Police Surgeon


Solid Copper from the Outback
by Jim Preston

The man with a round face and a balding head is John Warwick. He lives off Haverstock Hill in the London borough of Hampstead, and in working hours he is Inspector Landon in Police Surgeon.

In the television series, he gives the impression of being a stickler for authority, a policeman who knows all the answers as they are written in the rule-book. But in real life John Warwick is anything but austere—especially when he tells stories from his days as an actor in Australia's barren outback.

"I was born in Never-Never," he told me in accents as English as roast-beef-and-two-veg. "And I got my first job with the Swastika Costume Company. Of course, that was some time before Hitler used the sign as his gimmick."

Knowing that touring theaters in the outback are as rare as icebergs in the Sahara, Warwick decided to take a chance with the company.

"Swastika was led by an old man who always wore an ankle-length coat, regardless of the heat," he said. "We also had a girl dancer and a shell-shocked driver for the antediluvian 'Tin Lizzie' which carried our stage props. They comprised a miniature piano and a young English lad who played it. He always wore pin-striped trousers and a sports jacket. That was Swastika—all of it."

Now, such outback adventures are only nostalgic memories. For Warwick graduated through Australian films through repertory theaters in this country. And from there he moved again into television.

"There's an odd point about my current series," he said. "Inspector Landon is specially written to appear slightly inhuman. But the part is as authentic as possible. Police Surgeon scripts are vetted by Scotland Yard to prevent us giving a wrong impression of the force.

My part is written to contrast Ian Hendry's. I must never forget that a police surgeon is not, in fact, a policeman, and therefore he can allow his emotions to govern his actions to a certain extent. For my part, I am a policeman, for whom the law is always the law. However much I might sympathise with a wrongdoer, I have to perform my duty," he said ponderously, imitating the popular idea of a solid copper.

Don Leaver, one of the Police Surgeon directors, confirmed Warwick's opinion. "Warwick takes his part exactly as it is written. He does not try to gain the sympathy of his audience, but I don't really think he is inhuman. His script depicts a very well rounded character."

Warwick has a personal theory about surgeons who work with the police. "As they are not policemen, they can even hate the police. To them, it might just be another bread-and-butter job, so they can work against police interests if they feel inclined. There is a lot of difference between public duty and the professional honor of a doctor's calling. Which is well worth remembering."

He agrees that Police Surgeon gives a sincere insight into a side of the law which has received little attention so far.

"We aim at sincerity before high drama," he said. "There is much more interest in creating a true picture of the police at work than just an exaggerated story."

Shipwreck Romance
From "Looking Around with John Gough," TV Times #257, 2-8 October 1960

As the good ship Monica foundered on the rocks of the South Island of New Zealand in 1930, romance blossomed for John Warwick, Inspector Landon of Police Surgeon.

"I scrambled into a lifeboat and found myself sitting next to the woman who was to become my wife," he told me. "We were in the same touring company, but we didn't get to know one another until we spent those several hours together in an open boat."

Warwick, I feel, looks like a police inspector. "From playing this sort of part so often," he said smilingly. Ian Hendry, who plays the police surgeon and is pictured on this week's front cover, has that bedside manner. Even if the bed is a hard one and there are bars on the window.

Website Copyright 2002-2017 David K. Smith. Program and images Copyright 1960 ABC Television.