DEPARTMENT S. Syndicated in United States. ITC Production. 28 episodes. 60 minutes. 1969 through 1970. Created by Monty Berman and Dennis Spooner. Executive Story Consultant: Dennis Spooner. Produced by Monty Berman. Creative Consultant: Cyril Frankel. Musical Director: Edwin Astley. Cast: Peter Wyngarde (Jason King), Joel Fabiani (Stewart Sullivan), Rosemary Nicols (Annabelle Hurst), Dennis Alaba Peters (Curtis Seretse). Available on DVD but not in Region One format for the US.

   In the 1960s the Beatles were not the only British to invade American pop culture. “Mod” fashions from London and the British TV and Film spies quickly followed. James Bond led the way, followed by The Avengers and a group of ITC-produced TV spies/detectives such as those in Department S.   * (See FOOTNOTE.)


   Department S was a small branch of Interpol made up of four people dedicated to solving the unsolvable crime. Or to quote a BBC2 introduction to the series (available on YouTube as “Department S: The Gen”), “If its too hot for the cops, a might complicated for the military, call Department S.”

   Jason King was a flamboyant, best selling mystery writer who had a love for women and liquor. His fictional detective Mark Caine was in a series of books with such titles as Don’t Look Now But Your Clutch Is Slipping. King would often use Caine’s intuitive methods to help solve the mysteries facing Department S.

   Jason King was played by Shakespearian actor, Peter Wyngarde, who Sir John Gielgud said was England’s most underrated actor. Wyngarde was a fan favorite, especially with women. The popularity of Wyngarde’s Jason King would lead to the character getting his own series in 1971.


   Stewart Sullivan was the team’s field leader. A man of action, his methods were more procedural such as questioning the suspects.

   Annabel Hurst was the beautiful computer scientist whose beliefs in the scientific method of crime solving often put her in conflict with Jason’s more human deductions. Her clothes, what little she wore, were the latest in 1960s fashion.

   Curtis Seretse was the bureaucrat in charge of Department S. According to the BFI website Screenonline, the use of a black actor for the part was “a bold piece of casting for its time.”


   The four characters set up the ultimate conflict of mystery’s solving methods, with one method always successful in explaining the strangest twist.

   Department S shared some characteristics with the more popular and famous The Avengers. Both featured the wild fashion of 60s London and highly stylized writing and direction. Most obviously, both series had a fondness for over the top bizarre plots.

   In the first episode, “Six Days” (written by Gerald Kelsey and directed by Cyril Frankel), a commercial plane arrives at a London airport with all on board believing they are thirty minutes early, when they are really six days late. This episode can (for now) be seen on YouTube and is highly recommended. (The link will take you to Part 1 of 4.)


   While still fun to watch, the cult favorite has its flaws. There were the typical television mystery annoyances such as a chase because no one thought to guard the exits. But the biggest problem for the modern viewer is what the viewers at the time enjoyed most, the now camp character of Jason King.

FOOTNOTE:   The ITC series was made for the American television market, even using the American commercial format and length. It might have appeared in the U.S. first. This would explain why IMDb and BFI have different air dates for the series.

   IMDb has the series lasting two seasons. Season One lasted eight episodes from March 9, 1969 through April 27, 1969. Season Two lasted twenty episodes from October 1, 1969 through March 24, 1970.    BFI has the series lasting two seasons but starting September 3, 1969 and ending April 3, 1970.