Man in Room 17 (The): The Complete Series 1
A sly, sideways look at the standard '60s police procedural, The Man in Room 17 concerns the ponderings of Oldenshaw and Dimmock - two exceptionally clever chaps whose minds are so highly trained that they can solve cases that leave the ordinary authorities baffled. Created by novelist and playwright Robin Chapman (from a concept by Granada supremo Denis Forman) each episode was essentially constructed as a game of two halves, with the Room scenes for each episode being solely written by Chapman - who would receive a script and then deconstruct it, plan where Oldenshaw and Dimmock's scenes were to appear and how the crime was to be solved.
Of all the ITV companies in operation at that time Granada was the one most likely to push the envelope, and so it was here: what could have been just another weekly detective drama was certainly raised above the norm by clever scripting and winningly pompous performances from Richard Vernon and Michael Aldridge as the two leads. The only other recurring character in this first series is man mountain Willoughby Goddard, whose appearances are always a joy, but it is enlivened throughout by guest performances from some of the best the '60s had to offer: Vladek Sheybal, Meg Wynn Owen, Dinsdale Landen, Freddie Jaeger, David Langton, Zena Walker, Hugh Burden, Michael Gough, Mike Pratt and Denis Quilley all give great value and there's even a very small part for an exceptionally boyish-looking Anthony Hopkins. After two series The Man in Room 17 would reinvent itself as The Fellows, which in turn begat avant-gangster noir Spindoe and the huge cause celebre Big Breadwinner Hog.
The Man is Oldenshaw: an immodest, ex-Oxford type with a mind trained to devour information like a computer. He rose to prominence during the planning of D-Day.
His partner is Dimmock, a former student of the Ohio Institute of Criminology: Oldenshaw’s red-brick equal.
Room 17 is the secret centre of operations for the Department of Special Research, a unit set up to study the criminal mind and handle cases that have baffled the police and security services. Answerable only to the Prime Minister, the men in Room 17 pull the strings that make the undercover world dance, without even leaving the confines of their Whitehall office.
Starring Richard Vernon and Michael Aldridge as the celebrated super-sleuths, The Man in Room 17 featured clever plot twists, dry humour and innovative production. Created by Big Breadwinner Hog’s Robin Chapman, this brilliantly inventive Granada series gained cult status early on and remains very much so to this day.