1 9 6 8 – 1 9 6 9 (UK)
13 x 25 minute episodes
The Secret Service followed the adventures of Father Stanley Unwin, the world’s most unusual clergyman.
The good Father was actually moonlighting as a secret agent for B.I.S.H.O.P (British Intelligence Service Headquarters Operation Priest).
Operating out of his quaint parish in the English countryside, Father Unwin had at his disposal genial housekeeper Mrs Appleby and gardener-cum-handyman, Matthew Harding, who was also an undercover BISHOP agent.
More importantly, he had an invention called The Minimiser, which he kept in a hollowed-out book.
The Minimiser had once belonged to one of Father Unwin’s parishioners, Professor Humbolt. It was Humbolt’s dying wish that Unwin look after the invention at all costs. The compact device was capable of shrinking a human to one-third their normal size.
Father Unwin shared this secret with the British Government who in turn recruited him to B.I.S.H.O.P. and assigned Matthew Harding to be his partner on his missions – often transported by Unwin’s beloved Model T Ford, Gabriel.
Invariably it was Harding who was miniaturised and transported inside Father Unwin’s specially adapted briefcase.
Unfortunately, The Secret Service only ran for a single series of 13 episodes and remains one of Gerry Anderson’s lesser-known works, successfully blending live-action and Supermarionation.
When it was first broadcast in the UK, only three ITV regions (ATV Midlands, Granada and Southern) took it up. It was deemed that the Americans allegedly “wouldn’t get it” so it didn’t even sell there, and Lew Grade (head of ITC – who made most of Anderson’s shows) famously told Gerry the series was cancelled halfway through a preview screening of the very first episode . . .
Stanley Unwin had featured as the narrator on The Small Faces‘ 1968 concept album, Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake, excelling on the track Happiness Stan. Sadly, he died in January 2002 in Northamptonshire, England.
Father Stanley Unwin