Friday, 25 January 2019


Welcome to Stuart Fernie’s Blog

Please scroll down or find on the right links to articles, pages of reflections on films, books, TV series (including "The Wild Bunch", "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre", "Papillon" (1973), "Public Eye", "Existentialism in society today", "Seven Samurai", "It's a Wonderful Life", "Don Quixote", "We're No Angels", "The African Queen", "Babette's Feast", "War for the Planet of the Apes", "Dunkirk", “Dances With Wolves”, “Inherit The Wind” and “The Prisoner”), and occasional pieces of flash fiction. These are additions to similar pages which may be found at .

link to my YouTube channel with video presentations of a number of my pages.

Having retired from teaching fairly recently, I thought I’d write my memoirs, “What have I done?”, and present them online. Please find links to the various chapters on the right, though chunks of the text (but perhaps not all) may also appear below. If you suffer from insomnia, this may help!

Click on the arrows to access links to 2016 and then December.

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Reflections on "The Wild Bunch" (1969)

Reflections on “The Wild Bunch” (1969)

Story by Walon Green and Roy N. Sickner

Screenplay by Walon Green and Sam Peckinpah

Directed by Sam Peckinpah

Starring William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan et al.

A video presentation of this material is available here.

“The Wild Bunch” opens with a raid by our “heroes” on a railroad office, the purpose of which is to relieve the railroad company of a consignment of silver, but the carefully planned robbery goes horribly wrong.

A group of undisciplined, greedy and reckless bounty hunters hired by the railroad company and led by a former compadre of our robbers, opens fire on them but our group uses a passing parade (ironically composed of members of the temperance movement) to cover their exit. As shots are exchanged between the determined and organised robbers and the less than competent and hot-headed bounty hunters, instigators and innocents alike are mown down by wild gunfire with a complete disregard for the lives of passing townsfolk and any collateral damage either side might inflict.

Using imagery vaguely reminiscent of that used at the start of Clouzot’s existential action/drama “The Wages of Fear” in which cockroaches are linked and taunted by a young boy, these opening scenes are interspersed with shots of a few scorpions being attacked by a horde of red ants while being watched by a group of amused children. Dangerous creatures willing and able to assert themselves and cause death in order to survive are attacked and overwhelmed by a mass of individually inferior red ants working together to bring down the ostensibly superior and more powerful breed.

This may be viewed as a metaphor for the fate of our band of anti-heroes as our simple but highly dangerous band of thieves encounters opposition in the shape of the railroad company and its bounty hunters, the army, and the Mexican militia led by General Mapache, representing business, governmental order and amoral political ambition, respectively.

The metaphor does not, however, end there. The children who view this grisly assault and who are all amused by it, place burning hay over the entire assembly, sealing the fates of all concerned. It might be suggested that these children represent the youthful audience delighted by the embattled antics of these proud, noble and menacing creatures now held up as mere figures of entertainment who are consigned to the flames of Hell and the ashes of oblivion.

Thus, the stage is set and in the opening minutes the underpinning moral principle for the entire film is established – there is no morality. There is no “right”, “wrong” or “justice”. There are only “sides” doing what they feel they have to do in order to survive and prosper. No side respects morality, humanity or even legality – their actions are based on their determination to succeed in accordance with their own perspective.

All are willing to cause collateral damage to innocents, cause death and destruction and trample on human rights in order to see their task through or to defend their viewpoint.
There are, however, major differences between our “Bunch” and these other factions. The railroad bounty hunters, the army and Mapache’s men are united by the desire for payment, self-advancement and self-interest while Pike Bishop’s cohort appears bound, however loosely, by comradeship and friendship. This does not prevent them from disagreeing and bickering to the point of mocking and threatening one another, but the underpinning principle of loyalty always allows them to forgive transgressions and retain respect for one another. Pike and Deke maintain admiration and regard for one another despite Pike apparently running out on Deke and the fact that Deke now leads the bounty hunters chasing them down. Each knows and understands that the other did what he had to do in order to survive, though each feels guilt at letting the other down, reflecting an ongoing, if conflicted, allegiance between the two.

While we may not approve of the Bunch’s murderous and robbing ways, they have our support as they face even less principled and more inhuman groups opposed to them. These groups are well financed, armed and supported as they represent power and order which they seek to impose and expand. Our anti-heroes persist in trying to survive in their own way but they apply certain limits (“We don’t hang people”, they insist) and at least demonstrate humanity toward one another. There is no denying their courage and determination as they refuse, almost Quixotically, to yield to the others’ overwhelming force and instead set out to take on the challenge of facing seemingly unbeatable odds.

Much has been made of director Sam Peckinpah’s enthusiasm for the theme of the passing of the Old West and its ways in several films, and that theme is undeniably revisited here. The introduction of the motor car, the machine gun, improved communications systems and the very fact that commerce, government and political opportunists have organised themselves to put pressure on our small band of rebellious desperadoes all attest to that.

However, the broader themes of ageing, the awareness of time running out and the resultant desire to give value to one’s life are also visited.

There are frequent references to physical problems in simply moving about, the need to make one last big score and recollections of the past, all associated with ageing, reflection and an awareness their time is coming to an end. Of course, they quickly realise that they have nothing in their lives but action, survival and one another. It is perhaps fitting, then, that in the end they opt to face insurmountable odds to try to gain the freedom of Angel, one of their own, who has been held by Mapache and is being tortured by him. In so doing, they choose to defend the one principle by which they have tried to live – loyalty to one’s compadres, and perhaps they hope to compensate for any previous failures, even if they were understandable, to live up to their code.

The willingness to risk everything for a friend is indicative of the strength of the bond between these men. There are times when they share their inner feelings and fears. They bicker but reconcile due to profound respect and mutual affection. They recount tales of shared experience and they end up laughing with one another, both because they enjoy one another’s company and as a means of defusing a situation, suggesting an underlying bond that will prevail over any disagreement. These are all signs of a solid, almost marriage-like relationship. They have formed a fraternity which overrides all other relationships, even those with women who are appreciated but with whom they find it difficult to communicate and have a satisfying and emotionally rounded relationship.

Children are seen frequently in the film and apart from being regarded as a source of responsibility and pride, they may be viewed as a reminder of the cycle of life and the fact that their outlook and actions will be influenced both directly and indirectly by the actions and attitudes of those around them as they grow up. Significantly, it is a child, dressed in uniform and wielding a rifle, who fires on Pike in the final battle and brings about his end.

Sam Peckinpah’s highly engaging script and direction were punctuated by graphic violence, gore (strong for its time) and celebrated slow-motion sequences. His declared purpose in using slow-motion was to emphasise the horror and bloody consequences of such violence, but I can’t help but wonder if, especially in the final extended battle and given our mitigated affiliation with Pike and co, there was not a feeling of satisfaction in the audience as Mapache and his men get their just desserts, dying as they lived, by violence.

Unsurprisingly, Pike and his friends also die violent deaths at the hands of those they are willing to kill, leaving Deke and Sykes as the sole survivors of the group. Sykes recognises the futility of focusing on the past and, invoking their common bond of fraternity and spirit, invites Deke to join him in the action and mayhem of the Mexican Revolution. Laughing together, they head off to continue to ply their trade with Pike, Dutch and the others living on as happy and revered memories. Life goes on and, as they say, it is for the living.

I approached this film with some trepidation given its reputation for glorifying violence, but I found it far more engaging, touching and thought-provoking than I anticipated. Yes, the violence is there but it serves a poetic purpose (though the success of the way it is presented is, I suppose, open to debate). The whole is delivered, rather like the characters themselves, with great spirit and gusto, yet tinged with wistfulness and regret.

There are strong performances from all concerned but especially from the lead actors who manage to convey determination, reflection, regret and affection, fleshing out the thoughtful script and carrying their roles to a higher emotional plain.

Ernest Borgnine gives excellent support as the strong and devoted Dutch while William Holden is superb as the weary but still driven Pike.

My thanks for taking the time to read this page. I hope you found it of some value.

Stuart Fernie

I can be contacted at .

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Reflections on "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre"

Reflections on “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”

Directed and written by John Huston
(based on the book by B. Traven)

Starring Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston and Tim Holt

A video presentation of this material is available here.

“The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” opens in oil-rich Tampico in Mexico in the 1920s, a place and time which attracted many due to the lure of readily available natural resources and the presence of enterprising businessmen all too willing to seek their fortunes by plundering these resources.

Unfortunately for Fred Dobbs and Bob Curtin, by the time of their arrival the major oil field had all but dried up and we witness Dobbs forced to beg in the streets in order to survive.

 Dobbs (and by extension, Curtin) are reduced to the level of beggars and have thus, apparently, reached the bottom of the barrel. They may be viewed as desperate, worthless and unworthy of respect. But they have not resorted to criminality. They may lack money and social standing but they retain a modicum of self-respect as they remain honest and seek work in order to get by. Indeed, within the fraternity of the impoverished there is evidence of human compassion, understanding and sympathy despite, or perhaps exactly because of, their shared hard times.

Dobbs is approached to buy a lottery ticket by a young Mexican lad. He is initially unpleasant to him and gruffly rejects the boy’s sales pitch. However, the boy accepts Dobbs’ rough treatment of him and persists in his attempt to make even a small sale, indicating his desperation. After reflection, Dobbs buys a lowly part-share in the lottery ticket almost as a way of helping the boy survive, suggesting Dobbs’ fundamental humanity despite his situation, frustration and anger.

Dobbs and Curtin consider themselves the dregs of society and are grateful to receive offers of work from Pat McCormick. However, Mr McCormick represents a section of society which is without scruples and is willing to take advantage of Dobbs and Curtin’s situation, desperation and willingness to work. He scams them (along with several others) of their pay, showing no remorse or compassion and is willing to advance self-interest at the expense of others. Dobbs and Curtin may have hit an all-time low, but they would not sink to these depths.

Eventually, they catch up with McCormick and demand what is theirs. There is a vicious fight and when Dobbs and Curtin emerge the victors, they take their spoils. However, they take only what was due to them. Anything more would have been theft and that is clearly against their honest natures.

Next, they meet Howard who offers an alternative to financial struggle and dependence on others for survival. He is a gold-digger and he presents a less traditional and less society-dependent way of getting by – seeking gold. He embodies spirit, hope and determination while readily recognising the awful consequences on men of seeking and finding gold – a lack of trust in others and increased selfishness – though he appears willing to live with these consequences if it means he can access wealth by way of gold.

And so, they form a team and set off in search of their fortunes. They travel a considerable distance across Mexico and leave behind “civilisation”, society and the social structures they impose. Large social groups involve complex frameworks which allow their members to co-exist, support one another and eventually become interdependent. They come to rely on one another to provide services but also a source of income, a means of getting by and even fraternity. This dependence on one another requires trust and reliability – they need one another to survive, especially financially. The gaining of excessive wealth removes the fundamental need for such structure and dependence on others, and may lead to distrust and suspicion as the wealthy become protective, self-centred and unwilling to share.

Thanks to Howard’s experience and hard-won knowledge they find their gold and gradually Howard’s warnings of loss of trust and selfishness come true. Dobbs is particularly distrustful, perhaps because he felt shame at his circumstances in Tampico and has no desire to return to that social position and so becomes highly protective of his finds, and he makes accusations which do little to build or retain any sense of fraternity and confidence between the men.

Thus, Dobbs, Curtin and to a lesser extent Howard (who knew to expect this consequence of finding wealth) have a taste of independence, yet they realise they remain reliant on one another’s honesty. Alone and in the wilderness far from social niceties of morality and laws, trust evaporates and they start to lose sight of one another’s principles and are increasingly aware of criminal possibilities.

Curiously, they remain fundamentally honest at this point as they merely express distrust in one another and wish to protect their own gains. They do not seek to take what isn’t theirs – it is not a question of personal greed but rather suspicion of greed and dishonesty on the part of the others.

This situation should be compared to earlier scenes in which, jobless and taken advantage of, Dobbs is willing to share his good fortune (when he wins a small share of the lottery) to stake Curtin in their gold-seeking venture. They share what little they have after receiving no pay and they are happy and willing to help one another when all are needy and require assistance. Their common needs help them to form a social pact in which each supports the other to the benefit of all concerned.

The arrival of a stranger, Cody, who wishes to throw in with them (on a basis of honesty and fair shares) tips the already teetering balance of morality in favour of self-preservation. Our three seekers of wealth hold a reasoned discussion regarding Cody and they decide they should murder him in order to protect and advance their own interests, pure and simple. They consider this action acceptable if all three share the guilt. This marks a notable deterioration in the view of morality of all three – not only are they willing to take a life merely to advance their own interests, they recognise they will feel guilt (and thus that they are doing wrong) but they are ready to live with it if it means they can have their gold.

They make their way to Cody in order to take his life but encounter a common enemy on the way – bandits who are also willing to do anything to advance their own interests, including taking the lives of our band of gold-seekers. Cody defends himself and his would-be murderers against the bandits but pays with his life.

Having survived the bandit attack and recognising Cody’s contribution, Dobbs, Curtin and Howard discover a letter to Cody from his beloved wife. While previously they regarded Cody simply as a threat to the accomplishment of their mission, the reading of this letter brings home to them that Cody had a past, relationships, responsibilities and a future – he did not belong solely to their present. We are all multi-facetted individuals whose paths cross and exercise influence on others and it is often too easy to see individuals only in terms of their immediate effect on us.

Upon reflection, and having gained a wider perspective on friend Cody and his life, and taken in to account the fact he helped them survive the bandit attack, they decide to share a portion of their good fortune with his family in Texas.

We see that they remain open to empathy and compassion as they are reminded of social structures and warm relationships, but continued isolation, obsession and desperation lead to a lack of consideration and respect for others. Thus, en route toward “civilisation”, Dobbs shows himself willing to kill Curtin as his suspicions and paranoia get the better of him. He has been so focused on gold for so long that he has lost perspective and is now losing the one thing he retained despite everything – his honesty. Even when reduced to the status of a beggar in the streets he held on to his honesty. Now, technically wealthy, he loses his grip on self-respect and morality as he shoots Curtin and takes all the gold. He believes he has killed him but is plagued by guilt and uncertainty, especially when Curtin’s body disappears.

Virtually within sight of a town and the means to cash in on his efforts, Dobbs encounters some of the murderous bandits he has met on at least two previous occasions. In the end, Dobbs is murdered for next to nothing while his fortune in gold dust is not even recognised for what it is (the bandit assumes it is sand and empties the bags containing it on the ground). The few goods for which he is murdered have more immediate value to his murderer than the fortune Dobbs has spent an age uncovering. All that matters to his bandit killer is that Dobbs had something he wanted or needed. The value was of no consequence. Perhaps Dobbs was travelling down the same path toward similar values – he had crossed the line and having lost his grip on morality and his self-respect, he might have been tempted to kill (as he thought) again.

On the way to the mountains our group encountered fierce winds and there were warnings that nature will not be defeated. As they approach the town, winds are once again raised into a violent storm and they whip up sand, soil and gold dust which they carry off, returning it to its rightful resting place. Nature has indeed triumphed over man’s petty efforts to gain from it.

When faced with this devastating loss, Howard and Curtin (who survived Dobbs’ attack) recognise the irony of the situation and concede defeat. They laugh uncontrollably at the ease with which nature has reclaimed that which took several months of hard labour to wrest from the Earth.

They ponder their futures and are not tempted to further pursue apparently easy-gotten wealth. On the way from the mountain, Howard saved the life of a native child through applying what was, for him, basic medical knowledge, but the villagers are willing to adopt him as a sort of medicine man and Howard decides to take them up on their offer.

Meanwhile, Curtin proposes to head to Texas to look up Cody’s wife. Perhaps he hopes to pick up the life Cody left behind.

It is interesting to note that both survivors of this venture opt for futures in society, surrounded by people and in the warmth of relationships rather than pursue gold which, they have seen, can lead to the destruction of relationships, the breakdown of society and unleash an unattractive and amoral independent streak in men.

The script and direction by John Huston are completely assured, engaging and clear. The general atmosphere of social desperation and the gradual descent into suspicion, paranoia and amorality are superbly done and are presented as a natural progression (or deterioration) at a steady pace.

I have to say that for me a couple of the plot developments seemed a little unnatural. The letter from Cody’s wife seemed to trigger too easy a transition to compassion, and Howard’s saving of the native boy and his quasi-mystical induction into the tribe seemed contrived, but both these elements served the purpose of opening up the story and offered social alternatives to the self-centred and obsessive pursuit of wealth.

All the actors acquitted themselves remarkably well, though special mention must be made of Walter Huston’s Academy Award-winning performance. His shrewd but likeable Howard encapsulates the strength, character and spirit of those willing to chance everything but able to pick themselves up if or when they fail.

Humphrey Bogart is simply outstanding as Fred Dobbs. He captures brilliantly Dobbs’ deterioration from the honest, ambitious but failing down-and-out to the suspicious, lost and demented wealthy man who loses everything, including perspective, before he loses his very life.

My thanks for taking the time to read this article. I hope you found it of some value.

Stuart Fernie

I can be contacted at .

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Reflections on "Papillon" (1973)

Reflections on “Papillon” (1973)

Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner

Written by Dalton Trumbo and Lorenzo Semple Jr.
(based on the book by Henri Charrière)

Starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman

A video presentation of this material is available here.

Part documentary, part social commentary and part drama, this is an adventure story with a difference. Adapted from the vivid, colourful and gripping autobiography of Henri Charrière, “Papillon” dares to challenge the premise, integrity and merit of the French colonial penal system of the 1930s (French Guiana ceased receiving convicts in 1938 and was closed in 1953).

Papillon (the nickname of Henri Charrière), Louis Dega and their companions are all convicted criminals and are to be dispatched to French Guiana for the duration of their sentences (and double it in some cases) as France, they are told, has washed her hands of them. Papillon insists he is innocent of the murder for which he was condemned, though he does not deny involvement in lesser crimes. Dega is a forger and embezzler. Thus, a major issue and challenge in terms of audience investment in the film is sympathy, or lack of it, for the main characters. The source of interest and key to engagement with the film is not indignation at a miscarriage of justice, but rather an investigation into the conditions and treatment of those incarcerated, the appropriateness of punishment to fit crimes committed, and an examination of effects (both negative and, amazingly, positive) of incarceration and treatment such as those meted out at that time.

From the outset it is made clear that these men have lost more than their freedom as a price for their crimes – they have lost their homes, their families, their country, their dignity, their rights and their futures. The relatively naïve and unworldly Louis Dega desperately tries to hold on to trust in his wife and lawyer to extricate him from his predicament, but he is quickly disabused of this notion by the more worldly-wise Papillon. He suggests that from that moment on and in that place (though perhaps also in life in general) it is every man for himself and each must do what he has to do in order to survive. They make a mutually beneficial pact which will form the basis of a long and rewarding friendship for both.

The harsh reality of their circumstances hits home as Papillon defends Dega from murderous thieves, a young fellow convict, unable to cope with his situation, is killed in an apparent bid to escape, and another wounds himself seriously to ensure he is sent to hospital where he will have time to reflect on how best to try to escape. Hopelessness and desperation set in when a fellow convict who has tried to escape once too often is guillotined before their eyes as a warning.

Apparently, washing her hands of these convicts means France is willing to turn a blind eye to corruption, institutional violence, racism, bullying and, of course, deprivation of human rights as guards and staff accept bribes, organise bounty hunters to foil escapes (sharing the bounty), use convicts’ efforts to fill their own pockets and apply pressure by deprivation as a means of “persuasion” to co-operate.

Deprived of hope, rehabilitation and humanity, Papillon and his compadres are driven to take matters into their own hands and set out to escape.

It could be argued that the penal system itself should be viewed as the principal antagonist, compelling its prisoners to comply, face destruction or defy it and seek escape. Curiously, those who choose defiance discover unknown or untested depths of character in themselves and learn to admire and value aspects and traits of common humanity they may previously have taken for granted or simply not appreciated.

These men are far from innocent and readily admit their wrongdoings but they are driven to greater acts of criminality by a system which pushes them to desperation merely to survive and leaves them with little or no sense of self-worth. Somewhat ironically, facing such hardships and inhumane treatment brings out the best in Papillon, Dega and their fellows as they discover the value of friendship, loyalty, determination, courage, compassion and spirit, all in the pursuit of freedom from what they may regard as punishment out of proportion with their crimes.

Papillon refuses to denounce Dega after the latter supplied coconuts during the former’s solitary confinement, an act of loyalty Dega has not previously experienced, but is much appreciated by him. Dega physically helps his friends escape, showing courage and loyalty of which he never knew he was capable and lepers show compassion by providing a boat for Papillon and his group because he and his friends treat the lepers with respect and consideration.

Those who share hardship and difficulty may share a bond which forges friendship, compassion and understanding, often in contrast to those who enforce regimes that cause such hardship and who may even display some of the qualities and behaviours condemned by legal systems and courts.

I am unconvinced that Henri Charrière learned the lessons depicted in the film or set out to draw attention to the themes developed within it. Dalton Trumbo and Lorenzo Semple Jr.’s script distils and accentuates elements touched upon in Charrière’s much disputed but fascinating account of his adventures.

In passing, I would point out that Charrière’s book was published just over a century after Victor Hugo wrote “Les Misérables” in which he set out to describe the consequences of an inhumane and heartless penal system and how, with a little compassion and understanding, a man’s life can be turned around.

Franklin J. Schaffner took a difficult and perhaps unsympathetic subject and managed to wring sympathy and concern from it by focusing on the harshness of the environment and regime, and the stoicism of his protagonists underpinned by their slow but steady development as flawed human beings, but all tinged with regret and perhaps despair at the sheer waste of life on display.

Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman are quite superb in their roles. Hoffman’s nervy, twitchy and downright annoying performance captures perfectly the quirky, awkward and increasingly sorrowful Dega and is in direct contrast with McQueen’s calm, controlled and determined Papillon. Many write Steve McQueen off as just another action hero (albeit a charismatic one) but anyone who ever doubted his acting ability should see his performance here, especially in the scenes of solitary confinement. Sheer heart-rending class.

My thanks for taking the time to read this article. I hope you found it of some value.

Stuart Fernie

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Reflections on aspects of existentialism in “Public Eye” (TV series 1965 – 1975)

Reflections on aspects of existentialism in “Public Eye” (TV series 1965 – 1975)

Created by Roger Marshall and Anthony Marriott

Starring Alfred Burke as Frank Marker

A video presentation of this material is available here.

“Public Eye” was a TV drama which ran for seven series from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies. It revolved around the investigations of Frank Marker, a slightly down-at-heel but highly principled inquiry agent, usually into low-key, familiar and “realistic” problems and situations.

Produced during the same period as shows such as “The Avengers”, “The Saint”, “Department S” and American shows such as “Kojak”, “Cannon” and “Hawaii five-0”, “Public Eye” represented a significant and deliberate departure from these flashy, highly dramatic and exciting shows. It focused on more human, recognisable and identifiable characters and situations that were nonetheless intriguing and involving, and allowed the viewer to engage with others’ lives and see possible outcomes, problems and complications arising from those lives.

Marker’s inquiries touch upon human relationships, social attitudes, legal and moral challenges and above all the choices people make in their lives and the consequences of these choices. His tales accentuate the fact our lives are interwoven and actions and decisions we take will impact on others.

We all experience problems in our lives and for the most part we turn to friends, family or the authorities for help. Frank Marker is there if these avenues are not readily open. He offers his services to look in to situations and at the same time enables the viewer to do so as well. He is a sort of impartial observer with a voice of reason and objectivity who seeks truth and clarity where emotion, anxiety or anger may cloud judgement.

He walks a dangerous and difficult path as his genuine willingness and desire to help his clients mean that he will become embroiled in their situations. Faced with this existential conundrum, he behaves like a human being – he cannot stand back and allow circumstances to develop if he has some insight or thinks he can offer some positive input. We all muddle through life impacting on one another’s lives but Marker seems willing to recognise and accept responsibility for his actions, sometimes paying a heavy price for his “interference”.

Marker is not driven by ambition or a desire for money but rather a wish to help his clients while seeking truth and clarity. Of course, he doesn’t do it out of the goodness of his heart – he is paid for his services as, like all of us, he has to make a living, but his primary concern is to do his best for his client. His fee is simply a fair recompense for his time and effort. Ultimately, Marker seems to value the help he can offer his clients above personal financial gain, highlighting the importance of personal input and support in society as opposed to mere commercial interaction.

In terms of social interaction, he is fiercely independent, sure of his own ethics and is not at all keen on personal or romantic involvement. His strength of conviction and clarity of thought and perception make the compromise required for a close relationship or friendship very difficult for him.

The show offers insight into the human condition and, generally speaking, the problems and situations of clients are the centre of attention while Marker’s character is cleverly drawn through his reaction to events and interaction with other characters. Marker and, at times, his friend Detective Inspector Percy Firbank, uncover truth which may have consequences but these consequences are always down to choices made by those involved, though Frank and Percy occasionally have trouble living with the influence they exercise as a result of their inquiries.

This show may be the purest exploration of the principles of existentialism yet seen on TV. It examines closely the interwoven nature of our lives, the impact we have on one another and the responsibility we may (or may not) feel for this.

It is beautifully written and produced (given its age), focusing on the ordinary and characters, problems and choices we may all encounter, one way or another. The acting is of a high standard throughout but Alfred Burke and Ray Smith deserve particular praise for their portrayals of Marker and Firbank. Both bring authenticity, sincerity and vulnerability to their roles and Alfred Burke manages to impart, seemingly effortlessly, humanity and genuine soul-searching in his portrayal of the relatively impoverished but highly principled and dedicated Frank Marker.

My thanks for taking the time to read this page. I hope you found it of some value.

Stuart Fernie

I can be contacted at