Continuing our series of reviews on the surviving episodes of Dixon of Dock Green being aired by Talking Pictures TV in 2024, I am focussing on the episode from 1956 entitled The Roaring Boy.
The episode begins with an elderly, well-meaning lady showing us the slow, mundane nature of everyday Police work. She has come to Dock Green Police Station to report cruel treatment of the dog next door. The Desk Sergeant is patient and considerate with her, following up on the matter with sensitivity.
Meanwhile they have had a report in of a young deserter. They have the address of a known girlfriend of his. George Dixon is dispatched to go and question her.
We find couple in a grotty little lodging. The Kitchen Sink style has returned to Dock Green. We are immediately informed, by their surroundings and their slovenly dress for the period, that they inhabit a slightly grubby world. They are both young, but sound world weary. We find out from their conversation that the boy is the deserter, Doug Beale (Kenneth Cope).
Soon George is at the door. Doug hides behind a curtain while Di (Jennifer Wilson) entertains Dixon. But Doug makes an accidental noise, alerting George to his presence. Initially Di introduces him under a false name, but Doug’s pride quickly betrays him and he produces a gun.
Suddenly, the episode is a 3-hander: George is trapped with the desperate, hopeless Doug and his cynical and reluctant girlfriend Di.
It feels a little stagey, but Cope’s performance is tense, angry and sadistic. He brings an unnerving instability to a disadvantaged, Angry Young Man type. Three skilful actors working in a single, confided set brings a compelling level of discomfort and jeopardy to what could otherwise feel a little lacklustre.
The visual and audio quality here are not fantastic. This and the low-budget nature of the production do somewhat reduce the dramatic power. However, the performances more than make up for this.
George eventually manages to disarm Beale, meanwhile his colleagues at the station are dismissive of George’s efforts, unaware that he has been held hostage. When they learn what really happened, the gravity of the situation hits them. However, in some ways their levity was partly justified: after all, what has happened to him is part of his job.
It could feel unsatisfying that he could overcome the young gunman so easily, however in some ways it represents George’s sense of duty. It is simply his job to do so, to keep others safe and to see justice done as much as is within his power.
Parallels between the origin of the character George Dixon – film The Blue Lamp – and The Roaring Boy could be drawn. This episode of Dock Green is like a condensed, character-driven version of the psychological exploration that happens through the cat-and-mouse action in The Blue Lamp. Dixon overcoming the angry young man in this case is almost like some kind of retribution for the character’s demise in the film.
In conclusion, this third surviving episode of Dixon of Dock Green maintains the quality set down by the previous two episodes. It is compelling, dramatic and well-acted. Very satisfying to see the two young actors working with intensity against the older, calmer vibe from Jack Warner. We, here at Old Time Review, are waiting impatiently for the next episode.