Armchair Thriller (S1, E1-4): Rachel In Danger 1978 REVIEW

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A little girl thinks she’s being reunited with her father, but instead meets with the impostor who murdered him. RICHARD PHILLIPS-JONES kicks off his Armchair Thriller episode guide with Rachel In Danger (1978).

Armchair Thriller (S1, E1-4): Rachel In Danger 1978 REVIEW 1

BROADCAST: In four parts 21 February-02 March 1978
STARRING: Della Low (Rachel), Stephen Greif (Juan), Eiko Nakamura (Aiyako), Neville Jason (Peter), Gwyneth Powell (Woman Police Constable), George Waring (Police Sergeant), John Joyce (C.I.D. Sgt.), Harry Littlewood (Caretaker)
WRITER: John Bowen
DIRECTOR: Waris Hussein

Armchair Thriller: Rachel In Danger Review

Rachel has not seen her father, Peter since her parents divorced when she was two years old and her mother agrees to her travelling to London to stay with him.

Meanwhile, Peter has been murdered and his identity has been stolen by terrorist Juan. When he gets a visit from the police to tell him that “his” daughter is waiting for him at Euston station, Juan has to think fast and put on quite an act – he also has to think of an explanation for the presence of his three accomplices, all of whom are plotting with Juan to assassinate a leading political figure at a Royal garden party…

It’s the 1970’s, folks when it was apparently okay to pack your unaccompanied small child off on a train from Scotland to London with a tag to identify them to the person meeting them at the other end.

It’s perhaps not the first story that springs to mind in viewers’ recollections of Armchair Thriller highlights, but the interesting thing for me in watching the whole series in sequence again, all these years down the line is the way in which Rachel In Danger sets up the show’s stall nicely, demonstrating that its style and structure were all nicely in place from the beginning and immediately demonstrating its knack for effective set pieces.

Armchair Thriller (S1, E1-4): Rachel In Danger 1978 REVIEW 2
Rachel (Della Low) makes an unwelcome discovery in Armchair Thriller: Rachel In Danger (1978)

Taking the story into horror territory (and skip to the next paragraph if you want to avoid any spoilers): The episode two cliff-hanger is a harbinger of memorable moments to come as Rachel discovers her real father’s corpse in a cupboard, and there’s every intention of the terrorists killing the poor child, surely as awkward a subject matter then as it would be now.

Oh, and the show’s title sequence was an instant high-entry on the list of all-time scary TV moments.

TRIVIA POINTS: This was Della Low’s only screen acting credit. Any info on what became of her is welcome.

Stephen Greif had built up something of a steady career in playing foreign villains but was also seen regularly at the time on BBC1 as gangster-type Harry Fenning in the sitcom Citizen Smith (1977-80) and Space Commander Travis in Blake’s 7 (first series, 1978).

Gwyneth Powell was shortly to join the cast of Grange Hill for an 11-year stint as headteacher Mrs. McCluskey.

Waris Hussein (still active at the time of writing) had already had an impressively diverse directing career by this point, taking in the Paramount horror-thriller The Possession Of Joel Delaney (1972) and the first ever story for Doctor Who (An Unearthly Child, 1963).

John Bowen would script three Armchair Thrillers and came to the show with solid credentials, his other credits including the Play For Today folk-horror Robin Redbreast (1970), Dead Of Night episode A Woman Sobbing (1972) plus The Treasure Of Abbot Thomas (1974) and The Ice House (1978) for the Ghost Story For Christmas strand, all for the BBC.

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Read our Armchair Thriller Episode Guide: 1978-81 Anthology Series

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