Spy-catching by remote control

The Man in Room 17 begins

TVTimes masthead
From the TVTimes for week commencing 5 June 1965

A COUPLE of super-intelligent master sleuths are caught up in a web of international espionage, violence and corruption in The Man in Room 17 which starts on Friday.

The series runs the gamut between comedy thriller and pure adventure. “What it definitely is not,” director-producer Dick Everitt told me. “is neurotic or kinky.”

“The Man” is an immodest ex-Oxford type with a superior IQ whose mind is trained to devour information like a computer. He rose to eminence during the planning of the Allied invasion of Europe on D-Day. His name is Oldenshaw.

His partner — a man in his forties — is Dimmock. Dimmock is more direct — Oldenshaw’s red-brick equal. Together they pull the strings which make the undercover world dance.

Answerable only to the Prime Minister, they use their power ruthlessly and are generally accepted as infallible in the held.

Two men stare at a puzzle game
Master sleuths at play… Michael Aldridge, left, and Richard Vernon over a Wei-Chi board – a Chinese game of skill

Room 17, situated somewhere in Whitehall, is the secret centre of operations for the Department of Special Research. Oldenshaw and Dimmock handle cases which have baffled the security services.

Each case is treated by Oldenshaw as an intellectual problem. It is purely mental deduction that allows the two men to reach their conclusions. But they can also call on a legion of friends on the “old boy” network.

Richard Vernon, who plays the bearded Oldenshaw, told me: “We’re a couple of sparkling English amateurs. Our reasoning powers are almost limitless, and our knowledge is like two halves of a vast reference library ”

Dimmock is played by Michael Aldridge, and another regular in the series will be Willoughby Goddard, as Assistant Commissioner Sir Geoffrey Norton.

Because Oldenshaw and Dimmock are never seen outside Room 17, the series has been made using a split drama technique. One team of actors, writers, directors and designers produced the stories outside the Room, and a second team produced the scenes inside it.

Dick Everitt said: “There arc two distinct ingredients in the series — Room 17 and the world outside. Therefore, the mood has to be different.

“The most effective way to sharpen the contrast between the two was to separate them. The Room is fantasy. It is the remote, analytical centre of operations which exerts its influence on the outside world.

“The action takes place out side the Room, but I think viewers will come to relish the humour in Room 17 as much as the colour outside.

“Men like Oldenshaw and Dimmoek could not exist in real life, but the outside scenes certainly could.”

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