Since Talking Pictures TV began broadcasting classic Police drama Dixon of Dock Green in January 2024, here at Old Time Review we’ve been watching keenly. In this review, I will be discussing Episode Two, entitled The Rotten Apple.
The Rotten Apple is chronologically the second of the surviving episodes, originally broadcast in 1956. The synopsis doesn’t give us much to go on at the outset. However it is actually part of the fun: because not a great deal is known about individual episodes, when compared to other long-running shows, there is an element of surprise to following the plot of each story. The certainty of knowing that Paul Eddington was going to turn up in a supporting role was all we needed. We already knew we were in for a good instalment – especially since we enjoyed last week’s so much.
The opening scenes of of The Rotten Apple tell us that Dixon and his colleagues are finding it tricky to identify and pin down a high-class burglar who has been circulating the area, as well as introducing a colleague of Andy and George’s: Tom Carr (played with nuance and truth by Paul Eddington). Tom seems to be a likeable and generous young man, who gets on well with George’s daughter and her boyfriend.
In this episode, we see a little more of the working relationship between George Dixon and his colleagues. His immediate superior, the Desk Sergeant, is his friend, but he also tries to maintain the balance of authority with a prickly manner and criticism of George that some of the robberies happened on his own Beat.
The main suspect – an upper class burglar recently released from prison for similar offences – cannot be placed at any of the crime scenes due to water-tight alibis. A little later in the episode however, this very offender is caught following an aggravated burglary. But the case cannot be solved so easily – he only confesses to this latest burglary. And while he is in custody another crime with the same hallmarks is committed: the run of break-ins cannot be attributed to him after all. A copycat criminal is operating in the area.
Meanwhile, Andy’s colleague Tom seems to be flush with money, treating them to regular evenings out. An old acquaintance of Dixon’s, a bookmaker, comes to see him. Fellow Police Constable Tom has run up a large bill with Maury. Maury wants Dixon to have a quiet word with Tom to help him recover the debt.
Dixon reluctantly agrees, but discovers much more than he bargained for when he visits Tom at his rooms.
The episode concludes with Dixon reminding us that when a Police officer is bad, he is brought to justice swiftly and with vigour by his colleagues. He tells us that the thousands of Police who do their jobs for the good of the public and take their duty seriously shouldn’t be doubted based on one “Rotten Apple”.
This does feel a little like a Public Information message for the Police force. However it makes sense that it would have been important to maintain the idea that the Police could be trusted. It is clearer still, with this second closing monologue, why a cuddly image of this show has endured in the years since it was last on our screens. It is these moments when Dixon is addressing us, the audience, directly, that give that safe, innocent, simple vibe. It is the scenes in between, the interactions between characters, which show how complex and nuanced Dixon of Dock Green actually was.
The penultimate scene in which Dixon confronts the actual perpetrator, his disgust and determination that justice be served, is the shining moment.
In fact, some elements of Martin Shaw’s interpretation of Alan Hunter’s character Inspector George Gently on BBC television in recent years seem to owe something to Jack Warner and the integrity and unwavering duty with which he imbued George Dixon.
In conclusion, we here at Old Time Review are still looking forward to further editions of Dixon of Dock Green, broadcast Saturday evenings at 7.20 pm on Talking Pictures TV.