Breaking Point
BBC 1966
TX : 22nd October 1966

Publicity : Breaking Point - A new five-part serial by master thriller writer Victor Canning: Most people have heard the rumours of inventions suppressed by big business for financial reasons: the everlasting electric light-bulb, wear-proof rubber, and so on. Victor Canning, that old master of the thriller form, has taken just such a notion as the starting point for his new serial, the first of whose five episodes comes to the screen tonight. Professor Max Stevens is a metallurgist, brilliant but erratic, who has made a highly important breakthrough. He has discovered a form of steel which is immune to metal fatigue, and among its implications are cars which could endure for generations and bicycles which might easily last forever. Suddenly the principle of "built-in obsolescence" which keeps much of the industry solvent seems itself to be outdated; so Martin Kennedy of Group S, Internal Security, is ordered to contact Stevens in order that his discovery can be saved for the nation and from the international interests who would seek to stifle it. From here on the plot is thickened with an ingenuity right up to the standard which can be expected from an author who has been called on of the six best thriller writers in the world. The cast is worthy of the story's quality: William Russell, whose work has ranged from a major part in Doctor Who to touring Macbeth round Russia, as the agent Martin Kennedy; Rosemary Nichols, seen on BBC Television in Ann Veronica and The Likely Lads, as Diana Maxwell, the girl whom Kennedy has reluctantly to accept as his assistant; and Terence Longdon, a veteran of Compact, as the hireling of a ruthless American industrialist. The serial is directed by Douglas Camfield, whose career before television included spells as an Army officer, a dishwasher, and a farm labourer. (Radio Times, October 20, 1966).

Notes :
Episodes were originally transmitted 10:00pm to 10:25pm on BBC 2.

TX : 29th October 1966

Synopsis :
Agent Martin Kennedy gets orders to contact Professor Max Stevens, inventor of a vital fatigue-free alloy. He arrives to find Stevens' house at Scunthorpe the scene of grim tragedy.

TX : 5th November 1966

Synopsis :
Diana and Kennedy trace Stevens' sister - but too late. Stevens, thinking he has a buyer for his formula, has left for the fatal appointment.

TX : 12th November 1966

Synopsis :
Kennedy traces Stevens to Madame Krondstadt. He releases the Professor but they are trapped by Benny. There is a fight and it is Stevens who gets hold of the gun.

TX : 19th November 1966

Synopsis :
Diana and Kennedy corner Stevens at a seaside bungalow. They agree a deal with him - unaware that Hellman has followed and is closing in for the kill.

Portrayed By
William Russell
Rosemary Nichols
Professor Max Stevens
Bernard Kay
Sir Alfred
Richard Hurndall
Paul Guess
Vernon Dobtcheff
Bank Servant
Leslie Rocker
Robert Lee
Michael Segal
Royston Tickner
Crown Servant
Ves Delahunt
Michael Miller
Mrs Stevens
Norma Parnell
Norman Hartley
Brian Beasley

The series was written created by Victor Canning. The series was produced by Alan Bromly and directed by Douglas Camfield.

At the height of the 1960s, fashions were changing, British society was riding the crest of a wave, and technological breakthroughs were changing the face of industry and medicine. What better place to set a thriller serial concerning this last and most important of worldwide changes? The pace at which technological advances were being made was radically changing people's standards of living, and never more so than in the industrial sector.

Breaking Point, a five-part thriller serial by Victor Canning (rated at this stage as one of the six best thriller writers in the world), concerned just such a breakthrough, the nature of which was reflected in the programme's title. Metallurgist Professor Max Stevens (Bernard Kay) perfects a type of metal which resists fatigue - a scientific breakthrough which will revolutionise the industrial world and beyond. However, such discoveries never remain secret for long, and from beyond the laboratory interested parties are gathering in force. The British Government is determined to gain control of the Professor's notes, but agents from behind the Iron Curtain are ranged to execute similar missions. Internal Security Agency Group S dispatches their best agent, Martin Kennedy (William Russell), to contact Stevens and procure the relevant paperwork and experimentation details from him in the nation's interests, but he soon finds that he must act as the Professor's only line of protection.

Upon arrival in Scunthorpe he finds the Professor's home has been ransacked, the man in question has fled in fear for his life, and patches of blood in his home appear to confirm that he is badly injured. He reluctantly joins forces with Diana Maxwell (Rosemary Nichols) - Stevens' assistant- in his pursuit of the Professor's whereabouts, and their investigations lead them to uncover an ambitious plot in which the man who made such a breakthrough discovery is being pushed to his own breaking point in a desperate bid by foreign powers to obtain a veritable licence to print money…

The serial, shorter than Canning's previous contributions to the illustrious thriller-serial collection BBC Television proudly boasted throughout the 1960s, is somewhat clichéd in places but was nevertheless a highly-charged and deftly-paced peice of scripting. This was equally matched by the customary talents of Alan Bromly in the producer's chair and Douglas Camfield undertaking directorital responsibilities. The programme was a showcase for William Russell, newly-emerged from the Doctor Who stable, and also featured notable supporting performances from Richard Hurndall, Vernon Dobtcheff, Royston Ticker and an uncredited Lynda Baron. The serial was globally exported but never commercially released.

Text © Matthew Lee 2004.