A BBC4 documentary on TV cop shows (broadcast September 2008) had the producer of the Sweeney saying that the row between the two of us was based on, in his words "Ian wanted the kind of drama he knew how to do well, with more studio space and longer speeches and lots of playing scenes, and I was all for opening it up and having it all happening on the road?" It was completely the reverse.
Prior to The Sweeney, I had worked with the fine producer / director James Gatward. The Reaygo series, all on film, had ranged around the City of London, the countryside, four-wallers and all over the place, plus snatched shots where we couldn't get permission to film. It was an inspired rolling bandwagon. Ted Childs and my first collision? His statement that there would be two fixed "set-ups" a day, cast and crew moving from the first to the second, and filming restricted to the more or less immediate area. "This", he said, "is how we do things". My objection, "Who's we?" See my Sweeney pilot script where Ted was unable to alter anything but one scene. Slow action? Long speeches? Where are they?
The second item that came out of the doc was a kind of glad-handed all round agreement that John Thaw, in his wisdom, expressed that The Sweeney must end as it had run its course. He gave me the real reason. "I didn't make enough money out of it." His wife had just earned more money than he had in the bank after one complete series, "for three days work on a Make-a-Mousse commercial".
Thaw and me, Cap Ferrat.
My wife Barbara and I took John on several holidays, France, Cornwall, Lake District etc., when he was broke and lovable.
Extract from Ian Kennedy-Martin's interview for the book, Talk of Drama, by S. Day-Lewis (ULP Publications, 1998)
The start of Z Cars was marked by a series of blazing rows between its creator Troy Kennedy Martin and its launch producer Elwyn Jones. After Troy's early departure the series formula was maintained, challenging content apart, much as he had conceived it. Other writers found the show a more or less prescribed but congenial production line. History repeated itself almost exactly after Ian Kennedy-Martin, four years younger than brother Troy, conceived his most lastingly famous drama formula, The Sweeney. Pre-production resounded with furious hostilities between freshman producer Ted Childs and exasperated creator Ian Kennedy-Martin. Ian, feeling his authority and experience was being brushed aside, resigned before episode one was shown. After which the show continued much as he had designed it. As with the intial Z Cars explosions it seemed necessary to have a thunderous creator v. producer struggle to clear the air before other high calibre writers could enjoy working for the show. Brother Troy himself contributed six episodes between 1975 and 1978.
By 1975 the original Z Cars had been transmuted and mellowed through Softly, Softly (1966-1970) to the still more cosy BBC formula Softly, Softly: Task Force (1970-76). The Thames and Euston Films hit The Sweeney (1975), and more particularly its Ian Kennedy-Martin written Regan (1974) pilot, arose from his impatience with the long dying BBC show. "Here was a typical situation where a series has run out of ideas and all the executives can think of doing, as they sit around in their offices, is 'give the guy a promotion'. Hence Detective Chief Inspector Barlow (Stratford Johns). I have got a letter somewhere, with my contract for The Sweeney, which says that Detective Inspector Regan (John Thaw) must never be given promotion without my permission", Ian Kennedy-Martin remembered when we met at his London home in late 1996.
"I was looking at Softly, Softly, which by then was a very poor extension of Troy's original, and around the same time I was meeting this guy from the Met's Flying Squad and finding out some of the police realities of the day. While the Home Secretary was protesting that "We'll never arm the police" there were at that moment 200 armed policemen in London. They were called the Embassy Protection Squad. What an extraordinary coincidence that there was a bank robbery in South Kensington and the Embassy Protection Squad happened to turn up outside, fully armed and ready to shoot the people as they came out of the bank. So I knew what was happening and talked about it to George Markstein, who was Head of Script Development at Thames-Euston.
He invited me to write an episode for their Special Branch (1969-74) police series. I said I'd seen it and it was terrible. He agreed and suggested I should try and think of a replacement. So I went to Euston on that basis and talked to Lloyd Shirley, the Thames drama boss, about the changes in policing signalled by the arrival of Commander Robert Mark as the new chief at Scotland Yard. I said there was a series to be made about the new style Flying Squad. The Regan pilot was commissioned for the Armchair Theatre slot and Euston committed to a series even before the single went into production.
I wrote the pilot and worked with George Markstein, Lloyd Shirley and his partner George Taylor until we considered it a finished script. It was always understood that the character of Regan was written for John Thaw who had been a great friend since he played the lead in a series I'd story-edited, Redcap (1965-66) for ABC TV. At this point Ted Childs arrived on the scene. He had come from Special Branch but I did not consider him a sufficiently experienced producer to be making the kind of demands for rewrites he, and director Doug Camfield, now made. My greatest fear was the The Sweeney would start with a class pilot and end up looking like Special Branch. Ted and Doug were writing pages of changes and I was rejecting every one. I am glad to say that the pilot, except for a short scene in a car in Soho, is exactly what wrote. As a result of a huge row between Ted, Camfield and myself, in Lloyds office, Doug left the production and Tom Clegg was hired to direct.
Before the pilot was produced I had been commissioned to write the first three scripts for The Sweeney series. As I wrote the drafts, Ted and I continued at loggerheads and, as is bound to happen when a writer and producer are in conflict, I was beginning to feel marginalised. At the time I was a young writer in demand, making relationships with top producers who subsequently put on some of my later creations, like Juliet Bravo and The Chinese Detective, and frankly I didn't need the hassle of a scrap with Ted over every Sweeney script I wrote. So, while remaining on good terms with George and Lloyd, I quit. Happily, while the pilot was in production, there had to be new negotiations over my contract. My agent managed to secure for me a broad range of rights in any Sweeney films, novels and merchandising as well as the series itself. So I was going to make serious money out of the show. I still do."
Although a Londoner by birth, Ian Kennedy-Martin spent time in Ireland. He followed brother Troy to Trinity College, Dublin, but was "kicked out" before he graduated. He was still in Dublin and wondering what career to take up, and started writing. Troy had written an article for the Daily Telegraph about soldiers in Cyprus. This had interested the documentary maker Gilchrist Calder who encouraged Troy's debut play Incident at Echo Six (1958). Ian tried the same route. He wrote a pair of television plays. Neither was produced but John Hopkins tried to chaperone one of them through and eventually he and Elwyn Jones invited Ian to join the BBC TV's Writers Pool. He started work there in 1962 as Troy was leaving. Ian's two plays he later sold to his brother, and they became a key component in Troy's The Italian Job.
Like his brother before him at the BBC, Ian read scripts, made adaptations and generally learned the terminology and techniques of television drama. Looking forward, he could see that there were two ways to move on. One was to write single plays and the other was to opt for popular series.
"There were the serious writers like David Mercer who would write two heavily reviewed TV plays each year, getting 900 quid a script if they were lucky. Then there were people like Brian Clemens working on ITV shows like ATV's Danger Man and ABC's The Avengers and driving a Ferrari. So I chose to write for production line series. You could write say eight or nine episodes of the BBC's Troubleshooters (1966-1972) and then go on to another series, in my case BBC's Colditz (1973-74)".
"After contributing like this to formulae created by others it appears that you made a conscious decision that your own creations would be placed, more or less, in the cops?n?robbers genre?"
"There are only three kinds of people who can walk into a situation and, more or less of right, ask questions. They are doctors, lawyers and cops. There were quite a few people who went down the doctor way and there were a few who opted for lawyers but I think that both Troy and I chose cops because we found it easiest to research them. They always want to talk about themselves and their last case and there's a kind of energy which gives you the ability to tell a fast moving narrative. You don't get that with doctors or lawyers. It's a very logical thing. If you want a high tension story you go for a policeman rather than a doctor.
We learned fairly early on that Troy and I don't work in the same way. I am a sort of 9am to 3pm neurotic. I like to write a bit every day, a straight run through without lunch or other interruptions. And he does his work in bursts and flashes. Then he decided to go a different way. He went first to Hollywood and he loved everything he saw. He loved the swimming pools and the Beverly Hills Hotel. When I went there it seemed every person I saw was an absolute fucking nightmare. I loathed everything to do with the place. Though I did later get married there and it has lasted 37 years so far. I think Troy is much better at vicarious living. He loves meeting film producers who are actually involved with the Mafia, he likes pretty girls, he likes watching. I think he went there after having been paid a lot of money for The Italian Job. He was a bit of a number there, the first of the English writers to make serious money.
But the truth I learned about Hollywood is that by the time they've finished buggering you around you make less money than you do sitting over here and getting a good series off and going. I was back and forth for three years and did three Hollywood studio projects, writing scripts that never got made. At one point I was storming down Sunset Boulevard and I met John Hopkins. I complained to him that I had written three fucking screenplays and I couldn't get any of them on. He said "Well, I've written 16 that haven't been made".
Ian wrote plays for BBC Play of the Month and Armchair Theatre. "I was suspicious of that whole Wednesday Play thing because I know it's quite easy to write that sort of stuff. You take a mallet to crack an egg, you say the working class are in a terrible position, all that sort of thing. I have always found it Stalinist and suspect. You bang away at the same thing, you bring in archetypal people in a stress situation and you say how terrible society is. I belong to the Left but I suspect how easy it is to do some of that stuff."
"Though I suppose that you could be accused of writing social documents in the shape of your Juliet Bravo (1980-85), the pressure for a woman holding down a commanding job in a male domain: and The Chinese Detective (1981-82) about this Chinese cop surviving in an Anglo Saxon environment?"
"The Chinese Detective was a sort of social document in the way I used the Chinese guy to look at our society and comment on it, that's where it came from. That idea came before Juliet Bravo and I sent two pages of script and eight paragraphs to Graeme MacDonald at the BBC. He said he liked it but had no money to make it. He also said that the BBC1 controller had come up with this idea for a series about a woman Detective Inspector.
MacDonald said "It's much easier to go along with the heads of the BBC, it saves an amount of aggravation, so why don't you go up to Lancashire where we still have police contacts, there's a woman Inspector up there who could serve as a model". So while we were waiting for money to make The Chinese Detective I went up to Lancashire and produced the format and 14 scripts for Juliet Bravo.
In those days that is what I used to do. I would be commissioned to write a script and I would do that before the contract came through. Then I offered two courses. I told them I was very happy to write a pilot and walk away and if they wanted my involvement after that there were certain producers I worked with and others I did not. I said 'If you are going to put me with someone I don't like or admire let's just leave it at the pilot". I had my list. Ian Toynton, John Bryce, Terence Williams etc. They would say "Terry Williams, what a good idea". I would then ring Terry and say, "Look, I've got a job for you. Somebody's going to ring you, and if you think I'm not going to have anything to do with the casting you are wrong. We are going to talk directors and do the casting together"."
"Hence the memorable performance of David Yip as The Chinese Detective?"
"Well, I wrote that with somebody else in mind, an actor I had met and thought was very good. But when we interviewed that actor and David Yip it was obvious that David was absolutely right for the part."