Written by Tony Williamson • Directed by Roy Ward Baker

ORIGINAL ITC SYNOPSIS

Birds can be killed - but not murdered. But the attempted killing of birds leads to human murders when an eccentric bird-lover leaves a very strange will.

An assignment to act as guardian to an aviary of tropical birds is not only unusual but puzzling. Nevertheless, Jeff Randall accepts when the offer is made by a lawyer named Laverick, who explains that the birds are part of the two million pound estate left by the eccentric Mrs Wentworth Howe. Under the terms of her will, the entire estate is left in trust for as long as the birds exist - probably twenty years or more - and it will not be until all are dead that the estate will be divided among the surviving relatives.

And attempts have already been made to kill the birds.

The Wentworth mansion is at present occupied by the relatives - Colonel Chalmers, James Howe and his wife Gabrielle and Sandra Joyce, a distant niece, attractive and the rebel of the family. The aviary is being looked after by the gamekeeper Beeches.

Randall's appearance on the scene is greeted with suspicion, and he is glad to have Hopkirk as his partner. The ghostly Hopkirk can keep watch on the aviary without being seen.

Nevertheless, it is not long before James Howe is found dead in the aviary - poisoned. And Mrs Howe confesses that she had placed poisoned bird seed in the aviary.

She believes her husband must have gone there to save the birds. Frustrated at this defeat, she attempts to set fire to the aviary but is foiled by the invisible Hopkirk who is unable to save her from being the second victim.

Suspicion falls on Beeches, yet he is the only one who doesn't stand to gain anything either by the deaths of the humans or the birds. A hired assassin is found. He has been engaged to kill off the birds, but before he can say who has hired him he, too, meets his death.

The cause of the deaths is discovered: darts dipped in a poison obtainable in India. And Colonel Chalmers has spent much of his career in India. Before he can be challenged he, also, is murdered.

In the midst of all the drama, the lawyer, Laverick, arrives at the mansion, staggered by what is happening and realising that there is now only one legatee... Sandra. But what of Beeches? The police have detained him as a suspect but have released him, and after the latest killing, Randall and Laverick decide to hold him until the police can again interview him. Beeches is locked in the wine cellar. Hopkirk, however, is inclined to suspect Sandra.

When Beeches is found dead, it leaves only Sandra, but before he can even give attention to this, Randall is knocked unconscious by Laverick and is locked in the cellar. Sandra is left alone with Laverick, and there is only one man who can help her and that is Marty Hopkirk.

But what can a ghost do? The frantic Marty has somehow to get a message to his widow, Jean. There is just one way in which a ghost can act, and that's through guests at a party who are indulging in a s้ance with an upturned wine glass...

PRODUCTION & ARCHIVE
Production Code: RH/DCW/4006
Filming Dates:
August-September 1968
Production Completed:
Early December 1968
Recording Format: 35mm Colour Film
Archive Holding: 35mm Colour Film

UK REGIONAL PREMIERES

Anglia: Mon 12 Jul 1971, 11.00pm
ATV: Fri 5 Dec 1969, 7.30pm
Border: Fri 27 Mar 1970, 7.35pm (B/W)
Channel: Unconfirmed (B/W)
Grampian: Wed 6 May 1970, 7.55pm (B/W)
Granada: Sun 1 Feb 1970, 11.25pm
HTV: Sun 23 Nov 1969, 3.45pm (B/W)
LWT: Sun 21 Dec 1969, 7.25pm
Scottish:
Sat 22 Jan 1972, 11.10pm
Southern: Sun 14 Dec 1969, 7.25pm
Tyne Tees: Unconfirmed
Ulster: Unconfirmed
Westward: Unconfirmed (B/W)
Yorkshire: Fri 5 Dec 1969, 7.30pm
(B/W) = Transmitted in Black and White
(B/W*) = Transmitted in B/W due to ITV Colour Strike
CHARACTERS & CAST
Jeff Randall
Marty Hopkirk
Jean Hopkirk
Laverick
Sandra Joyce
Mrs Gabrielle Howe
James Howe
Beeches
Colonel Chalmers
Police Sergeant
Gimbal
Johns, the Butler
Carol
Peter
Mike Pratt
Kenneth Cope
Annette Andre
Cyril Luckham
Jane Merrow
Gabrielle Brune
Tenniel Evans
David Lodge
Maurice Hedley
David Webb
Michael Goldie
Philip Lennard
Susan Broderick
Leslie Schofield
STAND-INS
Jeff Randall
Marty Hopkirk
Harry Fielder
Dougie Lockyer
STUNT DOUBLES
Jeff Randall Rocky Taylor
ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

Selections from the incidental score for this episode have been issued on Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased): Original Soundtrack by Edwin Astley, Network, 2008.

DVD EXTRAS

Network DVD (United Kingdom):
Photo Gallery.
Umbrella Entertainment (Australia):

Episode Introduction by actress Jane Merrow; Commentary by director Roy Ward Baker,
Photo Gallery.

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Writer – Tony Williamson
Series Theme & Musical Director –
Edwin Astley
Creator & Executive Story Consultant –
Dennis Spooner
Creative Consultant
- Cyril Frankel
Producer –
Monty Berman
Director –
Roy Ward Baker

Ronald Liles (Production Supervisor)
Brian Elvin (Director of Photography)
Charles Bishop (Art Director)
Philip Aizlewood (Post Production)
Harry Ledger (Editor)
Jack Morrison (Production Manager)
Gerald Moss (2nd Unit Cameraman)
Denis Porter & Len Abbott (Sound Recordists)
Guy Ambler (Sound Editor)
Alan Willis (Music Editor)
John Owen (Casting)
Sue Long (Set Dresser),
Bill Greene (Construction Manager)
Tony Busbridge (Camera Operator)
Michael Meighan (Assistant Director)
Sally Ball (Continuity)
Peter Dunlop (Production Buyer)
Gerry Fletcher (Make-Up Supervisor)
Jeannette Freeman (Hairdresser)
Laura Nightingale (Wardrobe Supervisor)
A.J. Van Montagu (Scenic Artist)
Frank Maher (Stunt Co-ordinator)
Cinesound (Sound Effects Suppliers)
and Chambers + Partners (Titles).

Made on Location and at Associated British Elstree Studios, London, England
An ITC Production

WHO KILLED COCK ROBIN? • REVIEW

A surprisingly perfunctory script from the pen of the great Tony Williamson that plays like a mediocre Agatha Christie whodunnit. The characters are thinly sketched and the guest actors are given scant screen time in which to bring much to the party, with Jane Merrow and Cyril Luckham turning in the only performances of any real note as Sandra Joyce and Laverick respectively. Merrow manages to keep the audience guessing as to her involvement or otherwise with the murders and among those playing the family members is the only performer who brings any real life to their role. Cyril Luckham, however, is superb. You can practically see his mind ticking over as the situation changes, even if the script does not serve him as well as it might. David Lodge does a good job as Beeches, the gamekeeper, but the character is again predictable and one-dimensional. Direction by Roy Ward Baker is one of the saving graces of this production, but even he struggles to realise the scenes where birds are loose in the aviary; it ends up looking quite ridiculous, though Baker masks the dummy birds on fishing lines better than a less competent director might have done. It wasn't just the birdseed that was poisoned; so was the chalice Baker was given with this script. Once again, the character of Jean Hopkirk is barely utilised, with Annette Andre not even appearing until the last ten minutes of the episode in a party scene where Marty delivers an improbably long message one letter at a time via a ouija board. Plus points of Who Killed Cock Robin? are the striking location used, The Edgwarebury Hotel, better than usual location to studio matching, the lovely scene where Marty keeps blowing out the matches that Mrs Howe is lighting with the intention of setting the aviary ablaze, and, well, precious little else. Bottom drawer Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), really, a poor episode that is among the series least memorable. 

WHO KILLED COCK ROBIN? • DECLASSIFIED

  • Teaser... At dusk, a car pulls up outside the gates of the Wentworth Howe estate. A man, Gimbal, turns off the engine and leaves the car, closing the driver's door behind him. In the grounds, Beeches, the family's gamekeeper, hears the sound of the car door slamming, thinks to investigate, but quickly dismisses it as being important. As Gimbal scales the fence and enters the grounds carrying cased binoculars and a briefcase, Beeches walks to the aviary on his rounds, turns the lights on and goes inside; a menagerie of exotic birds await him. Outside, Gimbal raises his binoculars and observes Beeches in the aviary. He turns and unlocks his briefcase. Inside are the parts of a rifle, which he assembles. Looking through the sights of the rifle, he focuses them upon Beeches, waits a moment and then fires. Inside the aviary, Beeches is shocked by the noise of the shot and a cry from one of the birds which suddenly falls from its perch. Outside, the assassin looks on, satisfied...


  • Production Brief... Who Killed Cock Robin? is a landmark in the development of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) as it marked the first contribution to the series from the celebrated ITC scriptwriter, Tony Williamson. It is far from a distinguished debut, but Williamson quickly found the pulse of the series and would go on to pen a further eight episodes. Many of these are today considered to be among the absolute classics of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and play towards the series lighter, more fantastical side. Williamson had been born in Manchester in 1932 and forged an early relationship with series creator Dennis Spooner during the Second World War. Following his demob, he pursued a career in news broadcasting for CBS in Canada and, as a sideline, wrote more than two dozen short plays which were, over time, adapted for television for a variety of anthology series. Following his return to Britain in the early 1960s, Williamson submitted scripts for soap operas such as Coronation Street and the BBC's Compact before finding his niche as a writer with a penchant for fantasy. This can be traced back to 1965 and his first script commissions for The Avengers, three episodes that included the surreal classic Too Many Christmas Trees, and Danger Man, for which he submitted another solid gold classic, The Not So Jolly Roger. Before long, Williamson was being courted as a much-valued writer and was poached by Sydney Newman at the BBC to co-develop and script edit the corporation's rival to The Avengers, the fondly remembered Adam Adamant Lives! When this was cancelled after two years, Williamson stayed initially with the BBC, writing for The Revenue Men and Dr Finlay's Casebook before drifting back to The Avengers and resuming his ITC association by submitting four scripts to The Champions, including fan favourite Shadow of the Panther. While writing for Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), Williamson was developing a series for the BBC, the short-lived Counterstrike, and writing episodes for Department S, which was being produced concurrently alongside Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) at Elstree. After finishing on the series, Williamson remained a favoured writer on ITC productions and contributed to The Persuaders!, Jason King, The Adventurer and ITC's adventure series swansong, Return of the Saint. He also wrote in the 1970s for the BBC's long-running police series Dixon of Dock Green and Euston Films' Special Branch. After heart surgery in 1980, Williamson deliberately put his writing career on the back burner, but by the mid-Eighties, he was back into the swing of things, writing many episodes for the supernatural anthology series Worlds Beyond and enjoying renown in an unexpected quarter when he wrote a television mini series for Scandinavian television, R๖d sn๖, which was a Norwegian-Swedish co-production. Sadly, Tony Williamson's heart problems returned and he died in 1991 during a second round of heart surgery. He was 58.

  • This script utilised Dennis Spooner's suggestion in the original series outline that Marty could communicate with the living via an upturned wine glass. However, Spooner set this event at a seance whereas Williamson transplanted it to a party where guests are dabbling with a ouija board. Williamson would later use the remainder of the Spooner's idea in his second script for Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), The Trouble with Women. The relevant section of Spooner's outline is reproduced below (see our Origins section for further detail about this document).

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.

  • Director Roy Ward Baker signed off from Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) with this episode having completed one other, But What A Sweet Little Room. He would go on to continue his long association with ITC by working on The Persuaders!, Jason King, The Protectors and Return of the Saint in the 1970s. He later recorded an audio commentary to accompany this episode for Australian DVD licensees Umbrella Entertainment on 9th June 2004.

  • On the Umbrella audio commentary for this episode, director Roy Ward Baker alluded to the process of redressing sets: "The sets were very good. We were used to that and expected it. One of the interesting things about series production was the way in which sets were adapted, revamped and repainted from episode to episode and series to series. A lot of it depended on Elstree Studios' enormous scene block. They'd been building sets there since the 1930s and never threw anything away. They chopped it up into manageable pieces and stored it, so there was a wonderful 'wardrobe' of sets that you could pull out of the hanger, reassemble piece by piece in a different shape or order and get a marvellous set for very little cost."

  • Frank Morrison assumed the role of Production Manager from this episode, replacing Ernest Morris, who had filled the position on all episodes between My Late Lamented Friend and Partner and You Can Always Find a Fall Guy.

  • Exact filming dates for this episode are unknown, but it is known that Roy Ward Baker commenced filming Who Killed Cock Robin? in August 1968.

  • Post production work on this episode was completed in early December 1968. It would, however, not receive its first UK broadcast until it aired in the Harlech region on Sunday 23rd November 1969, nearly a year later.


  • On Location... Not an episode that travelled around, but one with a central location that is among the most treasured by fans of the series - the beautiful Edgwarebury Hotel in Elstree. At the time of filming, the property was known as the Edgwarebury Country Club. Today, after an expensive makeover by the the Laura Ashley textile design company, it is called simply The Manor: Elstree and remains a popular meeting place for fans of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and other adventure series that filmed there such as The Avengers and The Saint. It is worth noting that the house has never had an aviary and the one seen in Who Killed Cock Robin? was realised entirely in studio. The only other locations used were backgrounds shot on Lincoln's Inn Fields, a picturesque square in central London, and scenes filmed in a wooded area that adjoined the Elstree Studios backlot, with a solitary shot completed on the perimeter of a neighbouring property to the Edgwarebury Hotel. More details in Locations: Who Killed Cock Robin?.


  • Trivia... It is in this episode that Jeff Randall first reveals his full Christian name as 'Jeffrey'.

  • This episode marked the second time in six episodes that the name 'Wentworth' had been used as a family name (here appearing in relation to the Wentworth Howe estate). It had been employed previously in For the Girl Who Has Everything, written by Donald James. The writer of this episode, Tony Williamson, would go on to utilise it once more in Never Trust a Ghost, where it a character - Rawlins - gives 'James Wentworth-Smith' as a false name. Williamson would later re-use the Wentworth-Howe name in The Positive-Negative Man, a 1967 episode of The Avengers, and the character, Cynthia Wentworth-Howe would be played by Never Trust a Ghost guest star Caroline Blakiston!

  • The poison used against the human victims in this episode - rinstat - is a fictional invention and not a genuine substance.

  • This is the second episode in which we see Jeff wearing his trademark leather jacket. Mike Pratt had previously worn the garment in A Sentimental Journey and it would be brought into more regular service from Never Trust a Ghost onwards.

  • After the first nine episodes of their run had been shown in black and white, the Southern ITV channel moved to colour broadcasts. The region's Dover and Rowridge (Isle of Wight) transmitters switched to colour on Saturday 13th December 1969 and Southern transmitted Who Killed Cock Robin? the following day at 7.25pm.


  • Only You, Jeff? The episodes For the Girl Who Has Everything and You Can Always Find A Fall Guy had previously established that Marty can be seen (or at least sensed) by members of the animal kingdom. Who Killed Cock Robin? further reveals that birds can also see or at least sense the late Mr Hopkirk. Marty's appearance in the aviary initially sets the birds off into a frenzied panic, but we also see that he is able to calm them with a whistle and an unsubtle call to "Shut up!".

  • Marty also manages to get a message through to Jeannie at a party that she is attending through the medium of an upturned glass on a ouija board.


  • Ghosts and Ghoulies... Just our Marty.


  • The Vehicles... Appearing in this episode were the following wonders of transport...

1962 Wolseley 6/110
Registration 489 BLU
Driven by Gimbal
Also appeared in:
The Champions - 'The Fanatics'
1968 Vauxhall Victor FD 2000
Registration RXD 996F
Driven by Jeff Randall
Also appeared in:
Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) - used extensively throughout the series
Department S - 'The Last Train to Redbridge'
1968 Ford Zephyr Deluxe MkIV
Registration PXD 976F
Driven by Police Officer
Also appeared in:
Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) - 'My Late Lamented Friend and Partner', 'A Sentimental Journey', 'Who Killed Cock Robin?', 'The Trouble with Women', 'Whoever Heard of a Ghost Dying?', 'Never Trust A Ghost', 'A Disturbing Case', 'Somebody Just Walked Over My Grave' 
Department S
- '
The Bones of Byrom Blain' and other episodes
1965 Humber Hawk Series IV
Registration GVB 505D
Driven by Laverick
 

 


  • Seen It All Before? The study set seen in previous episodes including My Late Lamented Friend and Partner was redressed for Who Killed Cock Robin as the lounger at the home of Wentworth Howes.

  • The cellar that had been constructed for the Department S episode A Cellar Full of Silence and which had subsequently debuted in Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) in You Can Always Find A Fall Guy appears again here. It would later be reused in the Department S episodes Handicap Dead and The Treasure of the Costa del Sol among others.

  • That same police car again... the Ford Zephyr registration PXD 976F. Central London, Borehamwood, Winchester and now the Wentworth Howe driveway. Is it the only vehicle the police force owned?

  • The set for Jeff's apartment makes a covert appearance here, heavily redressed for the party scenes towards the end of the episode. Jeff's walk-in kitchen area fitting was omitted, making the set less recognisable.


  • Cock Ups... We start with what appears at first glance to be a cock-up, but isn't! In the teaser, where Beeches (David Lodge) enters the aviary, he opens the exterior door, which has a pane of glass surrounded by a white-painted wooden frame, and walks in through it. The camera cuts to the interior and we see him closing the door, but it is now a wire meshed and unpainted interior wood framed door. What the edit omits to show clearly is that there is an 'air-lock' style entry to the aviary, with an exterior and interior door, designed to allow entry without risking the escape of the birds.

  • At the party, Jeannie changes the record. Before she does, we see she is holding an Ike and Tina Turner album, River Deep ~ Mountain High. When she puts the record on, it's definitely not Ike and Tina Turner - in fact, it was Kit for Kats by Van Doren, from the Chappell music library.

  • When Marty is shot with a poison dart and turns to find it embedded in the door, eagle-eyed viewers might already have spotted it there before he is shot!

  • Finally, when the parrot flies down to land on Laverick's dead body, just watch as the camera fades to black. It has a little poo!


  • And Finally... At one point in the episode, when Gabrielle Howe declares spitefully that "there's no law against killing birds," what she says was not strictly true. The welfare of wild and captive birds was addressed in the Protection of Birds Act of 1954, though it neglected to mention the legality of ghosts telling them rudely to "Shut up!"

Plotline: Scoton Productions / ITC • UK Transmissions by Simon Coward and Alan Hayes
Review by Alan Hayes • Declassified by Alan Hayes with thanks to Vince Cox, John Holburn and Andrew Pixley

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