Professionals Mk1 Blu-Ray – Some Thoughts

Old Dog With New Tricks

The first episode produced sets out the concept, work and practices of CI5 brutally. Cowley lectures about CI5’s modus operandi of playing tough outside the rules; and then his men put this philosophy into action (demonstrated by the grenade in Pamela Stephenson’s bra sequence and the shotgun climax in Windsor High Street) and deliver the results (to the barely disguised consternation of the old order). The baddies of this new order, some hardened criminals doltishly adopting terrorist tactics, merely serve this presentation – the story is quite slow and dull. Verdict OK.

Long Shot

The series formula beds in more with this one, which has a fast-paced game of cat and mouse between CI5 and the villain.  Plenty goes unexplained: such as most of what Ramos gets up to; notably why Cowley is targeted in the first place and why he gratuitously disposes of his patron. This episode benefits from a lot of action and an excellent supporting cast: Roger Lloyd-Pack, Ed Bishop, Robert Gillespie, Tony Caunter, Peter Cellier (as a curious character, a security expert with a chip on his shoulder about the super-rich). Verdict Good.

Where The Jungle Ends

Bodie encountering (and opposing) his old mercenary comrades is a strong idea, but despite an exciting opening, some good stuff from Lewis Collins and a solid supporting cast, this one fizzles out badly. The middle act (bouncing between the gang’s hideout, some domestics and the interrogation room) is boring, and the latter fifteen minutes is an even more tedious pursuit and skirmish over a patch of strikingly unmemorable (and spatially unintelligible) waste ground. Verdict Poor.

Killer With A Long Arm

Some effective menace to this episode, mostly from the characterisation and performance of Michael Latimer as the calm, professional and ruthless hitman. Brian Clemens’ script moves the action forward nicely, a good example of a story where CI5 have to make all of the running and get there just about in time. On the downside, the Greek terrorist cell is rather a motley bunch and the scene in the restaurant isn’t a cultural triumph. Verdict Good.

Heroes

One of the more violent stories, Heroes attempts to focus on the normal public affected by crime and terror. Unlike the previous episode (which touched on this several times), it doesn’t succeed in making the ordinary folk of the Home Counties who are caught up in a senseless atrocity dramatically interesting.  As the villains are deliberately presented as anonymous goons, it’s left to the CI5 regulars, and John Castle as a one-off berserker to hold the adventure up. Verdict Good

Private Madness, Public Danger

Easy to see why this episode was picked to lead off the first season. It’s got a strong, frightening plot and better characters. Keith Barron is great as the mad scientist/activist and the dealer and junkie characters are excellent also. Having these means that the uncomprehending Joe Public figures can be put more into the background, where they can support the piece better. Whilst this is happening, Shaw and Collins are totally at ease (if not happy perhaps) with what they are doing and can charismatically glide through the proceedings. Verdict Excellent.

The Female Factor

Quite different from the others, The Female Factor enters the world of prostitution and politics: a senior politician is the victim of a Soviet-inspired “honey trap” blackmailing. By a freak coincidence, Doyle and then Cowley sense the crime and then catch up with the pimps. This episode fetishizes the duo a little, but focuses on Doyle, who is the personal connection at play here (notably he ends up taking a bullet). Although things get clunky when the Soviets enter the fray, this is a decent instalment. Verdict Very Good.

Everest Was Also Conquered

More good stuff: intended to be used unwittingly for the purpose of sweeping a long forgotten murder under the carpet, CI5 discover a conspiracy between a senior politician and major industrialist. Lots of action and pace to this story, as Bodie and Doyle trail a hitman. A good contrast between the Richard Greene is good as the oily Turvey – all the conspirators are presented as dubious, by contrast with the honest and passionate CI5 reps. Verdict Very Good

Close Quarters

The Baader Meinhof gang are brought to the screen quite nicely. Bodie’s minor disintegration as the situation starts to get beyond him is good (Lewis Collins only just about meets the challenge). The story is quite slow on repeated viewing, despite the bursts of violence. Verdict Good

Klansmen

A good example of a solid episode, in terms of the direction, action, drama and pace, until the study of racialism and how it is studied is considered. The racialist characterisations are (indeed) deeply unpleasant, particularly the idea of the hero (such as Bodie may be construed) having such notions. This story is unsettling and disturbing – should an investigation such as Klansman be undertaken within a vehicle as unsubtle as The Professionals? Verdict Good

Look After Annie

Not a good episode. Annie soon comes over as a very unsympathetic character (you start feeling quite sorry for Cowley). The plot is thin stuff (both Cowley and the lads have a job on their hands bodyguarding this lady). It plays out with a backwards and forwards skirmish outside a cinema. Visually this episode, filmed in the autumn and with a surfeit of dull brown and grey colour, is deeply drab and unmemorable. Verdict Very Poor

Stakeout

Bodie and Doyle go ten pin bowling and find themselves having to fill a vacuum of plot and character. After hanging around for an hour and a half, they then escort a variety cardboard cut-outs over to Cowley’s office. Then Bedford is added to this triangle of doom (the opposition being a Home Counties white African terrorist group). The bomb defusal is tense and well-acted, but this episode verges on the terrible at times. Verdict Poor

When the Heat Cools Off

Probably the pick of the first season bunch. Martin Shaw is at his best here (he and Lalla Ward have excellent chemistry). Doyle’s libido and his conscience are being worked over here by an attractive girl seemingly on a crusade for justice. Cowley (the always excellent Gordon Jackson) has to clean up, which he does in style. Bodie is left as a bit of a Tom Sawyer figure this time. Verdict Excellent

 

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