HE Cooper takes a time machine back to 28 April-4 May 1965 for a look at what was on the telly

This week’s programmes have felt like a wonderful mixture and they have all been excellent. It also feels like much more familiar territory, featuring three programmes that I’ve seen plenty of before: The Saint, Burke’s Law and Dr Who.

This week my 1965 ITV programmes are coming from Westward and ATV Midlands.


28th April
The Fugitive ‘Somebody to Remember’
Westward

For reasons I forget, we watched the film version of The Fugitive in RE at school. Having spotted it in the schedules, I’d been intrigued what the television version would be like. I gathered from the synopses that they follow the same plot of a man falsely convicted of murdering his wife, escaping and going on the run, planning to try to catch the real killer and thus clear his name. I love shows that neatly explain their premise to viewers in the opening titles (The Prisoner being one of the best examples) and The Fugitive does just that, showing how Dr Richard Kimble escaped with a voice over filling in the rest.

In this episode, Kimble is working in a warehouse. His Greek boss discovers he is dying and, revealing that he has always known who Kimble really is, concocts a plan. They will trick the police, making them believe Kimble has escaped to Greece under his boss’s name. But really, Kimble will still be in the US and so he will have some time to get a few more steps ahead of the police. Unfortunately, someone else has also found out who Kimble is and the police are soon in town.

The episode is tense as the plan so very nearly works and it all builds to an exciting climax, with the police pursuing Kimble and his boss from the airport. Those opening titles ensure we have firm belief in Kimble’s innocence and I was willing him on to get away!

Stingray ‘A Nut For Marineville’
Westward

I haven’t seen ATV/ITC’s Stingray before and it must have some of the most thrilling opening titles of any television programme. A voice tells us to “Stand by for action!” and then something explodes out of the sea. Our characters and the Stingray ship are introduced and then we are told that “Anything can happen in the next half hour.” Anything? Like what? I don’t know but we’ve had a crash zoom, Stingray has just fired into the ocean, then leapt into the air, some planes have soared overhead and a giant fish has been blown up. I’m firmly convinced that anything really could happen.

Some baddie aliens have got a ship they believe is indestructible. I’m not sure what their long-term plan is but I’m just going to assume it’s to take over the Earth. That seems to be standard. The aliens’ design includes silver faces, high foreheads and what I can only describe as face fins – I love it. They also have some cracking evil dialogue. One admits of their plan, “Yes it’s crazy,” but then adds, in a lovely cheery tone, “Crazy enough to succeed!”

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29th April
The Saint ‘Marcia’
Westward

With the third series recently finished, Westward are repeating the second series of ITC’s The Saint, which has numerous single word episode titles including, ‘Judith’, ‘Teresa’, ‘Iris’, ‘Luella’ and ‘Sophia’. Have you spotted the theme? Marcia herself doesn’t make an appearance in the episode. After having acid thrown in her face, the film actress committed suicide and now an unknown, Claire Avery, has been brought in to replace her in a film. Claire starts getting threatening letters, saying that unless she pays up, she’ll face the same fate as Marcia.

This isn’t the only Saint episode to be set in a film studio and I always think it must have made it easy for them to source props. Simon Templar himself features relatively little in this episode, with the focus given over to the rest of the cast much of the time. The only one I recognised among them was Johnny Briggs, who plays the third assistant director. By the time of this repeat he was a regular in No Hiding Place and in the next decade would join Coronation Street for a thirty year stint as Mike Baldwin.

Gideon’s Way ‘To Catch a Tiger’
ATV Midlands

Thanks to the magic of time travel, I’m able to watch Westward and ATV Midlands at the same time tonight. I’ve only seen one episode of ITC’s Gideon’s Way before and it didn’t particularly impress me but I head in open-minded.

A woman is killed after a car accident and uses her dying breath to say that John Borgman murdered his wife. Soon afterwards we see John Borgman sacking an employee, Samuels, who has been fiddling the books so he can afford to care for his sick wife. The old guy goes home, poisons his wife and shoots himself. Borgman has another wife now and a mistress in his secretary. His new wife is suspicious and convinced he’s having an affair. The married couple aren’t getting on well and Borgman is horrible to her throughout the episode. Gideon has looked into the first wife’s death and discovered she had an enormous amount of morphine in her. I become desperate for Borgman to be the killer, especially after he viciously calls his current wife a “fat, drunken slut”. He is (hooray!) and following a tense courtroom scene in which one of the coppers nearly cracks under the pressure of Borgman’s top solicitor, the evidence wins through.

Gideon’s Way reminds me a lot of No Hiding Place. This episode even has a similar opening to the No Hiding Place I watched in 1961 – there too a police investigation begins because someone has reported suspicions about a man murdering his wife. Both focus more on the guest cast than the recurring characters and while I enjoy this novelty, it does mean needing consistently good casting throughout the series. When there is a weaker episode in terms of casting or plotting, you don’t have the leads there to carry the episode and I worry that it would be hard to maintain that consistency. The other similarity is that they are both very slow. As much as I have enjoyed the episodes of No Hiding Place I’ve seen, there is no way I would use it or Gideon’s Way to introduce someone to 1960s’ television. Even for me, the pace is only just about still acceptable.

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30th April
Burke’s Law ‘Who Killed Cop Robin?’
Westward

Captain Amos Burke is the ladies man of the Los Angeles Police Department. His vast personal wealth probably helps in this but he is also a rather suave fellow. We see little of this tonight though as he shows a more severe side while hunting down the killer of his old mentor. If my years of watching police shows have taught me anything, it’s that no one likes a cop killer and appropriately Burke takes no messing around from the suspects tonight. We get a fantastic fight in a warehouse so they can take full advantage of the potential of toppling boxes. They are a lot cheaper than smashed glass and furniture.

1st May
Dr Who ‘The Dimensions of Time’
BBC-1

This is episode two of the serial that has come to be known as ‘The Space Museum’. I don’t remember this story very well but once I’m watching, bits come back to me. The Doctor has dumped his granddaughter by now and picked up another young girl, Vicki. Along with Ian and Barbara, they land on a planet with a museum containing all sorts of things from other worlds. From the dialogue in this episode, we learn that the travellers have seen themselves as exhibits in this museum. They must find a way to change things and avoid that happening.

Despite the serious nature of this problem, the episode manages its lighter moments. The Doctor hides inside a Dalek casing, which is also a good reminder that the Daleks are not the machines but the aliens that usually inhabit them. The Doctor also tricks a machine designed to display images of his thoughts. The Doctor simply imagines ridiculous things instead.

One of the things I have come to love about Dr Who’s early years is its sheer ambition. They have a tiny studio space to work with but decide to present an entire museum. We’re over a year into the show now and this is the first story that actually uses time travel as part of the plot – it has always just been a way of getting somewhere before.

2nd May
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
Westward

Electricity pulses and the camera pulls back to reveal a man strapped to a chair with electrodes on his head. He’s being brainwashed but we can’t be sure who by because they are simply a booming voice, insisting he pledge allegiance. It was such a gripping opening. The brainwashed man (David Hedison) is captain of a nuclear submarine and upon return to it, begins sabotaging the mission. He’s been told he’ll be watched because he’s not the only one onboard who has pledged allegiance to the organisation. This was so intriguing and the submarine sets are fantastic. I’m left still wondering who the mysterious villains really are.

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3rd May
Tales of the Riverbank
BBC-1

This short programme from the Watch with Mother strand was wonderfully laid back and relaxing. It features real animals, with the story narrated by a voice over. Hammy, a hamster, is new in town and meets Roderick, a rat, who takes him on a boat trip. They also meet some ducks. I was impressed by the animal actions and, to enable me to sleep easy, will assume they were all treated well.

4th May
Association Football
BBC-1

Liverpool are playing Inter-Milan in semi-final of the European Cup, which was eventually replaced by the UEFA Champions League. While European football gets prime time live screenings in the present day, I feel sorry for 1965’s viewers who get a mere half hour of highlights. Liverpool won 3-1 in this home match, but would lose in the second leg and Inter-Milan eventually went on to be the tournament’s victors.


What you could have won – missing and unavailable

Here are some of the listings that intrigued me but I was unable to watch this week.

MISSING Public Eye ‘Have It on the House’ – ‘Hired to track down a military man who has duped a woman out of £700, Marker’s instinct tells him he’s being taken for a fool – but conning an expert can prove dangerous.’ I adore Frank Marker in Public Eye. He’s such a wonderful down-trodden character. This is the final episode of the programme’s first series.

MISSING The Bed-Sit Girl ‘The Last Half Inch’ – This Sheila Hancock sitcom follows a young woman dreaming of something more – oh aren’t we all? I don’t know of any earlier sitcoms with a woman as the main lead and every episode of this is missing.

MISSING Orlando ‘Humpty Dumpty’- Remember Crane from 1963? This is a spin-off starring Crane’s friend. While Crane’s survival rate of two episodes (out of 39) is poor, at four (out of 76) Orlando’s isn’t much better. Crane was shown later in the schedules but Orlando was specifically styled as a children’s serial and as a result gets an early evening slot.

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