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"Kessler" (1981)
8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Not as good as Secret Army, 11 August 2006

The first episode of the "Kessler" mini series is a re-worked version of the (unbroadcast) final episode of "Secret Army" (1977-79), "What Did You Do In the War Daddy?", which the BBC management had refused to broadcast in 1979.

As such, the first episode features the surviving cast of "Secret Army" - Albert, Monique and Natalie. This is great, but they only appear in the first episode (which sets up this series).

Overall, "Kessler" was disappointing. It didn't have the strong dramatic tensions which had made "Secret Army" such a success. Removed from his Gestapo post, and on the run, Kessler was no longer the sinister menace that had given the character such strength in "Secret Army".

And it was, of course, impossible to present the character sympathetically. This was a serious drawback to the series. The main character must have the audience's sympathy if we are to care what happens to him.

"Secret Army" had very successfully characterised its two Luftwaffe officers - Major Brandt and Major Rienhardt - sympathetically, by their contrast to the evil Kessler. But it was impossible for the writers to do anything with Kessler himself other than demonise the character. This seriously undermined the "Kessler" series, as there was never any chance for the audience to like the lead character.

The presence of the well-loved Resistance heroes of "Secret Army" might yet have saved the day. But that was made impossible by the decision to set the sequel mainly in South America, and to give it a completely new cast (for all but the first episode). Only Kessler himself continued from "Secret Army".

I was particularly surprised by the absence of Madelaine (Hazel McBride), Kessler's only friend in the earlier series, who might have stood at least some chance of showing up a human side to him.