The Inquisitors (and The Inside Man) 1968-1969

Starring Tony Selby as McIver and Alan Lake as Garcia, The Inquisitors was intended to be the first big drama series produced by new franchise holder London Weekend Television for the ITV network. Yet only three episodes were produced and after some early publicity in October 1968, the series was quietly shelved. The Inquisitors was produced by John Bryce, who had produced ABC's Redcap and Honor Blackman's final series of The Avengers. Bryce was notoriously fired in December 1967 after producing three episodes of the Linda Thorson Avengers.

Perhaps uncoincidentally, former Avengers script editor Richard Bates was in place at London Weekend's drama production department. The Inquisitors would have been Bryce's first role as producer after The Avengers.Interestingly, the script editor was Ken Wlaschin, who would later programme the National Film Theatre (now British Film Institute) for its first 15 years. His book To Kill The Pope (1971) was later optioned as a movie but never made. Wlaschin was brother-in-law to Ian and Troy Kennedy Martin, so it's unsurprising that Troy was one of the writers of The Inquisitors, along with James Mitchell, Trevor Preston, Roy Clarke, and Tim Aspinall.

Publicity photos suggest that Tony Selby's character was the more flamboyant, variously dressing in a snakeskin jacket and Crombie overcoat, while Lake was more at home in denim. Selby played a psychiatrist teamed up by the Home Office with Lake's "gipsy-like scintillating conversationalist" to investigate VIP's behaving irrationally. In The Milk of Human Thingy, Patrick MacGee guest starred as a high court judge "with an extraordinary capacity for playing God and handing out harsh sentences." Producer Bryce told the Sunday Mirror (22 September 1968) that, "there's a lot of mental violence in it. The kind that hurts more cruelly than, say, a fist in the eye."

During a visit home to Anlaby Park, episode co-star Maureen Lipman told the Hull Daily Mail on 19 November that she played Dors' flatmate, a fellow stripper called Magda Barcelona. Lake and Dors shared a bedroom scene in this episode and obviously took their work home as they became engaged 18 days later. Their marriage was reported on the 25 November 1968, when the series was still on schedule to premiere in January 1969 and Lake was reported to be under option for a second series.

It's not clear exactly went wrong with The Inquisitors, but on January 11th 1969 its slot was taken by a new London Weekend series: The Inside Man, produced by Derek Granger and David Cunliffe. Not so much a replacement, more a retread of the original idea. The series starred Frederick Jaeger as Doctor James Austen a psychiatrist and criminologist sometimes working for Dawnay (Basil Henson) of 'the Department', other times hired by private individuals. His co-star was Petra Davies, as 'girl Friday' Sarah Worth, hired at short notice (according to the 4 January 1969 TV Times) for 'the ITV series whipped into production to replace the now defunct Inquisitors.' Robin Ellis is introduced in the third episode Crosscheck as Michael Barnett a spy who the Department wants Austen to positively vet, despite every fact about him being an easily verified lie.

The first episode guest starred Fulton Mackay as the survivor of an accidental RAF bombing which has wiped out his family. According to a review in The Stage (23 January 1969) Austen, "a specialist in those dark places of the mind where problems unsolved can often lead to acts of sudden violence," tries to rehabilitate Mackay but he slips through the net in search of the RAF pilot who bombed his family, giving, " a suitably eerie performanc keeping us guessing about his intentions with nicely judged touches of ambiguity"

Other episodes included Discord by David Ellis , in which eminent concert pianist Robert Flemyng is released after 18 months in a Russian prison camp. His wife Lisa Daniely hires Austen to address her fears about what sort of a person her husband will be after his ordeal. Lady In The Bath by Paul Erickson guest starred Melissa Stribling as Rachel Marlowe, a glamorous film director found dead in her bath. Austen reconstructs her life from the stories of the people who knew her, concluding that it is not a straightforward suicide. Reviewer Ian Tabrett noted that, " the style of the production is to unfold the invariably nasty plot through a series of brief flashbacks which have a totally boggling effect. There is always plenty of blood and sex for the object of the exercise seems to be to cram as much as possible into each episode. Last night was no exception. The bloody death of a nymphomanic in the bath, a gassing, several coshings, the goings on in a mortuary and lesbianism." In Revenge for a Visitor Austen is retained to treat a Polish girl who appears to be terrified by sudden explosions of family hatred. For Dawnay (Basil Henson) it leads to a deadly plot of political revenge.

The reason for the cancellation of The Inquisitors remains a matter for speculation. Certainly both Selby and Lake quickly found work in West End plays. Selby landed an advert for a bank (in which he kept his bank manager in a cupboard) which he told a newspaper made his face well-known but also earned him as much as starring in a TV play. Before the end of the year Lake would appear in Dixon of Dock Green and an adaptation of John Wain's The Contenders, while Selby would star with Timothy Bateson as lighthousemen in the comedy series Shine A Light and go on to co-star as Sam Maxted in Ace of Wands.

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