The Days of Vengeance

1960 | United Kingdom

Requiring a summer fill-in whilst Dixon of Dock Green was off the air, the BBC approached George Dixon's creator, Ted Willis, in collaboration with Edward J. Mason (one of the original authors of the 'Dick Barton' serial and a regular contributor to 'The Archers'), to come up with a six-week series that would capture the same audience. What they got was a mixture of the action of Barton, and the human cost of criminal activity as portrayed in Dock Green.

The series begins with Detective Inspector Mitchell (played by William Lucas) investigating a case very close to home - the kidnapping of his young son. The boy has been kidnapped by a ruthless East London gang of criminals, whose boss is holding the boy hostage to ensure Mitchell's silence and complicity in a criminal case against certain gang members (this is not revealed until the fifth episode). Whilst investigating his son's disappearance, the viewer is drawn into the impact it has on Mitchell's private life and in particular the effect it has on his wife, Ann, played by Betty McDowell.

Paul Eddington and Stratford Johns appeared as characters in the series and Peter Hawkins was the narrator.

The Days of Vengeance - 1960

As a filler, the Radio Times paid little attention to the series except for a short article in the publication on the week it debuted. Played out as an interview between Willis and Mason it went like this:

TW: This new serial you have written - The Days Of Vengeance - it has a farming background?

EJM: No. Actually it is set in a big city.

TW: It is a thriller, I believe.

EJM: Yes. But it is also a study in character. It deals with a Detective-Inspector who faces a crisis in his job. And this creates a conflict in his domestic life.

TW: Could you tell me something more about the plot?

EJM: No.

TW: Why not?

EJM: It would spoil it.

The series was successful enough for the BBC to order a sequel the following year. Flower of Evil was another collaboration for the two writers and was prequelled by a repeat of The Days of Vengeance. James Beck and Patricia Haines appeared in the second series. Unfortunately, neither series is retained in the BBC Archives.

Published on August 7th, 2020. Written by Marc Saul for Television Heaven.

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