Special Branch (1969–1974)

TV Series   |    |  Action, Crime, Drama

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Special Branch (1969) Poster

Groundbreaking British police drama series following the exploits of the Special Branch of the Metropolitan Police. An elite group of officers tasked with protecting London from spies, terrorists, and subversives.


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4 July 2017 | alexanderdavies-99382
| The early episodes are very good, the later ones are average.
A television series like "Special Branch" existed at different times and as two different programmes. The early episodes - broadcast in 1969 and 1970 - were filmed on videotape with inserts shot on 16 mm film added into the episode. The leading man of this particular series was Derren Nesbitt, a popular actor from the 50s til the early 70s. He played the tough but honest police officer Detective Inspector Elliott Jordan. This character specialised in cases of investigating security leaks, drug trafficking,people smuggling, political activists etc. He had a whole team of officers who worked alongside him. On frequent occasions, a rather shadowy civil servant by the name of Moxon would liason with Special Branch but usually hindered them in their investigations. The character was played by Morris Perry. The series was broadcast by "Thames Television" and was popular in the ratings. You had the usual modest studio production values but I always overlook that if a series has good storytelling. By the time "Special Branch" was being broadcast in colour in 1970, Derren Nesbitt and Morris Perry were about the only actors remaining from the black and white series but they were joined by Fulton MacKay, who played Jordan's superior at New Scotland Yard. All kinds of cases are investigated and they are very good. Altogether, 27 episodes were made and they are the best in my opinion. For many years, the early instalments were hard to obtain. Then when the "Euston Films" episodes were first issued on DVD, on each set was an episode with Derren Nesbitt. I was delighted as he is an actor I always enjoy watching. Then in 2007 and 2008, all 27 episodes from 1969 and 1970 were finally released on DVD. The series was laid to rest for a while. Then in 1972, "Euston Films" began producing their own version of "Special Branch." These were all shot entirely on film and technically, was the new look for British television. However, it wasn't the first of its kind. A programme like "I.T.V Play of the Week" was making episodes on film as far back as 1969. But "Euston Films" was the company that really introduced this new kind of television to the masses. George Sewell and Patrick Mower were cast for this series as characters Detective Inspector Alan Craven and Detective Inspector Tom Haggerty respectively. The plots of these later episodes cover the same kind of stories pretty much as before. The episodes were broadcast in 1973 and 1974. Personally, most of these episodes are a disappointment. There are 26 altogether and I would say 7 are pretty good but the majority feel rather half-baked and boring. The problem is, is that the opening credit sequence gives a strong impression of "Special Branch" being an action series. This is shown via a car chase, Craven punching someone and of his firing a gun at a target range. Now, taking all this into account, you could be forgiven for thinking this is a "Sweeney" type series before that show came along. However, "Special Branch" isn't and never was an action series. It is motivated by drama and by character. So "Euston Films" were slightly guilty of misleading their viewers by advertising their series incorrectly. I didn't really take to Craven as a character. I know his job calls for him to be tough and even ruthless on occasion but I found him to be a rather unpleasant, obstinate, unreasonable and bullying character. Just watching the 1973 episode "Inquisition" confirms this for me. I thought Patrick Mowers character was much more affable and sympathetic. Paul Eddington was cast as the civil servant, Strand. Just like with Moxon, Strand was a bit of a thorn in the side of Craven and Haggerty. The storytelling side and the writing are both routine and just about watchable. It was the series of "Sweeney" that really brought British television up to date in how that series was made. In addition, it is also a far more exciting and entertaining show in ways that "Special Branch" could only dream of.

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Release Date:

17 September 1969



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