The XYY Man

The XYY Man began life as a series of novels by Kenneth Royce, featuring the character of William (or Willie) 'Spider' Scott, a one-time cat-burglar who leaves prison aiming to go straight but finds his talents still to be very much in demand by both the criminal underworld and the British secret service. Scott has an extra Y chromosome that supposedly gives him a criminal predisposition – although he tries to go straight, he is genetically incapable of doing so.

William "Spider" Scott
'The XYY Man' character
First appearanceThe XYY Man
Last appearanceThe Mosley Receipt
Created byKenneth Royce
Portrayed byStephen Yardley
AliasThe XYY Man

Royce's original books were: The XYY Man (1970); Concrete Boot (1971); The Miniatures Frame (1972); Spider Underground (The Masterpiece Affair) (1973) and Trap Spider (1974), though he returned to the character in the 80s with The Crypto Man (1984) and The Mosley Receipt (1985).

Regular characters included Scott's long-suffering girlfriend Maggie Parsons; British secret service head Fairfax (although this is a codename; the character's real name is Sir Stuart Halliman. In one episode of the television series, Fairfax identifies himself as "Stuart" in a telephone conversation); Detective Sergeant George Bulman, the tenacious policeman who wants nothing more than to see Scott back behind bars; journalist Ray Lynch; gay photographer Bluie Palmer and KGB chief Kransouski.

The XYY Man — The TV Series

The XYY Man
GenreCrime drama
Created byKenneth Royce
Written byIvor Marshall
Tim Aspinall
Murray Smith
Edward Boyd
Directed byKen Grieve
Carol Wilks
Alan Grint
StarringStephen Yardley
Don Henderson
Dennis Blanch
Vivienne McKee
Mark Dignam
Oliver Maguire
Johnny Shannon
Brian Croucher
Fiona Curzon
William Squire
Composer(s)Mike Moran
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series2
No. of episodes13 (list of episodes)
Producer(s)Richard Everitt
CinematographyDavid Wood
Ray Goode
Editor(s)Anthony Ham
Tony Smith
Brian Tagg
Running time60 minutes
Production company(s)Granada Television
DistributorITV Studios
Original networkITV
Picture format4:3
Audio formatMono
Original release3 July 1976 (1976-07-03) 
29 August 1977 (1977-08-29)
Followed byStrangers

In 1976, the first of Royce's novels was adapted for British television by Ivor Marshall, in a three-part series starring Stephen Yardley as Scott. The series co-starred Mark Dignam as shadowy civil-servant and MI5 officer Fairfax, Don Henderson as his nemesis DS George Bulman, and Dennis Blanch as Bulman's assistant, DC Derek Willis. The series, produced by Granada Television, was successful enough for a second series of ten episodes, containing original stories written for television, to follow in 1977. Both series were released as a complete box set via Network Distributing on 26 February 2007.[1]

Although the television adaptation openly depicts a person with XYY syndrome as having criminal tendencies, it was highlighted following the series' broadcast that in real life, there is no connection. An early academic paper studying the conditional probability fallacy resulted in the myth becoming conventional wisdom in the 1970s, but subsequent research has not found any evidence for it. The subject was also touched on in an episode of Doomwatch, 'By the Pricking of My Thumbs...', written by Robin Chapman.

When the series came to an end, the characters of Bulman and Willis were considered popular enough to merit their own spin-off series, Strangers, which followed in 1978. Five series of Strangers were broadcast, before a second and final spin-off series, Bulman, followed in 1985. The popularity of the character of Bulman resulted in Kenneth Royce writing three further novels featuring the character: No Way Back (Hashimi's Revenge) in 1986, and later The Judas Trail (1996) and Shadows (1996).


  • Stephen Yardley as William 'Spider' Scott
  • Don Henderson as DS George Bulman
  • Dennis Blanch as DC Derek Willis
  • Vivienne McKee as Maggie Parsons
  • Mark Dignam as Fairfax (Series 1 & Series 2, Episodes 4—8)
  • Oliver Maguire as Don Stevens (Series 2, Episodes 1—5 & 9)
  • Johnny Shannon as Warren (Series 1, Episode 1 & Series 2, Episodes 1—4)
  • Brian Croucher as Raisen (Series 2, Episodes 1—4)
  • Fiona Curzon as Penny (Series 2, Episodes 1—4)
  • William Squire as Laidlaw (Series 2, Episodes 1—4)


Series 1 (1976)

Episode Title Written by Directed by Original airdate
1"The Proposition"Ivor MarshallKen Grieve3 July 1976 (1976-07-03)
Cat burglar Spider Scott, newly released from prison, is determined to go straight, but Fairfax, a British Intelligence officer, plans to use Spider's talents for his own ends.
2"The Execution"Ivor MarshallKen Grieve10 July 1976 (1976-07-10)
Spider finds himself on the run from foreign agents seeking a valuable photograph they plan to use to bring down the government.
3"The Resolution"Ivor MarshallKen Grieve17 July 1976 (1976-07-17)
Spider decides to take Fairfax on at his own game, and offers to sell the photograph to Li Tshien, unaware that life is in danger.

Series 2 (1977)

Episode Title Written by Directed by Original airdate
1"Friends and Enemies"Tim AspinallKen Grieve27 June 1977 (1977-06-27)
Spider buys a half-share of an executive aircraft charter company. One of his first customers is an old acquaintance from his criminal past, then one of his old friends turns up dead.
2"The Missing Civil Servant"Tim AspinallKen Grieve4 July 1977 (1977-07-04)
Reisen brings pressure to bear on Spider.
3"The Big Bang"Tim AspinallKen Grieve11 July 1977 (1977-07-11)
Spider plays along with the scheme to smuggle a man out of the country, unaware that he is being set up as a decoy for a deadly international operation.
4"At the Bottom of the River"Tim AspinallKen Grieve18 July 1977 (1977-07-18)
Spider is implicated in robbery and murder, and finds Laidlaw and Bulman are both on his tail.
5"When We Were Very Greedy"Murray SmithCarol Wilks25 July 1977 (1977-07-25)
Spider is invited to serve on a committee investigating prison conditions, but is soon asked to resign by the committee chairman.
6"Now We Are Dead"Murray SmithCarol Wilks1 August 1977 (1977-08-01)
Spider is convinced that the police were tipped off about the break-in. He attempts to get close to Thresher's daughter, but soon finds his life under threat.
7"Whisper Who Dares"Murray SmithCarol Wilks8 August 1977 (1977-08-08)
Spider seeks out a criminal who threatened his girlfriend.
8"Law and Order"Edward BoydAlan Grint15 August 1977 (1977-08-15)
Spider, facing a murder charge, agrees to go back to prison to carry out a job for Fairfax – helping another prisoner to escape.
9"The Detrimental Robot"Edward BoydAlan Grint22 August 1977 (1977-08-22)
Spider goes on the run with his fellow escapee, but it isn't only the police who are in pursuit.
10"A View to a Death"Edward BoydAlan Grint29 August 1977 (1977-08-29)
Spider is released from custody, but only so he can help capture an enemy agent.


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