Special Branch Series Episode 12 – ‘Reported Missing’ (1970)
The penultimate episode of the outstanding ‘real’ ‘Special Branch’ series (1969-70) currently getting an extended life on Talking Pictures TV was very much a hybrid one but still pretty good entertainment.
So, the story this week is that a pretty dancer (Lydia Tamarova) performing for the Russia Ballet here in the UK -played by the always reliable Nicola Pagett (of whom more later)- goes missing. She makes overtures to DCS Inman (Fulton MacKay) at a party (introduced by DCI Jordan (Derren Nesbitt in his 14 Guinea Italian shoes) followed up by a rendezvous at Regents Park Zoo (by the Seal House don’t you know).
Inman is clearly smitten by Lydia and is convinced that she is genuine in her wishes to ask for Political Asylum. Lydia is supported by a Human Rights group headed by the equally reliable Brian Wilde (who would later go on to support Fulton MacKay as the very liberal and weak Mr Barrowclough in Porridge (1974-1977)).
What Inman has not realized is that Lydia has been playing him for a fool as she goes public with her plan, getting paid for her story and eventually gets a contract to dance in the USA. Meanwhile, someone also with the Russian ballet company (played by Brian Haines) has valuable writings from Russian writers being suppressed in camps who wants to defect, but Russia wants him back.
At this point enter Inman’s nemesis in the shape of Charles Moxon (Morris Perry) from the Home Office who sees the strategic importance of handing Haines’ character back to the Soviets to aid diplomacy leaving both Inman and Jordan well and truly snookered.
The final scene is a poignant one between Lydia, Inman and Jordan, where she argues that her wish to have personal freedom is as valid as that of a political prisoner. Inman gets a peck on his cheek from her as he and Jordan have to just continue with life in Special Branch.
This is an episode where Jordan is very much on the sidelines but in it, Fulton MacKay shines as he is caught between the moral right for people to be allowed to stay in the West and what his political master orders him to do. Nicola Pagett is very good as Lydia but I wonder how many viewers twigged that this was her second role in Special Branch having appeared in the episode ‘A New Face’ in Series 1 (1969)? Nicola’s most famous role was of course as Elizabeth Bellamy in the classic ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ (1971-1973) as well as appearing in the outstanding Operation Daybreak with Martin Shaw in 1975.
Next week however is The End as Series 2 comes to a very exciting conclusion- will Jordan get it on with our favourite KGB Captain or not? Don’t miss!