23rd March 1969 (IMDB) or 23rd September 1969 (epguides.com)
20th June (1971 if we assume the episodes took place in broadcast order)
We open with four men in fancy dress driving through London. They reach their destination – a shabby building in the middle of a building site. They go down into the basement and are celebrating something when a figure shown only from the waist down pulls open a hatch in the cellar door and guns them all down.
Later on in the episode, our attention is drawn to a field marshal’s baton which is apparently worth killing for. It has nothing inside, x-rays are negative and it is made of perfectly ordinary metals. What secrets could this apparently ordinary piece of military memorabilia possibly hold?
We don’t meet Jason for a full 11 minutes. He’s sat in a corner of the mortuary while Stuart and Annabelle discuss a body that they’ve just fished out of a river. Jason appears to be doing a crossword puzzle. He then gets to his feet and solves the case. Not really – he just restates some facts but in an authoritative way that gets him admiring looks from all and sundry. Especially sundry.
"The Mutants" own Paul Whitsun-Jones plays Martin Kyle – head of what Stuart describes as a criminal employment agency. Whenever anyone has a big job to carry out they go to Kyle. He finds them the right men for the job, takes a substantial cut of the proceeds and spends the money on Nazi regalia.
The War Chief himself, Edward Brayshaw plays Victor Kent – a member of London’s crime syndicate with an eye on taking over as the big cheese.
Brandon Brady is Tronson – another member of the syndicate whose role is mainly to be ambiguous. We know he’s a baddie but it’s never really clear where his loyalties lie. The IMDb claims he once wrote an episode of "The Avengers".
Denise Buckley is Libby – a woman who spends most of the episode in a negligee, convinced she didn’t imagine the robbery at her house. She claims there was an explosion (there is no damage), that a man was killed (there is no body) and that the safe was robbed (the safe is fine). Quite why she’s living there is never explained.
She’s gone for the Tara King this week. Of her three regular hair styles it is undoubtedly her least attractive. Clothes wise, she wears a dress that looks like a lava lamp for most of the episode and then changes into bike leathers at the end. We never see her (or more accurately her location double) riding a motorbike so we can assume she dresses like that for fun.
The regulars keep their clothes on throughout. The only nudity on display is when Edward Brayshaw’s character first appears – he’s in the middle of a massage when he gets an important telephone call.
Jason seems to be wearing eye shadow this week. It is most peculiar. He doesn’t like Nazis (at least I think that’s what he meant by "Pity we couldn’t stuff the real things" while examining Kyle’s Nazi exhibits.)
He gets knocked out at one point and, still suffering the next morning, has an ice pack on the top of his head like a tamoshanta. Classily, he takes the ice out later and plops it in his drink.
He picks a lock at one point (even though the key is still in it) and when confronted by a villain he is horrified at the suggestion that he might carry a weapon. Especially a knife – it would fray his cuffs.
Jason also dons biker leathers in this episode. He comments at one point that he doesn’t understand why "leather queens" get turned on by it.
Having been nearly blown up, Jason has to spend the rest of the episode walking with a cane. It used to belong to a magician.
"Vote For Caine" features the hero going into danger on his own. But it’s fine because Mark Caine always carries a knife up his sleeve. This tale – told to a villain who had walked out of the movie version – was just a bluff to make Jason’s assailant think the police were surrounding the building. No one in real life – so King explains – would be stupid enough to behave like Mark Caine.
"Epilogue to Hong Kong" features a huge explosion which blows Hussy Abundant’s wig off, revealing that the exotic heroine is in fact her own twin brother. The title of the book is apparently explained in the prologue.
Stuart starts the episode in a very fetching pale blue jumper with white trousers and sun glasses. But then he is on a beach somewhere exotic. Back in London he sticks with his traditional brown suit.
Stuart has a couple of good James Bondy moments – he’s being held at knife point by Kyle’s bodyguard and manages to escape by faking a sneeze and trapping the man’s hand in a draw. Then, later, the same bodyguard tries to hit Stuart with another draw (now removed from the chest of draws naturally) but Stuart sends Kyle out first and he ends up bashed. "The luck of the draw" quips Double-O Sullivan.
It’s one of the Department S episodes I’ve seen most often – only eight episodes were released on VHS and of those four tapes I only had two. So I’m very familiar with it and rather fond too. The opening mystery isn’t the strongest we’ll see and the stakes aren’t ultimately that high – do we really care that criminals are trying to kill each other? Hopefully not as they end up doing just that. It’s a fun Jason episode though and that’s why we watch Department S.