Saturday, 27 January 2018

"A hansom cab... a gas-lit street... and Sergeant Cork!!"

"A hansom cab... a gas-lit street... and Sergeant Cork!!"

Sometimes in our journey through the television archives, we trip over a show that seems have have been utterly forgotten, but we cannot work out why. 'Sergeant Cork' was a long-running series that consistently achieved high standards, yet draws blanks looks from people if you happen to mention it in casual conversation.

We dipped into it with almost no knowledge about what to expect, but within a couple of episodes, we knew we'd hit upon a winner.

First airing in 1963 and starring John Barrie (later to appear in 'Z Cars') as Cork and a terribly young William Gaunt as Bob Marriott, its setting in Victorian London allows for all manner of grimy stories to be told.

These are the early days of detective work and Cork is keen on new-fangled techniques such as fingerprints and photography. He's also very fond of 'stickjaw' toffee.

Created by 'Dixon Of Dock Green' mastermind Ted Willis, it criticizes the upper echelons of society and the class divide. A champion of the downtrodden, Cork doesn't mind who he upsets in his pursuit of justice. The liberal and progessive values of the writers shine through when watching the stories today, and the series definitely deserves a repeat of some sort.

'Sergeant Cork' is very atmospheric; its use of shadows and fog push it towards the gothic on occasion. Episodes such as 'The Case Of The Pious Patriarch' or 'The Case Of Albert Watson, VC' are not afraid to dabble in some very murky waters. The show consistently features excellent guest stars (though Peter Sallis in full Chinese make-up raises a few eyebrows today!) and proved to be a very welcome and worthwhile addition to our DVD collection.

And we should note that 'Sergeant Cork' is the reason why Harry H Corbett's character in 'Carry On Screaming' rejoices in the name of Sergeant Bung...

For our article in Episode Five, we were greatly helped by Warren, who has essentially become our Special Advisor for whenever we cover a police series. His knowledge of the history of the constabulary would prove to be invaluable in later issues...

All six series of 'Sergeant Cork' are available from Network.

You may watch them while eating toffee, if you like!

(By Andrew Trowbridge)

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