Part Three of Vanessa Bergman's investigation into
the origins of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)

What happened, then, to the firm of RANDALL & HOPKIRK, PRIVATE INVESTIGATORS, after Marty Hopkirk was killed?

Well, as the opening titles depict, and as Spooner described, the word DECEASED was added to the brass name plate - presumably by Randall - so that observant clients, and even passers-by, would come to the obvious conclusion that a certain Mr Hopkirk had passed away and the business was now run solely by Mr Randall.

They would, however, be quite wrong, for Jeff Randall is not running the business alone. He does indeed have a partner... The very same partner, at that! The only difference is that Marty is now a ghost who has been rejected by the grave and cursed to roam the earth. Jeff soon learns to live with the fact that Marty is still around, come what may, and in time he realises that having a ghost for a partner does have its compensations as well as its commiserations!

Hold on, did I say that Marty is cursed? Perhaps it is Jeff Randall who has been cursed! You see, being a ghost, Marty can materialise and dematerialise at will, wherever and whenever he pleases. Now this can be - and often is - a serious embarrassment to Jeff, because if Marty appears when others are present (which he often does!), he must act as if Marty isn't there. And that's not easy, as Marty is a very persistent ghost!

Even when Jeff is alone, talking to Marty has its drawbacks. For instance, in A Disturbing Case, when Jean and her sister Jenny find Jeff talking, apparently, to himself, they decide to send him off to a clinic for treatment. The clinic is not what it seems though, and Jeff and Marty get mixed up in a scheme which induces patients to rob their own properties!

Marty, unfortunately for Jeff, also happens to be a very jealous ghost, especially where his widow is concerned. The slightest suggestion of romantic interest meets with very strong reactions from Marty. Now, with Jeff being a rugged looking, eligible bachelor and Jean being very attractive, perhaps a little vulnerable, and not hiding the fact that she approves of Jeff, things can sometimes be a little... well, uncomfortable!

What happens then, when a ghost detective teams up with a mere mortal detective? Well, just think of it; what better partner could a private eye have than one who is completely invisible and inaudible to all but himself? Solid walls and doors are no barrier to him; he just passes straight through them! He can never be caught - definitely an advantage when snooping on the villains! Unless, that is, one of the villains happens to be a clairvoyant and tries to exorcise Marty to stop him interfering in their robbery plans, as in Whoever Heard of a Ghost Dying?.

As for Jeff, there is always the problem of how to explain away how he could possibly know that a murder or robbery has taken place when he himself was nowhere near the scene of the crime. How does he explain that his informant is a ghost? No wonder the police nearly always blame him for any crime he reports! Marty, however, doesn't always get it right and makes a complete fool out of Jeff in Never Trust A Ghost and Vendetta for a Dead Man. But he more than compensates for this by saving Jeff's life in The Smile Behind the Veil, But What A Sweet Little Room and The Trouble With Women, to name but a few.

Again, there is an extremely different effect according to Dennis Spooner's original plot...

 

What happens when a ghost decides to remain in the crime breaking business as a detective? And with a partner who is still living and unaware of him!

Okay, so he can walk through walls and listen in to any conversation completely unobserved between even the criminals themselves... Now he has the knowledge of the next stage of their plan... but then what?

 

As Spooner points out...

 

Unfortunately for Hopkirk, ghosts find contact with living persons very difficult. I mean, few people can actually talk to a ghost.

But Marty Hopkirk is determined to find a way of communicating with his partner and putting the company of Randall and Hopkirk back on a sound footing.

A point is reached in the story where it is essential for Marty to advise Steve Randall of a place and time he has discovered where some crime will take place.

"If only I could tell you of the time and place," he says to Steve (who can never see, or hear, his ex-partner).

 

Spooner goes on to state...

 

Hopkirk finds it a great comfort to speak to his ex-partner, and even to answer him, although in these circumstances, Hopkirk himself can only have a one-way conversation.

 

Then an idea comes to Marty...

 

We feature a gloomy, dark house set in its own grounds. A creaking board pronounces, 'The British Spiritualist Society'. Inside, a seance is in progress. The window bursts open with a great rush of air, and Hopkirk enters. Hopkirk - he can naturally talk to his fellow ghosts - asks the residing spirit to 'lend' him his seance. Problems arise as there appears to be a waiting list for this sort of thing, but eventually Hopkirk gets his way and spells out, with an upturned wine glass on the shiny table, his 'message'.

Does Randall get the message in time - or even believe it? Well, that is part of the story and unnecessary for this example.

 

A pity that Spooner didn't give away more of the plot - it would have been interesting to have known the outcome of the message!

Spooner proceeds to describe another occasion...

 

Hopkirk is walking down Chelsea Hight Street battling his brains on how he can contact Randall again and give out a further clue he has acquired.

Hopkirk is always dressed in ghostly garb. A normal outfit of clothes, but every article a plain shade of pale green.

So deep is Hopkirk in thought that when an elderly, eccentric looking lady - very much of the living - says "Good Morning" as he passes her, he has gone some yards before he realises the significance.

Hopkirk dashes back. "You can see me - and I'm a ghost!"

The lady nods. It appears she always has been somewhat psychic. Hopkirk's joy knows no bounds. At last an end to all his problems. He succeeds in persuading the lady to telephone Randall, and to pass on the information.

Later in the office, Hopkirk is explaining to Randall (not that he can actually hear a word) that everything from now on will be plain sailing. Randall will get the cases, Hopkirk will find the clues and pass the information on through his new good friend.

Then - horrors - through the wall comes the lady - totally dressed in a pale green ghostly outfit. It transpires that she has called to say goodbye... she always meant to get those steps in the kitchen fixed, but, alas, too late..."

Yes - Hopkirk will need to find yet another way to contact Randall next time... a materialisation, perhaps?

 

And so ends Dennis Spooner's original treatment for Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). Read the next part of this feature and discover how some of his ideas were incorporated into scripts written for the series.

Back to Origins: In the Beginning Forward to Origins: Echoes

Proposal Document: Scoton Productions / ITC Feature by Vanessa Bergman
Previously published as In the Beginning in RAHDAS Newsletter No. 1 (Spring 1989)
and as Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased): Before and After in Time Screen No. 14 (Autumn 1989)
Reprinted with permission

The author acknowledges the help given to her by ITC in the preparation of this article.

Back to Top