Episode Fourteen: Who Killed Cock Robin?

Original Air-Date:
Duration: 50'38m
Screenplay by: Tony Williamson
Directed By: Roy Ward Baker
Availability: Try store

Starring: Mike Pratt (Jeff Randall), Kenneth Cope (Marty Hopkirk) and Annette Andre (Jean Hopkirk).

Guest-Starring: Cyril Luckham (Laverick), Jane Merrow (Sandra Joyce), Gabrielle Brune (Mrs. Howe), David Lodge (Beeches), Maurice Hedley (Colonel Chalmers), Tenniel Evans (James Howe), David Webb (Police Sergeant), Michael Goldie (Gimbal), Philip Lennard (Johns), Susan Broderick (Carol) and Leslie Schofield (Peter).

Technical Personnel: Ronald Liles (Production Supervisor), Brian Elvin (Director of Photography), Charles Bishop (Supervising Art Director), Cyril Frankel (Creative Consultant), Edwin Astley (Musical Director), Philip Aizlewood (Post Production), Harry Ledger (Editor), Jack Morrison (Production Manager), Gerald Moss (2nd Unit Cameraman), Denis Porter/Len Abbott (Sound Recordists), Guy Ambler (Sound Editor), Alan Willis (Music Editor), John Owen (Casting), Sue Long (Set Dresser), Bill Greene (Construction Manager), Tony Busbridge (Camera Operator), Michael Meighan (Assistant Director), Sally Ball (Continuity), Peter Dunlop (Production Buyer), Gerry Fletcher (Make-Up Supervisor), Jeannette Freeman (Hairdresser), Laura Nightingale (Wardrobe Supervisor), A. J. Van Montagu (Scenic Artist), Frank Maher (Stunt Co-Ordinator), Cinesound (Sound Effects Suppliers), Chambers + Partners (Titles), Dennis Spooner (Creator/Executive Story Consultant) and Monty Berman (Producer). An ITC Production.

Jeff Scraps: Perhaps Jeff's wussiest-ever display here as he twice uses a gun to hold men up rather than fight them, then gets KO'd by a bottle-wielding pensioner. To make matters worse, when he regains consciousness the same elderly man uses a chair to knock him down a flight of stairs.

Marty: Marty is once again able to communicate with animals in this episode. After disturbing a dog in For The Girl Who Has Everything, here he alarms and then settles the inhabitants of the aviary. He is also seen moving a glass at a seance.

Jeannie: Jeannie is seen to be smoking for the first and only time in the series while at a party. As Marty remarks that "Jeannie, you're smoking too much", we can perhaps assume that it's something she'd done before, but never on screen and never to (Marty's perception of) excess.

Story: Jeff is hired as a guardian of a private aviary, and to investigate who is trying to kill the birds there. The birds in question are under the Estate of the late Mrs. Wentworth-Howe, with her fortune of over two million held in trust as long as the birds are alive. With the Estate due to go to her surviving relatives after the birds die, then Jeff must ensure their safety. To make matters even more complicated then the human residents of the mansion are being killed off by poison darts leaving Jeff and Marty to find out the culprit before it's too late. Eventually they discover that the Trustee who hired Jeff is behind it all, and is planning to use Jeff as a scapegoat in order to ensure he doesn't lose his control over the trust. He knocks Jeff unconscious with a bottle and traps him in a cellar with no escape. Fortunately Marty receives a psychic vibration from Jeannie being at a party with a ouija board. He uses the board to spell out the telephone number of the mansion and contact details, causing Jeannie to ring up the sole surviving heir and alert her that Jeff is trapped in the cellar. Set free, Jeff pursues Trustee Laverick, who is killed by accidentally firing one of his own darts into his hand.

Production Order: This was the sixth episode to be filmed.

Trivia: Look out for 26'34m in (pictured below) when Jeff and Marty are in an "outdoor" scene clearly shot in an interior set. An off-screen crewmember is making an artifical branch sway in the "wind" and Kenneth Cope can be seen to be momentarily distracted by it.

"Are you a bird fancier, Mr. Randall?"
"From a very early age."

The only episode I watched while under the influence of drink. Such viewing habits make you realise even more just what a load of old nonsense the whole thing is, as Ken Cope gets surrounded by cardboard parrots on string, and Jeff gets not just one but three puns out of the word "bird". Maybe all Randall and Hopkirk episodes are as crazy as this, and it just took the drink to make me acknowledge it.

Yes, all the sets have been seen in the series many times before, and Jane Merrow is almost as wooden as she was in The Prisoner, but Roy Ward Baker keeps things brisk and thoughtful once again. That said, the allusions to the Hitchcock film with all those birds (what was it called again?) doesn't quite work, and with a witless pay off that sees a comedy talking parrot then it's more like Carry On Behind than any great satirical endeavour. There is a sense towards the end that the ideas are running out, with the ouija board sequence clearly overrunning (and doesn't Jeannie look unattractive smoking?) but for most of the way it contains the pace of something that's watchable, but certainly no great. One of the best titles in the series is transferred to screen with a literal interpretation, and virtually nothing we haven't seen before.

As a brief post-script to this review, then having seen it again in order to get the story details I feel I was a little hard on it. It's a rare story where there is not only some genuine detection but also we don't know who's behind the whole thing until the end. Add to this Marty being utilised quite well and it's a case of me disagreeing with my own review there. In fact, Whoever Killed Cock Robin? is an episode that seems to get better with repeat viewings, and I always forget who the culprit was each time, the story doing a good job of making you think it's the planktastic Merrow.