Softly, Softly (TV series)

Softly, Softly is a British television drama series, produced by the BBC and screened on BBC 1 from January 1966. It was created as a spin-off from the series Z-Cars, which ended its fifth series run in December 1965. The series took its name from the proverb "Softly, softly, catchee monkey", the motto of Lancashire Constabulary Training School.[1]

Softly, Softly
Created byTroy Kennedy Martin
StarringStratford Johns
Frank Windsor
Country of originUnited Kingdom
No. of series5
No. of episodes120
Running time50 minutes
Original networkBBC1
Original release5 January 1966 
13 November 1969

Series outline

Softly, Softly centred on the work of regional police crime squads, plain-clothes CID officers based in the fictional region of Wyvern, supposedly in the Bristol area of England. It was designed as a vehicle for Detective Chief Inspector Charles Barlow and Detective Inspector John Watt (played by Stratford Johns and Frank Windsor respectively) from the police series Z-Cars, which had just finished its original run in December 1965 (no new episodes were produced in 1966 but it was revived in a different format the following year). Joining them in the early series was Robert Keegan as Blackitt, the police station sergeant from Z-Cars, now retired and acting as a freelance helper.

The first two series continued the trend set by producer David Rose with Z-Cars, and transmitted the majority of episodes live. This was one of the last long-running British TV series to do this. From series three onwards all episodes were pre-recorded.

Theme music

The original theme music was, like Z-Cars, a folk-song arrangement by Fritz Spiegl. It was released as a single (credited to the London Waits) on Andrew Loog Oldham's "Immediate" record label in 1966.

Series rundown

SeriesDate FromDate ToEpisode CountDuration
15 January 196629 June 19662650 minutes
22 November 196631 May 19673150 minutes
34 October 19674 April 19682650 minutes
412 September 196813 March 19692750 minutes
511 September 196913 November 19691050 minutes


ActorCharacterYears ActiveSeries ActiveEpisode Count
Stratford JohnsDCS Charlie Barlow1966-19691-591
Frank WindsorDI/DCI John Watt1966-19691-584
Robert KeeganMr Bob Blackitt1966-19671-242
John WelshACC Bill Calderwood1966-19671-224
Garfield MorganDCI Gwyn Lewis1966119
Norman BowlerDS Harry Hawkins1966-19691-575
Gilbert WynneDC Reg Dwyer1966-19671-343
Cavan KendallPC Greenly1966114
Dan MeadenDC Ben Box1966-19681-449
Eric McCaineInsp./CI Andy Laird1966-19691-418
John BarronACC Austin Gilbert1966-19692-552
David QuilterPC Tanner1966-19672-329
Chrys SaltGwenda Lloyd1967-1968315
Peggy SinclairP/W DS Barbara Allin1967-19693-538
Philip BrackDI Jim Cook1968-19693-529
Gavin CampbellPC/DC William Digby1968-19693-525
Howell EvansDC Davie Morgan1968-19694-515


ActorCharacterYears ActiveSeries ActiveEpisode Count
Alexis KannerDC Matt Stone196619
Colin DouglasDCI Rawlings196613
Barry LettsDS Reed196614
Glyn HoustonD Supt Arthur Jones1966-19692, 47
Gay HamiltonDr Jean Morrow19694-55
Walter GotellChief Con. Arthur Cullen196951

Archive status

Many of the original Softly, Softly broadcasts are believed lost, especially from the first two series, the majority of which were transmitted live. (By comparison, all episodes of the follow-up Taskforce survive.)

Series and character development

In 1969, to coincide with the BBC's move to colour broadcasting on BBC 1, Softly Softly series ended. The characters of Barlow, Watt and Hawkins were promoted and moved to the South East of England in a new series set in the fictitious Thamesford. Here, as a result in changes in criminal activities, the police force itself needed to develop a new approach to tackle it. Taskforces were set up: these were groupings of police expertise and manpower drawn together for special operations in the region. This was a new series in its own right and it was simply going to be called Taskforce. However, starring three strong characters from a popular brand the BBC were reluctant to drop, this new series was renamed Softly, Softly: Taskforce.

Stratford Johns left the Taskforce series in 1972 (Barlow had his own spin-off series Barlow at Large) and it continued until 1976 with Watt in command.

During the 70s Windsor also appeared as Watt in Jack the Ripper, in which he and Barlow reopened the Jack the Ripper murder casebook, and a similar series Second Verdict, in which they looked into unsolved mysteries and miscarriages of justice.


  1. World Wide Words, Newsletter 853, Saturday 12 October 2013
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