Zodiac was a six-part series transmitted by ITV in 1974. Starring Anton Rogers and Anouska Hempel as a cynical detective, David Gradley and Esther Jones, his astrologer assistant, the unusual astrological premise set this show apart from the humdrum detective dramas of the time. Little seen since its original transmission, the series has garnered something of a cult status
Written by erstwhile Avengers scribe Roger Marshall, who was also behind the excellent but low-key Public Eye, this series has an unusual, almost claustrophobic feel to it. The action rarely ventures outdoors. The studio based ‘back yard’ seems a little too false to be taken seriously, though as with many programmes of this vintage, you forgive the production values and concentrate on the stories being told. On the whole, the stories are intriguing in their complexity and have a good sense of pace. Each episode title makes reference to a specific star sign. A shame then, they only made six shows as twelve would have given them the full zodiac of titles.
As always, Network make a decent job of the DVD. All six episodes are shot entirely on videotape. Presented across two discs, the transfer is very clean and crisp, especially given the age of the footage. Weirdly, there are four episodes on one disc but only two on the other. At first I thought this paucity of material may have been to accommodate some extra features. There are no extras, therefore one must ask why they couldn’t have split the series more conveniently as three episodes per disc?
Anton Rogers and Anouska Hempel make a good team as the central protagonists.There is excellent support from a host of guest stars including Peter (Minder) Childs, A young Susie (Victoria Wood: As Seen On TV) Blake, Robert (Doomwatch, The Detectives) Powell, Michelle (Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em) Dotrice, Peter (Ever Decreasing Circles) Egan, Graeme (A Very Peculiar Practice) Crowden and Peter (The Rag Trade, Just A Minute) Jones. For me the stand-out episode is set in Brighton and features the murder of a fortune teller. It stars Susie Blake and Robert Powell and is neatly constructed, cleverly directed and very well acted.
I hadn’t heard of Zodiac until I was asked to review it a few weeks ago. It seems a shame that such a good series only lasted six episodes. Okay, so it hardly set the world on fire, but you can do a lot worse.
Not quite the neglected gem Network seem to think it is, Zodiac is, nevertheless, worth tracking down. Sadly, Anton Rogers died a couple of years ago. Had Network secured the rights sooner, Rogers could, no doubt, have supplied an enlightening commentary which would just have lifted the DVD above the average. Just think, had Anton Rogers continued in this role he may never have had the sitcom career he enjoyed in the 80s and 90s with Fresh Fields and May To December.
Having watched Anton Rogers’ film work lately in the excellent The Man Who Haunted Himself, in which he supported yet-to-be-James Bond star Roger Moore, I’m keenly aware what a brilliant dramatic actor he was and, whilst the aforementioned comedies benefitted from his presence, I can’t help feeling he should have had an equally great career in drama.
This show is a useful reminder of Anton Rogers in dramatic mode, and, indeed, how delightfully eccentric 70s drama commissioning could be…
Zodiac: The Complete Series is available from Network DVD.