Dixon of Dock Green episode review: The Team


Following on in our series of reviews on classic Police procedural Dixon of Dock Green, the surviving episodes of which are currently airing on Talking Pictures TV, this week we discuss an episode from 1967, entitled The Team.

As we have done before, there was a huge time jump this week. 1964 to 1967 is possibly the biggest yet in terms of the number of changes. Sergeant Flint, played by Arthur Rigby, had left the show in 1965.

Firstly, George Dixon appeared on the screen. There is nothing unusual about that, he does that every week. This week, however, he seemed a little more stern than usual.

A snazzy “new” title sequence rolled, which was seemingly an obvious attempt to update the show’s feel to compete with other shows.

The story concerned the work of a group of fraudsters who target the elderly. We see them visiting the houses of lonely older ladies, pretending to be people of authority. We witness the way in which they operate, keeping the person busy with one while the other looks for valuables to take. They give us several scenarios to ponder, and see each of them through to their conclusion. There is an air of public information film about these many sequences, but Dixon has strayed into that territory before.

Outside of the crimes taking place, we see the criminals preparing and finalising each one. The group is led by Maggie (Rosemarie Dunham), who we see claiming the pensions of the victims. There are moments of broadening out these characters a little, but I did appreciate the way they kept to the point.

I really have to give kudos to the excellent elder actresses who portrayed the victims; Most of them were born in the 1890s.  The performances by May Warden, Kitty Atwood, Madge White, Madge Brindley, Molly Hewitt and Kathleen Saintsbury were outstanding. Each of them brought a unique personality, demonstrating frailty and vulnerability when required. When tragedy struck at several points in the plot, it really hit home thanks to their ability to emote.

When I think back to the first surviving episodes we saw from 1956, it felt more like a stage play. By 1967, the production had ramped up considerably. There are a lot more outdoor scenes, and much variation in shots. I noticed a beautiful camera movement that started by looking at the back of Dixon’s head, then slowly manoeuvred to a final frame next to Andy. It is camera work like this which brings more dramatic effect to scenes.

Dixon may have set up the plot, but he’s only in this episode for a handful of scenes. It is fair to say though, that Jack Warner brings it when he gets the chance; One scene where he addresses the others was so inspiring that it felt like a penultimate scene from a film.

Much of the police work is carried out by Andy Crawford and other officers in this episode. We get to see his frustration in quite a gritty way, a world away from the cosy show Dixon is often touted as. There are no domestic scenes in The Team, making the police work and action scenes seem even more intense.

There is also no humour here. Usually, there are moments of light comedy. A sarcastic remark, cheeky retort or somewhat comical B-plot will play against the drama. But this week, it is as if the writer wanted to keep the gravity of the situation in the audience’s mind at all times.

Dixon’s closing address to camera also backs this up. He very sternly reiterates how to avoid becoming the victim of one of these types of crimes. Yet Warner’s skill is such that, even then, as hard and effectively as he delivers those thought-provoking lines, you can still detect his warmth underneath: it comes from a caring place.

In conclusion…

This episode is, as ever, strong. It is a million miles away from cosy: it is even quite a few miles away from where Dixon of Dock Green began. Many of the elements which formerly brought the humanity to the series are not present in this episode: indeed they may be gone for the entire future of the show. Only viewing further episodes can tell us that.

For now, we here at Old Time Review have our schedule set for the next airing of Dixon. A reminder here too, that the next episode which will be broadcast on Talking Pictures TV will be the recently discovered episode from 1959, entitled Duffy Calls the Tune, on Saturday 30th March 2024. One more chance to visit with Jeanette Hutchinson as Mary and Arthur Rigby as Sgt Flint.

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

Jamie Dyer

Jamie Dyer is an experienced writer, broadcaster, musician and social media marketer. He enjoys Old Time Radio, vintage TV, collecting vinyl and supporting the New York Knicks.

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