped by Solby (Hugh McDermott). Who Selby is, why he’s taken Derringham and how he knows Drake is Drake and the recognition codes is never explained. But Drake is blown, and can’t operate whilst Solby is around. He is sent on holiday. He decides to take that holiday in sunny Spain, at a hotel in the south, near Gerona on the road to Barcelona. It rains incessantly. One consolation, for the viewer at least, is that the hotel is run by Maruja, and she is played by the gorgeous Isobel Black.

Drake’s hardly arrived when Monkton arrives at the Hotel. Monkton is being plated by Robert Urquhart, and this time it’s a comedy role, and not a funny one either. Monkton is also a spy, freelance, selling to the highest bidder, though how on earth such a bumbling cluck evrer learns anything successfully is beyond the scriptwriter’s imagination. Monkton is the man with the foot, so-called because of his habit of parking in wet places and stepping ankle deep into dark puddles.

This wet foot, for some reason that I think has nothing to do with Spanish hotel customs, gets him into Drake’s room to dry his shoe and sock at Drake’s fire. Seeing Drake, Monkton decides to stay. Drake leaving him alone in his room, as you do, leads Monkton to exaggeratedly pick the lock on his case. He decides to watch Drake, because something is obviously up. There is talk of lairs, Drake’s friend Gomez will have to shoot him if he succeeds. Patheticly obvious stuff.

Monkton takes his suspicions to Solby, who’s deliberately losing tons of money at the casino in Bierritz. Why? What was Monkton doing there, why does he contact Solby, is he working for him, does he know Drake to be Drake? Who knows? Drake’s supposed to be on holiday until Solby is taken, whereupon he’s unblown, but it doesn’t take a minute’s thinking to realise that that’s nonsense, and it’s doubly nonsense if Monkton also knows. If he knows. We don’t know, we’re only watching this.

Anyway, what Drake and Gomez are doing is tagging wolf cubs so their movements can be monitored. This draws Solby out into the open so he hadd Drake can have a chase scene, on foot and by car that goes on that it becomes obvious that it’s just there to fill airtime cheaply. Solby’s captured, Drake can go back to work, the episode is over, Patrick McGoohan is no doubt wondering why he has to put up with stiff like this after so many good episodes, and I’m going to to have to call this episode a complete clunker from top to bottom. Except for Miss Black, of course.

Danger Man: s03 e20 – I’m afraid you have the wrong number


I’m getting cautiously hopeful that the run of naff episodes were merely a mid-series blip, because Danger Man is finishing its third, and sadly final full series, on a high. This somewhat awkwardly titled episode – it’s a code phrase – was a taut, mysterious affair, beginning with an unusually detailed open made all the more effective by being conducted in complete silence.

A man leaves a long blonde-haired woman at a stylish chateau. He drives off, but is intercepted by a professional and elaborate trap. He is injected with something whilst his ring is removed and transferred to the finger of a dead body that looks startlingly like him. His car is crashed, the body put behind the wheel and the wreck is fired. Obviously, the set-up is to make it look as if he is dead, but who is he, why has he been taken and who hasset this up?

For once, we don’t learn this until almost halfway through the episode. We’re in Switzerland, Geneva to be precise, there’s that wonderfully absurd fountain in the background underneath the credits. If it’s an airport, we know one of the pasengers will be John Drake, but here he is having his passport confiscated and being taken before the local security chief, Colonel Schulman (Paul Eddington, looking very young), who addresses him as Canton, and refuses to believe his guise.

Because for once Drake is alone, without allies, and without someone to discuss the set-up with for the edification of the reader. Instead, we have to make do with the Captain’s suspicions, which are that the ‘dead man’, Alexander Standfast, was a British agent, and so too is ‘Canton’. Drake’s all amusement at the very idea but Schulman makes it clear that foreign agents are not welcome, and that they believe Standfast to have been a spymaster, running a ring of confidants in various Embassies. This is, of course, completely correct.

The Captain is good at his suspicions because he accuses Drake of identifying the body as that of Standfast, even though it’s the wrong man (the fillings don’t match), but after an altercation in Standfast’s apartment with two heavies searching the place, not only does Drake come away with the precious microfilm with the agents’ contact details, he successfully maintains his cover story whilst doing so, much to the frustration of Schulman (who promptly disappears from the episode, much to the frustration of me).

The second phase consists of Drake contacting each of the agents in turn, summoning them to a meeting in a secluded space and allowing the betrayer to set a trap for him. Neither the rotund and cynically intelligent Leontine nor the timid and fearful Aurel do so and as soon as we see that the third, Leanka (Jeanne Moody), is the blonde from the open, we knpow it must be her and so it is.

Miss Moody puts in a good hypocrital performance. She claims to have been very close to Standfast, to have been in love with him, but she was found out and gave him up to save her own life. It’s a lie, of course, and you can see Drake not falling for it. Instead, he bugs her phone, enabling him to find where Standfast is being held and being tortured to get him to spill.

He then conducts a one man raid on this isolated villa and, despite the overwhelming odds and the impenetrability of the tortute chsmber, uses his wits, and Leanka, to get everyone out into the open where he can pick them off one at a time, and speed off with Standfast in a stolen car.

That’s the episode’s only flaw, and it’s one the series has been guilty of before, going for a melodramatic ending and leaving the logistical nightmare of the aftermath for the reader to fill in. No wonder Schulman was dropped, but he’s still got ‘Canton’s passport, not to mention his suspicions of both him and how do you think he’s going to react to a dead man appearing out of the blue, hale and whole?

But these are not and never were considerations for an audience of 1966, though they persist, like the memory ofan amputated limb.

There’s a lot of action this week, a constant level of tension and the usual spy gadgetry, but ultimately it was a better episode to watch, taking that in, than to write about afterwards. It seems like the series is going out with a bang: can it sustain this over the three remaining weeks?

Danger Man: s03 e19 – Two Birds with One Bullet


As we draw towards the end of Danger Man‘s third, and final full series, I’ve gotten used to a pattern of good and poor episodes alternating. Using that as a guide, I was expecting another weak story today, but was pleasantly surprised to have my expectations refuted. Of course, there were a couple of weak spots, where the writing decided to glide over inconvenient points that it hadn’t worked out, but only one of them was fundamental to the story so that wasn’t too bad.

The episode featured two unusual aspects for the series. One was the open, arriving in media res and leaving us to try to work out where John Drake (or ‘Black’) was and what he was doing, and the other was the series’ first onscreen kiss. Not delivered by Patrick McGoohan, of course, nor with any great passion, but it was still a kiss, in which John Woodvine, as Singri Ramin, got to lightly press his pursed mouth to the equally pursed mouth of Lelia Goldoni, playing Pilar Lin. Still, he was a lucky sod.

What is this all about? The open starts with photographs of brutality being enacted by a British soldier against a young, beautiful, exotic looking woman carrying a small child. They’re fakes, a set-up being organised by Drake, in his pose as a journalist. It’s an odd thing to do and it’s never entirely explained why he’s doing it, nor are we told where he is – some country with a waterfront that might have been vaguely Spanish.

Anyway, ‘Black’s photos get him an interview with Dr Shargis, the Nationalist leader (Paul Curran), just a few days ahead of an Election. Shargis has been leading his party for years, through unsuccessful Election after unsuccessful Election. He’s going to lose again, but his magisterial, elder statesmen role at the head of the Nationalist cause is a safety-valve that restricts the hotheads and keeps things calm. Needless to say, someone plans to kill him, which is wht Drake is there.

Miss Lin, or rather Captain Lin, is a high-ranking member of Dr Shargis’ ‘cabinet’, as is Ramin, his ‘strong right arm’. Miss Lin, who speaks immaculate cut-glass English, also has an American accent, which she uses in her secret rendezvous with Drake: she is an Agent, impliedly on the American side, who reveals that Shargis is to be assassinated by someone inside his own party, who will use the hysteria this will create to rise to power, whether by votes or revolution, it doesn’t matter much which. She has specificaly asked for Drake to be assigned to assist in preventing this: they are old ‘friends’, having worked together before, three years earlier, and are on good terms, or at least she is.

If you were brighter than me you’d have immediately seen that this was a set-up: it is Lin who shoots Dr Shargis, framing Drake for the murder. She is a double agent, but this was where the story seriously fell down. The only hint of why Captain Lin was doing this was that very chaste kiss, suggesting she’d been turned for love, but the writers basically opted to let us guess at everything about Pilar Lin, what her originbal capacity was, who she’s working for now, why she’s doing it, which left a substantial patch of fog right in the middle of the story.

So Drake is to be tried and executed for the murder of the beloved leader. Fortunately, he is also working with Commissioner Winlow (Geoffrey Keen), the Commissioner of Police, who knows him and what he is (but even then can’t rezsist asking, off the record, if he did kill Shargis?). Winlow connives at letting Drake escape by blowing a hole in the wall of his cell, whereupon, as a fugitive in a country where everyone wants to lynch him, he steals about silently, snatches and doctors the tape of the late leader’s words that will raise emotions so high that the Nationalists will sweep into powet, with Ramin as the Doctor’s chosen successor, as opposed to his son, Aldo.

Needless to say, the edited tape exposes Ramin as being behind the plot, kills his chances stone dead (and after he tries to run, he gets killed) and leaves Aldo in charge, oddly convinced that ‘Black’, a British Agent and therefore an enemy, is in a strange way on his side. Drake’s already delivered himself of a brief but pithy speech about politicians, which sounded as if it came from Patrick McGoohan’s heart, which was about backing the lesser evil, but here, almost shamefacedly, he ended the episode quietly by explaining that, even if they were on opposite sides, he respected Dr Shargis, because his heart was on the side of his people.

How he got out of a country in which everybody believed he had killed a beloved leader, and in which his tape-doctoring to expose Ramin pretty much cemented that he was the killer, was just one of those things the writers left for us to work out for ourselves.

Nevertheless, an excellent episode that could have been even better if Pilar Lin’s role in all of this had been hardened up, not to mention establishing that Aldo was Dr Shargis’ son at an earlier and more defintive stage, but still excellent. As for Aldo Shargis, a curiously nodescript performance until after his father’s death, it nagged at me throughout that I recognised the actor but couldn’t bring his name to mind: unsurprising that I failed to recognise him as Richard O’Sullivan, comedy actor of Man About the House, Robin’s Nest and at least one of the nebulous Doctor series based on Richard Gordon’s books!

Danger Man: s03 e18 – The Hunting Party


Between last week and this, I’m starting to think there’s a correlation between the title of a Danger Man episode and its quality. ‘The Hunting Party’ promised a good, rock-solid story, and the episode delivered.

Unusually, the open focused upon Drake himself, in London traffic, attending the House of Lords, summoning a Lord to re-interview him on his contacts during a period when secrets were leaked. A similar tape, invcolving another suspect of previously irreproachable reputation provides the link. Both men deny discussing the subject under question at all, but both men have enjoyed the hospitality of Basil and Claudia johnson at their estate on the Loire, in France. Bing bing, bing bing, bing bing.

So, over the opening credits, Drake files to France, via the Lake District (don’t try to kid me that the skyline of the Langdale Pikes lies anywhere on a flight path from London to le continent) where we get our first glimpse of the Jordans: Claudia, the richest woman in the world, attractive but beginning to fade despite clothing by Christian Dior – seriously – waspish and emasculating, played by Moira Lister, and Basil, aging, a little slimy, a hanger-on kicking against the traces ineffectually, played by Denholm Elliot: we have top quality guest stars today.

The immediate question is how on Earth this pair ever married in the first place, but it’s not important: Lister and Elliot do enough with the script to convince us that here is a couple in whom love has long since died, leaving a bonding of spite on both sides, she for his living off her ample means, he for her directness in manipulating his strings.

Witness to this is their imperturbable butler, Ross (a cameo but an excellently grounded performance by John Welsh), Drake, using his own name, promptly hires him away, on generous terms, to become his manservant back in London, and offers himself as the new butler, a role for which he has expertise and experience: remember ‘No Marks for Servility’ in series 2?

Much of the episode is well-made but oplain. Drake oils around the chateau, paying close attention to Basil’s locked den (which contains his extensive Scalextrix racing track as well as some dubious looking phials of strange liquids) and plants bugs almost everywhere he goes. Mrs Jordan presides and don’t you know it, and its fun waiting for the moiment where she basically summons the handsome, athletic butler to satisfy needs that aren’t getting attended to by her lawfully wedded husband, mainly because she has too much contempt for him to ever let him see even her naked calf. Sadly, the episode ends without our seeing how Drake would have got himself out of that without being sacked on the spot.

Despite Claudia holding the purse-srtrings and being determined to ensure Drake is valid and not just another gold-digger, it is Basil who is the most discontented with Drake, as well he might be, for it is he who has secrets to hide. There’s an up-front tip in mid-episode, in a nasty exchange around the dinner-table, when a furious Basil shouts, “You know, I don’t know why you ever married me,” to which Claudia, with a voice dripping with icicles and boredom, replies, “You hypnotised me, darling.”

And there it is. Basil, out to build up a fortune of his own against the day when Claudia kicks him out, is using a combination of drugs and his own hypnotic abilities to put honoured guests under, draw their secrets out of them and sell them via a foreign agent, Zepos, of whom Drake knows already.

We’ve already established that Drake is a crack-shot at clay pigeons, as well as an expert Scalextrix racer (I had Airfix: it was so much better) so it’s inevitable that gets gets roped into the titular Hunting Party where, between Basil and Zepos, a tragic accident will occur. However, series stars are always on the alert for tragic accidents and chance favours the preferred mind, so Drake not only avoids the fatal shot but beats both men to a semi-pulp, breaking up one more leak.

We’re very close to the end now, just five more episodes and then the extremely truncated series 4. Despite how patchy series 3 has been, I really do wish there was more to come.

Danger Man: s03 e17 – I can only offer you Sherry


The inconsistency of this series is a fascinating thing to behold, although not one to welcome, especially on mornings when I want to be enthralled and entertained, but instead I get something loose and baggy, that never quite gets its head together, like this latest episode. I was less than enthused about the title, which suggested, correctly, that it was going to be taken from some irrelevant linre of dialogue.

Nor was I greatly impressed by the open. A woman, not quite the standard glamorous guest star, and instantly recognisable as a youngish Wendy Craig of Butterflies fame, returns to her hotel room. She is under surveillance and is extremely nervous about it. She goes out into the street to confront her watcher but ends up getting hysterical when she wants to appear tough and in control: he remains silent and unimpressed and who wouldn’t be.

That and the next scene give the episode a tone it never escapes. Craig is Miss Jean Smith, British Embassy statistician, who is suspected of leaking classified information, but she’s really Wendy Craig, the semi-pretty, scatty woman of future sitcom fame, and that doesn’t sit well with the drama. And Drake matches it with his introduction, being briefed as to his mission by an old hag of a fortune teller who’s actually a British Attache, as welll as being Warren Mitchell in a tiny cameo.

This cutesie introduction came over as a bit of pissing around, dressing up unnecessarily, and is more evidence that the reasons for Patrick McGoohan’s resignation had a real, concrete base to them.

The story: we’re in a Muslim country where wine is freely available but, in her hotel room, Miss Smith can only offer reporter ‘John Brown’ sherry. He’s targetting her. She’s flatered by the attention but also eager to deflect it: her self-image is of a somewhat dull, repressed, not attractive woman who doesn’t receive male attention and doesn’t believe herself deserving of it. In fact, we will learn, she has been seduced by Ma’suud (Anthony Newlands), a rather wealthy married man with children, who has posed for her as a penurious underground dissident to gain her sympathy, not to mention free access to her hotel room.

This has led to a threat from the Secret Police to have Ma’suud executed, which can be postponed as long as Miss Smith provides classified information. Needless to say, Drake ferrets out this much, which is all so general and intangible that it’s unsatisfying. Miss Smith consents to being bait for drawing out the leader, in order to redeem herself (and stop herself blaming herself for her crass stupidity in falling for all this in the first place). Drake has the local Police Chief Colonel Nubar (Bernard Archard) on hand – the Colonel is an old friend who knows ‘John Brown’s passport is a fake because he knows who John Drake is and what he does – and everyone is captured. Miss Smith, who was being manhandled, says she could do with a drink, which Drake proposes to supply in his hotel room, but he can only offer her sherry, tish-boom!

Please don’t get me wrong about Mas’suud’s seduction of Miss Smith or Drake’s taking her back to his room. We know there is no sex in Danger Man, and there is not even the slightest sense of it in this episode, emphasised by the choice of Wendy Craig as guest star. She’s not the usual glamour, deliberately so, because a properly attractive woman would not end up in the psychologically vulnerable state required to be conned, but also because, despite being pretty in her way, I have never seen Miss Craig in anything in which she exuded the smallest atom of sexuality. You have to read between lines drawn very closely together to see the element here.

So, an inadequate script that hangs together like a badly-sewn suit. Next week’s boumd to be a classic thriller, because we are alternating good shows and bad, but if this is how the series operates as it nears the end of its second series in this formst, then Patrick McGoohan was clearly right to doubt the quality of a third season, even in colour.

Danger Man: s03 e16 – Dangerous Secret


Another classic, fascinating episode, that, apart from a slightly botched and rushed ending, had everything, including yet more inadvertent foreshadowing of The Prisoner. The supporting cast were also excellent and there was a minor role for probably the most beautiful girl to appear in the whole run, and yes, I include Susan Hamphire when I say that.

We started with a foreboding and frightening open. Two children, a ten year old girl and a six year old boy (played by Mark Lester no less) sneak into a Government virus research centre and get inadvertently sprayed with some form of chemical. Both are ok, but two gardeners have been more seriously affected, one of them fatally. This causes the chief scientist, Colin Ashby (Lyndon Brook), creator of the chemical, to burn all his notes and logs, to bury beyond re-discovery what he’s found. Ashby is a man of principle, passionately opposed to bacterial warfare and determined to prevent his creation being used so.

This does not sit well with Mr Fenton (Derek Francis), the representative of Military Intelligence, a walking example of the old joke. Balding, moustached, pipe-smoking, brusque and as plain a stupid buffer as you could get without the words being stamped right through him like Blackpool Rock, Fenton tries to dominate Ashby, calling into question the Official Secrets Act and seizing his passport. If he’d been trying to get right up Ashby’s nose, which he is doing very effectively, he couldn’t have done a better job. Ashby disappears.

Which is our cue to see a very faniliar Mini Cooper disgorging a very familiar M9 agent who, with an efficiency that’s the calculated opposite of Fenton, rapidly deduces that Ashby has sailed to France and is currently lodged at Vieuxville. Drake (or rather ‘Henderson’, a journalist) and Fenton travel to France separately, where one plays the bull in a china shop until he’s chucked out of the country by French security, whilst one gains Ashby’s limited confidence by displaying more knowledge of Ashby’s ‘Discovery’ (he prefers to call it ‘Mistake’) than the scientist likes in order to present ‘his side of the story’.

It’s a complex situation. Ashby has no intention of returning to England, which is Drake’s goal (and Fenton’s but he’s never going to gain an inch of ground). He’s looking for a job working for the French, though he’s dispirited by their interest in his Mistake. The hotel seems to be entirely populated by strong arm men and sinister people in dark glasses indoors, with the exception of the Receptionist, played by Nicole Shelby, who never emerges from behind her desk, but who has the loveliest face in the whole series.

It’s another of those building blocks that will go to support the strong, but unofficial continuity between Danger Man and The Prisoner, because here we have a direct example of the man with too much knowledge to be allowed to go free. This is where the episode is ultimately heading, and it’s clear this will come from the third guest star, Madame Carron, played by Elizabeth Shepherd, the original choice to play Mrs Peel in The Avengers.

Mme Carron is an interesting figure. She’s a handsome rather than a beautiful woman, of a certain age (Shepherd was 30 when this was filmed but, without any disrespect, looks at least a half decade older), her blonde hair cut short to emphasise the bone structure of her face. She’s supposedly a casual acquaintance of Ashby’s, an interesting woman in whom he’s interested though she makes it plain his interest would not be reciprocated, nor would that of Mr ‘Henderson’: she does not believe ‘handsome men’ are reliable.

Mme. Carron is supposedly a Norman peasant who has risen in the world, and who owes her near perfect English to a marriage to an Englishman. She’s a self-professed determined woman, who gets what she wants. In short she’s a challenging enigma. She shows no overt sign of being involved in the shenanigans surrounding Ashby until she is dropped into the scene very late on, drawing him to a deserted and abandoned farm where she supposedly grew up, and then injecting him with a truth serum and getting him to talk.

Needless to say, Drake has tracked everyone. He beats up no less than five henchman, steals the tape and destroys it, advises Carron she needs better helpers and even finds time to drop in a laconic ‘Be seeing you’ before taking the pliant Ashby away to return to England rather than be a target for everyone else.

Endings on Danger Man tend to be abrupt, avoiding the tedious stuff about getting out of it, and ‘Dangerous Secret’ is no exception but the handling of this was the only real flaw in the episode. A mysterious man on a motorcycle turns up at the end to try to keep Drake and Ashby from leaving, unsuccessfully. He’s the man with the dark glasses and receding hairline, the one who previously has represented himself to Fenton as Security before expelling him, yet Drake and Ashby profess themselves as unaware of who he’s acting for. Frankly, this last bit of melodrama is totally redundant, not to mention cheap and has the air of something tacked on when the episode was in danger of running short.

That complaint aside this episode was certainly one of the ten best as far as I’m concerned, which unfortunately suggests that next week’s is liable to be a bit of a clunker. That seems to be the pattern of the late third series, but we’ll see.