Dixon of Dock Green Episode Review: A Slight Case of Love

Following in our series reviewing the surviving episodes of Dixon of Dock Green airing on Talking Pictures TV, this week I am discussing A Slight Case of Love.

A Slight Case of Love first aired on BBC One on 19th April 1975. It is the tenth episode in series 21. It is the fifth of six episodes surviving of a thirteen-episode series.

The Story…

The episode opens with George Dixon (Jack Warner) and his monologue. He indicates that this episode will contain some sort of con. At this moment I confess I felt a little sceptical, as they have dealt with these themes before. However, they found a way to explore a new side of the same broad subject with A Slight Case of Love.

We see the same woman having the same conversation with three or four men on separate occasions. Each time, her story is the same: her elderly mother needs to move into a care facility and she needs a thousand pounds to secure her place there. Each time, she is dressed differently, with a different style or colour of hair. And each time, the man she is with hands over a cheque.

DI Andy Crawford (Peter Byrne) takes details from someone who turns out to be one of these men. Once he is gone, we find out that he is the seventh person to report the same crime.

Meanwhile, we meet the female perpetrator of the crimes and her sister. Kate (Moira Redmond) and Fleur (Isla Blair) Harris own a pottery business. They needed to raise eight thousand pounds in a hurry. This is their justification for Kate’s criminal activities.

Soon an eighth man, Lewis Naylor (Julian Glover) reports in about the same thing. He is anxious to find the woman as he is still in love with her. He picks a couple of possible candidates out of the Police files, as their photos look vaguely similar to his lady friend.

Andy and the team visit the two ladies in question. Neither exchange convinces the police that either Susan (Hilary Crane) or Heather (Mela White) had anything to do with the con. However, we do see that Susan is still engaged in criminal activity as she phones an associate to put off their latest job until police interest in her has cooled off.

Naylor, a wealthy businessman, engages a private investigator, Phil Haynes (Dave Hill). Sgt Johnny Wills (Nicholas Donnelly) inquires in local art shops with identikit photos – Naylor described his lady-friend as arty. He notices Haynes also watching the shop with his two associates. When he reports back to the station, he converses with George about it. They reveal that Haynes had been a longtime colleague of theirs on the force.

They send Mike (Gregory de Polnay) out to keep an eye on him, since Haynes won’t recognise him. However, when Haynes takes Naylor to the address he has identified as Kate’s, he also realises that Mike is following him.

Naylor tells Kate he doesn’t want to prosecute her and proposes both dinner together and marriage. They rekindle their romance, with Fleur firmly focused on the needs of their business.

Haynes has warned Naylor that he won’t be able to keep the details of the case confidential if the Police question him about it. He calls around to Dock Green station. He chats with Andy about a car registration that everyone in the room knows is Mike’s. But nobody will admit to their knowledge, they keep up the pretence that they are all unaware. Haynes casually identifies Kate for them.

When they arrest Kate and include her in an identity parade, Naylor claims that he doesn’t recognise any of the women. Andy keeps him busy while the other men conned by Kate each identify her, one by one.

In the closing monologue, George tells us that although Naylor lied about recognising her, he was not convicted of any crime. Neither was Fleur. Kate and Naylor quickly married as soon as she finished her prison sentence.

My Impressions…

A Slight Case of Love is an episode reminiscent of the heyday of Dixon of Dock Green. There was enough going on in the plot to keep my interest, without over-complicating and losing my attention.

I must make comparison to Police programmes which followed after Dixon, again. This episode felt somewhat like half of an Inspector Morse plot. They also dealt with the order of information similarly to Columbo, in that we as the audience knew the perpetrator and their motive and spent the episode watching the team work it all out. The pacing of the episode and all the elements felt justified and balanced.

There was something very pleasing about the inclusion of a private detective. I expected them to make him sleazy, but he was actually portrayed honourably. It was a nice touch that he retained respect for his former colleagues. As ever, the integrity of the police is maintained in this episode. The respect shown to the processes and characters is always so high.

There was a balanced amount for each character to do, so it really felt like an ensemble piece. In Peter Byrne’s penultimate appearance in the show, there was a satisfying exchange for him with Heather. She is evidently known to him from a previous arrest, so he volunteers to speak to her. When she asks him to read a passage from the awful book she is writing about her years on the wrong side of the law, his reaction is wonderful. Even after twenty years in the show, Byrne’s portrayal of Andy always allows for kindness. And there is honesty above all else in his characterisation.

Those who–like I myself was until recently–have only heard about Dixon of Dock Green would assume that Dixon is perhaps the most upright character. By the middle of this show’s run, the most visible integrity is that of Andy Crawford.

I wish that the BBC had made a series on the further adventures of Andy. If they had ceased making Dixon in the late ’60s, I think a show with Andy at the helm, accompanied by DC “Laudie” Lauderdale (Geoffrey Adams), could have been a real success. Furthermore, it could easily have run for another ten years beyond Dixon‘s 1976 end if made in the same style we are seeing in this era of Dixon.

An observation I must make is about a very small moment. During an exchange at Andy’s desk, he is eating a thin and sad-looking sandwich. While talking, he opens it to shake in some salt, closes it and continues eating. This is such a simple moment but noticeable because Byrne’s acting with props is impeccably natural. As a side-note, I hope we were not supposed to believe that Mary made him that sandwich!

In Conclusion…

Every actor in this episode was phenomenal. The writing was superb and the mixture of indoor and outdoor scenes was well balanced. This felt like a real world, once again.

I shall be incredibly sad to watch the very last appearance of Peter Byrne as Andy Crawford, next week. It is both the last surviving and last original episode in series 21. We are only left the final eight-episode series, in full, with a changed format and only some remaining cast members. I am intrigued to see the difference, however.

If you missed it, you can catch up with A Slight Case of Love on Talking Pictures TV Encore until 29th June 2024. You can also catch it as part of the delayed run of episodes airing on Wednesday evenings on Talking Pictures TV.

Dixon of Dock Green airs every Saturday evening on Talking Pictures TV at 7 pm.

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