Dixon of Dock Green Review – Episode 4: Pound of Flesh

Following the broadcast by Talking Pictures TV of the fourth surviving episode of Dixon of Dock Green, we continue our series of written reviews highlighting individual episodes. This edition was originally broadcast in 1956, entitled Pound of Flesh.

Kay Evans, played by Dorothy Gordon, comes into Dock Green station to report a burglary: she has gone out on a 5-minute errand, returning to find her husband’s suit and shoes missing. Dixon accompanies her home in order to begin some preliminary investigation. Over the following days, once Andy (Dixon’s future son-in-law and member of CID) has taken over the case, her story keeps changing. Did she meet Mrs Clinton at the post box, or a different neighbour? How long was she actually missing from the house? Why can’t she seem to get her facts straight?

We hear her confide in neighbour Mrs Clinton that she is short of money: in fact she has borrowed small sums from her regularly of late. She worries that her husband will be angry with her for borrowing any money, while he apparently doesn’t give her enough housekeeping to get by. But when he discusses matters with her, we find that she is even lying to him about what’s happened.

One evening at the local social club, Andy and Mary chance upon two acquaintances. A window cleaner named Blake who Mary says “gives her the creeps”, and another friend of theirs who openly steers clear of him, but won’t say why.

Soon after this, George finds out from the local pawnbroker that Mrs Evans pawned her husband’s suit on the morning she reported it missing.

Eventually it comes out that she has borrowed money and is still paying it back long afterwards, terrified of what will happen if she can’t find the rest of the money he claims she still owes.

It turns out the acquaintance from the club has borrowed money too: from the creepy and ingratiating Blake.

There is a poetic juxtaposition between the hopeful relative extravagance and excitement of Andy and Mary’s pre-wedding and the tough reality of the Evans’ long marriage.

At a time of a cost of living crisis, this episode still maintains levels of social relevance. While the melodramatic execution could be easily dismissed, the underlying message nonetheless means the same. When someone is desperate, there is so often someone just around the corner, ready and willing to take advantage of them. Instead of offering the help and support their neighbour needs, they exploit them and leave them even more vulnerable.

In this episode, it feels like they were trying to re-emphasise the spirit of community around Dock Green Police Station. A long-time offender comes along asking for a reference for a job at the local mission, where he claims he has just found God. This is played for comedy with the slightly curmudgeonly Desk Sergeant Flint. But there is real grounding here. A reminder to the viewer that at all times, the Police care and want to help.

Even during the wrapping up scene in which Blake gets found out, George tells one of his victims that they can always show a document at the station for advice and guidance if they feel unsure about signing it.

This reassurance is consistent in every episode we have seen so far. The public service style element of Dixon of Dock Green should feel rather tired, irrelevant and sickly sweet in the modern day. However, there is something so honest and well-meaning about the way Jack Warner delivers the lines. It makes it much less stark against the sometimes grittier subject matter within the episode than it seems at first glance. He is plausible and real, not the caricature that has been claimed throughout the intervening years.

Dixon of Dock Green airs on Saturday evenings at 7.20 pm on Talking Pictures TV.

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