Department S (TV series)
Department S is a British spy-fi adventure series, produced by ITC Entertainment. It consists of 28 episodes which originally aired in 1969 and 1970. It stars Peter Wyngarde as author Jason King (later featured in spin-off series Jason King), Joel Fabiani as Stewart Sullivan, and Rosemary Nicols as computer expert Annabelle Hurst. These three are agents for a fictional special department (the "S" of the title) of Interpol. The head of Department S is Sir Curtis Seretse (Dennis Alaba Peters).
|Created by||Dennis Spooner|
|Developed by||Dennis Spooner|
Dennis Alaba Peters
|Theme music composer||Edwin Astley|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||1|
|No. of episodes||28 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||49 mins|
|Production company(s)||ITC production|
|Distributor||Independent Television Corporation|
|Original network||ITV (ATV)|
|Picture format||35 mm film 4:3 Colour|
|Original release||9 March 1969 –|
4 March 1970
|Followed by||Jason King|
"When a case proves too baffling for the minds of Interpol, they turn to the talents of Department S." – from the ITC trailer for the series.
The series was created by Dennis Spooner and Monty Berman, although neither wrote any of the episodes, which were instead scripted by ITC regulars such as Terry Nation and Philip Broadley. Many of the directors on the show had also worked on other ITC shows such as The Saint, Danger Man and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased).
The series was shot on 35mm film and designed, like all ITC's film productions, to fit the United States commercial format. Although episodes begin with a cold open (after the 'S' logo is shown), unusually, the episode title, writer and director credits appear on screen before the opening title sequence, though after the theme tune has started. With a few exceptions, the principal cast is always studio-bound. Some exteriors are represented by studio buildings, while the rest are mainly shown in second-unit footage using doubles where necessary. Outside locations were, in common with similar series, largely restricted to the Hertfordshire countryside in the vicinity of Borehamwood. At least one foreign location was used, featuring Peter Wyngarde on the streets of Vienna. Otherwise, foreign locations are usually established by the use of stock footage. To further cut costs, the series was produced back-to-back with Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased).
Department S is a division of Interpol headed by international bureaucrat Sir Curtis Seretse (Dennis Alaba Peters). Its headquarters is in Paris (Interpol's headquarters has been located in Lyon since 1989) and its members investigate international cases that other crime agencies cannot solve.
The team itself is led by American and former FBI agent Stewart Sullivan (Joel Fabiani), who takes direction from Seretse. Outside of his FBI experience, little is known about Sullivan except that he is pragmatic and hands-on, and does much of the leg-work, confronting the criminals.
Jason King (Peter Wyngarde) is the ideas man, but also helps in the field. He is an adventure novelist who uses details from their cases to write his novels. The living he makes writing novels affords him a hedonistic lifestyle, and he is often seen with beautiful women though he has no permanent love interest in the series; in one episode he mentions he is a widower whose wife was killed in a plane crash. King also serves as comic relief in the series, especially in scenes of hand-to-hand combat where he winds up being subdued as often as he prevails.
Annabelle Hurst (Rosemary Nicols) is a computer expert and analyst as well as a field investigator. A very attractive woman, Hurst sometimes appears in seductive, glamorous disguises. There are ongoing hints of romantic interest between Sullivan and Hurst during the series.
Repeats, DVD and Blu-Ray releases
A repeat run of Department S began on ITV4 in November 2005, alongside others of a large number of similar ITC productions.
The first two episodes of Department S were released on a now-deleted DVD in Britain by Carlton Television (now part of ITV plc). Department S was released on DVD in Australia by Umbrella Entertainment in a box set. This version is in PAL with no region code. Network released the series on DVD in the United Kingdom featuring many exclusive extras, including commentaries and part of a documentary series also covering Jason King: Wanna Watch a Television Series? Chapter One: Variations on a Theme.
Department S first appeared in high definition on Blu-Ray as a single episode on Retro Action Volume 1 released by Network Distributing on 19 September 2011. This contained the episode "A Small War of Nerves", which features a young Anthony Hopkins.
Volume-by-volume release of the entire series in new high-definition transfers on Blu-Ray began in 2017, with the first available on 27 February. There are six volumes in total; the first two each contain four episodes, the next four contain five episodes each.
A complete box set of the entire series was released on 2 October 2017. Regions are A, B & C: https://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Department-S-The-Complete-Series-Blu-ray/186594/
Filming took place between April 1968 and June 1969.
The production numbers here refer to ITC synopsis guide numbers and the sequence in the Network DVD booklet.
|Episode #||Prod #||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original airdate|
|1||5101||"Six Days"||Cyril Frankel||Gerald Kelsey||9 March 1969|
|When an aircraft goes missing for six days and the crew members have no recollection of events, Department S investigates.|
|2||5102||"The Trojan Tanker"||Ray Austin||Philip Broadley||16 March 1969|
|A crashed tanker has had a room built inside, which contains an unconscious girl; she disappears before help arrives.|
|3||5116||"A Cellar Full of Silence"||John Gilling||Terry Nation||23 March 1969|
|Department S is called in after four dead men are found in a cellar, wearing fancy dress.|
|4||5110||"The Pied Piper of Hambledown"||Roy Ward Baker||Donald James||30 March 1969|
|When an entire village disappears overnight except for one girl, Department S is called in.|
|5||5103||"One of Our Aircraft Is Empty"||Paul Dickson||Tony Williamson||6 April 1969|
|An airliner lands at Heathrow but the crew and passengers are missing. (Made back-to-back with "Six Days").|
|6||5118||"The Man in the Elegant Room"||Cyril Frankel||Terry Nation||13 April 1969|
|When a dead girl and a demented man are found in a room constructed inside a disused factory, Department S investigates.|
|7||5117||"Handicap Dead"||John Gilling||Philip Broadley||20 April 1969|
|When a tournament golfer is found dead on a nearby beach, Sullivan investigates.|
|8||5121||"A Ticket to Nowhere"||Cyril Frankel||Tony Williamson||27 April 1969|
|A disappearing scientist and the death of a financier are linked, but Jason and Stewart keep forgetting about the case, to the despair of Annabelle.|
|9||5115||"Black Out"||Ray Austin||Philip Broadley||17 September 1969|
|A chef and food critic is found unconscious in the Mexican desert and cannot recall the last three days. Is there a connection to the American space programme?|
|10||5119||"Double Death of Charlie Crippen"||John Gilling||Leslie Darbon||24 September 1969|
|An assassination attempt leaves only a dummy as the victim; Department S has to discover who the real target is.|
|11||5120||"Who Plays the Dummy"||John Gilling||Tony Williamson||1 October 1969|
|When a car crashes and the sole occupant is a dummy in the driving seat, Department S follows the trail to an imminent attack on NATO senior officers.|
|12||5123||"The Treasure of the Costa del Sol"||John Gilling||Philip Broadley||8 October 1969|
|Two dead fisherman, and a haul of plastic fish containing $100,000, lead to a painter and engraver.|
|13||5107||"The Man Who Got a New Face"||Cyril Frankel||Philip Broadley||15 October 1969|
|Department S investigates when a man is found dead with a clown's mask glued to his face, and the trail leads to a vicious vendetta.|
|14||5112||"Les Fleurs du Mal"||Cyril Frankel||Philip Broadley||22 October 1969|
|Three plastic flowers contain a coded message that will lead to the proceeds of a bank robbery, but there are interested parties ready to kill for the flowers.|
|15||5104||"The Shift That Never Was"||John Gilling||Donald James||25 October 1969|
|With one exception, every member of staff of a chemical factory takes a day off. The one man who went to work is murdered; the trail leads to a beauty parlour and a nuclear power station.|
|16||5111||"The Man from X"||Gil Taylor||Tony Williamson||5 November 1969|
|A man clad in a spacesuit staggers in a London street; unable to remove the jammed helmet, he suffocates. Department S investigates; the only clue is the man has slight radiation burns and had been in a vacuum.|
|17||5106||"Dead Men Die Twice"||Ray Austin||Philip Broadley||12 November 1969|
|Department S finds that a 'dead man' can die twice when a man is murdered twice three years after his double had been murdered.|
|18||5122||"The Perfect Operation"||Cyril Frankel||Leslie Darbon||26 November 1969|
|A surgeon performing a delicate brain operation on a senior British civil servant is forcibly removed; another surgeon enters and completes the operation, saving the man's life. Department S investigates the only surgeon capable of doing the operation, but he is Russian and too old.|
|19||5124||"The Duplicated Man"||Paul Dickson||Harry W. Junkin||3 December 1969|
|A double agent is killed, but is he really dead after he has spent ten years cultivating a second identity to escape from his masters? Department S investigates, closely followed by enemy agents.|
|20||5113||"The Mysterious Man in the Flying Machine"||Cyril Frankel||Philip Broadley||10 December 1969|
|A man is found murdered in a mock-up aircraft in a warehouse. The team wonder why anybody should go to so much trouble. A message left scrawled on their car is the only clue.|
|21||5108||"Death on Reflection"||Ray Austin||Philip Broadley||17 December 1969|
|Sir Curtis Seretse, head of Department S, is astonished to see a mirror sell at auction for four times its value; when the buyer is murdered, he asks the team to investigate.|
|22||5127||"Last Train to Redbridge"||John Gilling||Gerald Kelsey||14 January 1970|
|Multiple murders on a tube train lead Department S to criminal speculators attempting to tap the hot line between the US President and the UK Prime Minister.|
|23||5126||"A Small War of Nerves"||Leslie Norman||Harry W. Junkin||21 January 1970|
|A fanatical scientist who has developed a deadly nerve gas threatens to wipe out London unless governments take notice and agree to live in peace.|
|24||5109||"The Bones of Byrom Blain"||Paul Dickson||Tony Williamson||28 January 1970|
|A chauffeur arrives at his destination only to discover his passenger has disappeared, leaving only his skeleton behind. Department S investigates and discovers the chauffeur's skeleton; the same fate awaits Sir Curtis Seretse and Jason King.|
|25||124||"Spencer Bodily is 60 Years Old"||Leslie Norman||Harry W. Junkin||11 February 1970|
|Spencer Bodily is dead; he looks 20 but must be at least 60, and there is no record he ever existed. The body disappears, and Department S suspects there could be more cases of 'eternal youth'.|
|26||5105||"The Ghost of Mary Burnham"||Cyril Frankel||Harry W. Junkin||18 February 1970|
|John Burnham is tormented by the ghost of his wife shortly after she is shot and killed. He is a brilliant economist and someone is trying to unbalance him to prevent him taking an important job. Department S has to find out why before he is driven insane.|
|27||5114||"A Fish Out of Water"||Cyril Frankel||Philip Broadley||25 February 1970|
|When an Interpol agent is found dead, Jason King is sent to take over his mission to crack an international drug ring. Jason realises he has been identified and his life is in danger. Stewart and Annabelle are sent to back him up.|
|28||5128||"The Soup of the Day"||Leslie Norman||Leslie Darbon||4 March 1970|
|When a crate of soup is stolen from a bonded warehouse, Department S suspects smuggling; but when the team locates the stolen soup cans, all are intact and contain only soup. Is it a case of double-cross?|
- Dates from ITC Episode guide issued with the Network DVD
- History of ITV