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Police Surgeon (1960)

Courtesy of Canal+ Image UK ltd

Main image of Police Surgeon (1960)
ABC Television for ITV, 1/9-3/12/1960
13 x 25 minute episodes, black & white
Directors includeDon Leaver
 James Ormerod
ProducersJulian Bond
 Leonard White
Writers includeJulian Bond
 Bill MacIlwraith

Cast: Ian Hendry (Dr. Geoffrey Brent); John Warwick (Inspector Landon); Howard Daley (PC Thomson)

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The cases of an on-call doctor attached to the Metropolitan Police.

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The fledgling ITV relied heavily on the pulling power of star personalities, with established variety acts such as Flanagan and Allan and Tommy Trinder making up the core of its early 'big name attractions'. The channel, however, clearly needed to create stars of its own - names that could be identified solely with the commercial broadcaster.

Sidney Newman, who in late 1959 was appointed drama supervisor for the Midlands-based ITV franchise ABC, was convinced that light entertainment was not the only route to building an audience. He set about developing quality drama output, and among these commissions was Police Surgeon (ITV, 1960), a vehicle for actor Ian Hendry, who Newman believed was a potential star for the new channel. Despite having little acting experience, Hendry was handed the lead role of Dr Geoffrey Brent, a doctor attached to the Bayswater division of the London Metropolitan Police.

Plot lines generally presented Brent with a case that blurred the line between law and ethics - how best to deal with a broken family, an elderly dementia sufferer, a crooked landlord - and his morally complex character was frequently at odds with the 'by the book' Inspector Landon - a clash of approaches that was intended to provide the series' core conflict. As actor John Warwick told the TV Times, "My part is written to contrast Ian Hendry's. I must never forget that a police surgeon is not, in fact, a policeman, and therefore he can allow his emotions to govern his actions to a certain extent. For my part, I am a policeman, for whom the law is always the law."

Despite high hopes, the show failed to click with audiences and after just 13 episodes it was cancelled. However, Newman clearly felt that the basic premise was sound and ordered a revamp. A month after the final episode of Police Surgeon aired Hendry was back on screen in The Avengers (ITV, 1961-69) as David Keel, a doctor who ends up helping shady spy John Steed. Reinforcing the link with the previous show was Keel's receptionist Carol Wilson, played by actress Ingrid Hafner, who had portrayed Nurse Gibbs in Police Surgeon. Ironically, however, given Newman's fond hopes of turning Hendry into a star, it was only after the latter's departure from The Avengers that the series developed into real a hit, making stars instead of Patrick McNee (as Steed), Honor Blackman and, particularly, Diana Rigg.

Anthony Clark

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Video Clips
1. A private consultation (1:58)
2. The alibi (1:50)
3. No sermons, please (3:35)
4. The leopard changes his spots (1:59)
Avengers, The (1961-69)
Expert, The (1968-71, 1976)
Human Jungle, The (1963-65)
Crawford, Michael (1942-)
Newman, Sydney (1917-1997)