The Best Episodes of The Professionals
Last Updated: Apr 14, 2019
The Professionals (1977 - 1983) - "Anarchy, acts of terror, crimes against the public. To combat it I've got special men - experts from the Army, the Police - from every service. These are The Professionals." - George Cowley. The Professionals was one of British television's most popular and successful action series of the 1970s and 80s. At their peak in 1980 The Pros were earning as many as 17.6 million viewers. The Professionals began life in early 1977, provisionally titled The A-Squad, in an idea conceived by Brian Clemens, the then head of the independent TV company Avengers Mark I Productions. His aim was to create a rival for Thames television's hugely successful long-running police series The Sweeney. Bodie, Doyle and Cowley could have looked very different to how we remember them as. A number of very different actors were considered for the three central roles, with neither of the final chosen team being the original choices. The final three were more or less drafted in when the first choice stars either declined or were axed. Gordon Jackson (formerly the distinctly unmenacing Butler Hudson in Upstairs Downstairs) and Martin Shaw (whose first TV appearance was as a hippie in 1960s Coronation Street) were first to be cast. During the filming of the first episode, Old Dog with New Tricks Bodie was in fact played by Anthony Andrews. Unfortunately, old mates Shaw and Andrews spent much of the time cracking up with laughter - hardly a recipe for ensuring the renowned edgy banter between the two leads. Lewis Collins (best known by this time as Gavin Rumsey in comedy series The Cuckoo Waltz) was brought in to play Bodie, with Andrews being given the heave-ho. Collins and Shaw had previously worked together just months earlier in an episode of The New Avengers, and were cast alongside each other again thanks to the 'sparky, abrasive' on-screen partnership that they generated. In other words, they didn't particularly like each other! But with the central cast complete, filming began on 20 June 1977, with the first episode Private Madness Public Danger debuting on Friday 30 December 1977. Criminal Intelligence 5 The basis of The Professionals was CI5 - Criminal Intelligence 5 - an organisation lead by surly Scotsman George Cowley (played by Gordon Jackson), a former MI5 head who founded the team as an 'umbrella organisation' to help alleviate London's ever-increasing level of criminal activity. CI5 consisted of up to forty men and women agents, but the main action was centred around Cowley's two top operatives; William Andrew Philip Bodie (Agent 3.7) and Raymond Doyle (4.5). Bodie (Lewis Collins) - he of the close-cropped hair, polo necks and smart suits - was a mercenary in Africa, who deserted the Merchant Navy to join the Paras and later the SAS, before being signed up to CI5 by Cowley. He was, on the surface, an uncompromising thug with a penchant for the 'hit first, ask questions later' theory - thinking nothing of causing 'damage' to a suspect if it meant getting the right results. Doyle (Martin Shaw) was a former Docklands Police Constable, and his more placid nature was reflected in his memorable bubble-perm hairstyle and casual clothing attire (i.e. old plaid jackets and skintight jeans). However, he possessed a tougher streak to match that of Bodie if ever riled by a particularly awkward suspect. Chalk and Cheese The show's major appeal lay in its well-balanced mix of strong acting and direction, coupled with Bodie and Doyle's sparky partnership and chalk-and-cheese personalities. Cowley's preoccupation with pure malt scotch and occasional bullet-wound limp were also a source of amusement for the Lads, but overall they each viewed one another with a great mutual respect. The fifty-seven episode run produced a great variety of gripping plots, most notably the destruction of a German terrorist group in Close Quarters, the testing of a potentially deadly laser gun in Hunter Hunted, a supposed crime-free town masking a squad of corrupt policeman in In the Public Interest and the trial of CI5 in The Rack to name but a few. Like any show, however, there were a number of dodgy episodes to contend with, the chief honour going to The Gun and Blood Sports during the generally below-par fourth season. Banned! The Professionals wasn't without controversy, though - and no, we don't mean Martin Shaw's hair (which was, amazingly, his own idea!). Klansmen, the thirteenth (unlucky for some?) and final episode was banned and remains unaired in the UK even to this day because it dealt with the subject of racism. Only now with the DVD release will British fans be able to see the episode for themselves. Eventually Lewis and Martin quit the series in 1981 when their four-year contracts expired and although Gordon was said to have been happy to continue, it was decided not to cast a set of new characters because of Lewis and Martin's popularity. However, both had become tired of the monotony of playing their characters - least of all Martin, who had begun to express his dislike of playing 'violent puppet' Doyle at approximately six weeks into the role! Filming was quickly wrapped up with Spy Probe in mid-1981, but due to several ITV strike disputes in the late 1970s, several episodes were held back and the fifth season did not begin transmission until November 1982. The final edition, No Stone was broadcast on Sunday 6 February 1983. Martin allegedly barred any further repeats being broadcast on British terrestrial TV until 1992 and now the only UK-based channel that regularly screens re-runs is satellite station Granada Plus, albeit with a ridiculous series of censorship rules in place (of course, to conceal unnecessary violence we assume, not to make way for more washing powder adverts). Then and Now The Professionals will forever be remembered for sparking such hard-hitting debate as: who was the best looking, Bodie or Doyle? (for the women), who had the smartest motor? (for the blokes) and who was going to be the first victim to be injured by Doyle's erupting perm? (for those mourning the demise of decent hairstyles as the Seventies kicked in). Since the series ended more than twenty years ago, the cast have had mixed fortunes in their careers. Gordon Jackson continued to work successfully in a number of high-profile film and TV roles until he very sadly passed away in 1990, at the age of 66. Martin Shaw appeared in The Chief and Rhodes in the mid-1990s, and has recently made a comeback to prime-time television, with starring roles in A&E and Judge John Deed. In 2003 he became the new face of P.D James' long-running detective, Adam Dalgliesh. Lewis Collins unfortunately fell victim to the dreaded typecasting, appearing in a series of ill-advised foreign action movies in the 1980s (although we rather liked Who Dares Wins!) His most recent UK TV appearances were in Cluedo - a thankfully now defunct quiz show presented by the likes of Richard Madeley - in 1991 and a cameo appearance in the dodgy ITV1 'comedy' series The Grimleys in 1999. He has spent the past few years concentrating on theatre work, including a role in the thriller Dangerous Corner, also in 1999. In 2002 Lewis guest-starred in an episode of police series The Bill. The New Professionals The series was revived in 1999, now under the very imaginative alias of The New Professionals. At first it was thought Lewis Collins would be making a comeback appearance, with Bodie being elevated to the position vacated by Cowley, but negotiations for this later fell through. Martin Shaw, on the other hand, was 'not invited' to reprise his role. Interest in the show was less than forthcoming; the first series being pushed into a rather unsociable time slot on the satellite channel Sky One. It now seems unlikely that another season will be made. Over the past decade there has been a renewed interest for The Professionals and all things retro. The memorable 1996 Nissan Car advertisement ("This car's well-sprung" / "A bit like your hair!") and the release of all 57 episodes on DVD in 2002, will ensure that the show is likely to gain a whole new generation of fans following its Silver Jubilee year.
#1 - Old Dog With New Tricks
Season 1 - Episode 3
A gangster called Turkel devises a plot to free his brother from jail by taking hostage an important figure in authority. He is unaware, however, that the 'important figure' he has taken in is actually Cowley masquerading as the Home Secretary, with Bodie as his bodyguard and Doyle ready to pull the trigger on Turkel's brother.
#2 - Killer With a Long Arm
Season 1 - Episode 4
CI5 become aware that an assassination plot on a group of visiting Greek Royals is being planned using a rifle that has a range of over two miles. But they must find out who is the gunman and what is his target - before it is too late.
#3 - The Acorn Syndrome
Season 4 - Episode 1
The daughter of a British Government engineer who is working on a defence protect is kidnapped, and the only way she will be safely returned is if he agrees to betray secrets to enemy agents.
#4 - The Ojuka Situation
Season 5 - Episode 9
A sacked former African Head attempts to get reinstated in office using the help of the British Government, but the plan is sidetracked by one particular civil servant who now wants him dead.
#5 - Private Madness, Public Danger
Season 1 - Episode 1
Charles Nesbitt, an expert on chemical weapons, threatens to contaminate the water sources of London with a lethal hallucogenic drug and in order to back up his claims, plans several small 'demonstrations' in warning to the local authorities - including CI5.
#6 - The Female Factor
Season 1 - Episode 2
An Iron Curtain agent is using a young girl to extort secrets from, and ultimately destroy the career of, a future British Prime Minister, unaware that the girl is the long-lost daughter of a well-known local prostitute.
#7 - Discovered in a Graveyard
Season 5 - Episode 5
Whilst investigating a bombing plot Doyle is shot and left for dead in his flat, and as the hospital fights to save his life, he seems unable to decide whether he wants to live or die...meanwhile, Bodie goes on a chase to find Doyle's assailant.
#8 - Hunter/Hunted
Season 2 - Episode 1
Cowley assigns Doyle to test a brand new high-tech laser beam rifle. But the rifle is stolen from his flat and the thief decides to 'test' it on Doyle, sending him on a cat-and-mouse chase around London.
#9 - A Man Called Quinn
Season 5 - Episode 10
A former colleague of Cowley's who is now a patient in a mental hospital reappears in London, going on the run when he believes that the KGB have drugged him.
#10 - Man Without a Past
Season 2 - Episode 4
Bodie is out at a restaurant with his girlfriend when a bomb goes off at their table, leaving her critically injured and several other diners dead. It's left to Bodie to find out who targeted him and why - until he realises he wasn't the target after all.
#11 - In the Public Interest
Season 2 - Episode 5
A virtual police state has been imposed by a local Chief Constable, resulting in a supposedly almost crime-free city. But that is because all the crime is taking place behind the scenes by the police officers themselves - who will think of nothing of imposing on suspects' rights in their pursuit of 'zero tolerance'. Bodie and Doyle become hunted men when they visit the city and begin to question the rather unorthodox methods of action taken by the local constabulary.
#13 - Everest Was Also Conquered
Season 1 - Episode 8
A dying man's confession triggers the re-opening of a twenty-year-old case of police corruption, an investigation in which the main prosecution witness was murdered by the police officers who were supposedly trying to protect her. Somebody then decides to silence these officers, and sets about doing so.
#14 - Close Quarters
Season 1 - Episode 7
On leave from CI5 with a hand injury, Bodie takes a day trip with his girlfriend and finds himself face-to-face with the leader of a terrorist group. He captures him but then the rest of the gang arrive and trap Bodie and his girlfriend in a nearby vicarage, leaving him unable to alert his colleagues back at CI5 HQ. With barely any clues as to his whereabouts, Doyle and Cowley go on a chase through the countryside to try and locate Bodie.
#15 - Where the Jungle Ends
Season 1 - Episode 6
A group of former comrades from Bodie's mercenary days reappear in England and in order to impress a top London gangster, carry out a violent raid on a local bank. It's left to CI5 to catch and stop the ringleader Krivas and his gang, reuniting Bodie with some of his old adversaries in the process.
#16 - Dead Reckoning
Season 3 - Episode 4
A spy is extradited to Britain with an attempt to keep his arrival top-secret. However, the Bulgarians from Batak's homeland who sent him appear to be trying to make his movements as public as possible. When he is eventually murdered, CI5 suspect his music student daughter of poisoning him.
#17 - A Hiding to Nothing
Season 3 - Episode 6
A dummy run that has been staged for the visit of a Middle Eastern official is found to have been recorded by a foreign student, subsequently leading CI5 to suspect a security leak.
#18 - Long Shot
Season 1 - Episode 11
CI5 are assigned to protect a visiting American Ambassador from a renowned hitman called Ramos, who is hot on his trail. But after only one apparent assasination attempt at his life, Ramos appears to give up - only for him to turn up again at CI5 HQ itself.
#19 - First Night
Season 2 - Episode 3
CI5 are left to dig deep when an Israeli Minister is kidnapped, and the only clues to his whereabouts are a shadowy photograph and a coded tape message.
#20 - The Purging of CI5
Season 3 - Episode 1
CI5 and their agents find themselves under attack from a vendetta of bombings and assassination attempts. Bodie and Doyle are on a chase to find out who the perpetrators are before they end up as the next victims.
#21 - Servant of Two Masters
Season 3 - Episode 8
Bodie and Doyle are shocked to discover that Cowley appears to be selling nerve gas to a group of East Germans in order to line his own pockets, and are assigned by his rival Plumb to track their boss's every move.
#22 - Wild Justice
Season 4 - Episode 2
Bodie's mental state is called ino question when he becomes obsessed with a local Hell's Angel motorcycle gang, gradually sending him further and further behind in training. Is he cracking up?
#23 - Mixed Doubles
Season 4 - Episode 12
Bodie and Doyle are undergoing intense training in preparation for an assignment where they are protecting a foreign official...at the same time, two potential killers are receiving similiar training to prepare them for the assassination of the same official.
#24 - Kickback
Season 4 - Episode 14
Bodie and Keller, an old acquaintance from his days in the SAS, go undercover in order to trap a would-be assassin by posing as hitmen offering to do the job themselves - in order to fake the killing. But Keller turns out to have an ulterior motive.
#25 - The Untouchables
Season 5 - Episode 8
Bodie is offered the opportunity to clear up all his gambling debts by a foreign diplomat - who in exchange wants to have some vital secrets from CI5.