Sunday, 9 November 2014

Target - The Series It Once Was!

After completing his third series of 'Doctor Who' in 1977, producer Philip Hinchcliffe was asked by his bosses to swap producer roles with Graham Williams. Williams had been developing a new police series entitled 'Hackett' that would be the BBC's answer to ITV's 'The Sweeney'.

The series – under Hinchcliffe – evolved into 'Target' starring 70s medallion man Patrick Mower as Det.Sup. Steve Hackett – lead copper of a team dedicated to bringing down untouchable criminals in Southampton (!). His co-stars were Brendan Price as Bonny, Vivien Heilborn as Louise and Philip Madoc as his boss, Det.Chief.Sup.Tate.

The series was grim. It was widely criticised for its violence and although it went to a second series, the final episodes were noticeably toned down.

As part of its special event 'Philip Hinchcliffe in Conversation', QUAD in Derby will be screening the third episode of the first run. Entitled 'Big Elephant', it sees Hackett and his team searching for a merchant seaman who is unaware that hash he has stolen is actually a quarter of a million pounds worth of heroin. 


The episode has many connections with 'Doctor Who' and the following list of ten is by no means exhaustive.

- 'Big Elephant' is written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin – known to the 'Doctor Who' production office as the Bristol Boys, they were 'discovered by the series' script editor – Terrance Dicks – in the early seventies when he commissioned them to pen 'The Claws of Axos' for Jon Pertwee's Doctor. They went on to script three of 'Target's first series and the opener for the second.

- Like the Bristol Boys, director Douglas Camfield cut his teeth on 'Doctor Who'. Having worked as a Floor Manager on the very first episode, he had graduated to a full-blown director by the show's second year. He directed more episodes of the original series than any other including the whole of the mammoth 12-part 'Daleks' Master Plan' and the 8-part 'The Invasion' which featured the debut of UNIT.

- Joanne – the heroin addict – is played by Katy Manning – famous for her role as the loveable and loyal Jo Grant during the bulk of Jon Pertwee's time on the series. It's a massive departure for Manning and a strong performance and characterisation that the actress is still proud of today.

- Series regulars Philip Madoc and Brendan Price are both no strangers to 'Doctor Who'. By the time of 'Target', the acclaimed Welsh actor Philip Madoc had amassed three major guest starring roles in the show and would go on to make another in 1978. He also pops up in the second 'Doctor Who' movie as a typically shady character. One of Brendan Price's earliest TV roles was the previous year in 'Doctor Who's 'The Face of Evil' where he played Tomas – a close friend of future companion, Leela.

- Playing the main villain – Cetti - in 'Big Elephant' is Walter Randall. Randall was one of Douglas Camfield's repertory company of actors who pop up in many of his TV productions. Randall is particularly familiar to Who fans as the equally sadistic El Akir in 'The Crusades' and as the hapless technician who is the first to turn into a Primord in 'Inferno'. Both of these performances were under Camfield's direction.

- Driving the London taxi in the later half of the episode is Derek Martin – who was months away from his ground-breaking role in GF Newman's 'Law & Order'. He appears in many 'Doctor Who' stories from the first ten years of the show usually as part of the Havoc stunt team. He's the first soldier to spot the Yeti when they attack the army in Covent Garden's market in 'The Web of Fear'. He later achieved more widespread fame as taxi driver (coincidence?) Charlie Slater in 'EastEnders'

- The theme and incidental music for 'Target' are by Dudley Simpson. Simpson had first worked on 'Doctor Who' in 1964 as composer for 'Planet of Giants' – the last episode of which was also Douglas Camfield's directorial debut. For 'Target's theme music, he provides a strident brass-led action piece that accompanies.........

- …....Sid Sutton's title sequence which uses rota scoping animation of two men in pursuit over a warehouse roof. The simplified effect is familiar to anyone who remembers a certain ground-breaking Jackson Five music video from around the same period. Sutton would go on to create the title sequences for Tom Baker's final season in the role of the Doctor as well as modified ones for Peter Davison and Colin Baker.

- Fred Hamilton was 'Target's film cameraman. Hamilton worked on the 'Doctor Who' series on-and-off for many years and it was he who was responsible for the camera work on 'Spearhead from Space' – the only adventure to be shot entirely on film.

- The designer of 'Big Elephant' was John Hurst. He had already performed the same job on 'Planet of the Daleks' for Jon Pertwee's 'Doctor Who' and would go on to design 'The Caves of Androzani' for Douglas Camfield's former colleague and protégée Graeme Harper in 1984. He would also become a mainstay of 'Target's BBC descendants 'Shoestring' and 'Bergerac'.



Watching 'Target' again, one is struck by the dialogue which is gritty to the point that it becomes almost parody. 'Big Elephant' seems to use every conceivable slang term for 'cannabis' and 'heroin' that was available in the late seventies. 

By way of a teaser, I've picked out 25 (yes, 25!) choices moments of dialogue:

“We've got one. He's a real scrunter!”

“We've gotta score tonight, Des. We got to!”

“Right Louise, get ya knickers on!”

“Part-time whore bag are ya?”

“Pathetic little cow!”

"Bastard!"

“It's brown sugar!”

“He's walking about with half a million quids worth of big elephant in his pocket.” (See what they did there.)

“Right. Round the back!”

“Haven't got any Charlie have you?”

“Yer a bloody junkie, aren't ya?”

“Bonnie. Round the back!”

“What you doing here? You a queen?” “No, but there's a couple in there if you're lookin'”

“You know the longest time I've spent with a woman is seven and a half minutes!”

“Some pig called Cetti! I want you to help me stick him.”

“I'm clean, man!”

“I would nae have a drink with you, you bastard!”

“This job is worth fifty quid. It's hash. Lebanese.”

“Does anybody want to buy some pot?”

“He's a muff artist!”

“Well, ya daft cow. Do you want some or what?”

“Frank. Harry. Round the back!”

“This is my patch!”

“Gerroff me, ya square-headed bastards!”

“Shit!”


Target – Big Elephant

TX – 23.09.1977

Written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin
Produced by Philip Hinchcliffe
Directed by Douglas Camfield

Starring Patrick Mower, Brendan Price, Vivien Heilborn and Philip Madoc
with Ken Hutchison, Katy Manning, Walter Randall, Alan Rebbeck, Hugh Fraser.




Philip Hinchcliffe In Conversation – Derby QUAD – Friday 5 December 2014 – 7.30pm – Details here.


STOP PRESS: (4/12/2014) Due to unforseen clearance issues involving the whole 'Target' TV series which didn't come to light until late in the day, QUAD are now unable to screen 'Big Elephant'. It will be replaced in the schedule by an episode of the Philip Hinchcliffe-produced 'Private Schulz' which starred Michael Elphick and Ian Richardson. 

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