Skip to main content


Showing posts from August, 2014

Hazell: First Impressions

Yesterday I found in the Entertainment Exchange in Leamington Spa that someone with a wonderfully vintage taste in TV had obviously been forced to buy the DVDs, ripped them to a hard drive & then sold the discs on. Naughty! And also, to my mind, unwise - you can't have things backed up in too many places in my opinion. That was how I got the Jason King box set, also The Barron, that I have never seen, & the first series of a show I have never heard of, Hazell. I did turn up a box set of The Saint (because I have some single discs & haven't liked it half as much on coming back to it as I did as a child) & also a box set of Paul Temple in colour. I suppose in reality the TV series I write about here can be divided into two genres: the real (Public Eye, Callan, The Professionals) & the unreal (The Avengers, Department S, The Prisoner, in fact the majority of the series I watch). In this dichotomy Hazell definitely fits into the Real category. It has the grit

Jason King: Second Impressions

Apologies for the recent hiatus on posts here: I have been, & remain, unwell, so have not been able to get my head round my usual acid interpretation of a defenceless TV programme. My recent watching of Department S, & conclusion that it had hidden depths, left me wanting more, so today I bought the box set of Jason King, its follow-on. In vain will you seek my first impressions of the series on this blog: they happened some time ago with an odd disc & I was not impressed, but I thought I'd give it another go. 'The series featured the further adventures of the title character who had first appeared in Department S (1969). In that series he was a dilettante dandy and author working as part of a team of investigators. In Jason King he had left that service and was concentrating on writing adventure novels following the adventures of the fictional Mark Caine, [which the Jason King character was also writing about in Department S] who closely resembled Jason King in

Allegory in The Prisoner: Checkmate

It's interesting, watching this Prisoner straight after Department S's Black Out, where I commented on the dodgy use of medicine in that show. It isn't actually half as dodgy as the use of medicine here. On the one hand, people are over-medicalised, & of course it's anything like nonconformity that is marked down as a disease. On the other hand the 'treatment' is clothed in a facade of kindness. Also similarly to the last episode of Department S, when placed into its historical context in the heady 1960s, this episode becomes a terrible warning of the way in which society was perceived to be going. The chess game is a rather obvious allegory for the way society pushes people into ordered positions, & the Village is an allegory of how this is inescapable. Power, control, the use of emotion, the misuse of medicine & psychiatry are all servants to the theme here: society's control is inescapable. I must confess to yet another Prisoner heresy her

Department S: Black Out

This Department S first & foremost at this length of time, hits me as a real blast from the past. I've only ever seen a couple of episodes of Jason King, the successor to Department S, & for no reason I could fathom didn't take to it, but this episode of Department S actually seems to press some of the same buttons. It does this by accessing the same luxury zeitgeist that so many sixties series tapped into. I like to think of the show's contemporary viewers watching the show in a flat (already a decade old, though) in Park Hill in Sheffield, or the local example would be the Castle Bromwich estate in Birmingham. Before these developments went horribly wrong, there was a real sense that things would get better, & that slum living was over once & for all for the inhabitants of these palaces. They would also watch a film in the city centre of an evening, & could eat continental food - even I was taken to Gino's Omelette Bar in Birmingham as a child. A

Allegory in The Prisoner: Dance of the Dead

Picture credit: You wouldn't believe the trouble this episode's giving me. I normally like at least to cast a glance around what other people on tinternet are saying when I write a post, if only to clarify what I'm thinking myself, but this episode of all others seems to have attracted so much commentary it's impossible to absorb. I'm therefore reduced to my own jaundiced view. In fact this one ought to be perfectly simple to write about from an allegorical point of view, since in many ways it has the most obvious allegorical content of death & life. Even its title is inspired by a famous mediaeval allegory: 'dance of death, also called danse macabre,  medieval allegorical concept of the all-conquering and equalizing power of death, expressed in the drama, poetry, music, and visual arts of western Europe mainly in the late Middle Ages. Strictly speaking, it is a

Department S: The Duplicated Man

(I will return to The Prisoner soon: I just need time to get my head round allegory in Dance of the Dead!) Classic Avengers territory, here, as far as questions of identity, doubles, deception, & state secrets are concerned. Watching Department S this time has really made me re-evaluate it as a successor to The Avengers, in a rather Series 6 mould, in terms of bizarreness, eccentric, flamboyant characters, & an organisation behind the characters' odd lives. Of course I have my usual gripe that the actors' faces are too familiar from sixties TV & have a tendency to make you wonder where else you've seen them - Basil Dignam & Robert Urquhart would be the ones that do that to me here. I'm intrigued by the impressive use of Steed's library - the books that appear in Stable Mews - that I can spot in no fewer than three locations in this episode. I don't always disapprove of repetition! Of course this is a piece where momentous matters of state ar

Department S: Last Train to Redbridge

I was surprised to find, on checking just now, that Department S only consisted of one series, when I really thought it had two. I'm not thinking of Jason King as a second series; I realise I'm thinking this because the way the DVDs in my boxed set are divided into two sections. I'm also thinking it because of the nature of the programmes: there is an assurance about the later episodes, that show the series had become established, & that is no more the case than with Last Train to Redbridge. One of the things I find most interesting is the way the episode looks. In terms of the choice of images it has much to interest, views are changed quickly enough to maintain visual interest. The choice of what you see maintains interest as well - I always say you can't go wrong with the appearance of a coffin on the telly - it's one of the more obvious symbols! In this episode the fact the visuals are slightly overdone is no shame - the baddies look like baddies & ca

Allegory in The Prisoner: Many Happy Returns

It may be cheating to reference my own blog, but this is what I wrote about the allegory of this episode when I was examining the plausibility of Number 6 being John Drake: 'The allegory about the shower & the coffee percolator in Drake's cottage, which don't work before he leaves The Village but do when he returns, is often taken to mean he has no life outside The Village ( ), but I think could also refer to dependence on The Village authorities, a truly institutional point to make. 'The home element in this episode is actually more important than it may seem. He manages to 'escape' from The Village (albeit unknowingly with his captors' blessing), & goes home, that is to that place that represents all that is most important for everyone, right? I can't believe I've missed it all the other times I've seen this, but the house is only Number 1!' (

The Avengers: The film reviewed with reference to the original series

I've been wanting to go through the Avengers film, looking at inspirations from the original series, for some time, although it's probably only been this year I've realised how derivative this was. This realisation was certainly from reading other people's blogs, but I'm afraid I didn't make a note of where I first saw this. So I intend to give my view of it, with approximate time references for places where I can identify inspirations from the original series. Perhaps I'd better state at the outset that I don't hate The Avengers film. I've written some of why not here: I simply don't take to the opening titles at all: they're bland, don't draw you in, don't announce that this is The Avengers. Failure. 02:57 The antecedents in the original Avengers for a cosy English village which turns out to be full of murderers & diabolical masterminds are

Allegory in The Prisoner: The General

Oh this episode is so deeply allegorical, it just does on for ever. Rote-learning, indoctrination, hero-worship, institutionalisation, power in institutions, the power of accepted 'facts', loyalty, inner resourcefulness, it's a bit difficult to know where to start. My opinion, though, is that there are several different depths to the allegory here, & the obvious one (which I'll take first) isn't necessarily the main meaning of the episode, bearing in mind that the point of allegory is that one thing stands for another. The most obvious allegory here is a warning one. The Professor represents education, the putative 'General', military force, & the episode stands as a warning of what can happen when these two forces come into an alliance. This idea is so obvious on the surface of the episode that I simply cannot believe this is the point at all. For a start, the education portrayed here isn't like what proper education ought to be at all. At th

Sherlock Holmes: The Hound of The Baskervilles

Image: a drawing by Ronald Searle of Holmes's rooms at the Festival of Britain. Credit: here. ) This post is about the 1968 BBC series, rather than the earlier Hammer film with Cushing as Holmes. Oh dear, within a space of about a month Peter Cushing has become 'my' Doctor Who, & he has now completely usurped Basil Rathbone as 'my' Sherlock Holmes. No pressure there, then. Nor yet the slightest hint of a monopoly. I didn't actually know he'd played Holmes until I found the boxed set in a charity shop today. I have a personal history with Holmes. I read the Conan Doyle stories when I was very young - certainly before the age of ten. At the time I thought him wonderful & would model myself on him. The one guaranteed way to get me to do something then would be to tell me Sherlock Holmes would do it. As I've got older my native cynicism has caused Holmes's repute to be overshadowed in my estimation by a more grown-up & certainly contempor