"Charles Vaughan, survivor?" - Fenton



Having left Jenny and Agnes back at the Walter's reclaimed farm, Charles is trying to track down
Tom Walter. Whilst resting by a railway viaduct a pack of vicious dogs arrive on the scene.


Charles is thrown from his horse and bitten on the arm by one of the dogs.


Charles's predicament is spotted by an armed stranger, who shoots the attacking dog dead. He
also frightens the rest of the pack off with further gunfire. Charles checks his arm and sees that
the bite has gone through to his skin. He then looks up to meet his rescuer.


Charles introduces himself to the man who is called Richard Fenton. Fenton tells him more
the urban dog packs that have come from Sheffield and Manchester. He suggests they make a
fire on higher ground and eat the meat Charles is carrying, which attracted the dogs in the
first place.


Fenton trades guns for food. Charles tells him he has nothing to trade. Charles gets
excited when he learns that the man has been keeping notes of everyone he has met.
Charles describes it as a 'record of half a nation'. He tells him about his ideas of
federation and thinks his information on people's movements will prove to be useful.
Fenton is uninspired by Charles describing him as a little person with big ideas. He
explains that he remains detached to stay sane.


Whilst saddling up, Fenton idly mentions about the rabies problem in the area. But
brushes off Charles concerns saying the dogs that attacked him weren't frothing.


Charles rushes inside the hut to cut out his wound with a hot knife. Fenton tells
him that if he was infected that it was too late for that as it would already be in his
bloodstream. He also tells him that the incubation period is eleven days to one year.
Charles is angry when he learns that Fenton is a Doctor and is not using his skills
to help others. Fenton explains that he is a Doctor of Philosophy. He also tells
Charles of his own close encounter with a dog a week ago.


A dog pack attacks the pair and they defend themselves. They fend them off and Fenton
advises that they burn the dead dogs in case they are infected with rabies.


After they have burned the bodies, they set off for Fenton's halfway house and discuss the
fall of civilisation and their very different philosophies en route. Fenton sees himself as a
realist rather than a nihilist. Charles explains that he cannot just observe and must become
involved in making a future for the nation.


Fenton tells Charles that he met Greg Preston and that he went off looking for coal and open
cast mining. Charles is excited by the news. Fenton tells Charles he is enjoying their discussion.
They arrive at Fenton's halfway house.


They continue their discussion inside. Fenton tells Charles that everything will end with a
whimper rather than a bang as society will become overridden with typhoid, cholera and
more plague, and that child mortality will exceed survival. Charles states that he wishes
he'd never met Fenton. Fenton believes this to be because his words undermine his beliefs
and make him see what is inevitable.


The next morning Charles is woken by Fenton who has a fever. He tells Charles to keep
his distance and that he'll sweat it out. Charles goes down to the river to fetch him some
water.


He leaves the water for Fenton and is about to set off for help when Fenton appears with
the bowl of water. He flings it out of the house and returns inside.


Charles returns to speak to him asking him where he lives. Fenton is burbling about 'fear
of water'. He asks Charles to bring him a rifle and tells him he has rabies...


Charles is undeterred and tells him he will get help. Charles's preparations to leave are
interrupted when Fenton leaves the house in a delirious state and almost throws himself
into the river below. He is now frothing at the mouth. Charles ties him up and drags him
back into the house.


Inside the house again, Charles insists that Fenton tell him where he lives.
Fenton is now losing his grip on reality and cannot tell him. Charles departs.


At a nearby village he meets two men (Sanders and Jim) who are repairing a roof. They are
uninterested in Charles' pleas for help at first, but when they learn that it is Richard Fenton
who is in trouble they agree to go back to the house with him. Charles neglects to tell them
that Fenton has rabies.


Arriving back at the house, it transpires that Fenton has freed himself and the rabies has
reached a further more manic stage. Sanders rebukes Charles for not telling them about
Fenton's condition.


Outside the house Fenton lunges for them. The men run down to the river and
Charles fills a pot with water. They return to the house, where Fenton attacks
again...


Charles throws the water over him and he falls to the ground writhing in agony. Charles
shoots him and soon he is still.


Sanders and Jim turn on Charles. Sanders is convinced that Charles is infected too.
Charles explains that he has only been with Fenton for a day.


Sanders orders him to show him his arm wound. Charles protests that the dog that
attacked him was not rabid. Sanders does not want to take any chances and tells
him to turn around. Charles moves as if to do, but turns to attack Sanders with his
own rifle. He knocks him to the ground and makes for his horse.


Charles makes his escape on horseback, but the men fire after him and he is hit in the arm.
Sanders and Jim pursue him on their own horses.


Charles abandons his horse and sends it on along the road. He runs down a snowy bank to find
cover in the trees below. Sanders and Jim spot Charles's horse without a rider and set off down
the bank after Charles.


Charles takes cover as the men pass by. Later he finds a derelict building where he
shelters whilst he cuts the bullet out of his arm with his knife.


Charles spots a bicycle near a house and after engaging its owner in conversation, he
rides off on it.


Some time later the bicycle gets a puncture and Charles abandons it. On foot again, Charles
is exhausted. He takes shelter in a hay barn and falls asleep.


He wakes to see a young girl who leaves the barn when he tries to talk to her. He sets off
again, but hides when he sees Sanders, Jim and the man who he stole the bike from on
the track below him.


Having waited for them to move on, Charles comes down to the track and finds himself
outside a house. He discovers it to be Fenton's and locates the notes he had told Charles
about.


The notes are poetic in style. Charles reads of Fenton's encounter with Greg. Pocketing the
notebook, Charles sets off again and shortly after is forced to wade into a river to evade
another pack of wild dogs.


Charles prepares to defend himself with a knife, but the dogs are put off by the water and the
arrival of Sanders and the others.


Having seen the dogs off, they walk over the bridge, unaware that Charles is in the water
below them. Charles heads in the other direction. Some time later, after a snowfall, an
exhausted Charles falls to the ground near a farm.


He is discovered by a simpleton called Ron, who pokes him with a stick and calls him 'naughty
dog'. He passes out. He later wakes in a barn and discovers that he is chained up.


A woman called Ellen arrives to see how he is, bringing him food and water. She explains that
the chains are a precaution. She begins to quiz him about his encounter with the dog in order
to discover if he is at risk.


She asks if the dog bit through his coat. When Charles explains this is the case and that the
dog was not frothing, she is relieved. She explains that the coat material would have wiped
off any infected saliva. She thinks it very unlikely that he is at risk from rabies. Charles is
very grateful to her. She explains that she knows about rabies because of time spent in Africa.


Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Sanders and the others on horseback.
Ellen tells them that she hasn't seen anyone and they depart.


Charles leaves, he thanks Ellen for her help and promises to come back and see her again.


As Charles sets off, Ellen sees that Ron has told Sanders about Charles and they set off
after him.


Charles is thrown from his horse, but he hides behind a wall and Sanders and the other
horsemen carry on after the rider-less horse.


Charles makes his escape again and at the bottom of a bank discovers a fully
operational steam train.


He clambers exhausted into one of the train's empty carts as it pulls away...


The train pulls into a station well out of the area in which he was being pursued. After
being cleaned up by a woman living at the station he joins the driver and his mate
aboard the train. He learns that they have recently met up with Greg and Tom Walter
with whom they had talked about 'steam for survival', hence the working steam train.
Charles is relieved that his ordeal is over as the train sets off again.

 

Episode Review

Mad Dog is a gripping episode and a splendid showcase for the acting talents of Denis Lill. It is a great tribute to him that the viewer lives every moment of this episode with Charles, as he is forced to ever more desperate measures to ensure his survival. Here once more his strongest character traits are brought to the fore, perhaps most successfully in his challenging philosophical discussions with Fenton. Despite Fenton's pessimistic realism Charles remains idealistic and optimistic. However, it is Fenton who comes across as more realistic, which makes a refreshing change.

Morris Perry provides sterling support in the tragic role of Fenton. His performance is one of the most haunting and poignant of the series, both before and after the rabies takes hold. To see him degenerate into a frothing mess is at once horrific and disturbing.

The episode achieves an interesting mix of styles by juxtaposing weighty dialogue in the first half of the episode with the non-verbal action oriented second half. The hunt itself is gripping and is typical of the gritty texture of the third series. The scene of Charles's brief respite at Fenton's home in which we hear Fenton read his notes aloud is beautifully done. Heather Canning is also worthy of note as she makes a sparkling and all to brief appearance as Ellen, Charles saviour, as the episode nears its end.

Here, Don Shaw once again delivered a very strong script which was perfect for the series, given its careful balance of complex dialogue and action adventure. The scenery is also wonderful to look at.

Rating: 9/10

 


Episode 30: Mad Dog

writer:
Don Shaw
first broadcast:
6th April 1977


Regular Cast:

Charles Vaughan: Denis Lill

Guest Cast:

Fenton: Morris Perry
Sanders: Bernard Kay
Ellen: Heather Canning
Jim: Ralph Arliss
Phil: Max Faulkner
Ron: Stephen Bill
Driver: Eric Francis
Terry: Robert Pugh
Girl: Jane Shaw


designer: Geoff Powell
director: Tristan De Vere Cole
producer: Terence Dudley
episode recorded:
12th - 13th March 1977



Find out about the locations used to film this episode by clicking here

To visit Rich Cross's website which is dedicated to this episode and find out about the plans for an April 2003 trip to the locations used click here



NEXT EPISODE: BRIDGEHEAD by Martin Worth



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