Knight Errant ’59 and its subsequent iterations Knight Errant ’60 and Knight Errant Limited was a crime adventure TV series from Granada Television. The plot revolved around Adam Knight (John Turner), a modern day dragon slayer, although the ‘dragons’ in this series are blackmailers, con artists, thieves and villains. Disaffected by a series of dead end jobs Knight decides to go into business on his own.
Ably assisted by ex-Daily Clarion journalist Liz Parrish played by young Canadian actress Kay Callard and writer Peter Parker (Richard Carpenter) Knight sets up an ‘adventurer for hire’ agency called ‘Knight Errant.’ The advertisement he places in the newspaper reads: “Knight Errant ’59. Quests undertaken, dragons defeated, damsels rescued. Anything, anywhere, for anyone, so long as it helps. Fees according to means.”
The first hour-long episode of Knight Errant’59 aired on the ITV network on Tuesday October 13 1959 at 8:30pm.
The series was the forerunner of similar programmes in the genre like The Champions, Danger Man, The Avengers and later The Protectors – with its well-known Tony Christie-penned theme ‘Avenues and Alleyways’. The theme of a modern-day crusader and champion of the underdog for hire was revisited in the 1980s US series The Equalizer, starring British actor Edward Woodward.
Knight Errant ’59 was re-commissioned by Granada and returned the following year as Knight Errant ’60 and underwent a few cast changes. Adam Knight takes on Toby Hollister (William Fox) as his new business consultant before leaving himself to be replaced by publisher Stephen Drummond (Hugh David) with Wendy Williams as his secretary, at which point the series title changed to Knight Errant Limited.
Guest stars appearing in Knight Errant ’60 and Knight Errant Limited would go on to become regular screen faces. They included Dermot Kelly (The Arthur Haynes Show), Roger Delgado (The Master in Doctor Who), David McCallum (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.), Dudley Sutton (Tinker in Lovejoy), Sam Kydd (Orlando), Paul Eddington (Yes Minister and The Good Life), Brian Pringle (The Dustbinmen), William Roache, Peter Adamson and Doris Speed (all of whom were about to embark on a new series called Coronation Street as Ken Barlow, Len Fairclough and Annie Walker), Peter Vaughan (Harry Grout in Porridge) -and in an episode broadcast on Tuesday 12th April, 1960, a photographer was played by a young actor by the name of Michael Caine.
Richard Carpenter took the same career path of his character by becoming a writer off screen and created (among other series) Catweazle.
Although 75 episodes were made, only two still exist. Granada filmed all the episodes ‘live’ which meant that the video tape used was wiped and re-used for subsequent shooting. The two surviving episodes are available on a DVD distributed by Network On Air.
A review of the release published by Starburst reads: ‘The two episodes are a funny pair because The Golden Opportunity focuses on the two supporting characters of the time with only limited screen time to John Turner, while Hugh David is entirely absent from The Joker for similar reasons. The former episode is by far the more satisfying with a genuinely intriguing story about gold sovereigns that may, or may not, be fakes. Without ruining the plot, it’s also quite fascinating for economic historians; let’s just say that the past is a foreign country. The latter episode is far more predictable but still interesting in its own way.
‘This is very much proto-Avengers TV with much sexless flirting and not-as-clever-as-it-thought-it-was-at-the-time dialogue; they even manage to finish each episode on a lame gag so the cast can all have a laugh together. Who’d have thought that would ever get old? They’re probably more of interest to the cultural historian than anyone else but they’re certainly charming and, if we’re honest, they’re still quite entertaining. Just remember they’re from another time.’
Click here for more on Kay Callard.