I watched the first episode of this six-parter the day after the Foinavon Grand National and Sandie Shaw's victory in the Eurovision Song Contest. Based on an R L Stevenson novel, the story opens with a group of seven French prisoners (including the eponymous hero) in the process of attempting to escape from Edinburgh Castle towards the end of the Napoleonic Wars. With my love of well-defined casts of characters, I immediately took to the group's leader, Laclas, a veteran sergeant of dragoons, Gautier, a sailor, Sombref, a peasant, the 'baddies' Goguelat and the treacherous Clausel and the educated, cultured hero, St. Ives himself. This last has won the heart of a prison visitor, Flora Gilchrist, and when the uncouth Goguelat speaks disparagingly of her, he and St. Ives fight a midnight duel in the communal cell (each armed with a makeshift sword with a blade of one half of a separated pair of scissors) in which the former is mortally wounded. After the escape, St. Ives is separated from the others and it was a grief to me that Laclas, Gautier and Saladin (who does not appear in the novel) drown off screen in their escape attempt. Sombref, although rescued, dies later from injuries sustained in the escape and the only survivor, the treacherous Clausel, attempts to perjure St. Ives as a murderer for Goguelat's death before St. Ives and Flora are united in a happy ending as the hero comes into his substantial inheritance.
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