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Fabian of the Yard (1954-56)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Fabian of the Yard (1954-56)
Trinity Productions, Anthony Beauchamp Productions, Telefilm Enterprises, Charles Wick for BBC, 13/11/1954-26/3/1956
39 x 30 minutes episodes, black & white
Directors includeAlex Bryce
 Charles Saunders
ProducersAnthony Beauchamp
 John Larkin
Writers includeBrock Williams
 Ian Stuart Black
 Geoffrey Wicomb

Cast: Bruce Seton (Det Insp Robert Fabian); Robert Fabian (Himself); Robert Raglan (Det Sgt Wyatt; Det Sims); Philip Dale (Detective Sergeant); Isobel Dean (Mrs Regis)

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The casebook of Chief Detective Inspector Robert Fabian of Scotland Yard.

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Originally transmitted after the 'toddler's truce' in the popular Saturday night slot, Fabian of the Yard (BBC, 1954-56) was later moved to Wednesday evenings and repeated on weekday afternoons. The fact that the series was shot on film, rather than transmitted live from the studio, allowed a greater flexibility in scheduling than was the case with, say, Dixon of Dock Green (1955-76).

Fabian of the Yard shares with Dixon a link to Ealing's The Blue Lamp (d. Basil Dearden, 1949). The eponymous Fabian was a real life Chief Detective Inspector, whose exploits, including the famous Antiquis case, were the foundation for many stories, including that of the Ealing film and the television series that later bore his name. An address to camera at the end of each episode features the real Bob Fabian. However, whereas Dixon's moment outside the story-world of the series was a distinctive and effective feature, the appearance of the real Fabian, after the debonnaire Bruce Seton, was jarring and awkward. As BBC producers knew only too well, although Bob Fabian was a great talker 'off the record', when faced with a microphone, he would 'dry up'.

That the series was made for export is apparent in several episodes, including 'Bombs in Piccadilly', never transmitted in the UK, which deals with suspected terrorism. The opening voice-over, despite its upper middle-class accent, is noticeably Chandleresque, with the use of expressions like 'I couldn't figure it out'.

At the same time, Fabian promotes a postwar reconstructive ideology, explicit in the series' moral tone and documentary aspect. The sense of a united nation is attached to the sense of a unified past in the depiction of landmark London, reinforced by the travelogue style as the narrator guides the viewer past tourist sights, including "the Tower of London, started by William the Conqueror in 1078." In 'Bombs in Piccadilly' the location firmly establishes the London setting, and throughout the series there are frequent shots of the Houses of Parliament, Nelson's Column and Somerset House. The latter features in 'The Executioner' (tx. 6/4/1955), a tale about a psychopathic (middle-class) killer, who dissolves five victims in acid-filled baths - more Hitchcock than Scotland Yard.

With its anglicised film-noirisms, travelogue style and elements of the woman's film, Fabian of the Yard is something of a cross-cultural hybrid. The series was a success in the US, where it ran on CBS as Patrol Car.

Susan Sydney-Smith

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Video Clips
1. The robbery (4:05)
2. The investigation (2:54)
3. At the Employment Exchange (1:49)
Complete episode: 'Robbery in the Museum' (25:11)
Passport to Shame (1958)
TV Police Drama