After the assassination of the Tsar's uncle Grand Duke Sergei leads to the sacking of the chief of the police (who is also the chief of the secret police), Nicholas has to choose a successor. Sergei Witte returns from The Last Tsar to make the liberal case for a reformer, but he is up against a conspiracy led by Interior Minister Trepov (David "Drop the Dead Donkey" Swift) to appoint somebody both reactionary and ruthless enough to preserve the status quo in Russia... even if that means going so far as to replace the Tsar himself.
The conspiracy's candidate is Theodore Rachkovsky, played by Michael Bryant, and most of the episode focuses on his attempt to get "the appointment" of the title. Persuading the Tsar is the easy bit, he must also win over the Empress Alexandra, who got him sacked from the job once before for spying on her favourite holy manny du jour, one Father Phillipe. Rachkovsky maintains he was "a charlatan" and, while we don't meet this Phillipe, from his description alone he seems to foreshadow the coming of Rasputin.
Michael Bryant already had form for turning up in a single episode of a series and walking off with it, as this was made two years after he played Wing Commander Marsh in the Colditz episode Tweedledum. His performance here is every bit as compelling as Patrick Stewart's Lenin was in Absolute Beginners, and he almost single-handedly makes this one of the better installments of Fall of Eagles.