Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The Professionals: Hunter Hunted

'Guard it, Doyle, guard it with you life. In the wrong hands this could create an instant disaster area,' says Cowley, handing Doyle an experimental rifle to take home to experiment with. And that is where things start to go wrong.
A strong contender, this, for the first episode of the second season of The Professionals. It is strong visually, especially, which almost covers the basic flaw in the plot I shall outline below.
What is really good about this plot is the way it shows up a weakness in Cowley's character: he is still his normal brusque self, but in fact every death & disaster in this episode is his fault alone. Cowley is often content to carry total responsibility for CI5, but here he blames Bodie & Doyle for his own ill-advised loan of the rifle to Doyle, telling them they'll be out of CI5 if they don't find it when it gets stolen. Frankly, we all know there are public organisations where the personnel are authorised to carry firearms. I've never worked in one, but you would think a very careful track of where those arms are, is kept at all times. Randomly giving an operative an arm to take home - where the only security is hiding it in a cupboard - is at best irresponsible. This is quite different from his normal strict-but-fair approach.
The Professionals had such good effective locations. In this episode the derelict Palace of Engineering from the British Empire Exhibition of 1924, now demolished, provides a wonderful setting for the opening scenes. Boating scenes & touches of old London provide a marvellously atmospheric touch. This series is of course also known for its cars, & its unfortunate that the only decent one driven by Bodie or Doyle in this series, Doyle's own white E-type Jaguar, gets blown up. The baddy of course drives a very sexy black Porsche. Other than that the cars are the unremarkable Fords favoured in this series.
The flaw in the plot I mentioned, is that there is no real...detective work is the wrong phrase... I'm trying to say that it is too simple for Doyle to rack his brain & fail to think of anyone he's put in jail that would fit the profile of this killer, & then just be presented with the solution by Cowley. The tension is built up well to this point, & it is an anticlimax. It also doesn't ring true to the nature of CI5 & the men it employs. You would think CI5 would keep files on their men with careful links to the criminals who could form threats to them, but it seems not. A missed opportunity to show off 1970s computer technology!
I think perhaps the nature of The Professionals doesn't lend itself to the kind of over-analysis I put a TV show through. It's interesting, writing this blog, which shows will take this & which won't. The show that will, of course, is The Prisoner, it can be understood on so many levels. The Avengers does, & I was quite gratified to see how Department S & Spyder's Web stood up to my over-scrutiny. All of the shows I've blogged about so far predate widely-available domestic videos, so would have been intended to be watched just once, with no pause & no return - often literally, given how much has been wiped. I think The Professionals should be approached as an adventure series: I should sit back, admire Bodie & Doyle's glamorous lives of women, danger, & fast cars. Given that these things are what they are about, I may be expecting too much when I look at plot or motivation too deeply, & find chasms open up in the episode.
That said, The Professionals often handles very sensitive issues, morally complex issues, such as one where corruption in a building firm comes under scrutiny. Here there is the - underexamined in the show - aspect of Cowley's wreckless irresponsibility with an experimental weapon. There is also the psychology of an obviously very dangerous criminal who *could have* killed Bodie & Doyle so many times in this episode, even using wildly complicated methods. This is messing with their heads pure & simple, & I don't doubt how screwy this would be when you know the person doing it is a killer. It is not often commented on in the series, but Bodie & Doyle's work is the sort of work that gives you PTSD.
It was only when looking up the Palace of Engineering that I discovered Lewis Collins has just died, of cancer, at the age of only 67. I also didn't know he auditioned to be James Bond in the 1980s but went into computers instead.
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