Sunday, 13 April 2014

The Professionals - Old Dog with New Tricks s1e3

Old Dog with New Tricks is a useful episode in terms of the back story to CI5, but the plot itself is tissue thin. An incarcerated gangster who can't do the bird is to be sprung by his brother using a hostage exchange. The gang decides the best way of getting hold of guns and ammo is to rip off the IRA and murder the would-be terrorists. It's a bold, if life-shortening, move.

One of the gang, ne'er-do-well Billy, decides he wants to finish what he started two years ago and kill his psychiatrist. In a convoluted fashion, he holds hostage a nurse with a gun to her head and a grenade town her top (I think a psychiatrist could say a lot about this) in order to get Dr Brook to turn up. Why doesn't Billy just wait for him to turn up at work? Or go round to his house? This was the 70s, everyone was in the phone book. Also, Billy doesn't appear to have had any kind of sanction for attempted murder.

No sexual connotation here, move along
Cowley gets the call, Bodie & Doyle get the order and there is a fine one-used wah-wah guitar and vibraphone interlude as they race to the scene. Quick note on vehicles here; the first two episodes had Doyle in a blue TR7 with tartan interior (what else?) and Doyle in the Triumph Dolomite Sprint, one of the hot saloons of that era. Today however, they're in a brown-on-brown-on-brown Rover 2000, a car more befitting of Cowley than them. They make up for it by squealing tyres and kicking up loads of dust to make it clear it's not their dad driving.

After Bodie makes a poetic reference to Samuel Beckett, then a 'convincing' impersonation (see below, though the GIF did actually fool my girlfriend briefly) of Dr Brook, the boys save the nurse's life and sweat Billy in the interrogation room;

Can you tell the difference?

"I want a lawyer"
"Why son? Do you want to make a will?"

and the truth is out the the Turkel brothers are up to something. Cowley fits the jigsaw together and realises that the Home Secretary is to be kidnapped. Following in Bodie's footsteps, Cowley pretends to be the Minister and it all ends with Doyle threatening to blow incarcerated Turkel's head off with a shotgun, Cowley showing his hand that he isn't the Home Sec and the whole hostage taking was a waste of time. Let's gloss over the innocent staff in the police station who might also end up dead but it's a pretty gutsy call on Cowley's part.

Which takes us to the CI5 back story. Doyle tries to engage with Bodie about his time in Belfast, but Bodie, like many who served in Northern Ireland, doesn't want to discuss it at all. Probably a wise choice for the script-writers to not explore that too deeply. And we have a rare insight into a CI5 classroom with Cowley teaching the new recruits.

The Action Squad and The Big A never mentioned again
"Preventive detection, preventive action. To detect, determine, prevent and/or take suitable action and/or actions against those transgressors against the law outside the norm of criminal activity. To contain and render ineffective such by whatever means necessary."

Cowley expands on 'whatever means necessary' and makes it clear that he doesn't mind CI5 getting it wrong and turning 'law-abiding citizens into authority-hating anarchists' once in a while. It's a price worth paying as long as the real bad guys don't succeed. The Cow's argument is a little thin, as CI5's remit appears to target all manner of criminality, but his example is all about innocents 'bleeding all over the High Street'.

It's a very different landscape to the one that society now inhabits, due in part to exactly the attitudes that Cowley displays. The miscarriages of justice that came to light from the 70s and 80s changed the way in which investigations were carried out enormously and made those public servants much more accountable to the people they serve. But not here, not in The Professionals.

The most chilling, throwaway line of the show is from the usually liberal Doyle; as he leads brother Turkel off with a shotgun under his chin to his potential doom, he says to the uniformed police inspector, "Your lads do know all about the Official Secrets Act I hope." A smile and grudging admiration in reply.

If it all goes horribly wrong and a massacre results, don't worry, the government will cover it all up. Then again, recent events around Stockwell, Plebgate and the like haven't exactly reassured us that anything has changed significantly. In this episode, it's not really the Turkels who lose, but all of us.

No comments:

Post a Comment