Department S

Season 1 Episode 26

A Small War of Nerves

Aired Unknown Mar 03, 1970 on ITV
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Episode Summary

A Small War of Nerves
LOCATION: Wiltshire, England DATE: April 20th Greg Halliday is fed up with his work as a chemical engineer creating weapons that can obliterate the population of large cities. He leaves his job with a canister of the deadly chemical. The Department is out to find him before others who want the chemicals get to him -- or before Halliday uses the weapon himself.moreless

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  • This suspenseful episode (which is frightenly modern) is highlighted by an early, masterful performance by Sir Anthony Hopkins as a nerve gas creator who is fed up with his creation - and with society.moreless

    Long before he won an Academy Award as Hannibal Lecter in "Silence of the Lambs" and received his knighthood, Sir Anthony Hopkins was the guest star in this episode of "Department S" as a chemist who is fed up with the chemical weapons he works on. He turns in a performance that shows precisely why he has become one of the most noted actors of our time.

    In the early stages of the episode Greg Halliday (Hopkins' character) is under the influence of his own nerve gas, something he deliberately did to himself. The performance that Hopkins turns in as a man under the influence is beyond description. It must be witnessed to be enjoyed (and "enjoyed" is a misnomer, as this is a VERY frightening episode, especially in a post-9/11 world). He has an "out of body" experience, tries unsuccessfully to feel pain when he burns his hand, sees things upside down and backwards, and collapses to the floor any time he tries to get out of bed. Not only is Hopkins' work superb, the camera angles under the direction of Leslie Norman reiterate the anguish of a man suffering from nerve gas poisoning.

    The final scene is mesmerizing. Halliday, the canister of nerve gas in his hands, is cornered in a men's room by Jason. The exchange between the two is amazing. The look in Hopkins' eyes as he threatens to throw the canister to the street below is a foreshadowing of the diabolical character that would later earn him his Oscar. The suspense builds dramatically until the very conclusion of the show, as Halliday drops the canister and Jason dives to catch it before it hits the floor.

    All fans of Sir Anthony Hopkins should see this performance, which is available on DVD in the "Department S" box set, region-free coded from Umbrella Entertainment in Australia.moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (3)

    • TRIVIA: The car Greg Halliday is driving is the same car that belongs to Jeff Randall throughout the series Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased).

    • NITPICK: In the final scene, the palm of Halliday's left hand, which was shown as severely burned, is seen as perfectly healthy. A second or third-degree burn would not have totally healed within the 8-10 day timeframe the episode is set in, nor would it have healed without scars.

    • NITPICK: The close-up of Stewart's watch shows the date as the 10th. The opening sequence says the "case" began on April 20th. Halliday was in his boarding room for a week, which would have put the date as the 27th when he was abducted. The date on Stewart's watch, therefore, should have been between the 28th and the 30th.

  • QUOTES (3)

    • Stewart: My, my. Guards at a health hydro.
      Jason: Very common.
      Stewart: With dogs?
      Jason: Well, it keeps the frenzied guests from breaking out and hurdling towards the nearest bar.

    • Stewart: We could get the Nobel Prize, you know…for ineffectuality.

    • Dr. Stickney: Are you the Jason King who writes the Mark Caine books?
      Jason: Yes.
      Dr. Stickney: Oh. Now that I've met you, I must read one of them sometime.

  • NOTES (1)