July 16, 2006


In 1970 many changes were occurring in the U.K’s televison land, especially now colour had become more accessible, fortunately science-fiction and fantasy shows were the first to make breakthroughs and championed the arrival of colour.

The vitally important and shamefully forgotten BBC2 anthology series ‘Out of the Unknown’ was already treating viewers to a Technicolor future, when the third and fourth series were broadcast in the new colour format.

What happened to these colour firsts? – The BBC wiped them of course. Out of 49 episodes of ‘Out of the Unknown’ made only 19 completes, exist in the archives and with only one complete colour example, ‘The Last Lonely Man’ and a 30 minute clip of another of the colour stories, the pioneering anthology series that featured teleplay adaptations by the talents of Isaac Asimov, E.M Forster and Nigel Kneale are now gone forever.

Doctor Who also went halcyon and psychedelically ‘hung-over’ and the stories, due to a change in the script writers/editors, made the series more ‘grown-up’. Arguably this produced my own personal favourite season – 7 and arguably my favourite story ‘Inferno’. This also seemed the winning format echoed in ‘Ace of Wands’ despite it being primarily aimed at children due to its’ slot in the schedules.

On ITV, the scheduling for drama produced a gap. As a stroke of genius Trevor Preston and Pamela Lonsdale created a new children’s fantasy series ‘Ace of Wands’. Preston had only ever written for adult drama and this combination with Lonsdale’s’ child-orientated skills at dramatics were a winning combination. It produced a pioneering series blessed with that ‘Kidult’ element that could be seen and ‘chilled’ by all ages.

Due to its’ episodic ‘cliff-hanger’ format wooing audiences back week after week and its’ overall ‘slickness’ Tarot captured the hearts and minds of a new aquarian ‘dawn’.

The acting ability is of the highest and plays just as an important part of the framework of the story as the effects and scary bits – something practically unheard of, for a childrens programme, in this day and age.

When a series had been put together, and perfectly casted by the seem of things, Ace of Wands was pitched by Thames Television as follows;

'A C E O F W A N D S'

THAMES TELEVISION continue their special interest in children's programming (such as SEXTON BLAKE and TYRANT KING) with this unusual new 13 half-hour episode series launched on the Network - 29 July 1970.

'Tarot' (the Ace of Wands) is a twentieth century Robin Hood with a pinch of Merlin and a dash of Houdini. By profession he is a renowned illusionist, by vocation a righter of wrongs. To help solve the mysteries, Tarot uses all his magic skills which range from sleight of hand and escapology to hypnosis and telepathy. Sometimes his methods might be surprising but his confrontations with the formidable Kings and Queens of crime always end with the triumph of 'Good' over 'Evil'.

Tarot has three associates - 'Lulli', 'Sam' and 'Mr. Sweet'. All have their own particular place in his organisation and their own specialised functions. Lulli is young, beautiful and intelligent. She studied philosophy at Oxford for a while then got bored and left. She is a compulsive 'doer'. She met Tarot by accident when she backed her beach buggy into his E-type Jaguar and they subsequently discovered that they had an advanced telepathic communication. Since then Lulli has worked as Tarot's assistant on stage and off, and has proved invaluable.

Sam is Tarot's right hand man. He's done everything, been everywhere (even to prison) and has incredible 'connections'. There are a lot of people who owe Sam favours and he has no hesitation in using his contacts, he is impulsive, cheerful, tough and totally dedicated to Tarot.

Mr. Sweet is an antiquarian bookseller with an international reputation as a lepidopterist and entomologist. He has a major role to play for Tarot as front man and go-between. Adventures often start with someone in trouble approaching Mr. Sweet in the hope that he will enlist the unique services of Tarot on their behalf. Mr. Sweet is lovable, amusing, eccentric but quite capable of amazing and unorthodox action if a situation demands it.

There is another member of the set, Tarot's pet owl 'Ozymandias'. 'Ossie', as he is called, is a Malayan fishing owl, just over one foot high, has buttercup yellow eyes and makes a whistling sound when he is excited. He is devoted to Tarot, Lulli and Mr. Sweet but has reservations about Sam who calls him a 'cross-eyed cuckoo'.

The stories are centred around Tarot and his friends versus their adversaries - the 'Royalty' of the underworld.

The permanent cast are as follows:


LULLI ............. JUDY LOE

SAM ............... TONY SELBY



The creator of the series is TREVOR PRESTON and the producer PAMELA LONSDALE.

The first episode (titled 'One and One and One Are Four') Tarot is asked to find a famous professor's invention which was stolen from his laboratory and which in the wrong hands could be used as a devastating weapon. Tarot's adversary is the beautiful but evil 'Madame Midnight', played by HILDEGARD NEIL, who is determined to get the invention and outwit Tarot.

Clive Willis - 22 July 1970

The series burst onto to television screens in July 1970 in a quarter past five slot. The first script was expertly handled by P.J Hammond and brought a Thames’ James Bond to a bewildered, interested and thrilled receptive audience.

Living on a barge, single, flared trousered and velveted jacket Tarot, played magnificently by Mackenzie, was the epitome of 1970’s macho flamboyance.

The whole ‘hip’ affair was set against the back drop of a fashionable street market and featured regular appearances from the wise ‘Mr.Sweet’ an antiquarian book-seller who would lend a hand to some of Tarots bizarre investigations and the ‘cosy’ regular supporting cast.

A sad factor is that the entire first and second is (allegedly) missing from the Thames archive. There has nothing to be said or recorded that they had been junked and unfortunately nothing to state the opposite either.

Sam and Lulli went onto bigger and better things at the end of Season 2.

When Season 3 was launched brother and sister Miki and Chas joined Tarot in his adventures oh and ozymandias, Tarots pet owl. Not much changed Tarot re-established his strong psychic link with Miki just as he had with Lulli and Chas provided the comical element and muscle when needed like Sam

It’s so difficult and annoying to not know what the others were like, unfortunately I doubt if we’ll ever know.

In the case of some more popular missing episodes because of the ‘status’ of some series, this missing material is painstakingly researched and people ‘aware’ - in the hopeful event of finding such other holy grails.

With other series like Ace of Wands and Out of the Unknown - this is as doubly as hard at procuring missing episodes/clips as although enjoyed and revered in high esteem at the time, it didn’t last long enough for the ‘memorable classic’ to dye in its’ wool.

Maybe something might surface in time? It’s a real loss to the archives from what I’ve seen and is so destined to be forgotten - but here at the ‘Teapot’ - we could never have that!

Fortunately all of Season three of ‘Ace of Wands’ exist and one of its’ best stories ‘Peacock Pie’ is to be reviewed. This is drama at its’ absolute nadir, the cast is spot on and the performances of a high calibre for a ‘children’s show’.

The direction is moody, oppressive and sometimes downright delirious really realising what must have been P.J Hammonds top class script.

Brian Wilde portrays the sinister but sad Mr.Peacock and gives a truly classic performance mixing melancholy, sardonic and madness. This makes ‘Peacock Pie’ one of ‘Ace of Wands’ most classic adventures.

Such skilled direction also heightens tense moments, using obscure angles and the use of a fish eye to achieve such ends is also noticeable. The climax to episode one is absolutely spot-on and climax to episode three, handled ‘emotionally’ well.

At the end I will give you a brief episode guide, enjoy this trip down memory lane……

Oh, forgot too mention when Ace of Wands came to a rather an abrupt end in 1973, ‘The Tomorrow People’ was ushered in and became yet another classic children’s television show, worthy of a separate post most definitely.

Ace of Wands;Peacock Pie’ (3 episodes) TVX Date; 6-20th September 1972, then repeated 12th – 26th October 1973


Leaving the bank in a hurry Mikki bumps into an odd man, despite their exchanges of sorry and ‘pleasantries’ there just seems something ‘ethereal’ about the man. He suggests Miki needs a holiday; slowly she envisages a lonely, harsh weathered beach and somehow, oddly agrees with him.

Miki jaunts off back to Tarots’ for rehearsals for the nights ‘show’ , the telepathy experiment fails abysmally and Miki keeps being blocked by the ‘deserted beach’ scene.

Miki is concerned and tells Tarot that its’ worryingly how someone could be so powerful to achieve such head-mess and manipulation via thought control.

The person behind this is mild-mannered but sinister ‘Mr.Peacock’ who dwells in suburbia with his housekeeper Mrs Mcfaddyen. She chides him about his ‘tricks’ and is rather annoyed that the last £45 rent turned out to be blank bits of paper.

Mr. Peacock accepts this was a callous, mischievous thing to do but confirms she will receive her money tomorrow for sure. As Mr.Peacock can control what others see he plans a bank robbery, the security firm believe they are depositing the cash in a special vault but in fact are leaving it in an abandoned house.

Miki, Tarot and Chas are now on to the case and Tarot and Chas drive to the desolate house.

Mr.Peacock lurks amongst the rubble and unknowingly to Tarot and Chas will begin his assault on the mind ultimately resolving in an extreme battle of psychic wits and paranormal games, where minds could be lost forever and the participants locked in paranormal entrapment……..

The Players;

Mr. Peacock Brian Wilde

Mrs. MacFadyean Dorothy Frere

Young Mrs. MacFadyean Jenny McCracken

Manageress Valerie Ost

Writer P. J. Hammond

Designer Gordon Toms

Director John Russell


I don’t need to repeat myself and apologise if I do that despite its’ scant running time this is an awesome ‘deep’ tale of pure magic and fantasy but also paradoxically about grim inner loneliness, both delicately handled by John Russells direction and sensitive portrayal by Brian Wilde.

A smashing series that unfortunately is only meagrely represented in the archives as well as by the retro (where did we go wrong???) friendly mainstream. A show we should never let fade into obscurity.

Still somewhat of an enigma, thanks to fans who remember and new ones who don’t, Tarot and Co live on in memory and the scarce viewing resources on offer.

A fantastic psychedelic ‘hang-over’ treat that used the ‘new’ colour revolution for all it was worth with real hippy chic and velvet derring-do!

1 One and One and One Are Four 7/29/1970

2 The Mind Robbers 8/19/1970

3 Now You See It, Now You Don't 9/16/1970

4 The Smile 9/30/1970

5 Seven Serpents, Sulphur and Salt 7/21/1971

6 Joker 8/11/1971

7 Nightmare Gas 9/1/1971

8 The Eye of Ra 9/22/1971

9 The Meddlers 7/19/1972

10 The Power of Atep 8/9/1972

11 Peacock Pie 9/6/1972

12 Mama Doc 9/27/1972

13 Sisters Deadly 10/18/1972

14 The Beautiful People 11/8/1972


Season One

Story One; Madame Midnight and her sidekick Teddy Talk steal a scientists invention to cure paralysis which lead Tarot & Co to a monastery in

Story Two; Zandor kidnaps two government officials and leads Tarot and Co to a sinister house where traps are laid and an evil snake dwells – that hates people.

Story Three; Falk plans an ingenious bank robbery which pits Tarot and Co against a computer house-boat and nasty Nazis.

Story Four; Tun-Ju and Mrs Kite plan to steal the Mona Lisa, Tarot and Co are pitted against their most mercenary of adversaries yet.

Season Two;

Story Five; Mr Stabs proves to be one of Tarots’ most supernatural enemies. With the ability of turning base metals into gold, Tarot and Co must deal with the curse of the seven serpents as well as Mr.Stabs inscrutable plans for the future.

Story Six; A travelling magical troupe run by the sinister Mr.Harry, featuring Jack, Queen and King arrive to entertain the local children. What seems an innocent exercise at first,turns much darker when children begin going berserk in their classrooms.

Story Seven; Thalia and her monosyllabic brother Dalbiac, steal an important gas that causes such powerful hallucinations that in the wrong hands could prove catastrophic.

Story Eight; Ceribraun steals The Eye of Ra a priceless diamond that can turn people into chalk. Tarot and Co try to retrieve it but has to battle menacing chess pieces in the process.

Season Three

Story Nine; Tarot and his new entourage, Chas and Miki have to deal with an alleged ‘curse’ on the nearby market where they live. Strange occurrences have been frightening the market traders, could this have anything to do with the sinister Mr.Dove?

Story Ten; An ancient energy ‘The Power of Atep’ is unleashed at a séance where Mikki is attending. In order to restore chaos Tarot and Co journey to Egypt to Ateps tomb where they must find the solution to harness the energy before it is too late.

Story Eleven; Mr.Peacock is Tarots next adversary that is committing crime through dominant mind control. Mr.Peacock seems unstoppable as he attacks Tarot and his friends until the ultimate battle of mind takes place meaning either could be imprisoned in ‘nowhere’ forever.

Story Twelve; Mama Doc and her sidekick Bobby run a ‘hospital’ for ‘poorly’ dolls but there is something more sinister afoot as Tarot and Co notice, as soon as someone disappears they seem to become a casualty at the dolls hospital but in a very miniature form. Is the same fate to befall them?

Story Thirteen; Chas has an important assignment – to photograph a women’s 100th Birthday party. All is not what it seems however when Chas returns with no memory of the events that occurred and Tarot and Co take on the creepy old ladies of Bliss Cottage.

Story Fourteen; A travelling group of ‘perfect’ hippies begin to throw fetes locally where everything is free. Tarot and Co stumble across more bizarre motifs for such generosity and gets attacked by fatal household appliances in the process including a rather unstable chain-saw!

The Beautiful People ended the show on a rather ‘ambiguous’ note and could have lead to a fourth tenure but changes within Thames’ departments brought new changes in programming and Ace of Wands rather mysteriously vanished as quickly as it had suddenly appeared. On a bang though not a whimper!!!

The folksy-hippy-groovy theme tune can be found on c.d with a collection of other’ obscure’ 1970’s themes the album called ‘Magpie-and other themes’, the C.D is a super listen and I’m sure you’d appreciate it if you found this and my other ‘Sapphire & Steel’ article enjoyable.

Please someone release this on DVD or at least do a retrospective at some stage.

Cast of regulars for Seasons One and Two;

*Tarot – Michael Mackenzie *Mr Sweet – Donald Layne-Smith* Ozymandias – Fred Owl * Sam – Tony Selby * Lulli – Judy Loe*

Cast of Regulars for Season Three

*Tarot – Michael Mackenzie *Mr Sweet – Donald Layne-Smith* Ozymandias – Fred Owl * Chas – Roy Holder* Mikki (Petra Markham)*

Created by Trevor Preston

Produced by; Pamela Lonsdale (season 1-2) and John Russell (season 3)

Music by; Andrew Bown

Lyrics by; Trevor Preston

Screened; ITV regional 1970 – 1973


As the c.d does not feature the beautiful lyricism of the song (a groovy little dirge in its' own right show related or not) you can now sing along......


Jet white dove

Snow black snake

Time has turned his face

From the edge of mystery

Where running is no race


Ageless night

Careless day

Fate reaches out a hand

To touch the edge of destiny

A story with no end


Tarot cards

Tarot the diamond man

Tarot guards

Wherever he can

Tarot cards

Tarot the diamond man

Tarot guards with mystic hands


Falcon sun

Leopard moon

Minds searching for tomorrow

Take what you can from yesterday

The rest beg - steal - or borrow


Iron roads

Asphalt sky

Windows made from water

Son of secrets - mystery's child

Ruler of eight quarters



Velvet roofs

Tattooed streets

Patterns made from words

Laughter echoes in the dark

Life hovers like a bird



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