Richard Barton: General Practitioner! (1997) by Lol Mason. Perf. Robert Bathurst, Moray Watson, Iain Cuthbertson. BBC Radio
4 Extra, 27 Mar. - 1 May 2015. BBCiPlayer http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00753kj
Charles Williams's "Devil's Gallop" warbles over the airwaves once more. It's time for the further adventures
of DICK BARTON: SPECIAL AGENT, the serial that began in 1946 and held listeners spellbound on the BBC Light Programme for
770 episodes until 1951 (when it was replaced by "The Archers").
Only this time the focus of attention is not on the elderly Dick (Moray Watson) but his son Richard (Robert Bathurst),
a general practitioner who becomes involved in a dastardly plot to change people's characters, including his wife Sally (Sally
Phillips). The action oscillates between the present and the past, evoked in Dick's mind as he replays several of his adventures
in his mind. His reveries are abruptly (and frequently) interrupted by the intrusion of uncomfortable reality as Jock or
Sally comes to administer medicine to him.
Eventually Dick's imagination and the reality (as experienced by Dick and Richard) become intertwined, as they try to
foil a foreign mastermind who (in the manner of all good thrillers) is out to establish psychological dominance over the world.
The series is played in tongue-in-cheek style, a suitable mode for this kind of derring-do thriller that seems laughably
remote from the contemporary listener's consciousness. Yet I can't help feeling that this particular genre has had its day,
for all the nostalgic feelings it might evoke.