EPISODE REVIEW: The Secret Service

The Secret Service
A Question of Miracles
Review by Bob Furnell

The Secret Service was the last Supermarionation series of the 1960s to be made by Gerry & Sylvia Anderson.  The premise of the series was actually quite brilliant and clever.  Who would ever believe that a priest, and his gardener, were actually a secret agents?  But while the series premise was quite original, sadly several of the series episodes could be rather hit and miss.  Unfortunately, “A Question of Miracles”, penned by television veteran Donald James, is a prime example of this.

The script for “A Question of Miracles” is very much your atypical sixties spy and espionage story. When two British-designed desalination plants have exploded as they near 250 hours of operation and an order for ten plants in the United States now hangs in the balance. Suspecting sabotage, the Bishop assigns Father Unwin and Matthew to ensure that the last remaining plant, at Port Trennick, stays operational.  On the whole, the story is rather good and you would have thought it would make for a cracking adventure, but sadly it turns out to be quite slow moving and predictable.  The script lacks any real tension or suspense and comes across as uninvolved and dull.  There are several inconsistencies throughout such as why are the plants being sabotage in the first place and by whom?  It’s never explained.  For example, when the saboteurs blow a hole in the water intake tube, why doesn’t the explosion register at the main plant HQ?  You would think if so much is riding on the success of the desalination plants that the plant officials would ensure that security would be at the maximum and that something like this wouldn’t happen.  But it does.  Plus, you would think that one of the technicians at the plant would have noticed the explosion on one of the plants monitoring devices.  But it’s as if everyone is just blindingly going about their duties, blissfully ignorant that there might be an explosion.

Then there’s the scene where just before Matthew arrives at the water intakes tubes, we see the water being forcefully drawn into the tubes.  Obviously the force of this would suck anything or anyone automatically into the tubes.  But when Matthew arrives to put up a netting over the intake tube, we see him casually floating in front of the tubes.  How come he wasn’t sucked in?

It’s now at this point in time when Father Unwin has to gain entrance into the Port Trennick.  Revving up his classic Model-T to leave where he has been hiding off road, the Father is suddenly sidetracked by a passing Model-T enthusiast.  While the scene really isn’t all that important to the overall story, it does provide Stanley Unwin a chance to demonstrate his classic Unwinese.   While the concept of this unique language form is somewhat cute, unfortunately its use at this point in this particular story is rather silly and serves no real purpose. It’s as if the show’s makers just included this scene for the sake of it.

Once inside the main HQ at Port Trennick, the situation has become tense and time is running out for stopping the saboteurs.  Father Unwin has to act suddenly and tells the technicians that the intake pipes have to be shut down immediately as there’s a pending explosion.  The technicians at the plant think Unwin is bonkers and have no idea how he would know about the explosions at the other plants, but without questioning who he is, or how he knows there’s going to be an explosion, willingly comply with the Father’s demands.  While this is an interesting twist to have the danger of the situation defused, it does come across as a bit contrived by having a priest inside the facility.  Unfortunately I think its scenes like this that didn’t help to endear the series to viewers.

While I may have been rather negative towards this episode in this review, overall The Secret Service was actually a great series.  It had a unique premise but somehow I think the show’s creators didn’t fully flesh it out in pre-production.  While there are several other better episodes yet to come, I can’t help but feel that the team behind show were somewhat lazy and haphazard in making this particular episode, which is a shame.