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Special Branch (ITV 1969-1974, Derren Nesbitt, Patrick Mower)

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Hard hitting crime drama series Special Branch introduced us to a new breed of cop, one who didn’t just focus on the average crime but served as a kind of conduit between the police and the secret service.

When the series begins focus is on Inspector Jordan, who was a cop with some of the glamour of a secret agent. He and his team dealt with situations that threatened national security. Storylines included such fare Russian VIPs in need of protection strange thefts at British Embassies, bomb plots against oil sheikhs and the ever-present threat of the KGB (although a nod in the direction of contemporary concerns also brought in hippie encampments and German student revolutionaries).

In the opening episode of the series, Troika, Special Branch make a serious error involving a Russian spy who manages to escape back to the Soviet Union. The fallout continues across most of the first season, first with an enquiry and eventually with Superintendent Eden being shunted out of the SB, despite being cleared of all wrong-doing. This paved the way for the arrival in episode 10 of new boss Detective Superintendent Inman played by Fulton Mackay. The opening titles also changed at the same time.

The first two seasons were standard interior videotape/exterior film episodes made in house by Thames but seasons three and four saw production company Euston team up with Thames to make their first all shot on film series. This would very quickly become the norm for all future Thames-Euston productions, not least The Sweeney and Minder.

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Hip Derren Nesbitt who starred as Jordan in the first two seasons was replaced for season three onwards by Patrick Mower as equally cool Tom Haggarty and the straighter D.C.I Alan Craven.

Patrick Mower followed up this series with a similar vehicle called Target – this time for the BBC. The series is classic Thames, lots of great writers on board including Public Eye’s Roger Marshall, John Brason, Michael J. Bird, Ray Jenkins, Ian Kennedy Martin, Trevor Preston, Martin Worth etc.

Watcher’s View: What a lot of tailor’s dummies there are in ITV’s Special Branch force – plus the five-pound note voice of Maxon played by Morris Perry. I think there is too much glamour and not enough. (B. Scott, St Aubyns, Hove, Sussex, readers letter in the Sunday Mirror, 25 Oct 1970).

production details
UK | ITV – Thames | 60 minutes | Broadcast 17 September 1969 – 9 May 1974

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Series Editor: George Markstein
Theme Music: Norman Kay (season 1), Robert Earley (from season 2)
Executive Producers: Lloyd Shirley, George Taylor

cast
Wensley Pithey as Superintendent Eden (Season 1)
Derren Nesbitt as Detective Chief Inspector Jordan (Seasons 1 and 2)
Keith Washington as Detective Constable Morrissey (Season 1)
Jennifer Wilson as Detective Sergeant Helen Webb (Season 1)
Fulton Mackay as Detective Chief Superintendent Inman (Seasons 1 and 2)
Morris Perry as Charles Moxon (Seasons 1 and 2)
George Sewell as Detective Chief Inspector Alan Craven (Seasons 3 and 4)
Patrick Mower as Detective Chief Inspector Haggerty (Seasons 3 and 4)
Roger Rowland as Detective Sergeant Bill North (Season 3)
Paul Eddington as Strand (Season 4)
Frederick Jaeger as Commander Fletcher (Season 4)

THE EPISODES
SEASON 1
1. TROIKA
2. SMOKESCREEN
3. THE PROMISED LAND
4. A DATE WITH LEONIDAS
5. THE KAZIMIRIOV AFFAIR
6. A NEW FACE
7. YOU DON’T EXIST
8. THE CHILDREN OF DELIGHT
9. RELIABLE SOURCES
10. SHORT CHANGE
11. EXIT A DIPLOMAT
12. CARE OF HER MAJESTY
13. VISITOR FROM MOSCOW
14. TIME BOMB

SEASON 2
1. INSIDE
2. DINNER DATE
3. DEPART IN PEACE
4. MISS INTERNATIONAL
5. WARRANT FOR A PHOENIX
6. THE PLEASURE OF YOUR COMPANY
7. NOT TO BE TRUSTED
8. BORDERLINE CASE
9. LOVE FROM DORIS
10. SORRY IS JUST A WORD
11. ERROR OF JUDGEMENT
12. REPORTED MISSING
13. FOOL’S MATE

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SEASON 3
1. A COPPER CALLED CRAVEN
2. ROUND THE CLOCK
3. INQUISITION
4. ASSAULT
5. POLONAISE
6. RED HERRING
7. DEATH BY DROWNING
8. ALL THE KING’S MEN
9. THREAT
10. THE OTHER MAN
11. YOU WON’T REMEMBER ME
12. HOSTAGE
13. BLUEPRINT FOR MURDER

SEASON 4
1. DOUBLE EXPOSURE
2. CATHERINE THE GREAT
3. JAILBAIT
4. STAND AND DELIVER
5. SOMETHING ABOUT A SOLDIER
6. RENDEZVOUS
7. SOUNDS SINISTER
8. ENTENTE CORDIALE
9. DATE OF BIRTH
10. INTERCEPT
11. ALIEN
12. DIVERSION
13. DOWNWIND OF ANGELS


Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.

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