THE RAT CATCHERS

 
Full Name: The Rat Catchers
Nationality: British
Organization: British Intelligence
Occupation Agency

Creator: Cyril Coke
Time Span: 1966 - 1967
ABOUT THE SERIES

       The Rat Catchers is a small department inside British Intelligence.
       It is an ultra-secret organization and does not show up on any official listing of bureaus or departments. It is answerable only to the Prime Minister and its missions are those that it chooses. For all its secrecy, though, it has enough pull among officialdom to request and get the best detective that Scotland Yard had to work as its newest agent.
       The department is run by an extremely dour man, balding and in spectacles who does not look like one who would order men to kill or die unless you looked into his eyes. Brigadier General Davidson is a smallish man who very seldom smiles, though the edges of his mouth sometimes gives away a very subdued sense of humor, and if he has a life outside his rather spartan offices, he makes sure few know about it. Being a retired military man, his strict disciplinarian nature is always on display. Be a couple minutes late for a meeting and one hears about it. Be a tad flippant with a remark and his biting retort can put most anyone in their place. That being said, however, Davidson demands independent thinking from his people and for all his posturing, he will tolerate a modicum of insubordination as long as the agent is producing results.
       That may be why he lets so much go past him without comment when it comes from his oldest and most capable agent, Peregrine Smith. Known as Perry to his friends but as Smith to his colleagues, this man has been an agent with the Rat Catchers for quite a long time from the sound of it. From upper-class background, Smith is an Oxford schooled man who greatly enjoys the finer things in life and has the luck to be able to afford them. He goes for fast cars and pretty objects and seems as though he has few real cares in the world. While it is likely that much of what others see is true, what he keeps hidden is a solid determination to get the job done and he does not let his party facade interfere with that. Smith likes everyone to think of him as a playboy and he works hard to keep up that image but when the situation calls for it, he can ben incredibly cold-blooded.
       The last of the Rat Catchers, or at least those who have had their activities chronicled, is Richard Hurst and if ever a man did not belong, certainly to his way of thinking, with the other two, it is Hurst. This man is a policeman through and through. He has absolutely no love for the bad guy and will gladly put him away whenever possible but he has a love of the law and procedure that trumps everything else and if a man is discovered trading secrets or causing sabotage, he should be arrested and tried, all according to rules of law. Since this is seldom how the Rat Catchers operate, he is usually found in a funk. He has been practically forced into the Rat Catchers because they needed someone with his qualifications of detection and he was considered the very best the Yard had to offer. He could always demand to be returned to the Yard but for some reason he has yet to do it.
       The official cover for the activities of the Rat Catchers is an apparently quite successful company called Trans-World Electronics. Its managing director is Smith which gives him entry into many otherwise closed spots in the government because TWE does a lot of work for it. Likewise Hurst has access as needed as he is on record as being the Security Officer. The Brigadier has no official capacity with the company that can be determined, not that he needs it since he never leaves his office.
       There are other agents for the Rat Catchers, men and women who are referenced from time to time and more than one who has lost his or her life in the performance of the job but these three are the ones whose adventures are recorded.

BOOKS

Number of Books:2
First Appearance:1966
Last Appearance:1966

       During the run of the television series, being just a tad over one year in total, two books were commissioned, penned, and released and both of these books were very, very good spy novels. This is especially good because with so little of the actual television show remaining, these books are the only real indication as to the kind of agents the personnel were. Luckily, the small viewing there is coincides with the depictions in the books.
       Davidson comes across in both as very cold and almost humorless. He is a taskmaster and not one to welcome argument or even very many questions. His people are expected to listen carefully, understand the first time, and execute the instructions without query or qualm.
       Peregrine Smith, called by his first name by Davidson which indicates familiarity likely from longevity rather than closeness, is a suave and relaxed fellow who likes to drive fast and carefree and to party until all hours. He is also not one to shy away from any form of danger if it means getting the job done.
       Hurst would rather be chasing bad guys and putting them behind bars.

       The writing of the two books is very well done. The flow is straight-forward and the characters fleshed out nicely. They would have made a good series all on their own. It is a shame only two were given us.

1 All In A Day's Work All In A Day's Work
Written by David Ray
Copyright: 1966

The diamond trade is being greatly disrupted by a small group of foreign gangsters and the Rat Catchers are asked to put a stop to it for the good of the British economy.

2 The End Of The Fourth Reich The End Of The Fourth Reich
Written by David Ray
Copyright: 1966

Those who would bring about the Fourth Reich in Germany have gotten their hands on a new British chemical laser which can totally change warfare and puts both the West and the East in danger. The Rat Catchers had been responsible for security and now they must get the device back.

TELEVISION

Number of Episodes:25
First Appearance:1966
Last Appearance:1967
Network:ITV (UK)

REGULAR CAST
Gerald FloodPeregrine Smith [ 1-2 ]
Glyn OwenRichard Hurst [ 1-2 ]
Philip StoneBrigadier Davidson [ 1-2 ]

       With the spy craze at its height with James Bond controlling the big screen and Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin ruling the small one, British channel ITV decided it needed a series as well. It turned to, or was approached by, Rediffusion, a production house in Britiain and the concept of the Rat Catchers was born. Production costs were kept quite low as was common for British television at that time and sets were simple. Considerable amount of footage of outdoor activity was used but largely consisted of watching cars sweep by or people walking or running.
       The series did not last that long. It enjoyed 25 episodes broken into two seasons; the first in the February-April, 1966 period and the second running December 1966-March 1967.
       An interesting point about the episodes is that they usually were story arcs in which one complete tale would span 2 to 4 episodes. The various arcs were [the names of the arcs is my own]:

Arc 1 - Madrid Oerations - Ep 1-4
Arc 2 - Missing Agent - Ep 5-6
Arc 3 - Umbrella Project Traitor - Ep 7-9
Arc 4 - Invisible Threat - Ep 10
Arc 5 - Irish Brain Drain - Ep 11-13
Arc 6 - Leopold Search - Ep 14
Arc 7 - Midas Consortium - Ep 15-17
Arc 8 - An Old Enemy - Ep 18-20
Arc 9 - Missing In Amsterdam - Ep 21-22
Arc 10 - A Traitor To Greece - Ep 23-25

       As can be seen, there were two stand-alone episodes, two two-episode arcs, five three-episode arcs, and one four-episode arc for a total of 10. Five different authors created these arcs with the talented Victor Canning penning two of them.

       Information on directors is sketchy. One source indicates the same man did the all but that is not likely. However, he is listed for all herein because there is no evidence otherwise.

       Sadly, virtually all of the episodes were recorded on tape and these tapes were reused, leaving almost nothing to be viewed today. One full episode, Ticket To Madrid and one partial The Unwitting Courier remain, both part of the first story arc.
       The snapshots below are mainly from The Unwitting Courier and are placed with the various episodes only for fun.

1 Ticket to Madrid
Episode 1-1, first aired 02/02/1966
Director: James Ormerod
Writer: Raymond Bowers
Guest Stars: Jan Waters as Miss Larks, Ian Gardiner as Scientist, Jeffrey Gardiner as Dr. Peters, Norman Scace as Commissioner, Dervis Ward as Bliss

As new member Richard Hurst shows up for duty, he is sent along with the lovely Miss Larks to Madrid on a mission which shows him quickly how deadly the business he is now in.

2 The Captain Morales Story
Episode 1-2, first aired 02/09/1966
Director: James Ormerod
Writer: Raymond Bowers
Guest Stars: Edward de Souza as Captain Morales, Peter Dennis as Teniente, James Kerry as Alpha

Richard Hurst, even after the many years as a police detective, is not quite ready to handle the violence that is thrown up against him while still in Madrid.

3 The Unwitting Courier
Episode 1-3, first aired 02/16/1966
Director: James Ormerod
Writer: Raymond Bowers
Guest Stars: David Bauer as Harry Beschman, Tsai Chin as Chinese Girl, Jeanne Moody as Jane Dawson, James Kerry as Alpha

As the mission in Madrid continues, the Brigadier finds that a gorgeous female FBI agent's agenda in taking down a gang called the Alpha Crowd is interfering with his operations.

4 Madrid Delivery
Episode 1-4, first aired 02/23/1966
Director: James Ormerod
Writer: Raymond Bowers
Guest Stars: Patricia English as Betty, Tom Gill as Miniver, Alex Scott as Vergora

Now that his Madrid mission is concluded, Richard Hurst is ready to come back but runs into trouble needing the help of the Brigadier who is not at all friendly.

5 The Missing Agent
Episode 1-5, first aired 03/02/1966
Director: James Ormerod
Writer: Paul Lee
Guest Stars: Anne Dyson as Miss Hansen, Pamela Sholto as Dorothy Hansen, Wanda Ventham as Kjellin

Fellow agent Dorothy Hansen has gond missing while in Stockholm. Hurst and Smith are sent to find her but discover there are others who do not want her found.

6 The Baited Hook
Episode 1-6, first aired 03/09/1966
Director: James Ormerod
Writer: Paul Lee
Guest Stars: Stella Courtney as Fru Lovberry, Sandor El?s as Nils, Jayne Sofiano as Swedish Girl

As the search for the missing agent narrows, Smith and Hurst encounter a student with a gun and a desire to use it.

7 The Umbrella
Episode 1-7, first aired 03/16/1966
Director: James Ormerod
Writer: Jeremy Paul
Guest Stars: Tenniel Evans as Arnold Bennett, Ronald Howard as Charles Lysaght, Robert Raglan as Superintendent Blythe

A vital project to defend Britain against missile attacks, called the Umbrella Project, is in danger from a saboteur.

8 Thieves' Market
Episode 1-8, first aired 03/23/1966
Director: James Ormerod
Writer: Jeremy Paul
Guest Stars: Wendy Gifford as Miss. Fairbrother, Max Kirby as Watkins, Edward Underdown as Lemnitz

Hurst and Smith split up as the former goes to Lisbone to find the traitor and Smith checks out how an old Nazi is involved.

9 Return of Evil
Episode 1-9, first aired 03/30/1966
Director: James Ormerod
Writer: Jeremy Paul
Guest Stars: Camilla Brockman as Miss. Melbuish, Monica Grey as Ann Meadows, Frederick Schrecker as Herr Gideon

The hunt is still on for the traitor but Smith's death at the hands of an assassin is confirmed by the Brigadier to the media.

10 The Edge of Disaster
Episode 1-10, first aired 04/06/1966
Director: James Ormerod
Writer: Paul Lee
Guest Stars: Sylvia Kay as Rowena Blythe, Reginald Marsh as Barlow, Basil Moss as Wilson

The weapon is invisible. It is always deadly. It can strike with incredible accuracy. It must be destroyed by Smith and Hurst.

11 Operation Lost Souls
Episode 1-11, first aired 04/13/1966
Director: James Ormerod
Writer: Victor Canning
Guest Stars: Eugene Deckers as Henri Dupont, Alan Gifford as Wally Turnsell, John Macklin as Irving Caldwell

Key people in Ireland are disappearing and the trail leads to Geneva. Smith and Hurst are sent there to find out what is the cause and the goal.

12 Operation Irish Triangle
Episode 1-12, first aired 04/20/1966
Director: James Ormerod
Writer: Victor Canning
Guest Stars: Eugene Deckers as Henri Dupont, Alan Gifford as Wally Turnsell, John Macklin as Irving Caldwell

The more details come in, the more dangerous the mission seems and things are about to get a lot worse as the Irish brain drain continues.

13 Operation Big Fish
Episode 1-13, first aired 04/27/1966
Director: James Ormerod
Writer: Victor Canning
Guest Stars: Eugene Deckers as Henri Dupont, Alan Gifford as Wally Turnsell, John Macklin as Irving Caldwell

Even as the operation is about to happen, Smith and Hurst are still missing vital pieces.

14 Showdown Vienna
Episode 2-1, first aired 12/15/1966
Director: James Ormerod
Writer: Jeremy Paul
Guest Stars: Vernon Dobtcheff as Josef Donner, Lucy Fleming as Angelique Donner, Frank Gatliff as Leopold Donner, Joan Haythorne as Madame Donner

The Brigadier has issued a find and destroy order on Leopold Donner but Smith and Hurst and Smith are to discover how hard both will be.

15 Mission to Madeira
Episode 2-2, first aired 12/22/1966
Director: James Ormerod
Writer: Victor Canning
Guest Stars: John Abineri as aptain Maldonado, Hannah Gordon as Lea, Richard Warner as Angelo Cornoldi

To finagle his way inside the workings of the Midas Consortium Hurst must entrust a woman who might not warrant it.

16 Death in Madeira
Episode 2-3, first aired 12/29/1966
Director: James Ormerod
Writer: Victor Canning
Guest Stars: John Abineri as aptain Maldonado, Hannah Gordon as Lea, Richard Warner as Angelo Cornoldi

Even has Hurst realizes he wants the lovely Lea more than he wants his job, the Brigadier starts a plan that can destroy all his plans.

17 Midnight Over Madeira
Episode 2-4, first aired 01/05/1967
Director: James Ormerod
Writer: Victor Canning
Guest Stars: John Abineri as aptain Maldonado, Hannah Gordon as Lea, Richard Warner as Angelo Cornoldi

While The Midas Consortium undertake the death of a man which will have devastating effects on the stock market and make them a ton, Hurst and the Brigadier fight over a woman.

18 Wednesday in Dubrovnik
Episode 2-5, first aired 01/12/1967
Director: James Ormerod
Writer: Raymond Bowers
Guest Stars: Jacqueline Ellis as Miss. Larks, Jeffrey Gardiner as Peter, James Kerry as Alpha

Past secrets and old enemies can return at the worst time and that is the case when an old acquaintance endangers the Brigadier's entire operation.

19 Murder in Mostar
Episode 2-6, first aired 01/19/1967
Director: James Ormerod
Writer: Raymond Bowers
Guest Stars: Jacqueline Ellis as Miss. Larks, Jeffrey Gardiner as Peter, James Kerry as Alpha

Should Smith and Hurst kill a prominent public official just because the Brigadier gives the order?

20 Dead-End - Dubrovnik
Episode 2-7, first aired 01/26/1967
Director: James Ormerod
Writer: Raymond Bowers
Guest Stars: Jacqueline Ellis as Miss. Larks, Jeffrey Gardiner as Peter, James Kerry as Alpha

The Brigadier is left with little choice but to work with one enemy to get rid of another, more dangerous and immediate one.

21 Big Grab - Amsterdam
Episode 2-8, first aired 02/02/1967
Director: James Ormerod
Writer: Jeremy Paul
Guest Stars: Raymond Huntley as Sir James Tinsell, James Kerry as Alpha, Cyril Shaps as Vol

Smith and Hurst are a bit confused why, when an CIA agent with valuable intel disappears, the Brigadier acts like he does not care.

22 Retribution Amsterdam
Episode 2-9, first aired 02/09/1967
Director: James Ormerod
Writer: Jeremy Paul
Guest Stars: Raymond Huntley as Sir James Tinsell, James Kerry as Alpha, Cyril Shaps as Vol

The enemy agent holding the missing American agent is every bit as clever and dangerous as the Brigadier. Smith and Hurst find fighting him is like fighting their boss.

23 The Heel of Achilles
Episode 2-10, first aired 02/23/1967
Director: James Ormerod
Writer: Stanley Miller
Guest Stars: Anthony Marlowe as Lord Corbridge, Ralph Michael as Sir Miles Casimir, Wolfe Morris as Ziranov, Dora Reisser as Gerde, Hilary Tindall as Maria Tancredi

The head of a major international spy ring is about to unleash a good deal of violence in Corfu unless Smith and Hurst, aided by a traitor, can stop him.

24 The Seven Pillars of Hercules
Episode 2-11, first aired 03/02/1967
Director: James Ormerod
Writer: Stanley Miller
Guest Stars: Anthony Marlowe as Lord Corbridge, Ralph Michael as Sir Miles Casimir, Wolfe Morris as Ziranov, Dora Reisser as Gerde, Hilary Tindall as Maria Tancredi

The man Smith and Hurst seek to stop a crime is in the mountains of Greece hiding not just from them but from a very dangerous woman.

25 The Mask of Agamemnon
Episode 2-12, first aired 03/09/1967
Director: James Ormerod
Writer: Stanley Miller
Guest Stars: Anthony Marlowe as Lord Corbridge, Ralph Michael as Sir Miles Casimir, Wolfe Morris as Ziranov, Dora Reisser as Gerde, Hilary Tindall as Maria Tancredi

Smith and Hurst have a dilemma as to whether they should rescue a man being help on a dangerous woman's yacht, especially since their boss wants him dead.

MY COMMENTS

       It is often the sad fact that books coming from television shows are pale imitations of the original. Many of the Man From U.N.C.L.E. book (though not all) are that way. This series' two books are most likely NOT so.
       I say most likely because so little of the tv drama remains available for viewing. I have only watched the snippet of Episode 3, The Unwitting Courier, but it is, luckily, enough to get an idea of the martinet-esque quality of Brigadier Davidson, the irritable disdain for the whole business that former police detective Hurst has, and the calm, somewhat playful air of ease that Smith enjoys.
       As for the books, they are very much worth the time. The writing is very solid and the pacing excellent. Things do move a tad quickly but you certainly will not be bored. I recommend the books as excellent examples of the 60's attitudes especially in Britain. Smith was definitely ahead of the free-love movement which causes Hurst more than a little annoyance.

       Pay particular attention to Smith if you read the first book. He has a scene 3/4 through in which he performs one of the most cold-blooded eliminations (i.e., killing) that I have ever read. I had to blink and re-read the chapter to make sure I understood it. Then I read it a third and fourth time just because. The act makes sense and is not gratuitous at all but it was certainly shocking in its execution.

Note that I have given 'Creator' credit to the producer for the series, Cyril Coke. I do not know for sure if that is accurate.

GRADE

My Grade: B+

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