‘The Devil of Winterborne’ (P.R.O.B.E.) (Film)

‘THE DEVIL OF WINTERBORNE’ (P.R.O.B.E.)

Please feel free to comment on my review.

At Winterborne School with Liz Shaw

Okay, is it ‘Winterborne’ or ‘Winterbourne’ according to the episode’s title on the DVD disc?

In 2020, I reviewed ‘The Zero Imperative’, the first episode of the ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ series, starring Caroline John as Liz Shaw from the ‘Doctor Who’ TV series. Here in 2021, I’m reviewing ‘The Devil of Winterborne’, the second episode of the ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ series. It was an interesting viewing experience.

My best mate from school Stephen purchased ‘The Devil of Winterborne’ for me as a late Christmas present in April 2021. Because of our interest in BBV productions, he knew I would enjoy the next instalment of the ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ series after watching ‘The Zero Imperative’. I was happy to check it out.

As a reminder, ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ takes place many years after Liz’s dealings with U.N.I.T. during the first season of Jon Pertwee’s era of ‘Doctor Who’ – Season 7. I wouldn’t say ‘The Zero Imperative’ was a fantastic beginning to the ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ series, but it was decent enough and I’ve seen it a few times. 🙂

Hopefully, ‘The Devil of Winterborne’ would remedy any shortcomings I felt were present in ‘The Zero Imperative’. It helps that ‘The Devil of Winterborne’ is about 80 minutes in length compared to ‘The Zero Imperative’, which was about 60 minutes in length. A very unusual episode length indeed!

Mind you, this isn’t uncommon in previous BBV productions. The last episode of ‘The Stranger’ series called ‘Eye of the Beholder’ is about 85 minutes in length whereas the previous episodes were shorter. The latter ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ episodes are shorter compared to ‘The Devil of Winterborne’ though.

‘The Devil of Winterborne’ is by Mark Gatiss, who previously wrote ‘The Zero Imperative’. Mark Gatiss would write all of the ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ episodes featuring Caroline John as Liz Shaw in the 1990s. The episode is directed by Bill Baggs, who’s in charge of all BBV productions whether video or audio.

In the episode itself, P.R.O.B.E. is summoned to investigate the savage murder of a retired headmaster called Mr. Whittaker. Liz Shaw’s investigations lead her to find some disturbing evidence of a satanic rite near the scene of the crime. This also leads her to the nearby Winterborne School. 😐

With the help of police officer D.I. Burke and her police liaison friend Patsy Haggard, Liz discovers a web of deceit and corruption that extends back in time and threatens the current occupants of Winterborne School. Can Liz stop ‘the Devil of Winterborne’ with increasing pressure from all sides?

I feel Caroline John is given a chance to shine as Liz Shaw compared to her appearance in ‘P.R.O.B.E.’s first episode ‘The Zero Imperative’. We see how Liz conducts her investigations and how she’s able to solve a crime by taking everything into account and when she suspects not all is correct.

Its revealed Liz’s father passed away recently, which was sad to hear. Liz must have taken some time away from P.R.O.B.E. to mourn her father’s passing. Upon her return, she finds everything has changed within the organisation, including a new minister of defence who dictates what P.R.O.B.E. should do.

There’s also the absence of Louise Bayliss, Liz’s assistant at P.R.O.B.E. (as played by Linda Lusardi in ‘The Zero Imperative’). Lou Bayliss has moved on from working in P.R.O.B.E. I don’t know why Linda Lusardi didn’t come back to play Lou in ‘The Devil of Winterborne’, but it’s such a misfortune here. 😦

In place of Lou Bayliss helping Liz out with her investigations is Terry Molloy as D.I. Burke (not ‘Terry Malloy’ according to the end credits on the DVD 😀 ). Terry Molloy is well-known for playing Davros in the ‘Doctor Who’ TV series and the Big Finish audios. He also did human characters in ‘Doctor Who’. 🙂

This included Russell in ‘Attack of the Cybermen’ on TV and Dr. Christopher Wallace in ‘Rat Trap’ on audio. Burke comes across as a hardened cop whom Liz finds a challenge to work with when conducting her investigations. But as the tale progresses, Burke comes round to her way of thinking.

Louise Jameson returns to play Patricia ‘Patsy’ Haggard in ‘The Devil of Winterborne’. Patsy has a more prominent role in ‘The Devil of Winterborne’ compared to her appearance in ‘The Zero Imperative’. She certainly has more interaction with Liz as a character as their friendship is explored.

It’s been suggested to me that there’s a lesbian subtext going on between Liz and Patsy in the ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ series, indicating that Liz might actually be a lesbian. I can understand that and I appreciate how that gets explored in the ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ series in scenes featuring the two characters.

Peter Davison guest stars as Gavin Purcell, the headmaster of Winterborne School in the episode. Peter is well-known for playing Tristan Farnon in the original ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ series as well as the Fifth Doctor in ‘Doctor Who’. He’s had a fair share of BBV productions before this one.

He was in ‘The Airzone Solution’ and he previously played Patient One in ‘The Zero Imperative’. I don’t believe Gavin Purcell is Patient One in disguise since no connection is made between the first two ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ episodes in that regard. Gavin Purcell isn’t the Fifth Doctor in disguise either sadly. 😦

You could argue Gavin Purcell is the Fifth Doctor in human form, perhaps using the chameleon arch like David Tennant’s Doctor did in ‘Human Nature’/’The Family of Blood’. The same can be accounted for the Doctor actors who played supporting characters in ‘The Zero Imperative’ episode.

But there’s not really much to substantiate that argument in the episode here. It’s interesting how Gavin Purcell’s character seems to be protecting someone when he’s found over the dead body of one of his students. Liz Shaw soon deduces that Gavin Purcell is actually hiding something in the story.

Mark Gatiss also appears in this episode, playing the school’s gardener Georgie. Mark previously played William Bruffin in ‘The Zero Imperative’. It’s intriguing how writers of certain BBV productions like Mark get to play ‘different characters’ in each of the episodes of a certain series they’ve written.

Then again, Nicholas Briggs played different characters in ‘The Stranger’ episodes he’d written, so what do I know? Georgie comes across as a simple-minded person who gets teased by the students at Winterborne. It’s interesting how he talks to Liz Shaw later, explaining what he had seen recently.

Reece Shearsmith guest stars as Andrew, one of the students at Winterborne School. Reece Shearsmith would go on to play Patrick Troughton briefly at the end of ‘An Adventure In Space and Time’ and he was in ‘Sleep No More’ with Peter Capaldi. It’s interesting to see him in this production.

Andrew is one of three students at the school, along with Daniel Matthews as Christian, Gavin Purcell’s nephew; and Stephen Dolomore as Luke. It’s disturbing when Andrew becomes the latest victim of the person that claims himself as ‘the Devil of Winterborne’, making the climax very tense.

There’s also a homosexual subtext going in the episode, especially when Christian makes out with Luke and we see them kissing each other. This might be Mark Gatiss incorporating his gay views into the episode because…you know, he’s gay. Interesting how that gets depicted in the story’s telling. 😐

Geoffrey Beevers stars as Brian Rutherford, the new minister of the Ministry of Defence who replaces Sir Richard Stevenson and handles the P.R.O.B.E. affairs. Geoffrey Beevers is Caroline John’s husband in real-life and is well-known for playing the Master in ‘Doctor Who’ both on TV and audio.

He’s also had an association with BBV productions, appearing in ‘The Stranger’s final episode ‘Eye of the Beholder’. We don’t get to see much of Brian Rutherford as a character, though Liz Shaw doesn’t take to him well when he takes over. Patsy has to negotiate with him in order to keep P.R.O.B.E. going.

By the way, whoever edited the end credits for ‘The Devil of Winterborne’ got it wrong with listing ‘Rutherford’ being played by ‘Patricia Merrick’ instead of ‘Geoffrey Beevers’. I had my glasses on. I know what I’m on about! Couldn’t the editor see Rutherford was played by a man, not a woman? 😀

Charmian May guest stars as Barbara Taploe, the Head of History at Winterborne School. I’ve seen Charmain May as Mrs. Weaver in ‘The Good Life’ and she played Mrs. Councillor Nugent in ‘Keeping Up Appearances’. There’s also Jonathan Rigby as Cummings, who was also in ‘The Zero Imperative’.

The episode concludes with Liz solving the case at Winterborne School and uncovering who the ‘devil’ was. D.I. Burke has requested a transfer to work with P.R.O.B.E., following what he’s experienced with Liz Shaw. Sadly this is D.I. Burke’s only appearance in the ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ series here. 😦

There aren’t any DVD special features to enjoy on ‘The Devil of Winterborne’ DVD. There should have been a behind-the-scenes DVD documentary on the making of ‘The Devil of Winterborne’. The DVD menu has the one option ‘PLAY FILM’, pretty similar to ‘Do You Have a Licence To Save This Planet?’

I enjoyed ‘The Devil of Winterborne’. I found it better than ‘The Zero imperative’, especially when getting into the character of Caroline John as Liz. I also enjoyed seeing the film in featuring the likes of Peter Davison, the writer Mark Gatiss, Louise Jameson, Reece Shearsmith and Terry Molloy. 🙂

The film is quite gruesome and disturbing in places. Not sure if the film should be rated 15 instead of 12 according to the DVD cover. Otherwise, ‘The Devil of Winterborne’ was worthwhile and it helps the episode length is about 80 minutes to cram in enough to appreciate the story and its characters.

Thanks again Stephen for getting me ‘The Devil of Winterborne’ as a late Christmas present! 😀

‘The Devil of Winterborne’ (P.R.O.B.E.) rating – 8/10


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