Last updated : 23rd December 2005
|Story Synopsis||CI5 team up with Hong Kong police to crack a heroin smuggling operation that uses innocent Chinese.|
|UK Episode #||D06|
|UK Tx Date||12 October 1980|
|Production #||Block 3, Ep 12|
|Approx Filming Dates||22nd October - 2nd November 1979|
|Guest Stars||James Marcus, John Forgeham, Sharon Duce, Gary Shail, Chai Lee|
I've had a little rethink on this one and am now a lot more appreciative of it. In fact I enjoy it more with each successive rewatching. It's multi-layered and packed full of great characterisation - certainly far more thought went into this script than any other episode.
However the main plot isn't clear as the direction is a little "unfocussed" at times and the script largely follows Bodie and Doyle's activities establishing their own "cover stories" rather than following the villains. But the performances from the cast and some excellent, sharp, funny dialogue keep it simmering along very well. It's essentially an episode that stretches and skews the format of the show.
The plot itself is that Chinese Triads and an East German agent are shipping drugs from Hong Kong to US servicemen stationed in West Germany. The drugs are routed through the UK in order to stir up political trouble between the Brits and Americans. The Triads are forcing innocent members of the London Chinese community to act as couriers. However in the key "establishing" scene with Cowley and the American ambassador, it isn't at all clear what's going on. And that is where the episode ultimately fails: it needs a few viewings to understand. Given very few of us had VCRs in 1980, the original transmission must have left most viewers rather bewildered by it all!
There are some great scenes here, though, such as Doyle being "interrogated" by the maverick cops, They make a fantastic, if utterly obnoxious, double-act! Bodie's convincing stint as the junkie, the continual teasing banter between Esther and Doyle, the fight between Doyle and the two Triads and the scene with Cowley and the property dealer eager to have the houses used by the junkies declared unsafe so he can tear them down - "You tell me two people have died. Tell me twenty-two people have died and I could get excited!". (Great cameo by George Little.)
Even the couple in the shalet (whom Doyle throws out) are treated to some great dialogue and characterisation. ("Don't forget the family album!")
But the humour is well-balanced by scenes of suffering and death. For example Mr N'Hung's daughter tells of the murders of her uncle and brother because they refused to act as couriers. She complains how poorly Chinese people are represented in the UK - "No Chinese MPs"*... still true today, surprisingly. (* MP = Member of Parliament)
Having said all that, it isn't clear where the plotline concerning young Jimmy fits in. If the connection is simply that his dead girfriend was American, the significance of this point is completely missed. Much time is spent with his sister but it leads to nowhere. No disrespect to Marshall or the actors but Sharon Duce's scenes are rendered utterly redundant. Given that Roger Marshall was always strong on ancilliary characterisation and plot subtleties, I suspect some scripting was cut during the final edit to fit the standard 50-minute timeframe.
Oddly, however, the script never dwells on the main villains, Kroll and Cheng - indeed the former only has a single scene!
Given that bits of the plot appear to be missing, perhaps the episode should have been a two-parter?
What we do see all works very well except for the showdown by the shalets. Firstly it isn't clear why Kroll, as the "top man", would actually wish to meet up with one of the lowly couriers. It's rather moronic, to be honest, with hard, ruthless Bodie massacring a perfectly innocent set of garden furniture for no apparent reason. I wonder if Marshall's script had been tampered with?
Still there's an unusual ending in that things don't turn out in CI5's favour. And, as ever with a Roger Marshall script, there are stacks of characterisation on display: Esther clearly distraught at having to leave Ray to return to Hong Kong, yet he clearly doesn't reciprocate as strongly, responding with an enigmatic "Come on, cops can't cry - it says so in 'the book'". Nice but rather odd at the same time!
Overall a great episode tainted by some small but important omissions in the final cut.
"Get out of it, hotshot!"
I love this episode. There is a great deal wrong with it but when it's right, it's terrific.
For instance Bodie, dirty and in leather, smoking a joint is worth the price of admission and Doyle's role as a fruit-seller is a replay over-and-over.
But so much is going on that to cram it into one hour was a huge mistake. Further there are numerous scenes which ought to have been either eliminated or cut. You have to wonder what the editor was doing - clearly not working! The Granada Plus version does some of that but not enough.
Good things: The dialogue between Bodie and Doyle in the market. Doyle, making jokes and laughing at them. Bodie, as mentioned in dirt & leather. Doyle naked to the waist in his jammies, sipping wine and fooling around with Esther. Bodie, dealing with the sister of the dead kid. The bit of dialogue about the "heart attack hump" and Bodie shooting up the lawn. Doyle, getting a bit of his own back from the coppers who'd rousted him.
Very nice editing cut from Doyle drinking wine to Bodie slurping milk from a bottle. Nice little jokes in the scene with Cowley - "sock soup, yummy. They think I'm an American actor."
The plot itself is excellent and I like the unresolved ending. But this story needed more than the fifty minutes or less than it got. My recommendation for this one is forget the story, use your fast forward and just watch the Lad parts. Even though they're not together much when they are, it sings and on their own they still are wonderful.
The American Embassy in Grosvenor Square, near Bond Street tube station (thanks to Rob Matthews), various streets around Soho and Chinatown.
The delapidated house Bodie is staying in was probably 143 Highbury New Park, Highbury N5. Still standing today, apparently! (Thanks to Geoff Dodd and Trevor Harvey).
The kidnapped wife is dumped on Northwood Road in Highgate. The shot here was taken in 2003 and even the graffiti on the tunnell wall remains! (Thanks to "Martin" for info and pic)
Cowley's unplanned pick-up of Doyle in the street market ("Risky!" / "No time for clever stuff.") took place outside Trenchard House, Broadwick Street, W1. (Thanks again to Geoff Dodd).
When young Jimmy first enters the house we see that Bodie has just lit up a new joint. The camera quickly cuts back and forth between the two so that just a few seconds later the joint is nearly finished! (Thanks to Mike Morgan)
Cowley complains of the heat in the American Embassy and the Ambassador says that it's like that to keep the computers running. Eh???!!! Surely what the computers actually need is to be kept cool!?!
Not too sure of this one. When Chi Sang leaves his restaurant in the blue Datsun, agent 2-4 tails him in what initially appears to be Cowley's red Granada but is subequently the red Cortina used later in the ep. (Thanks to John Hammond)
Bodie, Doyle and a CI5 driver are sat in the red Cortina at the end of the episode - but when the scene switches, it only contains the driver!
|BTW||Bit of a family affair, this one. John Forgeham played maverick cop DS Colin while his real-life wife Fiesta Mae Ling played Siu Sang, whose children were played by Jason and Jonesta Forgeham!|
After progressing from a regular in early episodes of the original Crossroads soap and as a Mini driver in The Italian Job, John Forgeham usually guested as either villains or coppers in series such as Sweeney, Minder, Shoestring, Juliet Bravo and then to Prime Suspect. Most recently seen in the dire ITV drama Footballers' Wives.
James Marcus (Colin's sidekick, DC Black) appeared in the 1970s kids show Grandad but is best known for the long-running fire brigade drama London's Burning.
Sharon Duce (Annie, Jimmy's sister) played Ray Brooks' wife in the 1984 BBC comedy drama series about an addicted gambler, Big Deal. Still occasionally guests in dramas such as Casualty and Mersey Beat.
Pik Sen Lim (Chai Ling, the restaurant owner's daughter) also appeared in the superb New Avengers episode 'The Midas Touch' and then in Martin Shaw's dreary Cream in My Coffee.
Gary Shail (Jimmy) starred in the classic Mod drama Quadrophenia (a proving ground for many upcoming young actors at the time) but followed it up with the dire 1980 robot comedy Metal Mickey (created by Monkee Mickey Dolenz). Also appeared in David Wickes' productions of Jack the Ripper and Jeckyll and Hyde.
Vincent Wong (one of the Chinese kidnappers) had a much meatier part in Discovered in a Graveyard'.
Rex Wei (the other kidnapper) also appeared in Graveyard! Quite an active guest artist in the early 1980s, perhaps most memorably in an episode of Only Fools and Horses as the unfortunate owner of a restaurant who gets his establishment decorated with luminous paint!
Chai Lee (Esther) seemed to have an ascending acting career, having already starred as the Triad leader in the delightfully bonkers second season of the BBC's 'Gangsters'. She can be briefly spotted in the 1981 James Bond pic 'For Your Eyes Only' but inexplicably dropped out of acting shortly afterwards.
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