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Classic TV: Special Branch – Derren Nesbitt,Wensley Pithey – S01 E02

11/06/2019

 

Special Branch is a British television series made by Thames Television for ITV and shown between 1969 and 1974. A police drama series, the action was centred on members of the Special Branch anti-espionage and anti-terrorist department of the London Metropolitan Police.

The first two series were shot mainly in a studio on videotape with filmed location inserts; a standard method of the time but one which suffered from jarring differences in picture quality between interior and exterior scenes. The location scenes of some episodes were shot on outside broadcast cameras, leading to smoother transitions between location and studio work for those episodes. Series 1 and 2 starred Derren Nesbitt as Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Jordan, working to Detective Superintendent Eden (Wensley Pithey) and subsequently Det. Supt. Inman (Fulton Mackay). The episodes featuring Eden (the first nine of Series 1) were recorded in black and white, while all subsequent episodes were recorded on colour videotape.

The show was revamped in 1973 after Thames Television’s Euston Films subsidiary took over production using film, which allowed for a less studio-based series. Euston Films had pioneered the technique of shooting action and adventure series entirely on location using 16mm film, for a more gritty and realistic look. These episodes starred George Sewell as DCI Alan Craven and Roger Rowland as Bill North. In series 3 episode 2, Patrick Mower debuted as Craven’s colleague and often antagonist, DCI Tom Haggerty. By the 1974 series Bill North had been axed, having had a nervous breakdown, though he returned for one episode later in the run.

Another character was Strand, who appeared in the fourth series, the man from the Ministry, played by Paul Eddington. Strand was a toffee-nosed civil servant who kept an unwanted eye on the detectives and their budgets. He sometimes manipulated them in order to pursue obscure matters of state, such as in the episode “Double Exposure”

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