Among the army of sleuths and secret agents that populated 1960s TV was a trio of detectives, employed by a special branch of Interpol dedicated to solving seemingly unsolvable crimes. As with all shows of this type from the decade of spies, Department S (ITV, 1969) had a gimmick - one of its key operatives was a crime writer who helped unravel mysteries by imagining what his fictional character, Mark Caine, would do in a similar situation.
Each episode, clean cut Stewart Sullivan (played by American actor Joel Fabiani), computer expert Annabelle Hurst (Rosemary Nicols) and the flamboyant playboy author Jason King (Peter Wyngarde) unravelled mysteries that proved too difficult for the regular authorities. Their fantastical exploits were guided by the urbane Sir Curtis Seretse, head of Department S, played by the black actor Dennis Alaba Peters - a bold piece of casting for its time.
The first episode, 'Six Days' (tx, 10/01/69), set the tone for the series. A flight arrives at London airport six days late, although the pilot believes his plane is half an hour early due to a tailwind. There is no sign of tampering with the aircraft and only the normal amount of fuel has been used. Where has the aircraft been for almost a week and which of the two VIPs on board was the target of the mystery disappearance?
Department S proved popular with audiences, especially the character of Jason King who was later given a show of his own, the eponymous Jason King (ITV, 1972-73). Pressed back into sleuthing service under threat of the recovery of unpaid taxes by senior government official Sir Brian, played by veteran actor Dennis Price, the author embarked on a series of high-energy adventures in the company of an ever-changing collection of beautiful women. Strangely, Jason King's flares and cravats were once seen as the epitome of stylish elegance.