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Mogul/Troubleshooters, The (1965-72)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Mogul/Troubleshooters, The (1965-72)
BBC, 7/7-29/9/1965 (Mogul); 30/4/1966-3/1/1972 (Troubleshooters)
136 x 50 min, black & white/colour
Devised byJohn Elliot
ProducersPeter Graham Scott
 Anthony Read
Writers includeJohn Lucarotti
 John Elliot

Cast: Geoffrey Keen (Brian Steed); Ray Barrett (Peter Thornton); Philip Latham (Willy Izard); Robert Hardy (Alec Stewart); Phillipa Gail (Jane Webb); Isobel Black (Eileen O'Rourke); Ronald Hines (Derek Prentice); Barry Foster (Robert Driscoll), Jennifer Wright (Mrs George)

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Power and intrigue in the international oil business, as the giant British company Mogul struggles to maintain its lead in a highly competitive market.

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Although it may be hard to imagine today, there was a time when the oil industry had an exciting, glamorous image, largely unsullied by environmental concerns. The global surge in oil consumption during the 1960s and some high-profile political activity surrounding its production, including the UK's introduction in 1965 of oil sanctions against Rhodesia, helped create an industry profile that was both exciting and dangerous. Oil exploitation was an embodiment of vigorous global capitalism - it was also an ideal subject for a TV series.

The BBC's response was Mogul, retitled The Troubleshooters after its first season, which followed the globe-trotting exploits of Peter Thornton, Australian field agent for Mogul Oil, run by the hard-nosed Brian Stead (almost certainly a play on the word 'bastard'), played by Geoffrey Keen.

The programme's title sequence, featuring spurting oil rigs, speedboats and fast cars, and its strident theme (composed by Tom Springfield, brother of Dusty), promised excitement and action, rather than the unhurried 50 minutes of drama that followed. But the production was successful enough to win the rare honour of overseas location filming, as far afield as Africa.

The episode 'Camelot on a Clear Day' (tx. 1/6/1970) typifies the series. When oil exploration in a poor African state threatens to displace a leprosy hospital, Mogul tells the staff they will have to move. The ensuing conflict is not, however, portrayed as a simple battle between unfeeling big business and altruistic medical relief. Instead, the drama highlights the grey areas between regional development and humanitarian considerations and, in true-to-life fashion, fails to find a neat solution.

Troubleshooters was used by the BBC as a test bed for a system that aimed to combine the speed and ease of video recording with the quality of 35mm film. The episode 'You're Not Going To Believe This But...' (tx. 17/2/1969) was rerecorded using a newly-developed process that mounted a film camera alongside a video camera. Edit marks were automatically added to the film by a remote feed from the vision mixer's desk, enabling a film editor to exactly match the video version of the show.

Unfortunately, the broadcast unions couldn't agree if operating the modified camera was a one or two person job, and the process finally drowned in a sea of red tape. The test episode, with Trevor Bannister in the Ray Barrett role, was never intended for transmission.

Anthony Clark

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Video Clips
1. What to do with Dr Hoffmann? (2:04)
2. Rebuffed (2:57)
3. A different view (1:14)
4. Confrontation (3:35)
Complete episode: 'Camelot on a Clear Day' (49:49)
Foster, Barry (1927-2002)
Hardy, Robert (1925-)
Martin, Ian Kennedy (1936- )