Season 3 Episode 6

Act of Kindness

Aired Saturday 9:00 PM May 27, 1970 on ITV
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Episode Summary

Act of Kindness
Callan helps a sleazy former agent out of a blackmail trap and manages to squeeze in a little war gaming on the side.

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  • Callan is made to help a sleazy businessman and part-time spy who is being blackmailed. Unfortunately for the businessman, Callan likes the person doing the blackmail far more.


    You know a person is sleazy when they are shown compromising photographs of themselves with a naked girl - and they ask for a few extra copies. This is the brash Prescott, a man who helps manage a British tractor company and does a little spying for the British part-time. The KGB have sent the photographs to his colleague and work rival, the gentlemanly Heathcote Land. Whereas Land simply does not want Prescott to have a top job because he is unsuitable, Prescott wants it because he thinks he is better than everyone else.

    Hunter tells Callan about Prescott and the KGB blackmail photographs and wants Callan to stop the blackmail by changing Land's mind. Callan was chosen because he and Land share a mutual interest - wargames. When Callan talks to Prescott he instantly dislikes the man, a try-hard wanna-be spy who thinks the Section owes him. Prescott won't give in to Land's demands to resign and wants Callan to do something.

    Callan and Lonely make a lead soldier so Callan can gain Land's favour. Callan just happens to bump into Land at a gaming convention and they swap soldiers and start playing together. Lonely appears and makes Land suspicious, but Land still invites Callan back to his house to continue playing wargames.

    As their game continues it becomes apparent they both know what is really going on and what is really being said. Both are aware Land is being quietly threatened by a secret government department into backing away from Prescott. Callan discovers there is more to the whole blackmail business - Prescott is vying for the top job in the company, as is Land. What Prescott really wants is for the Section to also help him get the position. When he gets back to the Section Callan explains to Hunter and Cross how Prescott is using them. Regardless, orders from above are to help and if that means blackmailing Land in retaliation or putting him out of the picture permanently, then it will be done. Callan is obviously reluctant to hurt his new friend but Hunter makes it clear to Cross that they will do what they have to.

    To prevent violence Callan tries to sway Prescott out of contention for the job by persuading him to take a generous cash bonus and an equal job elsewhere but he stubbornly refuses. He wants to see Land go down.

    Cross tries to uncover dirt on Land but is mislead. Land is so clean it appears arranging an accident is the only solution. Callan tries again to persuade Land to leave Prescott alone, dropping the pretence of being anything other than a government assassin. Land warns him that information about Prescott and the government will be sent to newspapers if any 'accidents' should occur. For a person thwarted, Callan seems remarkably unperturbed that Land has found himself a method of protection. It almost seems Callan is defending the man as Hunter tries to find other ways to stop Land. Callan squirrels about and discovers Land's true skeleton in the cupboard - he has a secret grandson. Callan tells no-one except Land when they meet for their final war game the day of the board meeting to decide who gains the promotion. Land rings Prescott to inform him the photographs will be shown to the board. Callan tells Land he will expose his secret grandson. Realising he is beaten, Land agrees to destroy the photos and not use them. He refuses to allow Callan to call Prescott to tell him though, so Prescott will go to his board interview rattled - and hopefully fail. To prevent Callan, Land produces a gun. It seems a little half-hearted, and after seeing Callan take out worse threats in the past Land doesn't look particularly threatening. But Callan does not seem too concerned and relents, allowing the two men to return to their little games. An interesting episode for a number of reasons - showing the ruthlessness of the department, of Hunter and those higher up, and how Callan still manages to feel for those he comes into contact with. Hunter agrees that Prescott is not a nice man and should not have the job, but Hunter does as he is told. Callan, however, favours Land and in his own way helps him - while also doing his job. He persuades Hunter that Land can't be killed because he just might have incriminating letters. He pressures Prescott when he should be helping him. In some ways Land is a lot like Callan, and Callan seems to recognise that. In a world of cold-hearted bastards it seems the two men playing at war are the only ones content to do so as a game and not in real life.moreless
Anthony Nicholls

Anthony Nicholls

Heathcote Land

Guest Star

Ray Smith

Ray Smith

Donovan Prescott

Guest Star

Jacqueline Maude

Jacqueline Maude

Janice Land

Guest Star

Lisa Langdon

Lisa Langdon

Hunter's Secretary

Recurring Role

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Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (5)

    • Land: What happens now? Will I have an accident or disappear?
      Callan: Don't be daft.
      Land: Come off it, Callan. Don't tell me the thought hasn't entered somebody's pretty little head. I mean, I know I'm being followed, I spotted it days ago.

    • Land: It is a most regrettable truth that in this war game you never trust a soul. Isn't that right… Callan?
      Callan: That's right.
      Land: I presume your cavalry are going to charge me, old son?
      Calan: Oh yes. You will suffer heavy casualties unless you withdraw.
      Land: Splendidly said, Callan. Splendid. We know exactly where we stand, don't we?

    • Callan: Hang on, what is this terrible thing you've done?
      Lonely: I told you, I forgot to report to the coppers. That's terrible. They're probably all dashing about in the streets just now, searching for me.
      Callan: Is that all? You niffy twit! They won't even have noticed.

    • (Lonely shows up to pester Callan for money.)
      Callan: What do you want, anyway?
      Lonely: Mr Callan, I'm a bit low.
      Callan:You smell high enough to me, mate.

    • Hunter [ recalling that Callan shot the last Hunter ]: Whenever Callan looks like that I can't help remembering what happened to my predecessor.

  • NOTES (1)