Season 1 Episode 1


Aired Tuesday 8:00 PM Apr 07, 1970 on BBC Two
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Episode Summary

Under cover of being Master of a Cambridge College, Sir Iain Dalzell is head of a top British spy ring. His daughter Diana is captured by enemy agent General Hovaths.

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      • Publicity : Murder - With A Red Plastic Gun - Elizabeth Cowley talks to Gerard Glaister about his new thriller series: Gerry Glaister is a producer, director, scriptwriter, ex-squadron leader, DFC, and, before the war, an actor-manager of considerable repute. When you meet him, you almost feel he ought to be a Sir. Small and wiry, he's never still for a moment. He lights up, stubs out, hops across the rehearsal room floor between the sets of Codename like some slightly mad moth. His face is a crinkled wreath of knowing and liking. It seems impossible for him to ever be annoyed - or even worried - about anything. Yet in television drama - particularly the series side - he is known as a tough thorough-going professional. "Actors will jump through hoops for him," one of the cast of Codename told me, "because he knows what he wants. And because we know he's so damned experienced he must be right!".

        Glaister's list of credits reads like a television roll of honour: The Revenue Men, Doctor Finlay's Casebook, Moonstrike, This Man Craig, The Expert - those are just some of the recent ones. When I caught up with him in a vast and echoing drill hall he was directing a rehearsal for episode five. His actors (and one actress, the gorgeous Alexandra Bastedo) crouched, marched, and muttered among the tapes while Glaister hopped about, framing their movements with his hands to see how they'd look on camera. Codename is a series of spy and counter-spy thrillers. The central characters remain the same but distinguished guests - for the episode I saw it was Patrick Allen - wander in and out. They usually finish up "snuffed out at the hands of the enemy," said Glaister. Who the enemy is, the scripts never quite specify. "It varies from episode to episode - but good usually triumphs in the end". Representing good, the Codename team is a kind of spy cell which works for a government department known as MI17. Their cover is a university where they either teach or study. "But when danger threatens national security the spy cell reverts to its true identity and swings into action," Glaister explained.

        Although some of the dialogue - as with Bond - struck me as preposterous ("I'll take my Martini dry - very dry"), Glaister takes it seriously. "If we get into trouble you can bet the Government won't stand by us - oh no. They'll turn a blind eye. That's how Top Secret we are". I sympathised. "Now watch that man closely," he said, pointing to Mr Morgan (Patrick Allen). "He was one of us - but we think he's gone over to the other side. He hasn't, of course, he's just broken the rules to suit himself. That won't do - he'll have to go". Immediately Mr West (Anthony Valentine) pulled a red plastic gun from his vest pocket and shot Mr Morgan dead. "Mind you, there's no real violence in Codename," said Glaister. "I'm treating it all as pure entertainment - blood doesn't come into it. It's the sort of series that tests your ingenuity. In Portugal we had to arrange a duel to the death between two speed boats". Not surprisingly, perhaps, Glaister's great ambition is to direct "a fast-moving feature film. A Western perhaps, or a Bond". His favourite director is Alfred Hitchcock, and he considers the finest compliment he's ever had was a review in The Times of The Assassins. "This is reminiscent of the early work of Hitchcock," the review said. "And his early work," said Glaister, "is his best". (Radio Times, April 4, 1970 - Article by Elizabeth Cowley).

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