On to 'The Onedin Line' Back to 'Out of the Unknown'
Michael J Bird's Contribution to
Patrick Allen as 'Brett' The series made the cover of Radio Times
Devised by - Derek Glynne and Compton Bennett
Producer - Royston Morley

19 (50 minute) episodes
31 May 1971 - 23 August 1971

Regular Cast
Brett - Patrick Allen
Nick Brunel - Robin Bailey
Francoise - Hannah Gordon
Lois - Jean McFarlane

Patrick Allen starred as Brett - a big name in international finance who (Radio Times told us) "suffers a shock that needs a lot of soul searching to get over". "The series revolves around the mood of the past 15 to 20 years," said co-deviser Derek Glynne, "the flavour of the crises of the period."

It certainly covered a lot of ground in its three month run, including a take on the actions of the un-American Activities Committee, the so-called McCarthy witch-hunt. Michael Bird, who scripted the story "The Hollow Man", was working in Hollywood as a researcher at the time. So too was Compton Bennett, co-creator of the series. And David Bauer, who starred in the episode, was one of the actors who was black-listed.

Many years later, when asked about any set-backs in his career, Bird told "The Stage" that Brett "a series I did with the BBC was a failure. I wrote five or six scripts and initially everything seemed fine but the chemistry was wrong. What had started as a good idea came to nothing. Often thinking up a gripping beginning and a good ending are the easy part. It is the middle part which is difficult. Brett was a glorious but resounding failure."

Thanks to Olive Bird you can view a PDF* copy of Compton Bennett and Derek Glynn's 31 page series Format Document dated October 1969. At that time the series was to be called "Crowther". "The Stage" reported in February 1971 that the name of the series had been changed "to avoid confusion with comedian Leslie Crowther."

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31st May 1971

Writer: Michael J.Bird
Director: Joan Kemp-Welch

Guest Cast: David Bauer (Erwin Dalton), Paul Maxwell (Jack Eldridge), Noel Willman (Treville), Ivor Danvers (Perrillat), David Kernan (Peter), Jackie Rochelle (Nanette), Patrick Harvey (Pianist), Terry Bale (Tout), Linda Cunningham (Carol Gaye)

A chance encounter with an American film producer and a mystery painting lead Brett to the threshold of a whole new world.

7th June 1971

Writer: Michael J.Bird
Director: Jonathan Alwyn

Guest Cast:Angela Browne (Barbara) David Bauer (Erwin Dalton), Paul Maxwell (Jack Eldridge), Karl Held (Tony Powers), Hugh McDermott (Chairman), David Cargill (Congressman), John Bloomfield (Head Waiter), Louis Negin (Zurkin), Bill Bailey (Barman), Jay Neill (Process Server), Norman Claridge (Counsel), Tony Sibbald (Secretary), Ann Murray, Roy Stephens & Antony Scott (Journalists), John Sterland & Marie Adams (Protestors), Hal Galili (Detective), Marcella Markham (Actress), David Baron (Actor)

Don't turn your back on a man with a knife - particularly in Hollywood: or tangle with a politician - especially in Washington.

As these contemporary reviews (from Bird's scrapbook) show, the critics were not overly impressed.

Actors Paul Maxwell and Karl Held both went on to become members of the "Michael J Bird repertory company" appearing in Bird's series - The Lotus Eaters and The Aphrodite Inheritance.

2nd August 1971

Writer: Michael J.Bird
Director: John Frankau

Guest Cast: Petra Davies (Fay Alden), Michael Hawkins (Spencer), Jack May (Mason), Richard Wyler (Philip Alden), Maureen Davies (Announcer), Alex MacIntosh (Newsreader), Maureen Neill, Jay Neill, Pam Saire & Marguerite Young (Prison Visitors), Raymond Brody & Alistair Meldrum (Prisoners)

Brett takes the biggest gamble of his life.

16th August 1971

Writer: Michael J.Bird
Director: David Cunliffe

Guest Cast: Peter Bowles (Saxby), Hugh Cross (Rogers), William Lucas (Major Nicholson), Tom Watson (Wilson), Anthony Roye (Peters), Rio Fanning (Duffy), Kevin Brennan (Carr), Ron Pember (Marsh), Michael Earl (Prison Officer), Richard Hampton (Cullen), Leslie Schofield (Foster), Patrick Connor (Jacobs), Arnold Peters (Halloran), Trevor Crozier (Pub Entertainer), Robert Bernall (Cassidy), John Challis (Riordan), David Webb (Lynch), Peter MacKriel (First Man), Guy Standeven (Second Man), Barbara Keogh (First Woman), Celia Hewitt (Second Woman)

It looks as though Brett's appeal will be unsuccessful, when Francoise suddenly receives a mysterious letter …

23rd August 1971

Writer: Michael J.Bird
Director: David Cunliffe

Guest Cast: Peter Bowles (Saxby), Hugh Cross (Rogers), William Lucas (Major Nicholson), Tom Watson (Wilson), Anthony Roye (Peters), Rio Fanning (Duffy), Arnold Peters (Halloran), Robert Bernall (Cassidy), John Challis (Riordan), Sheelah Wilcocks (Mourner), Erika Simmons (Nurse), Raymond Farrell (Sentry), John Devaut (Doctor), Christopher Banks (Judge), James Ottaway (Ted, a prisoner), Murray Hayne (First Prison Officer), Michael Spice (Second Prison Officer), Lee Rushton (Frank, Brett's Chauffeur), Peter Stephens (Priest), Eric Dodson (Undertaker)

Brett's freedom, though he doesn't know it, depends on a piece of costume jewellery, a coffin and an assassin.


The last two episodes were directed by David Cunliffe who later directed episodes of Bird's series The Lotus Eaters . The two men became good friends and when Cunliffe was appointed Head of Drama for Yorkshire Television he commissioned Bird to write for them.

Michael J Bird Tribute Website

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