The Professionals MKIV on Blu-ray

Monday, 25 April 2016 14:00 Written by 

The Professionals MkIV - The final batch of original episodes comes to Blu-rayWith the release of the final 18 episodes of The Professionals, in this collection known as “Mk IV”, Cowley, Bodie and Doyle head off into the sunset, with some fine examples of the series, and all three of the actors at the top of their game. There are no fillers here, and we get little glimpses of character back story, leaving the audience to flesh out their out-of-episode lives themselves. It’s a lesson which contemporary television could learn from – concentrate on the plots and let them be the driver for characterisation, and not the other way around.

Gordon Jackson, Martin Shaw and Lewis Collins had wheel-spun themselves through 57 episodes. And once again, Network Releasing has spared no expense in bringing us the episodes in a quality as good as it will ever get, and actually far better than when originally broadcast. Here, on Blu-ray for the first time, they have been restored from the camera-original negatives with the option of 5.1 surround sound, to add to the atmosphere and unsettle the neighbours – especially when the opening credits roll! Even if you are very familiar with the stories, here we have a rendition which will have even the hardest hearted beaming big smiles throughout.

The episodes included are placed in their original production order. This does make it easier to follow the cars used in each episode by the stars, making some degree of sense (even though they seem to get through them at a rate of knots, if you judge things by the licence plate numbers).

However, the use of radio etiquette doesn’t get more consistent. As those who know such things, you finish each of your statements on a walkie-talkie with either “Over” or “Out”, and NEVER “Over and Out” (it’s either one or the other, not both). For a run of episodes it seemed someone had spoken up about this, and the chat on the radios was by-the-book. Unfortunately, this then slipped back to a use of “over and out” in the run, so all this may have been down just to the particular scriptwriter at the time.

The Professionals - Foxhole on the Roof

Here’s the list of episodes on this set, and the famed guest stars to look out for in each story:

  • 4.01 “The Gun” (Celia Gregory, Nigel Pegram)
  • 4.02 “Wild Justice” (Sarah Douglas, Larry Lamb, Marsha Fitzalan)
  • 4.03 “Blackout” (Linda Hayden, Derek Ensor, Ben Cross)
  • 4.04 “It’s Only a Beautiful Picture” (Prunella Gee, Neil McCarthy, Jo Rowbottom)
  • 4.05 “Blood Sports” (Harry Towb, Ruby Wax, Pierce Brosnan, Michelle Newell)
  • 4.06 “Hijack” (Denis Lill, Stephen Yardley, Richard Murdoch, Robert Rietty, Mark Eden, Dave King)
  • 4.07 “You’ll Be Alright” (Derek Francis, Sally Faulkner)
  • 4.08 “Kickback” (Norman Eshley, Meg Davies, Christopher Mitchell, Ian Fairbairn)
  • 4.09 “Discovered in a Graveyard” (Derek Waring, Philip Latham, David Yip, Vincent Wong, Linda Lou Allen)
  • 4.10 “Foxhole on the Roof” (Karl Howman, Ron Pember, Kim Goody)
  • 4.11 “The Ojuka Situation” (Geoffrey Palmer, Charles Dance, Al Matthews, Harry Fowler)
  • 4.12 “Operation Susie” (Alice Krige, Alexander Davion, Harold Innocent, Maggie Henderson)
  • 4.13 “The Untouchables” (John Junkin, Vicki Michelle, Nick Brimble, Marilyn Galsworthy
  • 5.01 “Cry Wolf” (Sheila Ruskin, Rona Anderson)
  • 5.02 “A Man Called Quinn” (Del Henney, Steven Berkoff, Peter Woodward)
  • 5.03 “Lawson’s Last Stand” (Michael Culver, John Hallam, Michael Angelis, Stephen Greif, Prentis Hancock, John Hallam)
  • 5.04 “No Stone” (Simon Dutton, Michael Praed, Sarah Neville, Maria Harper)
  • 5.05 “Spy Probe” (Graham Crowden, Joyce Grant)

And YES, you did read that right – both Pierce Brosnan and Michael Praed before they were famous.

As those following the bizarre way episodes were broadcast, production order was not anywhere near how the final episodes aired. As the Dave Matthews Mark 1 website notes:

“Filming Block 4 commenced June 1980. Thirteen episodes in total. Episodes “Wild Justice”, “Blackout”, “Blood Sports”, “The Gun”, “Highjack”, “Kickback” and “It's Only a Beautiful Picture” had just been completed when LWT decided to intersperse these into the deferred Block 3 episodes as the fourth season – which began transmission in September 1980.

“Filming Block 5 commenced March 1981, completed May 1981. Five episodes in total. These were shown as part of the fifth season (transmitted November 1982 to February 1983) along with deferred Block 4 episodes. “Spy Probe”, not “No Stone”, was the final episode to be completed (the speedboat scenes). Why only five episodes, instead of the normal thirteen? It would appear LWT felt the series was becoming too expensive and were going to axe it anyway but also the completion of the fifth story (in May 1981) coincided with the end of Lew, Martin and Gordon's four-year contracts. Martin and Lewis were fed up with the show, and it came as no surprise to anybody when they both refused to renew (apparently Gordon would have been happy to continue). And so production came to a swift end.”

The Professionals - Spy Probe - The last episode filmed

Despite this being the fourth set in the series, the special features on this edition still have some unusual items amongst them, and include:

  • Brand-new, High Definition restorations of all 18 episodes in series four and five from the camera-original negatives, presented in their original production order;
  • Brand-new 5.1 tracks from original sound elements;
  • Remastered original as-broadcast mono tracks;
  • Remastered music-only tracks featuring Laurie Johnson’s original scores;
  • English Hard Of Hearing subtitles;
  • Restoration featurette – detailing how much work was needed on the original neatives to create what we have in our hands in this package.  Amazing stuff, and look out for the terrific homage sequence at the end (5 mins);
  • ATV Today – 17 December 1980 – raw footage of Lewis Collins and John Conteh taking part in a ‘Charity March’ from London to Liverpool on the A41, 15-23 December 1980 (1 minute);
  • ATV Today – 10 July 1981 – Martin Shaw talking about his theatre role in “They’re Playing our Song” – Private Eye may well have featured the dialogue in its ‘Pseuds Corner’ feature (3 minutes);
  • “The Professionals Serving The Professionals” – part raw footage, part ‘gag reel’ as mainly Lewis Collins, with some Gordon Jackson, are seen shooting a 1982 corporate documentary on the NAAFI. The quality may be a little ropey, think domestic VHS, but you can’t help laughing with Lewis, and admire the quality of Gordon’s raspberries (19 mins);
  • HD photo galleries featuring hundreds of rare and previously unseen images;
  • PDF material featuring scripts and memorabilia, plus “Then and Now – The Location Files”; and
  • An exclusive book of programme notes authored by TV historian Andrew Pixley, which details the complete production history for these 18 episodes.

So, the journey for this series is over once more. It doesn’t finish with any sort of wrap-up, regardless of whichever order you adopt. For those looking for clues of any sort of friction between the stars, you won’t find any on-screen, and if anything the working relationships seem more solid than they have ever done. Production values are high (save for the same helicopter posing as numerous helicopters, once with a ‘Police’ sticker applied to its sides), and the themes of the scripts remain of interest to contemporary audiences, even today. So, regardless of how many times you might have bought the series before, do buy it again – you won’t regret it.

Meanwhile, coming our way on 1 August 2016 from Network is a UK release of CI5 – The New Professionals. In the late 1990s the format received a new lease of life with a sequel series starring Edward Woodward as Harry Malone, head of an expanded CI5, with Colin Wells, Lexa Doig and Kal Weber as his main agents. CI5 is now a global agency, with a multinational body of highly skilled operatives whose job is to combat 21st century threats in the form of global terrorism, ethnic cleansing, the mass slaughter of protected species and the emergence of powerful organised crime syndicates.

Featuring scripts by The Professionals’ original creator Brian Clemens, this set will feature all thirteen episodes, complete and uncut. Guest stars include Charlotte Cornwell, Gayle Hunnicutt, Denis Lill, Patrick Mower, Michael Brandon, David Threlfall and Ray Lonnen.

The Professionals Mk IV is out now on Blu-ray from Network. The five disc set has a running time of 900 minutes approx, a ‘15’ certificate, and a RRP of £49.99, or get it for less at www.culttvstore.com

For non Blu-ray folk, the DVD version of the release will be out on 25 July 2016, with a RRP of £39.99, or again for less at www.culttvstore.com

 

Last modified on Tuesday, 26 April 2016 18:14

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