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Batman and Robin In Plain Clothes,
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This review is from: City/Secret Beneath the Sea - The Complete Series [DVD] (DVD)
These two childrens' serials are to some extent a "follow on" to the Pathfinders In Space" ones. In particular, Gerald Flood and Stewart Guidotti, who had played Conway Henderson and Geoffrey Wedgewood, reappear as scientist Mark Bannerman and teenager Peter Blake. Peter Williams (Professor Wedgewood) also appears occasionally as a Navy Captain.
However, I have to say that they don't impress me as much as they did in Pathfinders, though I don't think it's really their fault. They do their best with the parts, but something has definitely been lost, something which I can best describe as "context".
As Henderson and Geoff, they formed part of a larger scheme of things in belonging to the ship's company. Geoff's role, in particular, had a distinct "coming of age" element . Though only about 14, he is considered a full member of it, with responsibilities as radio operator, etc. Treated as a an adult and expected to be one, he rises to the occasion, showing himself prepared to take even unwelcome orders, and in the crisis, when there "aren't enough seats in the lifeboat" he is ready to face death along with the older members of the crew. Though Peter is also brave and resourceful, I feel the loss of this background diminishes his part.
Bannerman too seems a somewhat lesser figure than Henderson, caught up in events rather than a central part of them Removed from that wider context, he and Peter become just a sort of "dynamic duo", rather like a plain clothes version of Batman and Robin.
This impression is reinforced by the nature of the opposition. There is none of the ambivalence, the mixture of good and evil, that we got with Harcourt Brown. Professor Ziebrucken is a comic strip villain, at times reminding me a bit of The Joker and other such figures in the Batman comics. At one point he quite needlessly sentences Peter to death (losing important allies as a result) for no reason except (it would seem) to make it clear that he's the baddie. This seems uncalled for. Not only was Brown not like that, but PiS managed to be an exciting adventure with no human villain at all in the usual sense.
Perhaps, so soon after WW2, it was predictable that the bad guy would be a German (though Harcourt Brown wasn't) but he didn't need to be such a caricature of one. Captain Swendler, also a German, was far more nuanced, with a mixture of good and bad. I suppose it's a bit late now, but I can't help feeling it would have been a better story with Swendler as the villain, making him a sort of "Captain Nemo" figure.
Perhaps I'm being a bit hard on something that was, after all, made for kids, not old fogeys of 64. I don't remember noticing these defects when I watched it at 14, so I've allowed three stars. Yet so was Pathfinders, and that was done far better.
The second serial, Secret Beneath the Sea represents if anything an even further decline. That crooked director, and even more his "hired gun" - who comes over like a refugee from an Eling Comedy - are even hammier (if possible) than Ziebrucken. As Hurree Jamset Ram Singh of happy memory might once have expressed it "The hammyness is absolutely terrific". I especially regret that Kapitan Swendler, about the best character of City, disappears from Secret after the opening chapters. He could have improved it.
Peter's role also declines. In Secret, he comes over as the classic "schoolboy who gets unjustly accused". He's working now as a photographer, but at times his camera seems more central to the plot than he does.
One possibly significant point. For the first two thirds of Secret I was under the impression that I had never seen it. Then in the last couple of chapters I began seeing incidents that rang a bell. Now it could be that for some reason I never got to watch the earlier episodes, but, with six decades experience of how my memory works, I suspect that I saw the whole serial - and my mind just didn't bother to retain it. If so, my subconscious knew what it was doing.
I understand from the series guides that these childrens serials were largely discontinued after Secret. Given the distinct downward trend after Pathfinders, perhaps it was just as well.