Friday, June 11, 2010

The Protectors S1 Ep15: The First Circle

The late, wonderful and underrated Actor Ed Bishop.
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It's FAB FRIDAY friends! It's time for a taste of all things Gerry & Sylvia Anderson.
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Following the conclusion of UFO, Ed Bishop appeared as a special guest star on Gerry Anderson's The Protectors. An interview in Fanderson's FAB 27/ FAB 28 refers to The First Circle as "generally hailed... the best episode of the series."
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Ed Bishop recalls, "I remembered that it rained the whole time. Tony Barwick wrote that episode for what he thought I could handle best, which was this kind of frantic, neurotic kind of behaviour, and I enjoyed it enormously. It had a wonderful director Don Chaffey, and it was nice to work with Bob Vaughn and get to know him, so it was a very nice experience. It had a lot to say about the Vietnam War, because, of course, it was still going on at that time and my character was traumatized by that war." He adds, "It made a nice little oblique comment, which I think is always good if you can sneak in a little dimension to a project like that. Yes, I enjoyed it enormously."
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So given the fact the star of UFO was the featured guest in this Protectors entry and given my curiosity as to whether or not the show improved going forward, I took a big leap forward to check it out. Since this is considered one of the "best" episodes of The Protectors and Ed Bishop can do no wrong in my eyes, my expectations were reasonably high. It's time to evaluate The Protectors, Series One, Episode 15, The First Circle.
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Ed Bishop plays an emotionally scarred, delusional former Vietnam soldier named Colonel Hunter. He is a troubled man. His psychological state is fragile. As he drives onto a vacant, British-based United States Air Force Base in uniform he talks to himself in a way that suggests he still believes he is very much in Vietnam. A man approaches Hunter for identification, but Hunter gets down to one knee and fires several shots killing the base security officer. He is a danger to himself and clearly to others.
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The British police arrive on the base and set up. Harry Rule also arrives and meets Slade, the director of operations. Rule is pretty up front with Slade who offers Rule tea. He informs Slade there appears to be a lack of urgency in play. I suppose the tea offer tipped us off there. Slade appears to be ready to "sit it out." Rule wants to talk to Hunter. Hunter is holed up in the grass. He fires upon Rule. Rule looks like he could use a little protective gear.
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"The man is cracked!," says Rule to Slade. Hunter is still mentally in Vietnam. At the main gate, Hunter's wife is worried. She pleads with Rule for help and tells him her husband is a good man. Rule and Slade get off on the wrong foot and essentially butt heads throughout the ephemeral affair. Rule tells Slade he'll cooperate and he will leave, but if a sniper takes out Hunter and hits one of his four hand grenades he expects Slade to pick up the pieces. Slade isn't doing his homework because he had no idea Hunter had grenades.
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Hunter hears the voices of war in his head and is a deeply troubled soldier. Hunter is positioned in the air traffic tower. Rule approaches and Hunter fires a shot upon him. Hunter has had a complete break with reality. Rule approaches him as an old war buddy in uniform in the hopes of reaching him. A sniper is in position. Rule and Hunter go back inside the air traffic tower.

video
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Hunter pulls a pin from the grenade keeping his perceived old war buddy at a distance. Rule exits and tells Hunter he'll check the perimeter. Rule reports back to Slade and goes toe to toe. He tells Slade they need to reach him and make him realize he is in England today!
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Rule picks up Hunter in the jeep to bring him home. Meanwhile, stupid Slade is back at camp worried about sandwiches. Here is one of Hunter's delusional breaks.

video
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Rule and Hunter get into a fisticuffs as Rule attempts to reach him. A grenade explodes, but no one is hurt. It doesn't exactly go well. Suddenly, it's raining, but then this is England of course. A soldier is run down by Hunter in his jeep. Rule grabs his car and moves in on him. A chopper arrives, but things unravel quickly. What do you expect from a 25 minute episode? He tosses some grenades. Rule is in hot pursuit in his very fast car on the runway. Hunter crashes and a bag of grenades spills out. One of them pops a pin and Hunter's car blows to kingdom come. It does not end well for Hunter. Rule tells Slade he knew the man.
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Robert Vaughn is the featured regular in this episode. Tony Anholt and Dawn Nyree Porter do no appear. Some poor writing and weak editing make this a fairly limp entry. The greatest problem with The Protectors is its run time of 25 minutes. It simply can't develop character. Now Rule says he knew Hunter, but we never understand how he knew him nor do we care. It just ends, just like that. I'm afraid this one did it for me. I won't be returning to The Protectors until I eventually decide to review The Protectors, Series Two, Episode 13 & 14, WAM Part One/ Part Two guest starring Prentis Hancock [Space:1999]. Honestly, this was a fairly poorly conceived action adventure based on what I've seen so far. At this point, I think I'll take my chances out there in the world without The Protectors. Besides, exactly how good is their protection? Hunter ended up dead. Nice work guys. Even the wonderful talents of its performers cannot overcome the fleeting scripts of The Protectors.
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The First Circle: C-
Writer: Tony Barwick
Director: Don Chaffey
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The Sci-Fi Fanatic footnote: Well folks, we've roughly reached the mid-year point since I first began writing FAB FRIDAYS and the time has come to take a bit of a break from it I'm afraid. When I do take up FAB FRIDAYS again I promise to come back stronger than ever, but I do need a bit of a rest from the wonderful world of Gerry Anderson. Fear not, FAB FRIDAYS will be back.

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