Episode Two: A Disturbing Case

Original Air-Date:
Duration: 48'32m
Screenplay by: Mike Pratt and Ian Wilson
Directed By: Ray Austin
Availability: Try store

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

Guest-Starring: Judith Arthy (Jennifer), David Bauer (Doctor Conrad), Gerald Flood (Doctor Lambert), Michael Griffiths (Inspector Nelson), William Meryvyn (Whitty), Charles Morgan (Arthur Phillips), Patrick Jordan (Smart), Adrian Ropes (The Sergeant), Geoffrey Reed (First Male Nurse), Max Faulkner (Second Male Nurse) and Les White (Hales).

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), John Ireland (Editor), Malcolm Christopher (Production Manager), Jack Lowin (2nd Unit Director), Gerald Moss (2nd Unit Cameraman), Denis Porter/Dennis Whitlock (Sound Recordists), Peter Lennard (Sound Editor), Deveril Goodman (Music Editor), John Owen (Casting), Roger Christian (Set Dresser), Bill Greene (Construction Manager), Val Stewart (Camera Operator), Michael Meighan (Assistant Director), Sally Ball (Continuity), Peter Dunlop (Production Buyer), Elizabeth Romanoff (Make-Up), Henry Montsash (Hairdresser), Laura Nightingale (Costume Supervisor), A. J. Van Montagu (Scenic Artist), Frank Maher (Stunr Co-Ordinator), Cinesound (Sound Effects Suppliers), Chambers + Partners (Titles), Dennis Spooner (Creator/Executive Story Consultant) and Monty Berman (Producer). An ITC Production.

Jeff: We're informed by Marty that the last time Jeff borrowed Marty's car it needed to go in the garage with a missing door after just two days. Jeff's version of the story is that it needed a service.
Jeff Scraps: Mixed fortunes for Jeff this week, as he goes down like a girl after being lightly thrown against a door by Phillip and Pentonville, the two hospital heavies. However, under hypnosis he bests five men in fights, including Doctor Conrad. (Despite clearly missing him by at least two inches!)

Marty: Marty is seen pulling objects (a door, Jeff's head) towards him by inhaling in this episode. When teleporting to a specific location he is also heard to say "Made it! My sense of direction is improving!"

Jeannie: We're introduced to Jeannie's (presumably younger) sister Jenny in this episode. Currently unemployed, she's staying with Jeannie from outside of London, what she terms "the sticks". Jeannie tells her she can stay at her apartment "until you find something else."

Story: Jeff's car is stolen and used in a robbery, whereby the perpetrators use hypnotic suggestion to rob wealthy businessmen.
Concerned for Jeff's mental health after hearing him talking to himself (in reality, Marty), Jenny places a hidden tape recorder in his office to capture him doing it again. When they have a "one-sided" conversation on tape, Jenny and Jeannie arrange to send Jeff to a Dr. Conrad at the Lambert Clinic Nursing Home.
Retaining Jeff against his will and filling him with illegal drugs, it transpires that Conrad is the mastermind behind the robberies, in league with a criminal known as William Smith.
Dr. Conrad uses hypnosis to erase Marty from Jeff's mind, but Marty manages to impersonate Dr. Conrad's voice in order to communicate with Jeff. He instructs Jeff to break out of the facility and eventually the police are led there, arresting Dr. Conrad and his associates. Jeff claims that his "talking to himself" was all part of an elaborate ploy to get him placed in the hospital, and celebrates his success by taking the two sisters to dinner.

Production Order: This was the twenty-second episode to be filmed.

Commentaries: The 2008 Network DVD release of the programme features two commentaries. The first has Kenneth Cope and Mike Pratt's son, Guy, watching the episode, before they're joined 15 minutes in by Annette Andre. It's an amiable, likeable chat as all three laugh along with the episode. However, perhaps the most interesting moment is when Cope says that "a lot" of the directors resented him and Mike Pratt putting comedy into the show. He doesn't name names, but specifies three directors who were okay with it, leaving the list of possible contenders as Cyril Frankel, Jeremy Summers, Paul Dickson and Robert Tronson. Also look out for Ken talking about Annette Andre's "fantastic body" and "fantastic legs" before she comes into the commentary booth.
A second commentary is by director Raymond Austin and Brian Clemens. Clemens' involvement in these commentaries is discussed at more length under Episode Five: That's How Murder Snowballs, but suffice it to say that he's just there as Austin's friend. Their chatty banter is just as likeable, and interesting, with discussion of the editing process, and how long each episode took in the edit ("2-3 days"), as well as remarks on how handsome Mike Pratt was ("face like the back of a bus sometimes") and, a theme for many of the people on the discs, what a firm hand producer Monty Berman had on proceedings ("renowned for his lack of humour"). In addition to Ken Cope's remarks about directors not enjoying excess humour from the stars, Austin cites Paul Dickson and Cyril Frankel as directors who allowed the humour, but requested alternate takes, with the intention of indulging the cast, but then discarding the less serious ones. While Austin and Clemens' other commentary is somewhat missable, this is one of the most engaging ones on the set, taking in both the technical side and the personalities behind the camera. As with that other commentary, Austin and Clemens again watch the episode without sound.

Trivia: Silent behind-the-scenes footage of this episode was included as an extra on the fourth region 2 DVD. Shot by a 2nd unit crew using stand-ins for the leads, the sequence ran to 1'06m.

The sound quality of this episode is vastly inferior to others, at least on the region 2 DVD disc. Still watchable, the extremely crackly audio nevertheless warrants restoration work for future releases. (Though this could be a fault on my disc, so give it the benefit of the doubt while I take it back to the shop - that said, none of the episodes, while decent, have been particularly cleaned up for their DVD debut).

The registration number of Jeff's car in this episode is RXD 997F, as opposed to the first episode's RXD 996F. As Jeff's car was stolen, it might seem that they're suggesting the crooks in charge of forging numberplates were just really lazy. However, they're two similar but different cars... for more details see the Trivia entry on Episode 21, The Ghost Talks.

"This'll be the death of me!"

As this episode was co-written by Mike Pratt then I wish I could say it was one of my favourites, but I'm afraid it didn't quite click with me.

I have serious misgivings with the original series not being able to make up its mind whether it's a straight series or a comedy one, and this seems to straddle both genres. What we get is a genuinely inspired plot - Jeff sent for counselling as he's caught talking to Marty - combined with a manipulative psychiatrist who is conditioning the thoughts of his patients. As illegal drugs are being meted out in this hospital and Jeff can no longer hear Marty then this has the potential to be a dark and quite disturbing (pun unintentional) story. Sadly, it's subverted into a bit of a knockabout, which, while it does make the plot contrivances more palatable, does dilute its worth somewhat.

It's by no means awful, of course, and Jeff's sedated walking to the sound of jazz is very amusing... well, the first two or three times, at any rate. I also laughed at loud at Marty nagging Jeff (in Dr. Conrad's voice, Cope an able lipsyncher) about his driving. Yet on the negative side, Jeannie's sister shows that acting ability (file under: lack thereof) runs in the family, and having Dr. Conrad as a crude caricature of Freud pushes the humour inherent into cartoon territory. What could have been a sharp and witty script with dark undercurrents is played largely for laughs, culminating in Marty, Jim Davidson style, doing a "funny foreigner" accent as the final pay-off. A decent enough episode, but this was the only one to be directly remade for the update, as Mental Apparition Disorder. You know what? I think this might be the one time the update was better.