The Man in Room 17 was one of those multifarious, curious ITV (technically Granda) shows which spanned the early-to-mid sixties, but one with an interesting Sherlock Holmes-ian premise. The two men from ‘Room 17’ formed a secret Government office which liaised with police to solve crimes and/or awkward diplomatic problems as they arose. The twist was that the ‘Men’ (one of which was the delightful Richard Vernon) never left their ‘Room’ and manipulated events from afar, using one-off agents to be their eyes and ears. A delightful, if curious, premise, which ran for 2 series in 1965 and 1966.
The first season episode ‘The Bequest’ from August 1965 gets kick-started with an independent scientist (with a complicated home life) who has developed a break-through formula which he refuses to sell to larger companies. An unpleasant character on his own, that scientist is shot down before he can sell, or parley, his discovery. The police are baffled and Room 17 steps in.
That ‘scientist’ was Barry Letts, who would later come to define Doctor Who for a long time to come.
Letts’ career rather neatly cleaves between his acting career, which began at the end of WW2, and where his part in ‘Room 17’ came in–rather close to the end of that run,, and his behind the scenes work as a Director and Producer. His work on The Enemy of the World is right at the start of the second phase of his career. All of this has been very documented, no less than by Letts himself in any number of Doctor Who disc documentaries.
As always, the delight in stumbling across a performance such as this, is just in knowing that it was out there to be discovered. The Tour has made a slight specialty in miscellaneous Patrick Troughton performances for a while now. A welcome island for a long gap between Doctor Who seasons.