Episode Fifteen: The Man From Nowhere

Original Air-Date:
Duration: 50'37m
Screenplay by: Donald James
Directed By: Robert Tronson
Availability: Try store

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

Guest-Starring: Ray Brooks (Marty), Michael Gwynn (Hyde Watson), Patrick Newell (Mannering), Neil McCarthy (Griggs) and James Bree (Mullet).

Technical Personnel: Ronald Liles (Production Supervisor), Brian Elvin (Director of Photography), Charles Bishop (Art Director), Cyril Frankel (Creative Consultant), Edwin Astley (Musical Director), Philip Aizlewood (Post Production), Jack T. Knight (Editor), Malcolm Christopher (Production Manager), Jack Lowin (2nd Unit Director), Gerald Moss (2nd Unit Cameraman), Val Stewart (Camera Operator), Michael Meighan (Assistant Director), Doreen Soan (Continuity), Denis Porter/Dennis Whitlock (Sound Recordists), Rydal Love (Sound Editor), Alan Willis (Music Editor), John Owen (Casting), Roger Christian (Set Dresser), Bill Greene (Construction Manager), Peter Dunlop (Production Buyer), A. J. Van Montagu (Scenic Artist), Frank Maher (Stunt Co-Ordinator), Elizabeth Romanoff (Make-Up), Jeannette Freeman (Hairdresser), Laura Nightingale (Costume Supervisor), Cinesound (Sound Effects Suppliers), Chambers + Partners (Titles), Dennis Spooner (Creator/Executive Story Consultant) and Monty Berman (Producer). An ITC Production.

Jeff: When the episode opens we discover that Jeff is exercising (badly) with a chest expander and is also a reader of Road & Track magazine.
Jeff Scraps: One of Jeff's best showings as he does very well against Neil McCarthy's stunt double before a net thrown from high above changes the course of the fight. Nevertheless, the next time Griggs (McCarthy) confronts Jeff, it's with his friendly-looking Alsatian Rex. After this not only does Jeff manhandle the owner of the Duke of Cumberland but he also gets the better of Sheldon and offers to take on all three remaining criminals before the police arrive to save him the trouble (and probable beating).

Marty: The year before Marty took Jeannie on a honeymoon to the Duke of Cumberland Hotel in the Cotswolds. He also used to take her hillwalking in Scotland, even though he claims she "hated it."

Jeannie: A rare moment of tension between Jeff and Jeannie in this one, as Jeannie reacts to what she (presumably) sees as Jeff being interested in her. When Jeff remarks that the fake Marty is a "young pretender", Jeannie hits back with a pointed "well at least he's young."

Story: Jeannie is visited by a man claiming to be Marty in another body. However, it transpires that the man's name is really Augustus John Sheldon, one of three criminals who had stolen some Georgian treasure and buried it in Oxfordshire woods. After the burial Sheldon was involved in a car accident with Jeannie and Marty a year earlier, and uses Jeannie's knowledge of the event to pinpoint exactly where the burial took place. Jeff catches him in the act of digging up the treasures, but not before Sheldon's two accomplices and their henchman turn up to finish Jeff off. Fortunately for Jeff Jeanie had alerted the police, who get there in time to arrest all four members of the gang.

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

Trivia: Director Robert Tronson recalled of Mike Pratt in SFX #149: "He was a very self-destructive bloke. Halfway through the episode I did Mike got into a fight in a pub and came in with a huge black eye. You couldn't possibly shoot him in close up except at a very funny angle. He was so apologetic about it, but I think he was pissed most of the time."

In addition to such technical problems then the episode is possibly the most mistake-ridden of the lot. As referenced in the review, there's a bad edit between two takes 1'29m in, causing Ray Brooks to get up off the couch not once but twice. Shortly afterwards (4'32m in) Mike Pratt can be witnessed holding a telephone in his left hand which then cuts to a shot with it in his right. And although the presence of boom mike shadows was a regular feature of shows of the period, it rarely takes place in Randall and Hopkirk. A small example, however, can be seen 40'55m in where Jeff's at the bar. Lastly, a plot error occurs when Jeff asks Jeannie to direct him to the site of the car crash... then walks out of the pub before she can even say anything!

"What's his name?"
"Marty Hopkirk."
"Well that rings a bell."

Ummm… a bit of a mess, to be frank. What first threw me from embracing this episode is that it contains the highest amount of poor editing and continuity ever seen in the series. And this is Randall and Hopkirk, so that's not an inconsiderable amount. Less than five minutes in and Ray Brooks somehow manages to get up from reclining on an armchair not once but twice, while Jeff has a telephone handset that can instaneously change hands. And for a show weaned on dodgy back projection, then this one has hilarity-inducing amounts, and of the lowest quality witnessed. On a note of bitchy trivia, then all the principles are having a bad skin day, this being the episode to prove even the lovely Jeannie could get spots.

I wanted to love this episode, truly I did. I think Ray Brooks is a supremely energetic performer, but sadly he's not really given enough chance to shine. Part of the problem is that the series has a "reset to zero" mentality, where the end of every forty-five minutes sees the basic set-up restored. You know Jeannie's not going to turn into a ghost, you know Marty's not going to come back to life… most of the time it doesn't really seem to matter. But for a story based around the latter example then it does little. Granted, ten minutes in and an overacting Ken Cope turns up, negating the suspense anyway, but often what you're seeing feels like it needed an extra draft.

There's some added confusion with two camp villains (why are R & H villains always camp?) and Rex, an aggressive Alsatian. Okay, Jeff might get in a subtle pun about Jeannie's name while he's holding a lamp, but Ken really milks that dog hypnosis routine for all it's worth, and then some. What starts out as amusing soon turns into desperation, and you wonder why Jeff asks Jeannie for directions but then doesn't give her time to give him any, as he's too busy listening to Marty (whom Jeannie can't see, so naturally she'd talk over him anyway). Donald James is a great writer of the series (Could You Recognise The Man Again?, All Work And No Pay…) but this one seems off-base somehow, with even the placid Jeannie bitching about Jeff's age. Don't get me wrong, this is a perfectly adequate episode of the series, and most of the distracting elements came from the production (editing, dubbing…) rather than anything intrinsically wrong with script or performances. I just couldn't help feeling that it had the potential to be so much more…