14. Affair in T'sien Cha
The investigation into the disappearance of a train and its secret cargo lead Kelly and Scotty to an ancient walled city and a pretty American schoolteacher.
[Location: Hong Kong]
French title: L'affaire de T'sien Cha
German title: Die Glocke von T'sien Cha
Italian title: Il treno
Roger C. Carmel (Edwin Wade), Vera Miles (Rachel), John Orchard (Gavin), Lukas Shimatsu (Lee Ho), H.T. Hsiang (Yau Shoi), Hedley Mattingly (Hardy), James Hong (Fortune Teller), Nancy Hsueh (Girl), Raynum K. Tsukamoto (Lou Wai), Clive Wayne (Maitland)
Morton Fine & David Friedkin
29 December 1965
Currently available on DVD
While in Hong Kong, Kelly and Scotty are ordered to find out what happened to a train that disappeared somewhere in the New Territories. The odd part of it is that, apparently, there was nothing of great value on the train -- just bricks and cement and other building materials. Their search leads them to an ancient village called T'sien Cha, whose inhabitants, as it turns out, had heisted the train in order to acquire its cargo for the purpose of building a new school. In the process of solving the mystery, Kelly romances an American schoolteacher named Rachel, deals harshly with a Communist assassin, and discovers that the train also carried a Chinese intellectual who wanted to defect.
Affair in T'sien Cha was the first episode filmed. It wasn't the first aired because, frankly, there was so much wrong with it. Apart from the much-discussed disaster of Bill Cosby's debut in a serious role, the story itself is far too contrived, particularly the antics of the assassin, who is prevented not once but four times from killing Kelly on board a train because of the interference of a fellow passenger who turns out to be a fan of tennis, and who continually wanders into the line of fire at the most opportune moments. And then there's the assassin's silly notion of substituting a real gun for the toy one wielded by a T'sien Cha urchin who thinks he's a cowboy, in the hopes that the kid will shoot Kelly. These are but two examples -- there are plenty more. On top of that, there's absolutely no chemistry between Culp and Vera Miles, who plays Rachel; Miles is, frankly, miscast -- (and she should never have worn that cheongsam). The fight scene between Kelly and the bad guy, aboard a sampan in Aberdeen, had great potential, but Culp's stunt double is entirely too obvious. Of course, one can't reasonably expect a series to hit its stride on the first try, but in this case they get just about everything wrong.