The Professionals (Remastered) Volume 3 Review
How opportune is it that this DVD release comes at the same time as Judge John Deed returns to our screens. As anyone with only a passing interest in The Professionals will know, Martin Shaw was, by this third season, grumbling in the press about the show, wanting out but contractually obliged to continue. When he was interviewed for the Daily Mail (7 April 1980), Shaw was enthusiastic about the television play that he was then appearing in (Cream In My Coffee), saying that he was appreciative of the chance it gave him to prove himself as an actor but that, once it was over, it was back to the drudgery of the day job, playing Doyle in The Professionals. He complained about his signing of a four-year contract. of his work on The Professionals, which he no longer enjoyed making, and of not being offered parts outside of the tough cop role, which he and Lewis Collins took to so naturally in the show.
Finally, in a remark worthy of an actor who doesn't know when to stop taking himself seriously, Shaw let the readers know that despite his loathing of The Professionals, he would do his best nonetheless, saying that he knew of no other way to work. If only he was as gracious in the years after the show ended, where he smugly appeared on all manner of nostalgia shows, including one devoted solely to The Professionals, smirking at the camera whilst denying that it was he preventing re-runs of the show on television. Were there ever a better example of the eyes saying one thing whilst the voice said another thing entirely, it was the sight of Shaw holding his nose above the imagined stink that The Professionals had left on him, like a stain on his otherwise unimpeachable record as an actor.
You could have watched Shaw in Rhodes playing the titular character or as Robert Kingsford in Always And Everyone, but few did, proving that the British public preferred him behind the wheel of a Ford Capri than founding Rhodesia/Zimbabwe or saving lives in an Accident and Emergency ward. But those years spent practicing that smug look to camera clearly came in useful when offered the part of Judge John Deed, a laughably bad television show that features Shaw in the title role as an, you guessed it, unconventional judge who's not, strangely given Shaw's hatred of the role, that far removed from Doyle. Arching an eyebrow as an attractive women walks past, waking up with her the next morning and unafraid to take the law into his own hand, sometimes violently and literally so, it could be a description applied to either Doyle or Deed. And yet the pompous gait of Deed is all Shaw's owned, gained, one expects, from the years spent thinking that he was somehow above The Professionals as well as the parts identical to Doyle that were offered to him following its demise, not to mention the feeling that no matter how great the failure of shows like Rhodes, it wasn't his fault.
So the sight of Shaw dressed as Deed and pontificating from the bench on some nonsense regarding the state, criminality or the maze of relationships that surround him brings on no small amount of schadenfreude. Indeed, this viewer grits his teeth and occasionally watches Judge John Deed to relish the sight of such a, by Shaw's own words, versatile actor brought so low as to reprise a role that, some twenty-five years ago, he despised so much that he put almost as much effort into criticising The Professionals as he did acting in it. And I can't help but think that behind the smug grin and the awful guff that Shaw has trotted out in defence of his new show, he knows it.
A Hiding to Nothing (50m34s): Is there a traitor within CI5? During their preparation for the arrival of a Palestinian official, CI5 find that their dummy run is being filmed. They give chase and come under fire from the suspect but manage to retrieve the film after shooting her dead in an underpass. Cowley asks Bodie and Doyle to be thorough but to be quick - the visit is still on and they've only got days to find the leak.
Dead Reckoning (50m42s): Bodie accompanies an extradited Bulgarian spy into Britain and CI5 attempts to keep his presence as little-known as possible, something that the Bulgarian authorities don't share their view on. But when he's murdered, which comes as little surprise to CI5 given how active his past employers were in publicising his whereabouts, Cowley turns his attentions to the man's daughter, believing her to be prime suspect but something doesn't quite add up and as Doyle goes undercover to get to know her, he believes that the murderer lies somewhere else.
Mixed Doubles (50m37s): One man, two CI5 agents assigned to protect him as he visits the UK on a diplomatic mission. But there are two other agents in the city, prepared to do all that it takes to assassinate the foreign official and, as Bodie and Doyle discover, they and the killers have much in common.
Need To Know (50m36s): The doubts that surfaced in Servant Of Two Masters comes back to haunt George Cowley when he finds himself arrested by Bodie and Doyle under orders from Cowley's superiors after an old friend of his is arrested for being a double agent. Of course, he denies the charges but as much as he can trust Bodie and Doyle, this is a fight that he'll have to handle alone.
The Purging of CI5 (50m28s): CI5 are under attack from an unknown quarter, with a series of bombings and assassinations designed to break the service. When Cowley's office is bombed, Bodie and Doyle realise that no one is safe and that the killer has a deadly reach into the service and so set begin their investigation before no one is left with CI5.
Fugitive (50m09s): When a CIA agent is thrown from his hotel room whilst working in London, CI5 look into who might have wanted the man dead and find that the likely suspects are an international terrorist group looking for some cheap arms. Working on this, Bodie poses as an arms dealer but the gang, realising that it's a setup, take him hostage and use him to bargain their way out of the country.
The Acorn Syndrome (50m27s): Out on a job for Cowley picking up an antique desk, Doyle sees two men in a phone box, both of whom are packing a pistol beneath their jackets. He and Bodie give chase and corner the men in a flat but they've taken a family hostage and are demanding a safe way out. But they're making phone calls, which CI5 trace, uncovering the kidnapping of the daughter of a British Government engineer, who'll only be safely returned to her family if the enemy agents are given certain state secrets.
Slush Fund (50m39s): When a reporter threatens to publish a damning report on an East German fighter plane, he's targeted by a hitman employed by the communist state. After being identified through check-in, CI5 arrest the assassin onboard the plane on which he arrived but he refuses to talk. Whilst Bodie interrogates him, Doyle goes undercover as the hitman, hoping to find out his target but as he gets close, the killer escapes and he now has Doyle in his sights as well as his original target.
Weekend in the Country (50m40s): Much like the earlier Close Quarters, a quiet weekend at an isolated farmhouse turns into a siege when Bodie and Doyle, as well as their latest girlfriends, are held by an armed gang, who become increasingly desperate and itchy-fingered as the weekend wears on and their gunshot wounds show no sign of healing. But when Cowley realises that his boys are in trouble, he sets out to help them.
Takeaway (50m34s): CI5 become involved in international drug trafficking when they join forces with the Hong Kong police to break a gang smuggling heroin to the US using European and Chinese agents as handlers. With Bodie undercover and the local cops bungling the job, the US puts immense pressure on CI5 to deliver, saying their country's relationship with the UK is at stake should Cowley not deliver.
Involvement (50m40s): Should a CI5 agent trust his instincts or his heart? Doyle is soon to find out when he falls in love with Ann Holly (Patricia Hodge), who was involved in a man shot dead during an investigation into a drugs smuggling gang. Doyle believes that Ann was an innocent party, nothing but a witness to the shooting, but Cowley isn't so sure and the more CI5 investigate, the more there looks to be a link between the gang and Ann. Can Doyle prove them wrong?
The Gun (50m18s): An addict, shivering as he awaits his wrap, is shot by a dealer who throws the gun away on hearing police sirens, into a garden where it's found by a young boy who accidentally shoots his friend with it. As CI5 investigate, they find the boy is under threat from the dealer who's looking his gun back but who's also in danger from his own people, who aren't fond of lost weaponry.
Wild Justice (50m33s): Bodie and Doyle are on training but can't seem to get it right, with Bodie freezing during an exercise in which he and Doyle are called upon to rescue a group of hostages during an armed assault. With Cowley wondering about the deterioration of one of his best agents, Bodie obsesses over a motorcycle gang who he's convinced are guilty of a murder. But as Bodie's results during training get worse, Cowley considers retiring him. Could there be method to his madness?
Blackout (50m34s): Is a terrorist attack imminent? CI5 discover that there is but their only means of identifying the rogue agents behind is locked within the mind of a young German woman who's collapses in a church, undressed and suffering from amnesia. With enemy agents attempting to kill the girl, it's up to Bodie and Doyle to not only protect her but to discover what they can about the attack that's being planned.
As with the two previous releases in this series of remastered Professionals - see reviews of the Season One and Season Two boxsets for comparative screenshots - this is a slight but still noticeable improvement on the old releases, with better levels of contrast and sharpness. The picture is, though, no more detailed, just less blurred around the edges of objects in the frame so isn't necessarily worth upgrading for.
The mono soundtrack is, however, really no better than the one on the existing set, with background noise and the occasional blurt of volume that's out of balance with the ambient effects. Again, though, it comes without subtitles.
This is now the third set that I've reviewed and despite the same extras being listed for this release as the old Season 3 box, these check discs have, once again, come without extras. With this being the third time that the extras haven't been included, I'm tended to report that there are no extras on this release despite what you may read elsewhere unlike the admittedly insubstantial features that were included on the old set.
So much for Martin Shaw, you might be saying, but what of The Professionals? Well, what with this being my third review in almost as many months, I feel like I've already said more than enough on The Professionals without beginning to repeat myself. Indeed, all that was said with regard to Season Two - given the success of Season 1, LWT asked for more of the same and Brian Clemens was more than happy to oblige - goes for Season 3 just as well.
However, Season 2 was probably the best The Professionals had to offer with this often being too much of the same, with guest actors from earlier seasons appearing in this one with different aims, names and terrorist affiliations. Equally, an episode like Close Quarters returns in Weekend in the Country, whilst earlier suspicions against George Cowley in Servant Of Two Masters make a comeback in Need To Know, which isn't to say that there weren't new stories, more that Clemens was beginning to tread familiar ground. The producers of the show, including director Martin Campbell, were still capable of delivering taut thrillers with no small amount of style but it's clear that the best was behind them.
Unfortunately, there was little life left in The Professionals after this and the fourth season was but a retread of earlier glories, albeit glinting several shades less brightly.
Last updated: 14/07/2018 13:29:31