PUBLIC EYE - Thoughts on an old TV programme

   My only prior knowledge of this series was as something on the
   telly that my parents liked to watch about some guy with a
   long face in a light mac wandering about quietly talking to
   people. It is curious how the placing of a silver disc into a slot
   changes everything. The ‘theme tune’ is the first thing to
   spellbind you; a trombone and guitar, two utterly dissimilar
   instruments in discussion, trying to pull each other different ways
   harmonically, yet somehow everything belongs together; a
   perfect musical metaphor for what takes place in the show
   itself. It seems to me that this is all about ambivalence.

   Frank Marker is not so much inscrutable as the embodiment of
   ambivalence. His investigations necessarily involve him using
   deceit, yet he is an honest man with a strong sense of fair play.
   He is a ‘Billy no-mates’, an independent loner, yet people take
   to him and want to help him. He seems to have no need of
   friends yet is friendly to people. He understands others yet seems
   to be uncertain about himself. All this seems to project into his
   surroundings such that everything takes on this hue; a sort of
   Frank Marker universe that is true to our world in a curiously
   parallel sort of way. The stories also seem to reflect this scenario
   in their structure. They begin by establishing a premise that seems
   firm enough to lead to an inevitable set of possible conclusions,
   yet during the course of the episode this slowly erodes to reveal
   something quite different: Not in the form of vulgar ‘twist’
   endings, but in the way a snake sheds its skin or a face of
   somebody walking towards you subtly changes as the person
   gets closer.

   The introduction of 'Nell' is particularly inspired in the way that
   she replaces the function of Mrs Mortimer in a completely
   different, yet thoroughly effective realisation.

   Nell is seen as a sort of fairy of the lavender mist dwelling in an
   undisturbed part of the garden, just beyond the old iron gate,
   whom we go to 'talk to' in quiet moments. Her location in the
   Victorian antiques shop, her looks and polite manners, innocent
   but not naive, support this idea as Marker makes visits to her
   enchanted world. She is the living incarnation of the china doll
   he purchases in the Brighton series; a world utterly different from
   the one Marker must inhabit to earn his living, yet indicating
   something of his interior life, untainted by his pavement-
   pounding routine. One feels it is the same place that gives birth
   to his fundamental honesty and sense of fair play. The gift of an
   adhesive sole for his leaking shoe is a particularly beautiful and
   touching metaphor; a crazy sort of inversion of the Cinderella
   motif. Full of charm, sensitivity and affection, this relationship is
   entirely without lust or conditions, so different from the
   relationship he has with the policeman Percy Fairbank with its
   friendship born out of their shared professional concerns.

   Chris Bennett 2008