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.
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.
UK | ITV – Thames | 60 minutes | Broadcast 17 September 1969 – 9 May 1974
Series Editor: George Markstein
Theme Music: Norman Kay (season 1), Robert Earley (from season 2)
Executive Producers: Lloyd Shirley, George Taylor
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