Special Branch (1969–1974)
8.2/10
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A Copper Called Craven 

DCI Alan Craven is accused of taking bribes. Things go from bad to worse as an internal investigation uncovers a questionable deposit in his bank account. Suspended from duty, Craven must clear his name or face criminal charges.

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Cast

Episode complete credited cast:
...
Roger Rowland ...
...
Pettiford
Sheila Scott-Wilkenson ...
Pam Sloane (as Sheila Scott Wilkinson)
Richard Butler ...
Tony Selby ...
Ridley
...
Workman
Patrick Connor ...
Corrigan (as Patrick Cowner)
Patrick Jordan ...
Customs Official
Jennifer Piercey ...
Landlady
Frank Jarvis
John Scholes
Peter Hughes
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Storyline

DCI Alan Craven is accused of taking bribes. Things go from bad to worse as an internal investigation uncovers a questionable deposit in his bank account. Suspended from duty, Craven must clear his name or face criminal charges.

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Action | Crime

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Release Date:

4 April 1973 (UK)  »

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"Of all the coppers in London, why pick on me?"
19 November 2008 | by (Ambrosia) – See all my reviews

On the B.B.C.'s 'I Love The '70's', it was incorrectly stated that 'The Sweeney' was the first filmed British crime television series. Season Three of 'Special Branch' beat it to the airwaves by two years. The earlier seasons, shot on videotape with film inserts, starred Derren Nesbitt as 'D.C.I. Jordan'. After a gap of three years, it was reformatted and recast. Craggy-faced George Sewell took up the main role of 'D.C.I. Alan Craven', a tough man in a tough world. The new-look show was the first to be made by Euston Films, an offshoot of Thames T.V. Over the next two decades, it made some of the most successful British television shows ever - 'Minder', 'Danger U.X.B.', 'Widows', 'Quatermass', 'Reilly Ace Of Spies', 'The Flame Trees Of Thika' and, of course, 'The Sweeney'.

'A Copper Called Craven', written by Roger Marshall, begins with small-time crook 'Ridley' ( Tony Selby ) being arrested while trying to smuggle gold watches through customs at Heathrow airport. In his defence he claims that he had bribed 'D.C.I. Craven' to let him through. Craven is suspended from active duty in the Special Branch. His home is searched by detectives, and he is subjected to harsh interrogation at the hands of 'Pettiford' ( Peter Jeffrey ). To make matters worse, a large sum of money has been deposited in his bank account, so clearly someone is trying to frame him. But whom? Craven embarks on a one-man quest to clear his name...

You immediately know you are not watching 'Dixon Of Dock Green' thanks to the tinted opening titles which feature shots of London tourist landmarks interspersed with Craven loading and firing his gun, looking at mug-shots, and watching a fan-dancer in a Soho club. As cinemas were full of films such as 'Get Carter', 'Sitting Target', and 'Villain', it was inevitable that television would be influenced in some way. Of course 'Special Branch' had some way to go, the early Season Three episodes feature little by way of action, but that would change over time. Patrick Mower was brought in to play 'D.C.I. Tom Haggerty', a younger, brasher detective ( an ex-Flying Squad man ) often at loggerheads with Craven. Sewell is marvellous, wonderfully conveying the anger and frustration of the framed detective. Nobody likes a bent copper, least of all the police themselves. Much of Craven's background is sketched in, such as him having had a poor upbringing, which Pettiford tries to use to his advantage by making it seem like justification for corruption. Sewell is hardly Robert Redford, and this gives it an extra dimension of reality. Watching him in this it is hard to believe that only three years before he had been chasing green-skinned aliens in the cult sci-fi drama 'U.F.O.'! Peter Jeffrey likewise turns in a powerful performance as Pettiford. The actor had played villains in shows such as 'The Avengers' and also acted in Lindsay Anderson's 'If...'. The scenes where he interrogates Craven are superbly written and acted, boasting a smattering of expletives that were rare for television at the time. Craven has a black girlfriend - 'Nurse Pam Sloane' ( Sheila Scott-Wilkinson ) - a fact exploited by his accusers.

A very good piece of crime drama then, and a strong season opener. A pity the show became overshadowed by 'The Sweeney' because it is comparable in terms of quality. And I think it has a better theme tune!


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