Sunday, 15 July 2018

Ace of Wands

Title screen for Ace of Wands
Devotees of British supernatural TV of the 60s and 70s have become grudgingly used to the idea that many of the shows of the time are lost to us due to the cost cutting practise of 'wiping' and the lack of a system for safely archiving.  Amongst those lost to time are some 90 odd episodes of Doctor Who, much of the first series of Quatermass and the entire first two series of early 70s supernatural detective series 'Ace of Wands'.

Tarot (Michael Mackenzie) and Mikki (Petra Markham) in Ace of Wands
Created in 1970 by Trevor Preston and Pamela Lonsdale, Ace of Wands told of the escapades of stage magician and detective 'Tarot' (Michael Mackenzie), his pet owl Ozymandias and various assistants including antiquarian bookseller Mr Sweet (Donald Layne-Smith) and, in the third series, a brother and sister duo by the name of Chas (Roy Holder) and Mikki (Petra Markham).  Originally envisioned as kid friendly show about a flamboyant detective, over the three series, the show becomes progressively more concerned with the supernatural especially with the arrival in series two of writer P.J. Hammond.

Chas (Ror Holder), Ozymandias the owl, Mikki (Petra Markham) and Tarot (Michael Mackenzie) in Ace of Wands
Following on from his contributions to AoW Hammond would, of course, go on to create and write Sapphire and Steel but it is here that he first took his cop show chops (earned on shows such as Dixon of Dock Green and Z-Cars) and married it with a love of the odd.  His third series storylines - 'The Meddlers',  'Peacock Pie' & 'Beautiful People' - show hints of what was to come but truthfully with storylines that include people being turned into dolls the whole thing has a similar vibe to what Hammond would later create in S&S.  Ace of Wands walked a fine line between the ostentatious spy-fi, detective fiction of the ITC shows and the Earth bound sci-fi of Pertwee era Doctor Who whilst also tapping into the zeitgeist and embracing the supernatural shenanigans that would characterise much of the 1970s TV we love so much here at Wyrd Britain such as 'The Stone Tape' and 'The Children of the Stones' all the while managing to just about keep things kid friendly and rocking a killer theme tune by Andy Bown.

It is an absolute shame that so much of this series is lost to us but as the recent(ish) Doctor Who finds (of episodes from 'The Web of Fear' and 'The Enemy of the World') show there's always a chance that some of the earlier episodes will resurface but for now we have only the third series and that's certainly no bad thing.

Buy it here - Ace Of Wands [DVD] - or watch it below.


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  1. Oh, I'll definitely watch this! Growing up in Canada in the 60s/70s our own CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corp) ran a lot of British tv. For which I was very grateful. I got to enjoy great shows like Children of the Stones and The Flaxton Boys! There is a show I can't seem to rediscover. It was about a man (detective/police?) whose friend (partner?) is killed but who then shows up as a ghost to continue to help solve mysteries/crimes. The running gags involved our living man having to explain who he was talking to in an empty room and taking responsibility for things his ghost partner did. I seem to remember the ghost would disappear at inconvenient times as well. Any ideas of what the title of this mystery tv show was?

    1. Hello. Hope you enjoy Ace of Wands.
      The show you're looking for is called Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased).
      Best wishes

    2. here's episode 1

    3. Bloody awesome! Thanks so much :)

    4. my plesasure. hope you enjoy.