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Back on the beat at Dock Green nick
on 23 June 2013
Dixon of Dock Green was a series particularly hard hit by the BBC archive purges of the 1960's and 1970's. Out of the 432 episodes made, only 32 exist today - 11 in black & white and 21 in colour.
The first Acorn release contained six of the first seven surviving colour episodes (Molenzicht was not included due to unspecified rights issues). This DVD contains the next six existing episodes (all originally transmitted as part of the 21st season in 1975). So if sales are good hopefully we should get volume three in due course (the final season - and the only complete Dixon season that remains) and then volume four could mop up the existing b&w episodes.
Of the six episodes contained on this DVD, two of them (Baubles, Bangles & Beads and A Slight Case of Love) only exist as domestic recordings because the original videotapes were wiped back in the 1970's. This means that the picture quality is not quite broadcast standard, but they are still quite watchable. And given the small number of Dixons that still exist, I'm sure most people would sooner have them than not, even with the lesser PQ.
Looking at these two episodes, Baubles has a lighter touch than some of the other stories on this set and is quite amusing at times. Love, about a female con-woman, is helped no end by a guest turn by Julian Glover who is always good value in anything he appears in.
Target - which sees the Dock Green coppers stumble across a Special Branch stakeout - is a strong opening episode with a fine performance by Anthony Steel as the mysterious Mr Smith. Also very good is the final story on this release - Conspiracy. Concerning an investigation by Dixon and Crawford into possible police corruption, it was the last episode of the 21st season and for a while it looked like it could have been the final story of all until the go-ahead was given for one more season.
The first Dixon DVD, released last year, saw a welcome reassessment of the programme, as for far too long the show was regarded as a paternalistic and hopelessly out-of-date dinosaur. This view was seemingly formed from a handful of out of context clips from the early b&w episodes. The colour Dixons were hardly discussed at all, and when they were it was usually only to convey amazement that the programme had lasted so long.
The reality is that the majority of the surviving colour Dixons are very engaging dramas, as well as the historical interest they have in allowing us to see how both the urban landscape and attitudes have changed in the last 40 years. This DVD is well worth a purchase, and hopefully Acorn will release the remaining episodes in due course.