Dixon of Dock Green Episode Review: Seven for a Secret Never To Be Told

Following in our series of reviews on surviving episodes of Dixon of Dock Green episodes currently being broadcast on Talking Pictures TV, this week I look at Seven For a Secret Never To Be Told.

Seven For A Secret… is the second episode from series 21. It originally aired on BBC One on 22nd February 1975. It is a pleasing feeling to watch the next episode knowing it really is the next episode. Up until the early 1970s series, the surviving episodes are so few and far between that it feels like you haven’t watched the show for years, each time. One advantage of this is that it seems it was largely the most expensive or meaningful episodes which were preserved. Therefore the quality that we are seeing is so high and there never seems to be any kind of “filler episodes”. However, with series 21, it so far seems as if either the quality of the show deteriorated a little or they were keeping more of the “filler” type episodes rather than discarding them.

The Story…

The episode opens with George Dixon’s usual monologue, quickly leading into a house fire caused by a man lighting his cigarette in a gas-filled room. When George (Jack Warner) goes round to the house to check things over, he finds that a woman has also been found dead. The fire officer concludes that she had turned on the gas taps in order to commit suicide. But a window had been left open. George thinks this doesn’t add up. The woman had a daughter of sixteen, but she has disappeared. So he gets CID on the case. DI Andy Crawford (Peter Byrne) and DS Mike Brewer (Gregory de Polnay) join forces as usual, with George partnering up with uniform Sergeant Wills (Nicholas Donnelly).

The investigation into the girl’s whereabouts, alongside working out whether the woman’s death was suicide or murder, gets a bit convoluted. The girl is travelling with a young man. We found out from her father that she is “a bit backward” as it is termed in the episode, and this is evidenced by the childlike way she asks questions and sees the world around her. The young man, Ralph Harding (Andy Bradford), is a friend of the girl’s mother. He has taken a company car from his place of work, which has just been found abandoned.

We find out that the mother had several boyfriends. She is described by all the peripheral characters’ testimony as troublesome and unreliable. One of her other boyfriends claims he doesn’t know anything, but later realises he must tell the Police what he knows: he saw the daughter, Chrissie (June Page) sleepwalking and turning on the gas one night.

Ralph and Chrissie find their way to his childhood home. His mother seems suspicious and cagey. Andy and Mike decide to follow them down to the West Country. There they liaise with the local bobby, Sergeant Dawes (Denis Goacher). There is initially rather a stereotypical portrayal of country life when he tells them that the locals won’t trust them. But he quickly proves trustworthy and helpful. He navigates Mrs Harding’s lies and leads the Dock Green officers to Ralph and Chrissie’s hiding place. In the middle somewhere, there is a reference to Ralph being abused by his father and institutionalised for a mental health problem as a child. This was designed to throw us off the scent and make us think Ralph was unstable and possibly the murderer.

Eventually, everything comes together and they realise that it was Chrissie who accidentally killed her mother by turning on the gas while sleepwalking. She meets a tragic and accidental end when she backs away from Andy, believing she will be in trouble. She falls off a cliff edge. And it turns out that Ralph only took her away to keep her from being locked up like he was.

My Impressions…

Seven For a Secret… runs like an episode of a modern detective drama. It has much in common with programmes such as Midsomer Murders and Lewis, as well as older crime stories like Miss Marple novels. It sets up a death initially as accidental, then the seasoned copper realises there is something amiss. The familiar detectives are brought in, they question lots of different characters and uncover lots of stories, all of which are red herrings.

It is astounding how, once again, Dixon of Dock Green seems to have predicted a whole genre of television. These types of stories had already been popular in books then with film and TV adaptations of Agatha Christie works and so on, throughout the 1970s and 80s. Then they would have a resurgence, albeit with more overt depictions of violent and gory elements, in the new millennium. Indeed, it is these types of programmes which are very popular internationally. In the United States, for example, many of our sleepy-style village-based murder mystery shows are incredibly popular. It remains a mystery as to why Dixon got completely cut off and seemingly deliberately remembered as something to laugh at and be ashamed of.

The acting by the supporting cast in Seven for a Secret… is very effective. The actors all seem to understand the brief and bring the perfect air of suspicion to their characterisations. It is a lot of fun to see Andy “out in the wild”, as ever, and dealing with a different set of people and a way of policing that is closer to when he–and the show–first started. The local Sergeant is only so effective because he knows his community so well.

In Conclusion…

Once again, Peter Byrne and Jack Warner are superb and maintain their characterisations masterfully. I marvel at how consistent and real they keep their characters, without ever being static.

We now have four more surviving episodes of series 21 to come. Peter Byrne leaves the show ahead of the final series and the format apparently changes.

Every week I enjoy how Andy, Mike, George and Sgt Wills work together. I still miss the presence of George’s daughter Mary and DC Lauderdale, I have to admit. But I am still eager to take the rest of the journey with the characters who remain.

In case you missed it, you can still catch up on Seven For a Secret Never To Be Told on Talking Pictures TV Encore until 8th June 2024, or in the delayed run on Wednesday evenings. Dixon of Dock Green airs on Talking Pictures TV every Saturday evening at 7 pm.

Leave a Reply

Next Post

Jack Hargreaves' Out of Town to Return to Talking Pictures TV

Mon Jun 10 , 2024
Talking Pictures is to broadcast a ‘new’ batch of episodes of Jack Hargreaves’ Out of Town series. The Southern Television series recently completed a first run on the channel, promising […]
Broadcast News

You May Like