UFOwatch: The Responsibility Seat

The Responsibility Seat
written by Tony Barwick / directed by Alan Perry
While Straker tracks down a con woman who could reveal the true nature of the film studio, Freeman is left in charge of SHADO as an out of control vehicle threatens the Monbase.
A nifty episode courtesy of Tony Barwick is in effect a job swap where both Straker and Freeman experience each other’s lifestyles. Normally shut away in his office with a weird glowing screen and drinks machine, Straker is chasing a con lady with whom he becomes involved against his better nature. Freeman meanwhile gets to sit in Straker’s chair which gives the episode its unusual moniker. It’s frivolous at times with a whiff of spy thriller and the two plot lines are sufficiently different to provide the most varied episode of the series so far.
"I know this great sci-fi show on ITV..."

It all starts with the most memorable sequence which is actually unconnected to the main plot and lurches into some sort of gangster movie as Straker appears to be gunned down in a stylised sequence complete with blood.  It’s not him of course and it turns out to be a film shoot. Quite why this bit is here other than to show off is unknown!

Clearly the script calls for a more glamorous and thrilling scenario than the show’s limited budget can deliver. There are some odd decisions even so; Straker’s living room for example is much bigger than the bar we see twice which appears to occupy a corner. Her hotel is also the same building where Paul Foster’s girlfriend lived some weeks ago. On the Moon, the model shots for once struggle to convey the danger of the approaching vehicle containing two Russians who seem to be in another show altogether. You can imagine a sit com episode set on this runaway truck as the duo chortle at each other’s Russian jokes. When Foster  manages to get aboard in a most unlikely fashion they suddenly talk English.

Nonetheless the conclusion is fairly tense as Foster manages to stop the vehicle inches from disaster. You might wonder how come the moment he goes for the great big red `stop` lever the Russians turn violent but I suppose that makes as much (or little) sense as the supposed malady causing them to misbehave. Surely if they are suffering from some kind of pressure stress they would simply pass out rather than start telling jokes? It would have made for a more sensible denouement with Foster struggling to pull the vehicle to a halt being unfamiliar with the equipment. Having the red lever is a bit of a cop out all round.

The more engaging plot is exactly what Jo Fraser is up to. Initially turning up as a journalist to interview Straker in his other capacity as an unconvincing film executive she turns out to be some sort of super con woman. Straker is fooled by her looks and act- a nice turnaround in a late 1960s show- falling for her every trick. Jane Merrow convincingly plays her in a nicely understated manner and there is quite a chemistry between them. George Sewell almost steals the episode though; Freeman’s somewhat hapless command decisions are played with weariness ; my favourite is when he calls up Foster on the Moonbase and proceeds to tells him to “get on with it”. Now that’s the sort of handy advice they need.

It is slightly disappointing that the Responsibility Seat doesn’t turn out to be another SHADO health/ torture regime. Mind you, I bet Freeman left that drinks machine pretty dry…

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