DVD review: “The Professionals” (1977-1983)

“The Professionals” (1977-1983) 


Five Seasons / Fifty-Seven Episodes  

Created by: Brian Clemens

Featuring: Martin Shaw, Lewis Collins and Gordon Jackson

George Cowley: “Anarchy, acts of terror, crimes against the public. To combat it I’ve got special men – experts from the army, the police, from every service – these are The Professionals.”

Released this month on DVD is the English television series based around a secret law enforcement agency of sorts loosely based on MI5 in “The Professionals” (1977-1983) which was a hard edge (for its time) that frequently dealt in some serious stories with quite a bit of on-screen violence that at times could be shocking, sometimes even by today’s standards.

Below is a brief description of the series as well as brief descriptions of each episode but I have to say something about the way people who are seen as different are treated by the predominantly white men who are either in charge of CI5 or who work in the organization.

In terms of the treatment of women in the show they are either mostly seen as victims or objects of male gratification which we see in almost every episode which could be seen as a sign of the times but speaks to larger issues that existed in society in the UK which looking back feels out of date, antiquated and actually depressing not just for society but for the actresses playing the parts. In particular any chance for the men to make comments about women or trying to pick them up with extremely sexist lines is difficult to watch. In fact even when a powerful strong female character makes an entrance they are either made fun of or seen as shrill or out of step which does occur frequently. Women in general are seen as needing men, or are helpless on their own, waiting for a man to either rescue them or take them out, or both.

The treatment of non white people within society is fairly similar to how they were seen throughout the world which again is on par with the treatment of women. In particular the n-word as well as other putdowns especially the word spade is used liberally. The only person that seems to be progressive is the head of CI5, Cowley who has been to war and seen how minorities are treated, he is possibly the most enlightened of the cast which is saying something as the younger people are predominantly racist to a degree as well as sexist.

“The Professionals” is based around CI5 (Criminal Intelligence 5) a British law enforcement department, instructed by the Home Secretary to use any means to deal with crimes of a serious nature that go beyond the capacity of the police, but which are not tasks for the Security Service or the military.

The choice of CI5’s name is possibly inspired by Criminal Investigation Department and MI5. The premise allowed the programme-makers to involve a wide variety of villains, including terrorists, hit-men, racist groups and espionage suspects, with plots sometimes relating to the Cold War. Led by the formidable George Cowley (Gordon Jackson), CI5 is known for using unconventional and sometimes illegal methods to beat criminals, or as Cowley put it “Fight fire with fire!”

Cowley’s two best agents are Ray Doyle (Martin Shaw) and William Bodie (Lewis Collins). Doyle is an ex-detective constable who has worked the seedier parts of London, while Bodie is an ex-paratrooper, mercenary and Special Air Service sergeant. Of the two, Doyle is the softer, compassionate and more thoughtful character, while Bodie is ruthless and more willing to take on criminals on their own terms. That said, Doyle is more hot-headed and tended to rush in, while Bodie waits for the shooting to start.

While polar opposites, Bodie and Doyle have a deep and enduring friendship, and are almost inseparable. Although their loyalty to Cowley is beyond question, they have no qualms about disobeying orders if it means getting the right result, either for the case or themselves.


Season One:

1. Private Madness Public Danger:A rogue biochemist threatens to poison London’s water supply with a powerful hallucinogenic drug unless the government ceases all research into chemical warfare.

2. The Female Factor: Soviet agents use a “honey trap” in an attempt to extort state secrets from an ambitious politician.

3. Old Dog With New Tricks: A recently released gangster steals an arms shipment from the IRA, intending to kidnap the Home Secretary to exchange for his brother, who is still in prison.

4. Killer With A Long Arm: CI5 uncover a plot to assassinate a visiting Greek dignitary at the Wimbledon tennis tournament using a sniper rifle with an exceptionally long range.

5. Heroes: An unpopular US politician is assassinated at a road block on a busy highway, and CI5 are forced to protect the witnesses when a newspaper irresponsibly publishes their names.

6. Where The Jungle Ends: A gang of ex-mercenaries stages a bank robbery, attracting the attention of a major crime boss who offers to employ them. Bodie, himself an ex-mercenary, is determined to settle some old scores with the gang’s leader.

7. Close Quarters:An off-duty Bodie arrests the leader of a German terrorist cell. Pursued by the rest of the gang, he and his girlfriend hole up in a country vicarage, but find themselves under siege and unable to call for help.

8. Everest Was Also Conquered: CI5 are called upon to investigate the 1953 death of a key witness in a corruption trial following the death bed confession of a former security chief.

9. When The Heat Cools Off: A girl claims to have new evidence to free her convicted father from prison, a man arrested by Doyle before he joined CI5. Doyle agrees to re-open the case, but does his relationship with the girl cloud his judgement?

10. Stake Out: A CI5 agent is murdered and a man dies of plutonium poisoning. How is a bowling alley connected – Bodie and Doyle stake it out.

11. Long Shot: An American delegate is saved by Cowley when shots are seemingly fired at him, but no further attempt is made to kill him before he departs the country. CI5 is aware of the presence of a hitman called Ramos, and predict a second assassination attempt.

12. Look After Annie: A socialist preacher becomes a target when she visits London. An old flame of Cowley’s, Bodie and Doyle are set to protect her, without realising who attempts to have her killed.

13. Klansmen: A “Keep Britain White” group is harassing black residents to leave the area. While most members want to scare the black community, a few members have an ulterior motive. Bodie is hospitalised and Doyle infiltrates the fascist group.

Season Two:

1. Hunter/Hunted: Doyle tests a prototype new rifle, but it is stolen and “used” against him.

2. The Rack: A suspect in CI5’s custody dies, allegedly through Doyle’s rough treatment. CI5 is put under the scrutiny of a public enquiry and faces being closed down.

3. First Night: An Israeli government minister is kidnapped on a visit to London. The only clue is a poorly shot photograph.

4. Man without a Past: Bodie is on a date but the restaurant he is at is bombed and his girlfriend seriously injured. Is Bodie the target?

5. In the Public Interest: A chief constable is impressing with his city being totally crime free, but the free rein his officers have lets them infringe suspects’ rights in the pursuit of zero tolerance.

6. Rogue: Veteran CI5 agent Barry Martin lends his expertise to criminal elements in order to fund his lifestyle.

7. Not a Very Civil Civil Servant: Newly built council houses are falling apart, CI5 investigates the building company’s management and the councillors involved.

8. A Stirring of Dust: A rogue MI6 agent comes home with the threat of spilling the secrets about British security. Can CI5 get him before the KGB or his betrayed colleagues do?

9. Blind Run: Bodie and Doyle are assigned to protect a foreign official en route to several meetings. But why are the diplomat’s moves known by a team of assassins.

10. Fall Girl: An old flame of Bodie’s gets him unwittingly involved in an assassination and finds himself to be the target of MI6 and CI5.

Season Three:

1. The Purging of CI5: CI5’s headquarters are being bombed and its agents assassinated.

2. Backtrack: A burglar comes across a gang of drugs and arms smugglers during a break-in. Not even the police can protect him and it’s up to CI5 to uncover and stop the gang.

3. Stopover: An old colleague of Cowley’s has information on a double agent – in exchange for CI5’s protection.

4. Dead Reckoning: An extradited spy’s presence in Britain is being kept top secret, yet the Bulgarians who sent him try their best to make his whereabouts public. When he is murdered, all eyes suspect the spy’s daughter.

5. The Madness of Mickey Hamilton: A man whose daughter is severely brain damaged after a complicated birth and then loses his wife to an overdose, blames the incompetence of the doctors and seeks revenge. With the blessings of an unsuspecting priest, he systematically starts to wipe out doctors, one by one.

6. A Hiding to Nothing: Palestinian extremists plan on assassinating one of their ministers when information is leaked to them that he is holding secret diplomatic negotiations in London. CI5 need to find the leak and keep the diplomat’s own security team at bay.

7. Runner: A breakaway group from a criminal gang want to start a street war, but their leader has other ideas.

8. Servant of Two Masters: Has Cowley turned traitor selling a nerve gas to the East Germans?

Season Four:

1. The Acorn Syndrome: The daughter of a government engineer who develops top secret defence equipment been kidnapped. In exchange for her life, he must give up the plans of one of the projects.

2. Wild Justice: A psychologist tries to convince CI5 that Bodie’s mental state is putting both him and CI5 at risk.

3. Fugitive: A terrorist group kills a CIA agent working in London. CI5 try to set up a fake arms deal with the group.

4. Involvement: Is the girl Doyle wants to marry involved with drug smuggling?

5. Need to Know: A former colleague of Cowley’s is arrested for being a double agent, and implicates Ci5 chief is also rogue.

6. Take Away: Innocent Chinese people are being used as heroin traffickers, CI5 joins with Hong Kong Police to uncover the truth.

7. Black Out: The only clue to a terrorist attack is a girl with amnesia.

8. Blood Sports: CI5 step in to protect the daughter of a South American president, after her brother is murdered.

9. Slush Fund: A reporter has a scoop on a new fighter aircraft being a deathtrap. Ready to publish, becomes the target of several countries’ officials

10. The Gun: A drug pusher murders an addict. His hastily discarded gun is soon found by a young boy. The pusher must get to the boy before the drug barons do.

11. Hijack: CI5 investigate the theft of silver bullion imported from behind the iron curtain.

12. Mixed Doubles: A foreign official is visiting so Bodie and Doyle receive special training to protect him. Meanwhile, two hit-men are being trained to murder him…..

13. Weekend in the Country: During a weekend break, fugitive criminals capture the off-duty and unarmed Bodie & Doyle along with their girlfriends.

14. Kickback: Bodie teams up with his old SAS partner Keller to infiltrate an Italian terrorist group. They fake an assassination, but Keller has an alternative agenda.

15. It’s Only a Beautiful Picture…: A gang is exporting rare antiques and top secret industrial equipment using the ignorance of Customs and Excise in foreign countries. CI5 decide to set a trap. 

Season Five:

1.Foxhole on the Roof: A newly released convict holds the post-operative ward of a hospital hostage from his rooftop hideaway.

2.Operation Susie: Government department MI17 try to cover up their bungled drugs raid involving South American nationalists.

3. You’ll Be All Right: A criminal gang leader is in hiding, and his family are threatened. He offers to surrender himself if CI5 protect his family and flush out the person threatening them.

4. Lawson’s Last Stand: A mentally unstable army officer has disappeared, taking NATO secrets with him.

5. Discovered in a Graveyard: The campaign against a much hated oriental leader has spilt over into London. CI5 intervenes with Doyle being shot in revenge. While having a life-saving operation, Doyle has to decide whether to live, or die.

6. Spy Probe: A mysterious organisation assassinates seemingly innocent ‘nobodies’. Bodie and Doyle infiltrate & investigate.

7. Cry Wolf: A young lady claims to be continually harassed, and her local constabulary claim she is crying wolf.

8. The Untouchables: Bodie loses in a private poker game and is indebted to a foreign diplomat. In order to clear what he owes, Bodie must give the diplomat CI5’s secrets.

9. The Ojuka Situation: The British government want to help Hakim Ojuka, the overthrown leader of an African state, reclaim his country from the rebels that overthrew him. CI5 take him into their protection, but Cowley’s watertight security is leaking, and Ojuka’s enemies are on his tail.

10. A Man Called Quinn: Former secret service agent Quinn is on the run from an asylum, deranged by years of torture by the KGB. He seeks revenge by killing his former SAS comrades.

11. No Stone: A girl rebels against her wealthy background and British justice claiming they are corrupt. With the help of a sympathetic lawyer, she plans the destruction of legal establishments in London. To stop this terror, CI5 intervenes and become collateral damage. 

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