Created by the 1960's action/adventure experts-producer Monty Berman and the prolific Dennis Spooner, the series chronicled the exploits of three operatives assigned to Department S, a special branch of Interpol, which specialised in solving seemingly unsolvable cases.
Whilst the cases which made up the bulk of the show's episodes were often fun, ingenious riffs on the standard spy/caper craze of that particular decade, where the series really scored was in the interplay between the three central characters involved. Imported American actor Joel Fabiani's Stewart Sullivan was very much set in the traditional role of smooth, square jawed, leading man, Rosemary Nicols' attractively intelligent computer specialist Annabelle Hurst more than competently fulfilled the requirements demanded of a central female co-star, but the real jewel in the crown of the Department S trio of core characters was undoubtedly Peter Wyngarde's flamboyant, egotistical, waspishly sarcastic, Jason King.
Clearly intended as a parody of James Bond creator, Ian Fleming, the character of Jason King provided a welcome edge of subversive delight which threw Wyngarde's interaction with the more conventional characters of his co-star's into sharp comic relief. (King would always try to put himself in the position of his fictional character Mark Caine). In fact, so popular was the actor's performance that Jason King became the first character in ITC's impressive history to be awarded a spin-off series of his own following the parent show's demise. Another notable highlight of the series was the bold move for the period of casting a black actor in a position of power.
Sir Curtis Seretse, the head of Department S and a high ranking politician, as portrayed by Dennis Alaba Peters, is an intelligent, urbane man totally at ease with his power and standing as well as being obviously respected by both his peers and his agents. Ultimately, Department S was yet another example of the slick, quirky, polished output from the sixties ITC stable. Indeed, many of it's writers and directors had previously worked on The Saint-another ITC smash hit. Once, this particular brand of fun, lightweight, satisfying adventure series was plentiful on our television screens.
Published on December 7th, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.