Review: Knight Errant / Cert: PG/ Director: Andrew Osborn, Douglas Hurn / Screenplay: Clive Exton, Roger Marshall / Starring: Jack Turner, Kay Callard, Richard Carpenter, Alan Webb / Released: Out Now
Remember the '60s? No, us neither. Well, maybe a bit, but not very well. But what about British television in the '60s? You know all about that; of course you do: Danger Man, The Saint, The Prisoner and The Avengers. All a bit quirky, wasn’t it? Ever wondered where all that eccentricity started? Well Starburst’s team of crack television psychohistorians have studied the genre and reckon that it quite possibly originated in 1959 when Granada made a series called Knight Errant ’59. Never heard of it? Well it’s a good job you’re here then.
Knight Errant ’59 ran for 75 episodes until 1961 (by which time it had transformed into Knight Errant Limited) and, initially, told the story of Adam Knight (Turner) who ran an unusual agency. The advert went: "Knight Errant '59. Quests undertaken, dragons defeated, damsels rescued. Anything, anywhere, for anyone, so long as it helps. Fees according to means." Quirky enough for you? The series even survived the departure of its lead character, who was replaced by Stephen Drummond (David) whom, we think, took a bit more of a backseat role while his staff did a little more adventuring; hence the series name change. Did we say “think”? Well yes we did, because frustratingly, only two episodes survive, one from each incarnation. As luck would have it, Networks have brought them out as part of The British Film collection.
The two episodes are a funny pair because The Golden Opportunity focuses on the two supporting characters of the time with only limited screen time to John Turner, while Hugh David is entirely absent from The Joker for similar reasons. The former episode is by far the more satisfying with a genuinely intriguing story about gold sovereigns that may, or may not, be fakes. Without ruining the plot, it’s also quite fascinating for economic historians; let’s just say that the past is a foreign country. The latter episode is far more predictable but still interesting in its own way.
This is very much proto-Avengers TV with much sexless flirting and not-as-clever-as-it-thought-it-was-at-the-time dialogue; they even manage to finish each episode on a lame gag so the cast can all have a laugh together. Who’d have thought that would ever get old? They’re probably more of interest to the cultural historian than anyone else but they’re certainly charming and, if we’re honest, they’re still quite entertaining. Just remember they’re from another time.
Oh, and doesn’t Hustle still use the “lame gag” ending?