A Department S Mystery…

May 17, 2017

WHO CUT WHO PLAYS THE DUMMY? A Department S mystery…

London, England, Friday 31st March

SULLIVAN and KING are seated at a moviola: a roll of film is spooling through.
ANNABELLE, standing, watches them at work.

SULLIVAN: There’s more here than we thought…

KING: When they cut my Mark Caine picture, all the best bits ended up on the cutting room floor.

ANNABELLE: You’re missing the point, Jason… look at these scenes in the garage. There’s additional footage here that we didn’t know about.

KING: Well, you two can play at being film detectives all day if you want to… I’m going in search of the nearest decent brandy…

* * *

It’s a mystery worthy of Jason King and co, but we’ve solved it ourselves without the help of Department S. When the original negative of the episode Who Plays the Dummy was being prepared for restoration, it was noted that there appeared to be additional footage that had not been present in the previously released version. A foreign release was checked for comparison, and found to contain many other missing shots – all connected to the nefarious ‘Auto Cam’ garage at the heart of the plot. All reference to the name had, it appeared, been removed – presumably after the original transmission – although a number of dialogue reference had been left intact.

What was the reason? Clearly an organisation with the same name had objected to its use in the episode (a similar instance occurred later in the Rising Damp episode Stand Up and Be Counted, where all reference to the name of a political candidate was obscured and/or deleted on legal advice).
No paperwork has survived that might give a clue as to the reason for the omissions; but having identified the missing pieces, our next task was to find and reinsert them into the restored episode.

The 35mm interpositive (used for the earlier SD release) and the original negative scanned for this release were both missing the sections, so all existing 35mm/16mm film material was called in and inspected to no avail. A complete copy was eventually found in the form of a Digital Betacam from Germany – which lends an appropriately European twist to this Department S mystery: although we did not have to call on the services of Interpol…

The relevant sections were captured, then carefully processed and graded before being re-instated seamlessly into the programme. The truncated audio was then restored from the 16mm magnetic final mix (which happily contained the complete soundtrack) and the episode can now be seen as originally intended, with a more coherent narrative.

And as if that wasn’t enough, this time around, you get even more Department S for your money… with five episodes in this third volume – the reason being, simply, that 28 (the number of Department S episodes) does not divide by six. Not even if your name’s Jason King…

Martin Cater


  1. Steve Sullivan Reply

    Fascinating. All the trouble Network go to in providing the most complete presentations for their customers. Blu ray restorations (well, ones release by Network at least) are a proud case where British is better than the rest inlcuding America who have released some very average BDs.

    Looking forward to buying the compete set and discovering the new footage.

  2. Alan Paterson Reply

    I was impressed by the quality of the ‘Department S’ episode on the ‘Retro-Action’ box set, so I’m now awaiting delivery of the ‘Department S’ box set. All the 35mm ITC shows look fantastic. Many thanks to the team involved.
    It’s such a shame ITC moved to shooting on 16mm after ‘The Persuaders’ (which was apparently deemed too expensive). I only have DVD box sets of ‘The Adventurer’ and ‘The Protectors) but the quality difference is like chalk and cheese compared to the 35mm shows. They’re still entertaining enough due to the pace of half hour shows, so nice to have.

  3. John Steed Reply

    It would be fantastic to have a documentary showing the restoration process of some of these shows, it’s fascinating and would be a great special feature for a future release.

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