‘Dick Turpin’ Episode 2: The Capture (in which our hero is duped by Cleopatra and labelled a symbol of anarchy)

Ep 2 Turpin captured
Turpin is captured!

Synopsis: Swiftnick’s apprenticeship is not going well because he’s foolhardy and talks too much. Turpin is not pleased with him, but agrees to give him one last chance as long as he can do as he’s told and keep his mouth shut. Within minutes of their arrival at the White Lion, however, Swiftnick is telling tales of their adventures to one of the staff, a young girl called Kate. Spiker has been tipped off and arrives on the scene, only to receive a splendid black eye during the fight which ensues. Turpin assumes it was Kate who informed Spiker, so he arranges for Swiftnick to serve an apprenticeship with a gunsmith and leaves him behind.

Ep 2 Swiftnick gabbing
Swiftnick telling Kate tales of derring-do

Meanwhile, Sir John Glutton and Spiker are laying a trap for Turpin. An actress sentenced to three years for scrumping apples is disguised as a rich widow travelling alone. Turpin holds up her coach and is captured. He is thrown into jail and sentenced to hang.

Ep 2 Spiker hanged her father
Kate tells Turpin he used to ride with her father

Kate visits Turpin in jail and tells him that he used to ride with her father, who was hanged by Spiker. Turpin informs Kate where to find Swiftnick, and the two lay an explosive ambush to rescue Turpin as he is transported from jail to the place where he is to be executed. Swiftnick is forgiven and reconciled with Turpin.

Ep 2 Swiftnick arranges a surprise
Swiftnick and Kate rescue Turpin

Commentary: the themes of betrayal and loyalty characterise this episode. The ‘squealer’ at the White Lion witnesses Turpin’s arrival and rides off to betray his whereabouts, motivated no doubt by the thought of the £200 reward offered for Turpin’s capture. The actress, who tells us she has played Cleopatra, is induced to play her part in Sir John’s plot in exchange for her freedom, but she cooks her own goose when she demands the reward and is instantly slung back in jail.

Ep 2 Cleopatra
‘Cleopatra’ sentenced for scrumping

In spite of the generous reward on offer, there are those who are loyal to Turpin. Kate stands out as one who risks a great deal to help the man who once rode with her father, and when Swiftnick hears that Turpin has been taken, he charges to the rescue regardless, not worrying that Turpin had dismissed him from his service.

Ep 2 The gunsmith
The gunsmith

Something else to note in this episode is the way in which Spiker’s vanity and ambition is exploited by Sir John Glutton. Spiker spends quite a lot of time looking in mirrors (for which he is often berated) and Sir John knows that what the man wants is property, position and respect. ‘Rid the nation of this symbol of anarchy’, says Sir John, and promises to reward Spiker accordingly once Turpin has been safely hanged.

Ep 2 Cleopatra disguised
‘Cleopatra’ in disguise with Sir John

In spite of the seriousness of the heavy-weight themes and all the talk of hanging, it’s important to note that the series has a light-hearted touch throughout, with plenty of humour. The gunsmith comments that Swiftnick looks as if he’ll eat too much, for example. Our ‘Cleopatra’ gives a wonderfully hammy performance and Sir John can’t make up his mind whether or not he wants Spiker to knock before he comes in.

Ep 2 reconciled
Turpin and Swiftnick reconciled



‘Dick Turpin’ Episode 1: Swiftnick (in which our hero acquires a sidekick and reports of Turpin’s death are greatly exaggerated)

Generic strip image for each post

Dick Turpin was a television series produced by London Weekend Television and screened in half-hourly episodes from 1979 to 1982. Richard O’Sullivan starred as the eponymous hero, with Michael Deeks as Swiftnick, Christopher Benjamin as Sir John Glutton and David Daker as Captain Nathan Spiker. I loved this series when I was a kiddy, and I’ve just acquired the DVD box set so I’m planning on writing a short post dedicated to each episode with a plot synopsis and commentary. I’ve even worked out how to make screenshots from the DVDs so there’ll be pics too, and I’m not going to pretend that most of them won’t be of Richard O’Sullivan looking gorgeous because that most certainly will be the case. He was my first celebrity crush and I adoooooooored him.

Ep 1 Dick Turpin revealed
Dick Turpin revealed to the viewer for the first time

Richard Turpin was indeed a real person and you can read about his exploits here. The Turpin of the television series is a ‘Robin Hood’ type of character, who only steals from the rich and often shares what he has stolen with those less fortunate. As Swiftnick says in ‘The Imposter’, Turpin offers an opportunity for the poor ‘to drag [themselves] from the mire’. In addition, Turpin is a character who has turned to crime because his farm was stolen from him by Sir John Glutton while Turpin was away fighting for his country. But the real Turpin certainly wasn’t the noble hero depicted in the television series: he was a notorious highwayman and a murderer who was eventually hanged for his crimes. Fortunately though, most of us can tell the difference between real life and telly (some YouTube commenters excepted) and we know that this is just a bit of entertainment.

Dick Turpin Episode 1: Swiftnick in which our hero acquires a sidekick and reports of Turpin’s death are greatly exaggerated

Synopsis: Sir John Glutton plans to evict Mary Smith and her son Nick from The Black Swan inn where they hold tenure if they cannot pay twenty guineas in rent. Mary borrows the money from Dick Turpin, who holds up Sir John’s coach and takes the money back. Nick helps Turpin evade capture, but Nick himself is taken by Captain Spiker. Mary begs Turpin to rescue Nick and to let Nick ride with him as a highwayman. Turpin grudgingly agrees. Disguised as a doctor, Turpin tells Sir John that Nick has the plague. Turpin’s ruse is discovered by Spiker who arrives just as Turpin and Nick are about to make their escape, and a fight ensues. Turpin and Nick escape and the episode concludes with Turpin bestowing on his new sidekick the name of ‘Swiftnick’.

Ep 1 Swiftnick_s arrest
Nick Smith, later ‘Swiftnick’, is arrested

Commentary: In this, the first episode, everyone’s sort of finding their feet a bit – by which I mean ‘it’s not great’. The fights are very stagey and the scene in which Turpin and Mary are discussing Turpin’s past and Nick’s future in The Black Swan is uncomfortably like watching a filmed play, but this is in part owing to a pretty bloody awful performance on the part of Jo Rowbottom as Mary. She’s just terrible. The series improves rapidly, however, and this first episode is really just about providing expository information: who the characters are, Turpin’s tragic backstory as justification for his criminal activity, how Swiftnick becomes the sidekick, and so on.

Ep 1 genuine riding of horses
David Daker on horseback as Captain Nathan Spiker 

The other point to mention is that there is genuine riding of horses: O’Sullivan, Deeks and Daker are all seen mounting and dismounting, with a bit of trotting too perhaps, although obviously the more dangerous riding scenes (and there are lots of them) are clearly performed by stand-ins. Nevertheless, the actors were clearly required to do some actual horse-riding themselves.

Ep 1 The Farm
Jo Rowbottom as Mary Smith with Richard O’Sullivan as Dick Turpin

The key themes that emerge from this episode and that feature throughout the series are those of disguises, imposters, impersonators, and the use of Turpin’s name. Turpin is presumed dead at the beginning of the story, hanged for his crimes, but this turns out to be another man who used Turpin’s name to carry out his own acts of robbery and who eventually went to the gallows still professing to be Turpin. The most interesting moment of the episode comes when Nathan Spiker, who believes Turpin to be still alive, is explaining to Sir John Glutton why anyone would want to die in another’s stead. Spiker claims that the carnival atmosphere attending the execution of a celebrated criminal is such that the condemned man had to be Turpin to the end, to go out in a blaze of (someone else’s) glory. Even Nick Smith takes on Turpin’s name to steal the twenty guineas needed to pay the rent; unfortunately for him, the traveller he tries to rob is none other than Turpin himself. There is a kind of hero-worship that surrounds Turpin in as much as other would-be thieves are anxious to emulate him. And it is easy enough to pretend to be Turpin, when all the imposters have to do is pull a neck-tie up over their noses so the lower half of the face is obscured.

Ep 1 Dick Turpin in disguise
Turpin’s first disguise

In this episode, Turpin ‘dies’ twice: first when another goes to the gallows for him, and second when Turpin disguised as the doctor announces that Turpin has perished of the plague. Turpin also appears in disguise twice: first as the traveller who unwisely flashes his money in The Black Swan (thus provoking Nick’s attempted robbery), and second as the doctor. It takes no more than a wig, a pair of spectacles and an unconvincing accent.

Ep 1 another disguise
Turpin disguised as the doctor, with Christopher Benjamin as Sir John Glutton (far left)