Dixon of Dock Green from a Millennial’s Perspective – Postman’s Knock Review

Dixon of Dock Green, starring Jack Warner, was one of those mythical shows that I often heard about, but never actually saw. Edler relatives would talk about it with great fondness and an unmistakable nostalgic glow. When I heard that Talking Pictures TV was to give a home to the famous policeman by screening surviving episodes, I was eager to discover the actuality. When you look past the rosy glow, does it still have something to offer in this day and age?

Dixon of Dock Green first aired on the BBC in 1955, running for 432 episodes until 1976. Sadly only around 32 episodes survive. Warner had appeared as Dixon in Basil Dearden’s The Blue Lamp starring Dirk Bogarde. The TV series was created by Ted Willis and featured Warner alongside Peter Byrne and Jeannette Hutchinson.

The first surviving episode broadcast was Postman’s Knock, originally shown on the BBC in 1956. George Dixon lives with his daughter Mary and her fiance Andy Crawford. Crawford also happens to be a colleague at the police station. The episode focuses on a series of anonymous letters sent to two parties, which put Andy at the centre of an affair.

At first glance, it was clear to see why this episode hadn’t been seen on broadcast TV for decades. The less-than-ideal quality, with severely faded edges, is initially a shock. I’m used to seeing Kinescopes and the like, but this felt different. The flicker in between some shots, as though a button is being pressed, is also jarring to modern eyes. This is the beauty of Talking Pictures TV. This episode may not have the best quality, but the content is still there. The story, characters, and performance all did their job beautifully.

In my experience, I’ve often heard the show described in a rose-tinted cosy manner. The show, based on this episode alone, is fairly tame by modern standards but would have probably been seen as having a bit of bite. The subject matter is quite racy for this period, especially on the BBC in front of millions of people. The program style appears to be that of a melodrama with splashes of kitchen sink thrown in. The use of music is very reminiscent of British films in this era, along with the pacing.

The image of Jack Warner greeting the audience with an “Evenin’ all” is perhaps the most well-known thing about this show. He breaks the fourth wall to act as a storyteller at the start and end of the episode. Much of the drama seemed to happen around him until he got to work in the final act. Warner comes across as authoritative yet warm and approachable. The supporting cast also helped to carry the show forward, with performances of their time but with flashes of modernity. Although much of the conflict was settled with words over action, the required tension was present when needed.

Overall, I found this episode to be an enjoyable watch. Dixon of Dock Green wasn’t the cosy ride I thought it was going to be, and I’m glad for it. The execution may be slower and the surviving quality of the footage lacks the sparkle of contemporaneous ITC productions, but the performances were the star attraction. I look forward to watching the next episode, and discovering how the show changed over its twenty-two-year run. Dixon of Dock Green is broadcast each Saturday at 7:20 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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