BBC 1975
The Price Of Violence
TX : 29th August 1975
Director : Peter Graham Scott
Script : Michael J Bird

Publicity : A Man Above Trouble - The hit-man is not just a fictional anti-hero; the Jackal, after all, has just emerged into an all-too-real network of marksmanship and police chases. This is the world of Quiller and a new television series starting this week. It is a dangerous, lonely life. Here Russell Miller discovers how a man survives it: TOP SECRET - CONTROLLER'S EYES ONLY - (NOT TO BE REMOVED FROM FILES [AUTO-DESTRUCT].

Code Name: Quiller. Classification: 9 (has withstood torture). Date of Birth: 11.10.36. Personal History: Not recorded. Vulnerabilities: Nil. Operational Sphere: World-wide. Missions Completed: 35 as at Aug 75. Injuries Sustained: See medic file JA/594/B. Modus Operandi: Alone. Unarmed. Special Comments: Can be difficult - handle with care. Will: Nothing of value, no dependants, next-of-kin unknown. Quiller is not his real name. He works for an organisation known as The Bureau, which officially does not exist. His past is a mystery. He does not drink or smoke, never carries a gun, rarely smiles. He is obdurate, nihilistic, extremely dangerous.

This is how he describes his job: "You've got to learn to cross the line and live your life outside society, shut yourself away from people, cut yourself off. Out there you're alone and you have no one you can trust, not even the people running you: because if you make a mistake and look like fouling up the mission or exposing The Bureau, then they'll throw you to the dogs". The words are Elleston Trevor's. Mr Trevor, author of some thirty-four books, created the enigmatic figure of Quiller in the mid-1960s when the spy novel, as a genre, was at its zenith. Fleming, Deighton and Le Carre had presented the fictional secret agent with a totally new image. Gone were the unashamedly xenophobic and gentlemanly days of Richard Hanny and Bulldog Drummond. James Bond was packing the cinemas, laying all the best-looking girls, eating and drinking of the best, ruthlessly killing his enemies.

John Le Carre, in The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, had shown, almost for the first time, the seamy dishonesty of the whole espionage business. And in The Ipcress File, Len Deighton's spy hero was something else again: a cheeky working-class lad from Burnley with a cheerful dislike for all forms of authority. Following this illustrious line came Quiller. Close, antic-social, acerbic, almost puritanical, he owed nothing to his forebears. Elleston Trevor, writing under the pen-name Adam Hall, completed six Quiller books (the first of which was filmed as The Quiller Memorandum) and none of them sheds any real light on the emotions or motivation of the main character. Brain Spattered All Over The Wall: Paradoxically, it is the deliberately unanswered questions about Quiller that make him such an interesting man. You know nothing of his background, how he came into such a dangerous game. He claims he is in the business because he needs the stimulation of constant risks; yet there is an underlying implication of high morality, a desire for a better world.

Michael Jayston, who plays Quiller in the BBC-1 series starting this week, says that about the only thing they have in common is that neither of them carries a gun. Jayston is thirty-six, married with three children, and thoroughly enjoys both drinking and smoking. He was born in Nottingham and worked as a trainee accountant in the offices of the National Coal Board before he became an actor. "I had always been very keen on the idea of acting, but it wasn't until I happened to see a touring company in action that I decided to have a go". He won a scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and kept himself by working during the holidays in Nottingham fish market. After a spell with Salisbury repertory, he joined Bristol Old Vic and then the Royal Shakespeare Company. His portrayal of the Tsar in the film Nicholas And Alexandra established his reputation.

Last year he took over Alec McCowen's role in Equus at the National Theatre. Jayston does not take life too seriously. In Who's Who In The Theatre, he says his favourite sport is "listening to drains". "You mustn't get the idea that Quiller and I are totally out of sympathy," Jayston was careful to point out. "There is a lot about him which I respect. For example, he's an obstinate, perverse so-and-so. The way they get him to accept a mission is to tell him he can't do it, so he will then do his damnedest to get it out of sheer bloody-mindedness. That I like. But there are also elements of his character that would really frighten me. I mean, this business of refusing ever to carry a gun. He justifies it by saying that a gun would give him a false sense of superiority; he reckons his brain will get him out of tricky situations. Well, if you and I were agents on opposing sides out to get each other and you had a gun and I didn't, it seems to me that my brain is more likely to be spattered all over the wall than helping me escape".

Although predominantly a classical actor, Jayston had no qualms about taking on the role of a contemporary hero. "I have always loved spy stories," he said. "I remember in the books I used to read as a kid, secret agents were terribly sporting. Of course it is different now: spies are just as likely to be inadequate, expendable, sordid little me as heroes. I suppose the reality of being a secret agent lies somewhere between the two extremes. Personally, I wouldn't think Bond bears much resemblance to the real thing. But Quiller … well, who knows?". (Radio Times, August 23, 1975 - Article by Russell Miller)..

Cast : Sinead Cusack (Roz), Ed Bishop, Marc Zuber, Peter Tuddenham, Judy Liebert, Peter Woods and Nicholas Kane.

Synopsis : Quiller officially does not exist, but his assignments are real. With an assassin loose in London, the Bureau instructs Quiller to protect an important international visitor. But the killer's target is nearer home.

Notes :
This episode was originally transmitted 9:25pm to 10:15pm on BBC 1.

Tango Briefing
TX : 5th September 1975
Director : David Sullivan Proudfoot
Script : Adam Hall

Cast : Nigel Stock, Prunella Gee, Paul Angelis and Reg Lye.

Synopsis :
An aircraft with politically dangerous cargo has crashed somewhere in the Sahara. Quiller has to find and destroy.

Notes :
Episodes were originally transmitted 8:10pm to 9:00pm.

Any Last Request
TX : 12th September 1975
Director : Michael Ferguson
Script : Brian Clemens

Cast : Edward Judd, Sheila Brennan, Ronald Lacey, Brian Glover, Moira Foot, Louis Mahoney, Michael Horsbrugh, Marc Boyle, Carlos Douglas, Jean Rimmer, Aleksander Browne and Alistair Meldrum.

Synopsis : A foreign dictator sentences a British citizen to be shot. Quiller has to get the man out - and yet the execution must take place as planned.

Sacrifice To Survival
TX : 19th September 1975
Director : Michael Ferguson
Script : Roger Parkes

Cast : Nigel Stock, TP McKenna, Richard Heffner, Isla Blair, Oscar James, Ram John Holder, Willie Jonah and Alix Kirsta.

Synopsis :
A woman is kidnapped. Quiller has to find her - before the incident escalates into all-out-war.

Assault On The Ritz
TX : 3rd October 1975
Director : John Frankau
Script : David Weir

Cast : Richard Johnson, Prunella Gee, Keith Barron, John Savident, Donald Sumpter, Mohammed Shamsi and Jeffrey Celebi.

Synopsis :
Quiller joins up as a mercenary on a one-way invasion.

Objective Carribean
TX : 10th October 1975
Director : Michael Ferguson
Script : Morris Fahri

Cast : Valerie Murray, Stefan Kalpha, Clifton Jones, Lon Satton, Tommy Eytle, Meredith Edwards, Colin McCormack, Alister Bain, Mark Heath, Clarence Miller, Bruce Callender, Frank Singuineau, Roy Stewart, Sam Mansaray and James Fuller.

Synopsis :
Quiller discovers a plan to seize power using the forces of voodoo.

Target North
TX : 17th October 1975
Director : Viktors Ritelis
Script : Anthony Masters

Cast : Sinead Cusack (Roz), Bill Simpson, John Lee, Kurt Christian, James Cosmo, Robert Coleby and Joe Dunlop.

Synopsis :
A government minister dies in a skiing accident after a strange explosion.

The Thin Red Line
TX : 24th October 1975
Director : David Sullivan Proudfoot
Script : Brian Clemens

Cast : John Phillips, Peter Jeffrey, Christopher Neame, Esmond Knight, Richard Warwick, Peter Graves, Caroline Harris, Norma West, John Blythe, Nick Brimble, John Kelland, Michael Bangerter, Jean Rimmer and John Berwyn.

Synopsis :
Quiller joins an "exclusive club".

Political Jungle
TX : 31st October 1975
Director : Raymond Menmuir
Script : Ivan Graham

Cast : Gemma Jones, James Laurenson, Peter Cartwright, Ahmed Khalil, John Baskcomb, Alec Wallis, Denis De Marne and Al Garcia.

Synopsis :
A political prisoner with no desire to be released complicates Quiller's mission of rescue.

Mark The File Expendable
TX : 7th November 1975
Director : Alan Gibson
Script : Nick McCarthy

Cast : Patrick Magee, Celia Gregory, Michael Latimer, Steve Plytas, Michael Wynne and Terry Walsh.

Synopsis :
Quiller is sent to the Mediterranean when secret rocket weapons are stolen from a British base.

Safe Conduct
TX : 14th November 1975
Director : Gerald Blake
Script : Michael J Bird

Cast : George Cole, Oscar Homolka, Stefan Gryff, Gerald Sim, George Mikell, Jan Conrad, Steve Hubay, John Watts, Robin Sachs, Louis Hantz and Pamela Lintern.

Synopsis :
Quiller is sent to help a British defector leave the country of his adoption. Unfortunately, things don't go according to plan.

TX : 21st November 1975
Director : Raymond Menmuir
Script : Brian Clemens

Cast : Lee Montague, Lon Satton, Paul Maxwell, James Berwick, Lalla Ward, Bob Sherman, Ray Jewers, Shane Rimmer, John Rhys Davies, Frances Pidgeon and George Baizley.

Synopsis :
Quiller, in his search for a missing United States Army Colonel, uncovers a plan that could change the face of London.

Night Of The Father
TX : 28th November 1975
Director : Viktors Ritelis
Script : Anthony Read

Cast : A letter from a dead man. A Bureau agent killed. Quiller is sent to Munich to find the connection.

Synopsis :
A letter from a dead man. A Bureau agent killed. Quiller is sent to Munich to find the connection.

Based on the literary works of Elleston Trevor (writing under the pseudonym of Adam Hall), spy extraordinaire Quiller had already appeared in the popular cinematic outing The Quiller Memorandum in 1966, with George Segal in the leading role as the spy who never carried a gun and relied on his wits and intuition to outsmart his opponents.

In Autumn 1975, Quiller premiered on BBC Television with "classical" actor Michael Jayston cast in the role of the spy who would keep audiences guessing throughout the thirteen-episode run of the programme. Preciously little was done by way of character-building to flesh out the role, and this in part contributed to its popularity as audiences were forced to take Quiller at face value and no more (in a similar vein to James Bond, of whom, until the Pierce Brosnan era, very little was known or required for the purposes of audience entertainment).

He worked for a covert organisation known simply as "The Bureau", who would dispatch him on missions across the globe to recover official documentation, prevent secrets from leaking, resurrect "sleepers", bring back defecting agents or eliminate parties with whom the British Government had a vested interest. His controller at "The Bureau" was Angus, portrayed by Moray Watson, and the only other series regular was Sinead Cusack, who played Roz. Producer Peter Graham Scott ensured that the plotting and direction were sharp and pacey, thus ensuring Quiller was a veritable "James Bond for the BBC" drama - lightweight on dramatic value but packed with action and adventure to please the masses.

Scripts were contributed by Michael J Bird, Adam Hall (who adapted his novel Tango Briefing), Brian Clemens, David Weir and Anthony Read amongst others, whilst directors included David Sullivan Proudfoot, Viktors Ritelis and Gerald Blake. Ellesten Trevor enjoyed a brief resurgence in the popularity of his novels, and as such the BBC's serial paid rich dividends. However, audience viewing figures started flagging towards the end of the run, and it was perhaps a shrewd move on behalf of the programmers not to recommission the series - which, surprisingly, has never been repeated since its original transmission. The programme was globally exported, but has not enjoyed the luxury of a VHS or DVD release

Text © Matthew Lee, 2004.

Portrayed By
Michael Jayston
Moray Watson

The series was devised and created by by Elleston Trevor (writing as Adam Hall). The series was produced by Peter Graham Scott. Drama Playhouse pilot was produced by Anthony Coburn.