When rioting breaks out in Victoria, Africa, secret agent John Drake must pose as a gunrunner in order to meet the man behind the violence, Khano. He makes his way into Khano's confidence, ...
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When rioting breaks out in Victoria, Africa, secret agent John Drake must pose as a gunrunner in order to meet the man behind the violence, Khano. He makes his way into Khano's confidence, and hoping to put an end to the killings, takes Khano's wife to see firsthand the devastation her husband is causing. Written by
Last show of the 1/2 hr series. DANGER MAN will return, in 1964, with episodes being expanded to 1hr, and the John Drake character being retconned - instead of working for NATO, and being American, he will work for M9 ( a stand-in for Mi6), and be British. See more »
In 1961, black actors in American movies and TV series typically didn't appear as more than servants, bit players, and/or characters with no particular intellect or power. Works like "A Raisin in the Sun," whose film version came out that year, were exceptions. The US, after all, was still three years away from the Civil Rights Act ending segregation. It would be even longer before a black actress joined the cast of "Star Trek" to play a minor lieutenant.
Then there's "Deadline", final episode of the first "Danger Man" (DM) series from Britain. Talk about going against the grain!
This espionage series, and its mid-60s follow-up, frequently send its hero John Drake across the world to various real and fictional foreign countries made up of what would be racial and ethnic minorities in the UK and US.
DM has three habits that are unusual for the era. It often writes minorities to be major roles. The minorities are played by both white and genuine minority guest stars -- sometimes in the same episode. And DM does not frequently apply garish make-up (like yellowface) to the white actors. In the episodes I've seen, the white actors are more often just whites who can pass for Arab or latino, especially on a black and white show, relying less on tricks like face-darkening.
This casting may still seem a little outdated today, but what really sets DM apart from other shows of the era is how respectful it is of all its characters. It makes minorities into major, rounded characters, and usually doesn't resort to racial stereotypes and clichés. Complexity, detail, intelligence and articulateness are its custom instead, for heroes and villains of all races.
Perhaps "Deadline" is the most overt example, because it also features an all-black guest cast. Indeed, series star Patrick McGoohan is the only non-black on the whole cast list of a dozen. It's great how the script simply treats blacks implicitly as equals to whites -- as people who, in fact, can excel in the episode's London and African settings. Basically all the blacks here are smart, elegant and well-spoken. They include a professor, an Oxford graduate, and no less than a knight of the Empire, one Sir Aaron Nelson!
As refreshing as it is to see such respectful diversity, it highlights how sadly far behind the curve America was. In a show set in parts of America, after all, Sir Aaron wouldn't be allowed to drink out of the white folks' water fountain, let alone be knighted by his society. Simply put, I doubt a US network spy series would've dared to create an episode like "Deadline" in 1961.
A progressive spirit is clearly the best feature of this episode, which is otherwise below-average for the series. It's heavy on talky scenes, the worst of which might be Daniels', which is both redundant and literally bedridden. The espionage and thriller factors are just standard. Below-average DM is still good TV, though, not least of all because of the usual high production values and acting quality. The Drake/Khano scenes are solid. William Marshall gives a strong performance as Khano, the rich, charismatic slimeball of a pol.
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