This episode is most notable for the introduction of two new male characters, the cantankerous Stephen Wentworth and the smooth-talking Jake Haulter, who are set to make a significant impact on the remainder of the series due to their interactions with the former internees. Both are superbly well-judged additions to the cast. This is partly down to the considerable acting talents of Preston Lockwood and Damien Thomas respectively, but also because their presence deepens our understanding of established characters, Joss and Dorothy in particular.
On first sight Stephen Wentworth immediately puts us in mind of Joss. For one thing his first line is Joss’s familiar old refrain requesting the whereabouts of one Monica Radcliffe, for another they have a similar beanpole build and looks. As we observe the pair becoming acquainted, further shared traits become obvious. Apart from the fact that they both counted the late Monica as a very close friend, like Joss, Stephen is clearly of ‘good stock’ and just as unwilling to allow his class to get in the way of what he wants to do – in his case, helping those less fortunate than himself, a mission which neatly correlates with Joss’s own passion for social reform and left-wing politics. His suggestion of splitting a bottle of brandy as a way of saying farewell to Monica is also very ‘Joss’. Indeed, the similarities between the pair become so striking that ‘a male Joss’ serves as a perfectly fulsome description for this former Changi inmate. However, the marked and important difference between the pair is the fact that, despite the ravages of imprisonment, Stephen is still gung-ho about his philanthropic project to help the poor of Singapore, while Joss is less than convinced that she has sufficient stamina to become involved (‘I’m past it!’), a concern which will ultimately prove to be well founded.
What is not immediately obvious here is the pivotal nature of the scene shared by Joss and Stephen at his digs as, over a photograph and a bottle of brandy, the Monica Radcliffe Foundation is born – a significant component not only of the remaining episodes of the third series but also of the subsequent Reunion special. Once again Tenko’s deft plotting sees a supposedly immaterial, and occasionally irritating element of the series (the persistent question of the fate of Monica Radcliffe) earn its place.
Wheeler-dealer Jake Haulter stands in complete contrast to Stephen Wentworth. The silver-tongued rogue fulfils several functions in the narrative. Most obviously he provides romantic interest as he charms his way into the affections of the former internees. Joss happily admits that on their first meeting she failed to resist his wicked grin; Maggie as good as throws herself at him; while Beatrice is clearly both delighted and flattered when he describes her as ‘a brick.’ However it is Dorothy, who seems more immune to his charms, who Jake has in his sights from the off. Although it is much less pronounced in this case, just as with Stephen and Joss, Jake also mirrors Dorothy. As well as both being determined survivors with hidden depths, Dorothy also shares Jake’s head for business. Perhaps Jake consciously or subconsciously recognises Dorothy as something of a kindred spirit?
Jake’s much less obvious function in the narrative is to provide information about chaotic and colourful post-war Singapore. Due to his ‘finger in every pie’ approach Jake knows about anything and everything that is going on there and as such is the perfect mouthpiece for background exposition, be it about furniture reclamation or the surprising fact that the Allies have recruited Japanese soldiers to help them.
It is worth mentioning that it is pretty much impossible to dislike Jake. We imagine that he has a shady past with several ‘skeletons in the cupboard’ and it is obvious that his current actions are at least partly motivated by self-interest, but there is still a definite sense that he is decent and that his heart is in the right place.
Despite the introduction of Stephen and Jake, this is still very much Dorothy’s episode as she continues to adjust to life outside of the camps and to come to terms with the ordeals she has suffered. Despite the misgivings she vocalised in the preceding episode she appears more open to new possibilities from the outset here, even joining the other women to attend a thanksgiving service. However, it isn’t long before the spectre of her collaboration comes back to haunt her, firstly when Maggie reminds Van Meyer of her work for Miss Hasan (‘There were no call to do their hair!’) in turn reminding Dorothy, and secondly when she witnesses the distressing sight of a procession of ‘Jap whores’. This experience and Maggie’s similar desire to ‘get out from under’ (which is prompted instead by Phyllis’s less than subtle attempts to remove Alice from her ‘tender clutches’) leads Dorothy to suggest that they move out to her bungalow in the ‘anonymous suburbs.’
When we first heard about Dorothy’s bungalow, two series earlier, it seemed highly unlikely that we would ever see the home she shared with Dennis and Violet, and yet here it is. Considering the tragic events that have unfolded since she left there, Dorothy is incredibly brave to even consider a return to a place from her past, but this bravery is as nothing compared to the reserves of strength required of her when she is forced to face what has become of it…
This is an excerpt from Andy Priestner’s acclaimed book Remembering Tenko in which this episode is reviewed in full. The book also explores and details how the series was made and boasts hundreds of behind-the-scenes photographs. You can purchase Remembering Tenko on Amazon.