1 9 7 0 – 1 9 7 2 (UK)
46 x 25 minute episodes
Debuting on 29 July 1970, Ace of Wands introduced Tarot (Michael Mackenzie), a young stage conjurer and escapologist whose youthful appearance concealed a mysterious background and a resourceful mind.
Billed as a “20th Century Robin Hood with a pinch of Merlin and a dash of Houdini”, he was assisted in his adventures by Sam (Tony Selby) – a reformed ex-convict who had also been a seaman, gravedigger, fish porter, fairground boxer and bodyguard – and his orphaned stage partner and fellow telepath, Lulli (Judy Loe) who he met when she backed her beach buggy into his E-type Jag.
The eccentric tweed-suited Mr Sweet (Donald Layne-Smith) ran an antique bookshop in the London suburb of Bloomsbury, and often lent a hand, contributing his expert knowledge of the insect world (because you never know when that may be really useful!).
In the background perched Ozymandias – a Malayan Fishing Owl.
The so-called “Ace of Wands” and his companions ran into a host of weird and wonderful Batman-esque super-criminals with names like Madame Midnight, Mr Stabs (who would unleash his evil powers via a rhyme that began “Hand of stabs . . .”) and Ceribraun (a wheelchair-bound chess master). Perhaps the most sinister was Mama Doc, who turned people into dolls which bled when broken.
In the final season, Tarot moved to a houseboat on the Thames (named Joker III), and Sam and Lulli were replaced by brother and sister duo, Chas (Roy Holder) and Mikki (Petra Markham).
Conveniently Mikki also shared Tarot’s telepathic powers, and she worked as a reporter. Chas was her photographer. Mr Sweet (now based at a university) also featured again.
Many restrictions were placed on the filming of Ace of Wands: No more than three minutes of outside filming were permitted per episode, and locations were limited to within a 30-mile radius of the studios at Teddington.
Two permanent sets were constructed – Tarot’s apartment and Mr Sweet’s bookshop – and a maximum of two extra sets per episode was allowed.
The cast was also limited to ten people per episode (including the regular cast). The series gave early (albeit minor) screen roles to Tim Curry and David Prowse.
Trevor Preston and Pamela Lonsdale created the series. Preston is best known these days for his contributions to Euston Films programmes like The Sweeney.
Michael Mackenzie’s wife at the time, actress Ann Holloway, starred as Karen Glover in Father Dear Father.
Lillian “Lulli” Palmer
Mr Sebastian Sweet
Henry T Peacock