The "e" in The Aweful Mr. Goodall isn't a mistake, the TV Times told us in 1974. "Aweful means someone inspiring awe."
Widower Jack Goodall is a 55-year-old former civil servant retired to his richly furnished sea-front flat in Eastbourne. All he wants now is a quiet life. His retirement has allowed him to indulge in the things he loves; the music of Elgar, the paintings of Turner and a love of everything English. A far cry from Goodall's civil service career which consisted of 15 years as a Colonel in M.I.5. His job entailed investigation and negotiation and keeping secrets of a highly sensitive nature, carried out with an innate sixth sense – a nose for intrigue which made him invaluable to his employers. So valuable, in fact, that his former masters have determined that Jack Goodall is indispensable.
While attending a reunion dinner with some ex-Army colleagues, Goodall is approached by the Head of Section, known only as Millbrook. "I'm sorry to bring you into this, Jack" he tells him, "but we need your sixth sense." A phone call in the middle of the night...a man ill in hospital...a wife who won't tell the truth...a party that never happened. Goodall must find answers to a series of problems that no one else will even admit exist.
Playing the role of the smiling but dogged intelligence agent is Robert Urquhart, a Scottish born actor who mainly worked in British film and television throughout his career which spanned the decades of the 1950s to the 1990s. Urquhart appeared in numerous television shows of the detective/special-agent genre, such as Department S, Callan, Man in a Suitcase, The Avengers, Danger Man, and The Professionals He also played the lead role and served as script editor in Jango, a short lived 1961 production by Associated Rediffusion. However, Urquhart grew frustrated with his career as he grew older. It was, he bemoaned, an honourable profession but so much of the material he was offered did not deserve any respect.
Quiet, well-read and a lover of classical music, Urquhart spent more and more time at his home in the Scottish Highlands, where he established an eating, drinking and musical establishment called the Ceilidh Place. By the early Seventies, Urquhart was finding acting increasingly frustrating and spent more time on his business interests in the Highlands. He had no respect for much of the material he was offered and but still managed to find a number of good roles throughout the Seventies, mainly on television. They began with that of Wing Commander MacPhearson in The Pathfinders. He also played the teacher George Jenkins in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1978), the Quartering Commandant in Brideshead Revisited (1982), and in the acclaimed series The Old Men at the Zoo (1983).
Playing the role of the imperturbable and demanding Millbrook was Donald Burton who had previously appeared as the thug Ackerman in Granada's controversial series Big Breadwinner Hog. Talking of The Aweful Mr. Goodall in 1974 Goodall said that its wickedness is much more subtle and marvellous than any overt blood letting. "It's about fearful things people can do to each other, like ruining careers and wrecking lives." Also appearing in the six episode run of stories is Eleanor Bron, Jacqueline Pearce and Bill Treacher.
Producer Richard Bates was fresh from his success with Helen-A Woman of Today. His format for the series was based more on motivation than plot. Having worked for two years on The Avengers he said that was so plotty he couldn't take plots seriously any more. "Goodall's very much a non-spy series. It's more about people than espionage." Whether this was the correct approach or not is debatable. There was no second series and so Mr Goodall, one assumes, returned to the southeast coast, to his music and to his art.
Published on September 4th, 2020. Written by Marc Saul for Television Heaven.