Freewheelers: Season 1, Episode 1

Menace: Part 1 - The Sleepers (4 Apr. 1968)

TV Episode  -   -  Family
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Bill Cowan and Terry Driver discover that the complete crew of a nuclear submarine have been abducted from the London to Portsmouth train.


(as Chris McMaster)


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Episode complete credited cast:
Tom Owen ...
Mary Maude ...
Ronald Govey ...
Michael Brennan ...
Ivan Beavis ...
John Swindells ...
Bartlett Mullins ...
Frank Jarvis ...
Michael Bird ...
Robin Fletcher ...


Bill Cowan and Terry Driver discover that the complete crew of a nuclear submarine have been abducted from the London to Portsmouth train.

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Release Date:

4 April 1968 (UK)  »

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Did You Know?


Production of all episodes of this programme was made possible by the use of MV Southerner, Southern Television's own outside broadcast vessel, with three cameras, mixer, video recorder, etc. In many episodes the boat also appeared as the baddies' ship. See more »

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User Reviews

Terror By Train
3 February 2007 | by (Ambrosia) – See all my reviews

Students Bill Cowan and Terry Driver are travelling by train through the south of England. The former strikes up a conversation with a sailor called Alf, who invites him into the dining car he shares with the soon-to-be crew of a new Polaris submarine - the Theseus. But a steward kindly asks Bill to leave. On his way out, he notices a second steward unconscious on the kitchen floor. He tells the ticket collector, but when he goes to investigate, the body has vanished. Bill tries to tell the sailors, but finds the dining car gone! This time the ticket collector has to believe him. The train heads back to the point where it lost the car. A new surprise is in store for Bill - the sailors are not the same men!

The long-running children's series 'Freewheelers' began with this, the first of a five-part story entitled 'Menace'. Creator/producer Chris McMaster envisioned the show as 'James Bond for kids' and that's what it was - albeit on a much smaller budget! Some impressive night-time scenes as Von Gelb's men prepare to swap the unconscious sailors. Credit for this must go to the late Stanley Brehaut, who worked on all Southern T.V.'s shows. The music was library stock - also used in early 'Avengers' episodes - but fitted the show well. The opening teaser on the mock-up submarine gets James Hopes' story off to an intriguing start. The arch-villain Von Gelb is referred to here as 'Number One'. Tom Owen, who plays 'Bill' is the son of the late actor Bill Owen and replaced him in 'Last Of The Summer Wine' following his father's death. His 'Freewheelers' character is a scarf-wearing egghead not unlike Ronnie Corbett's 'Charley Farley' in 'The Two Ronnies'. Ivor Beavis, who played 'Bryant' was well known to viewers as 'Harry Hewitt' in 'Coronation Street' - even though his character had been killed off the year before.

If 'Freewheelers' were to be made now, it would certainly be very different. Faster-paced, more outlandish, heavy on special effects. But British television serials for children of the '60's and '70's unfolded slowly week by week. And they were better for it!

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