Unfortunately with the notable exceptions of Doctor Who and the Forsyte Saga, not many monochrome BBC drama programmes of the sixties have been released on DVD.
It is therefore good news that Simply Media have decided to release the full first season of the original Dr. Finlay’s Casebook after some of these episodes were recently successfully shown on BBC Alba.
Although described on the box as ‘ten episodes with two bonus episodes’ these make up the entire first season of the programme. However those delighted with the survival rate of this first series will be disappointed to learn that the later series did not fare so well. Indeed the final series - which was made in colour - has seven missing episodes in it.
No fewer than 191 episodes were produced between 1962 and 1971 with 68 episodes surviving in the archives.
The series was based on a couple of books by A.J.Cronin. These early episodes demonstrate how the makers got the programme right from the start. Set in the late 1920s in Tannochbrae, they are about two doctors and their various patients. Each week viewers were treated to a series of excellent and varied stories which are still compelling today. The trio of main characters - Dr. Finlay (Bill Simpson), Dr. Cameron (Andrew Cruikshank) and Janet the housekeeper (Barbara Mullen)- are uniformly excellent and their interactions prove to be one of the highlights of the series.
There were a number of excellent character actors throughout these episodes including Patrick Troughton and my personal favourite Eric Woodburn (who played the semi-regular Dr. Snoddie). The prints are very good for programmes of this age and hopefully if this set proves as popular as it deserves to be, then more episodes will be released in the future.