The role of Tom Gibbons came my way by chance.
I had just returned from working in the United States and I was approached by Marc Miller
with whom I had worked on Sister Dora with Dorothy Tutin for Yorkshire Television some
ten or more years earlier, to play the smaller role of Chris Lucas.
I met with Producer Geraint Morris who had produced The Onedin Line after I had left,
and who I had subsequently met socially, who suggested that Gibbons might be the
I read it and thought that Gibbons was a bit ‘isolated’ but I thought it could be fixed.
The show was axed because it wasn’t very good. There was casual talk of a second
series but I don’t think anyone really believed it. A bit like the radio operator on The
I might have continued because I think my performance improved in the latter episodes
due largely to the director Keith Washington and I needed to re-establish myself as an
My view is that The Collectors was an attempt to capture the ‘London’s Burning’ kind of
audience. It was a good notion. Customs and Excise have the rights of search and
seizure and it could have made a nice realistic ‘down and dirty’ sort of show.
However, it was I think the first Independent Production to be taken ‘In House’ by the
BBC and I don’t think anyone knew who was really in control. Unfortunately it came
out as a ‘hangover’ from the kind of stuffy product both the BBC and Yorkshire had had
a lot of success with in the 70’s.
It really needed a Script Editor like Barry Thomas who had steered The Onedin Line
through many a rough sea.
It was set in a Customs Office, which was closer to ‘Royston Vasey’ than Dover and had
all the ‘Soap’ usuals. Snobby In-Laws, Old Codgers, Italian Ice Cream Vendors, Horses,
Kids, and a sub-plot concerning a pre-pubescent adultery.
The Customs Officers were obsessed with procedure and triviality - like keeping a
‘Samples Cupboard’ tidy, which had about as much excitement as the Food Purchasing
Department at Tescos!
All done with acting at the level of a ‘Sit-Com’ with the exception of Peter McEnery who
played Caines (‘Oven Chips’ to his friends) who was, in my view magnificent and a joy
to work with.
The Beeb had lost Dallas at the time and thought this a suitable replacement.
To quote McEnroe: ‘Can you be serious?’
This pretty well ended my career in England. I never worked meaningfully in TV again.