Wednesday, 3 January 2018

The Gold Robbers

The Gold Robbers is a TV series from 1969 so obscure that, at the time of writing this, it doesn't even have its own Wikipedia page. It has been released on DVD by Good Old Network though, which is how I have now seen it.

This is a strange cross between a police detective drama and a '60s telefantasy series - a gang of baddys led by a devious and shadowy mastermind steal five-and-a-half million pounds of gold (worth many tens, if not hundreds, of millions of pounds in today's moneys) and murder a policemanny in the process, but instead of putting Department S or The Avengers on the case, it falls to the more realistic police CID to catch the robbers.

The main character is DCS Craddock* as played by Peter Vaughan, best known for playing Denethor in The Lord of the Rings. He is a manny ahead of his time, possessing a difficult personal life more frequently found among '90s TV detectives.

Unlike in most telefantasy series, Craddock does not solve the case in a single episode. It takes him the whole 13 parts of the series to get to the bottom of it, a bit like how it took Captain Sisko seven seasons to sort out problems that Captain Kirk would have wrapped up inside an hour.

This is because the baddys are well-organised, disciplined and ruthless. But they are not invincible - because the job was so big, they had to involve amateurs in specialist roles. This plus other small slip-ups let Craddock and his team get their first breaks.

As the series progresses we spend more time with the baddys as they experience problems of their own - they have all this money but cannot spend it easily without being suspicious. Some of them want to use the money to stop being baddys, while others enjoy being baddys for its own sake. Cracks begin to appear as they don't trust each other, and these are made worse when Craddock starts arresting some of the little fish (nom!) and the mastermind has to start killing his own mannys to try and stop Craddock following the chain up to the top.

Craddock is also not infallible, as we see him and his fellow policemannys make mistaiks in the course of their investigations. Craddock often makes up for this by playing hunches that are right and trusting his instincts even when he lacks evidence (we know when he is right because we have already seen the baddys do it, shades of Columbo in this), and he bluffs more than one baddy even when he has a weak paw. He many not be John Steed, but we know he'll get there in the end.

This is an interesting and worthwhile series, with a fine cast and some great twists along the way that more than justifies its length. The Gold Robbers deserves to be better remembered.

* Craddock was the name of a character in Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. so this is a proper Terry Nation-ish sort of name for our hero.

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