The Mask of Janus
Into The Bond-less World Of Real Spies
From the New Zealand TV Weekly, October 2, 1967
When BBC television decided to make a series about spies. John Gould (who devised The Mask of Janus) studied some 25 books, and many official publications on security. espionage and counter-espionage. From the mass of information he accumulated. he and the producer, Terence Dudley, concluded that the world of James Bond was less exciting, less dramatic than the world of the real spy.
They worked out a country (Amalia), and a political atmosphere in which the Cold War could be seen in terms of real people with whom every one of us can identify, a world in which the power game could be examined under the magnifying glass of well-documented drama.
They concluded that the continual emphasis on the heroes (us) and the villains (everybody else) was exaggerating an already dangerous state of mind. They decided-some months before U Thant said the same thing to the United Nations - that honesty was, after all, the best policy. The balance of terror does exist, and men and women - thousands of them - do live every day of their lives fighting to preserve it.
The drama of these men and women is more vivid, more exciting, more powerful than anything that merely suspends belief in reality for a few hours.
So they decided to put on the screen not the spy as hero and superman, but the spy as the man in the street doing a difficult job of work to the best of his ability. And not just the British, but the Americans, the Russians, everybody involved in the secret war. These men lead dangerous lives, so that we at home can lead safe and peaceful lives.
This is what lies behind the Mask . . . Men and women doing a tough and dirty job, who are not heroes, nor villains. The biographers might make them out as heroes. But they're not.
The extensive location filming for The Mask of Janus represents a complete breakaway from accepted BBC television practice. It was the first time that a BBC unit had travelled so far away from Britain and done so much filming at the start of a new series.
Altogether the unit spent two months away from base filming on the island of Malta. They filmed in the capital city of Valetta, and at villages inland and along the coasts. They filmed in busy streets, in fishing boats, on barren clifis, and in sumptuous private mansions.
Three of the continuing characters - Dinsdale Landen as Cadell, Peter Dyneley as Commander Hastings and Lawrence Dane as Miller - plus a number of guest stars, worked twelve- hour days in torrid temperatures.
Says John Gould:
-We have certainly spent more time away from
the studio than is usual at the start
of a new BBC television production-
and we have travelled further afield.
Maigret was continually filming on
location in France. Dr Finlay's
Casebook goes to Scotland, and
Mogul has got around quite a lot.
But Malta is some 1,300 miles away
from London and We have spent two
months there already.
Our aim has been to use locations intelligently, not just as background but for their full dramatic
effect, as an integral part of the whole