Last updated : 19th May 2013
|Episode Title||The Rack|
|Story Synopsis||After a suspect being held by CI5 is killed apparently by Doyle, a public enquiry is ordered and an influential lawyer calls for CI5 to be disbanded. Cowley has a tough fight on his hands to save the organisation.|
|UK Episode #||B02|
|UK Tx Date||14 October 1978|
|Production #||Block 2, Ep 4|
|Approx Filming Dates||17th - 28th July 1978|
|Guest Stars||Lisa Harrow, Christopher Ellison, Michael Billington, Ken Campbell|
For once it was CI5 who was afraid of the law! A splendid episode spoilt by a slightly unsatisfactory resolution. But Lisa Harrow puts in a tremendous performance as the sharp, shrewd, firespitting lawyer!
In fact performances from all the cast are excellent. And the plot stands up very well indeed... except for the ending, which I think was a bit of a cop-out. It's an outstanding piece of drama which, like many other episodes, lifts the series way beyond the standard "action show" format. Perhaps even Martin enjoyed this one!
This episode was written as a reaction to complaints about the violence depicted in the series. Ironically its original title, 'An Inquiry into Violence' was thought to be too contentious by LWT!!
The arguments presented on both sides are convincing – Brian Clemens was obviously well aware of the controversial nature of his own creation.
The entire episode, particularly the court scenes, are extremely well-scripted and Cowley's final, desperate plea to the press is unforgettable. ("A man died and you want to close down the whole hospital!" is just one example.)
But why did Coogan decide to beat Parker senseless? He's a thug, true, but certainly not stupid. Did he actually intend to kill Parker to prevent him testifying? Hmmm.... seems to provide a bit of an easy way out for CI5.
Bodie, after Doyle's grilling before the panel: "How did you get on?"
Doyle: "Lousy – she made a monkey out of me."
Bodie: "Well you did give her a head start!"
Cowley addresses the legal panel: "[Miss Mather has] used me as a whipping boy because I founded CI5. But I didn't: you did. Society did... If there were no fires, you wouldn't need firemen. In God's name - and I invoke it sincerely - I wish you would make my job and my organisation redundant! I wish you would make the streets clean again. I wish you would give every man, whatever his colour or creed, the right to be and to feel safe again. But that's not to be - at least, not yet... and so you need me: like it or not, you need CI5. So don't cut us down until you've got something better to put in our place. Miss Mather has seized upon the word "jungle"... with mad beasts crawling through it - and we are the hunters. That was your argument too, did I set out to hunt Coogan down? Well the answer is 'yes' - and it will always be 'yes' as long as there are beasts like Coogan left to hunt. You showed us photos of [Coogan's] carpets ripped up and cars dented - but what about these photos: faces grown old before they were ever young, destroyed and wracked by drug addiction, girls scarcely out of their teens selling their bodies, their 'experience'. Respectable businessmen beaten up because they bucked the price of extortion and bully-boys. These are the streets we have to walk - not the bright streets, the mean ones - devoid of hope and all humanity. We walk them and brush aside some of the dirt: not much - just some... so that there's less to offend when you come along. And now you are trying to take away whatever teeth we've got left. Why? WHY?! Because somebody got hurt? Because a man died? And I regret that, I didn't want that. A man died and you want to close the whole hospital. Because like it or not, that's what we are: the surgeons. A messy, sometimes bloody job... and, oh yes, the knives are sharp. And we have to operate fast and quickly and even clumsily on occasion to cut out the disease. The disease hurts but so does the surgeon's knife. Which would you prefer? It's your choice."
Miss Mather: "Mr Cowley, it would be untrue if I was to say to you I wasn't moved by your final plea: an passionate plea from the heart - and made even more poignant because I know that you really believe everthing you said. Misguided as it is, you believe in your own twisted argument and your own omnipotence. And that is the very real danger here. A young, innocent man has already lost his life!"
This is the ultimate "beautiful Doyle" episode – the camera loves him, the clothes are right, the hair is right, the eyes are big and green and the camera angles are perfect. He becomes, for a moment, a gorgeous "Angel of Death", when Bodie announces that Paul Coogan is dead.
Bodie's not half bad in this one either. <G>
Also contains the best "buddy scene" I've ever run across in TV action/cop shows. It's a classic. When Bodie appears in Ray's living room and shakes him out of his depression into action, the dialogue and the acting is perfect Very, very good work from everyone- writers, actors, director and camera.
Note that Benny has a small and undistinguished role in this episode.
The "Perry Mason" ending works for me because the problem starts with Parker grassing and therefore the less-than-conclusive ending acts as a frame for the rest of the story. The plot is quite complex and doesn't really fit in the 50 minute format. Too bad they didn't decide to make it a two-three parter. The issues alone are worth more exploration.
Oh, yes. I like it that both Lads wore black shirts for the interrogations. Nice, if unaware, bit of symbolism there.
We learn a great deal about Bodie and Doyle from their resumes which are paraded as evidence of their subhumanness- at least we can be grateful for that. The rest of the strident, outraged lawyer act leaves me gagging. In 'Klansman' I griped about medical reality – here I can't even count the number of legal mistakes made. Ah well.
It's good to learn about The Lads no matter what the source. We also learn that Doyle eats "organic food". That he reads when upset (listen for the tiny sigh when the living room scene first opens), that Bodie (again) watches out for him, emotionally as well as physically. Bodie drives in this one.
LC does a very nice job when he's in the hot seat with small facial changes to indicate what's going on inside Bodie's mind. Fine work there.
The "inquiry" provides Cowley with a good forum. Since the concept of CI5 is a bit beyond the pale, civil-rights wise, to most Yanks, Cowley's speech is an excellent reminder of what urban life was like during the time of the show and why such an organization might have been necessary.
Annoying moments, great moments and all in all one of the better episodes.
When the lads go looking for Parker, they go to his last known address and the door is opened by the lovely Jenny Lee-Wright. We never learn her character's name and her screen-time is just a few seconds, yet she receives a credit, as 'Lorna'. Jenny was quite well-known at the time for her appearances on Benny Hill and I would guess that originally she had a bigger part in this episode which was later trimmed at the editing stage.
Michael Billington was recently asked to reminisce about his appearance in this episode:
"About the time of doing [this episode of] The Professionals I had just come back from Paris where I had been doing some tests at the time of [James Bond film] Moonraker... I can remember that The Professionals was a good set, very fast and professional. I can recall getting on pretty well with Lewis Collins who had a good sense of humour!
"I can recall that I plucked my eyebrows completely off to play the role of the ex-boxer Coogan because it made me look a bit insane! It was a bit of a nuisance afterwards because it took YEARS for them to grow back completely.
I also had a difference of opinion with (director) Peter Medak over the way I played the courtroom scene. To show Coogan's deviousness I played his as though he was innocent and sincere! Peter wanted me to play him callous and hard! Maybe he was right! I think it came out somewhere in the middle!"
(Thanks to Gareth Bevan for the quote).
Michael Billington (John Coogan) is best remembered for Gerry Anderson's UFO series, though also starred in the BBC's 1970s shipping drama The Onedin Line (pronounced "O-nee-din"). He auditioned to play James Bond in the early 1970s but ended up with a minor role in The Spy Who Loved Me, getting shot by Bond after trying to ambush him in the exciting ski-chase that formed the prologue to the movie. He guested in American shows such as Hart to Hart and Magnum but has not worked in TV or movies since the late 1980s. Passed away in June 2005. (Thanks to James Harris, Barrie Taylor and Andrew Houghton)
Lisa Harrow (Geraldine Mather) starred in the infamous 1976 sci-fi series Star Maidens but went on to better quality stuff with Edward Woodward in the 1977 apocalyptic drama "1990" (would love to see this!). Most recently seen in the barrister drama Kavanagh QC with the late John Thaw.
Cyril Luckham (Judge Hall) was a familiar name in the 1960s and 70s, guesting in ITC series such as Randall and Hopkirk, Department S and Return of the Saint and played one of the leads in the short-running wartime soap The Cedar Tree. He also played the vicar in Michael Crawford's classic sitcom Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em. Meatier roles came in the form of mini-series such as To Serve Them All My Days and The Barchester Chronicles. He died in 1989.
Ken Campbell ("Nosey" Parker) doesn't normally play this sort of role. He is essentially a comedy performer, usually playing quite zany characters. Perhaps best remembered as Alf Garnett's long-suffering neighbour in the 1980s revival of Till Death Us Do Part. He's also a theatre director and launched a stage version of The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy in 1979. Passed away in 2008.
Jenny Lee Wright (Lorna) is best known for her appearances in over a decade's worth of Benny Hill shows. She also co-hosted (with William Franklyn of Schweppes ads fame) the 1978 gameshow Masterspy. Sadly for us boys, she's been working behind the cameras as a sound effects ("Foley") artist since the late 1970s.
Athar Malik (cameoing as the hospital doctor) is better known as Art Malik and spent a lot of time in mini-series such as The Far Pavillions and A Passage to India during the 1980s while playing the rebel leader who teams up with Bond in The Living Daylights. Still works occasionally today but high-profile roles seem to elude him now. Also seen playing another doctor in 'Rogue'!
This episode perhaps more than any other bears all the hallmarks of LWT's cheap'n'nasty approach to "remastering". Although we see strong colours and laudable sharpness in the digital print, it is beset by a "gauze"-like effect, particularly noticeable in the "courtroom" scenes. The telecine machine has been set up to be far too sensitive to white lights, the white lettering on the titles and even moderately light coloured things such as Lisa Harrow's blouse: observe the "glow" around edges and extreme "bleed" to the right. The replacement of the usual orange Mark 1/LWT caption card with LWT's white 1990's version certainly suggests a different generation of print.
Most of the old "analogue" prints used as sources for the digital transfer had separate audio tracks but the BRITE digital copy has been sourced from a print using an integrated audio track (aka "optical" sound).
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