"A parasite is something or somebody that lives off
or preys on somebody or something else"
- Mina

Mina is collecting herbs by the banks of a canal a few miles away from the Whitecross
settlement when she meets a man called John Millen who is running a horse drawn barge.

The pair strike up a friendship almost at once. Mina learns that John has a supply of
wellington boots that he may wish to use to trade with Whitecross and arranges for him to
meet her the following day nearer the settlement.

The barge arrives early the next day whilst an excited Mina is preparing lunch for John. The
barge is met by several members of the community. However, it is now manned by two young
men called Kane and Grice.

The men are surprised by the reception committee, but bluff their way through, thinking
no-one else has encountered the barge before. Pet is worried because she is sure she
recognises Kane. The two men decide to take advantage of Whitecross hospitality and are
entertained at the farmhouse by Charles.

Grice is less comfortable than Kane with the situation, especially when it becomes clear that
former criminal Kane wants to case the joint.

At the barge there is almost a nasty accident, when John finds a gun and it goes off, almost
hitting Greg and Lizzie. Greg wonders if the men are all that they say they are.

Greg and Charles question the men further but don't get anywhere. When Mina arrives on the
scene still expecting John, Kane lies about the former owner of the barge. He tells her that
he had to go back to his settlement to look after his sick wife. Mina knows this to be a lie as
John had told her he was unmarried. She also notices that Kane is wearing John's hat and is
now convinced that all is not well.

Greg and Lewis go to the barge to pick up the wellington boots and also find wood alcohol
aboard. Mina tells Ruth about her concerns.

Pet remembers why she recognises Kane. He had been convicted of murder by a jury on
which her father had served. Mina searches the length of the canal and to her horror finds
John's dead body in the water with a knife lodged in his back.

Back at Whitecross she confronts Kane, demanding that he checks if the knife she has
retrieved from John's body fits his empty sheath. Kane dismisses her allegations and leaves
the farmhouse with Grice, after Mina tries to attack him with the knife.

The men return to the quarantine hut whilst Greg and the others discuss their next move.
Later still Kane tells Grice he is going to get some insurance and leaves the hut. The next
morning Lewis persuades Greg and Charles that he should mediate with the men before they
take a more heavy-handed approach.

Lewis asks them to leave peacefully, but soon discovers that they have taken Lizzie and John

Kane demands horses with which to leave the settlement and shoots Lewis to prove he
means business. Securing their requested horses they ride off with Lizzie and John, warning
Charles and Greg not to follow them.

The pair ignore the threat and follow at a safe distance. Ruth and Pet can do nothing for
Lewis as he is now dead.

Back on the barge again Kane and Grice have been drinking the wood alcohol not realising
the danger in this. They both begin to feel groggy and ill.

John and Lizzie seize their chance to slip off the boat. Grice notices and fires his gun at them.

John and Lizzie reach safety unscathed. Due to the lighting of a match which ignites the
wood alcohol fumes, the barge explodes spectacularly, knocking Greg, Charles and the
children to the ground.

Mina teaches the children about 'parasites' and grieves the loss of John Millen.

Episode Review

Parasites is a gem of an episode thanks to wonderful guest appearances by Patrick Troughton and Kevin McNally. From its gentle introduction to its explosive climax the story is well paced and great to watch.

That we only have Patrick Troughton for the first few scenes is dissapointing, but this is more than made up for by the superb characterisation he brings to them. His interaction with equally gentle and misunderstood Mina is charming and ultimately ensures that his death at the hands of the brutal Kane, becomes one of the most distressing of the series.

Kevin McNally's Kane is frighteningly real and extremely nasty, making it abundantly clear that this time around not all the regulars will reach the end credits unscathed. Mina seems the likely candidate at first, but eventually it is Lewis who is Kane's final victim, a man who has proved to be as kind and even handed as the first victim of the episode. That Lewis's character was so short lived is something of a shame, as the dramatic possibiltiies of his presence were not sufficiently explored. However, one can't really imagine him roughing it with the rest of them in grimy series three.

In the final few scenes John and Lizzie take centre stage for the first time in ages and their kidnap and escape are some of the most exciting scenes of the second series. The size of the explosion at the end of the episode is fantastic, rounding the affair off in style.

Rating: 9/10

Episode 23:

writer: Roger Marshall
first broadcast: 2nd June 1976

Regular Cast:

Charles Vaughan:
Denis Lill
Greg Preston:
Ian McCulloch
Mina: Delia Paton
Pet Simpson: Lorna Lewis
Lewis Fearns: Roy Herrick
Ruth Anderson: Celia Gregory
Lizzie Willoughby: Tanya Ronder
John Millon: Stephen Dudley

Guest Cast:

John Millen: Patrick Troughton
Kane: Kevin McNally
Grice: Brian Grellis

designer: Ian Watson
director: Terence Williams
producer: Terence Dudley
episode recorded: 3rd - 8th May 1976


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Page Last Updated: 25th February 2003  All text Andy Priestner   Screen Captures BBC