In 1962, the BBC decided to get in on the half-hour international investigation drama format that had mainly been cornered by commercial television, and entered a co-production deal with MGM to produce Zero One. The series, developed from the memoirs of the retired investigator Donald Fish, dealt with the many and varied cases of International Air Security (call sign, Zero One) and ran for three years until it reached 39 episodes, the standard number for exported television series (otherwise known as weekly programming for three quarters of a year).
Starring as the principal investigator Alan Garnett was Nigel Patrick, who had administered an offstage spanking in Tomorrow’s Child (1946), but won’t be getting to do the same this time around. But that doesn’t mean actress Jeannie Carson can relax.
Originally working under the slightly shorter name of Jean Carson, she was a British comedienne who was successful in the London theater in the early 1950s, before breaking into the American sitcom market and renaming herself Jeannie to differentiate her from the already established American actress also named Jean Carson. She starred as a chirpy Scotswoman in New York in Hey, Jeannie! (1956-58), then returned to Britain for a few years before spending the rest of her career on the American stage. One of her last screen appearances was in ‘Downdraft’, the episode of Zero One first shown on February 13, 1963, in which she plays Jo Selkirk, daughter of a small-time airline owner in the west of Canada.
Well might she look worried, because the script was written by Lewis Davidson (1926-90), who had also written, only a few months before, a certain episode of The Saint:
Hamish Selkirk is trying to get a license to open his airfield up to passenger traffic, but faces a slight difficulty: the site suffers from a dangerous downdraft which can cause planes to crash-land. We see it happen in the opening scene, when Jo’s boyfriend Dunk Wilson (Jerry Stovin) falls foul of the unruly air currents and ends up with his plane literally dunked. When Garnett arrives to inspect the airfield as part of the licensing process, Jo and her father do all they can to conceal the potentially lethal flaw, with Jo taking especial care to make herself agreeable to him.
Meanwhile, Dunk makes himself especially disagreeable, but it later emerges that he’s not the drunken lout he seems. On the contrary, he’s a conscientious pilot trying to put a log-book into Garnett’s hands: the evidence showing why the site is unsuitable to be an airfield.
The next day, Jo takes Garnett off for a flight, but stages a mechanical fault that leaves them stranded in a rugged trapper’s hut in the middle of nowhere – which will give her the opportunity to destroy the incriminating log-book. Well aware of what’s going on, Garnett gives her a fright:
It’s not what it looks like there! He’s pretending to romance her:
But before it goes too far, Dunk arrives, having got wind of what she was planning. Now Garnett is keen to be on his way back to the airfield, but Dunk says there’s something else to be done first. Garnett says he’ll wait outside…
Dunk picks up a leather strap and whacks it testingly against his palm.
Then he takes Jo by the scruff of her neck
and bends her over the bed.
The camera zooms in on her apprehensive face…
He tells her this is something her father should have done a long time ago, and raises the strap.
The start of the spanking is shot in close-up on her face.
But after three whacks… we cross-fade to the next scene!
For the benefit of anyone who might feel disappointed by that, we’ll end by rewinding a decade or so to an earlier point in Jeannie Carson’s career, when she appeared in pantomime with Nat Jackley, as the title role in Aladdin:
But maybe that’s a source of disappointment, too, when you consider that she’s actually only having her shorts patched!