1 9 7 2 (UK)
13 x 60 minute episodes
This spoofy cloak-and-dagger series from ATV featured “The Web” – an ultra-secret government agency dedicated to unmasking spies in plots elaborately packed with red herrings.
The agents of the ultra-secretive organisation came up against lethal dating agencies, self-appointed moral guardian extremists, incompetent guerrilla groups for pointless causes, and machines to age people to senility.
At the centre of the web of intrigue was Spyder herself – the alter-ego of controversial, award-winning documentary filmmaker Charlotte Winifred Dean, known to all as Lottie (Patricia Cutts), the head of Arachnid Documentary Films Ltd.
In addition to making films, Lottie took orders from Whitehall – possibly directly from the Prime Minister – and executed them with ruthless efficiency, explaining: “There are certain things that have to done from time to time that no government can put its name to.”
Lottie employed a web of numbered agents, noting “minimal of contact between agents is desirable at all times”. Only her number two (who describes her as “Al Capone with a blonde rinse”) and one other person knew her identity.
Her new number two was Major Clive Howard Hawksworth (Anthony Ainley), who had only two interests in life: killing and machinery.
Hawksworth was trained at Aldershot and in 1944, he accidentally killed a Norwich land girl whom he mistook for a Romanian parachutist in a blackout (“They wear the same kind of trousers”). He attended Sandhurst in the early 1950s, worked with the FBI, and served with the Parachute Regiment. By 1965 he was in Berlin and part of the German Section run by the MI9 cover Exportease, bringing defectors over from behind the Iron Curtain.
Hawksworth was never happier than when tinkering with his beloved pre-war Lagonda LG45. He was a member of the Lagonda Owner’s Club and attended the Greenfold Vintage Car Club motor auctions.
Patriotic and with no time for “woolly liberals”, “pooves from the British Council” and “dago fellahs”, Hawksworth was summed up by Lottie as a “cold calculating bastard”. He was always delighted to be told to kill people, especially Russians and Germans although he would like to have had a pop at the Americans too.
Also on the books at Arachnid was Wallis Ackroyd (Veronica Carlson), an efficient young woman from Scunthorpe (with the accent to match) born in 1950 who came to London to widen her horizons and study at night school.
Taking a “stepping stone” job as Lottie’s assistant while she improved her mind, Wal (as she was known) had a lousy shorthand speed, practised yoga rather than drinking or smoking, and was fluent in Eastern European languages. Very smart, she knew Arachnid was more than it seemed to be, but adopted a pragmatic approach.
Another assistant at Arachnid was Albert Mason from Brixton (Roger Lloyd Pack) who dealt with the Arachnid equipment when he was not in the pub. With a desire to make his own way in the film business, Albert was suspicious of Lottie’s motives and his main objective was to execute a series of crude and unreciprocated amorous advances towards Wal.
Foreigners were portrayed as humorous stereotypes while the supposed ‘heroes’ were even more stereotyped and even funnier.
Spyder’s Web was not renewed and Patricia Cutts struggled to find work. Offered a one year contract to appear in Coronation Street as Blanche Hunt from August 1974, she recorded just two episodes and was discovered dead in her Elm Park Gardens flat in Chelsea on 7 September. The coroner gave a verdict of suicide for the 48-year-old actress, caused by “a massive overdose of barbiturate and . . . a considerable amount of drink.”
Anthony Ainley appeared regularly as the Master in Doctor Who in the 1980s prior to his death in May 2004. Roger Lloyd Pack enjoyed an extensive career, notably in the BBC sitcom Only Fools and Horses before he succumbed to cancer in January 2014.
Veronica Carlson relocated to South Carolina in the US to concentrate on an artistic career.
Charlotte Winifred ‘Lottie’ Dean
Major Clive Howard Hawksworth
Roger Lloyd Pack
Spyder Secures a Main Strand | The Executioners | Romance on Wheels | The Hafiz Affair | Life at a Price | Emergency Exit | Red Admiral | Lies and Dolls | Things That Go Bang in the Night | An Almost Modern Man | Nobody’s Strawberry Fool | The Prevalence of Skeletons | Rev Counter