Monday August 21, 2017
Return of the Saint was the last of the ITC ‘International Man of Mystery’ series and the only one that I can recall seeing on its first airing, probably because of the opening credits. Who could not be enthralled by the instrumental theme tune by Brian Dee and Irving Martin as an animated Saint logo evaded irate stuntmen and leapt from Bedford TK lorries into MGB Roadsters?
ITC’s original plan was for the series to be entitled Son of the Saint, with Ian Ogilvy in the title role and Roger Moore making guest appearances as his father. This idea was eventually abandoned and the programme became known as Return of the Saint. The first edition was screened on Sunday 10th September 1978 and one of the points of interest was Mr. Templar’s set of wheels. The famous ST1 plate now adorned an XJS, for after spurning the chance to provide Roger Moore’s Simon Templar with a Mk. X, Browns Lane provided the series’ principal car. The Return of the Saint Jaguar was made in 1975 and is one of just 385 fitted with a manual transmission. Prior to its television stardom, it was a British Leyland test car and before its debut with Ian Ogilvy, its appearance was slightly upgraded so that it looked like a recent model and an electric sliding roof was installed to assist the lighting crew. In addition to the main transport, the production company sourced two further backup cars from dealers; both were automatic models.
The Jaguar was the perfect car for Ogilvy’s Templar, who managed the difficult achievement of making the part as much his own as did Roger Moore during the 1960s. It should also be pointed out that his wardrobe looks pretty smart – just compare his outfits in Return of the Saint with the suits issued to poor Gareth Hunt in The New Avengers. Unlike earlier ITC series there is a distinct lack of shaky back projection as the show was extensively shot on location, especially in Italy – RAI was a co-producer. As to which of the 24 episodes stands out, each of them contains any number of excellent motor cars, from Lotus Eclats to Fiat 131 Supermiafioris. I would certainly recommend Yesterday’s Hero, as it guest stars that brilliant character actor Ian Hendry and Assault Force as it features Kate O’Mara driving an Austin Allegro 1500 Special; British television rarely attained such heights of grooviness.
In a Telegraph interview, last year Ian Ogilvy reflected on how ‘Jaguar once offered me the chance to buy the famous car that we used in The Saint on condition that I had the Stick Man painted on the side but I didn’t want to drive all over London in a white Jaguar with a stick man painted all over it. I told them to forget it’. Today the main car is alive and well in happy retirement and for anyone who wishes to re-live a time when a television show contained such splendid dialogue as ‘Don’t be a damned fool Templar!’, the box set is a must. And, if your overdraft cannot quite run to a full-scale XJS there is always the Corgi model!