The Protectors: 'The First Circle'

British detective series broadcast 1972-73
Created and Produced by Gerry Anderson
Produced by Reg Hill
Screenplay by Tony Barwick
Directed by Don Chaffey
Music by John Cameron
Theme "Avenues and Alleyways" by Mitch Murray, lyrics by Peter Callander, sung by Tony Christie

"The First Circle" - series one, episode fifteen
Robert Vaughn as Harry Rule
Nyree Dawn Porter as the Contessa di Contini
Tony Anholt as Paul Buchet
Featuring Ed Bishop as Colonel John Hunter
Frederick Bennett as the Security Man
John Collin as Slade
George Roubicek as policeman
Sally Bazely as Mrs Hunter

Plot Summary

The Protectors was UFO creator Gerry Anderson's first and only thriller series, and featured an elite group of international undercover agents led by American Harry Rule (Robert Vaughn), the Contessa, a beautiful British aristocrat, and Paul Buchet, a frenchman, (played by Space 1999ís Tony Anholt.) The series featured many ex-UFO actors in guest rules, including recurring appearances by Anthony Chinn, Subsmash's Lieutenant Chin and Square Triangle's alien. The First Circle is often hailed to be the best episode to come out of the series, and Ed plays a major role, appearing in almost every scene. His character, John Hunter, is a veteran of the Vietnam War suffering from flashbacks from his time in captivity there. He drives into a deserted airfield, believing it to be the base he commanded in Vietnam. When challenged by a security guard, Hunter believes he is being attacked by a Vietnamese soldier and shoots. The police are then called, as is Harry Rule.

While the police want to post snipers to try and wing the Colonel, Rule insists, since Hunter has a large supply of grenades about him, on trying to talk him down first, especially after Hunter's wife asks him to bring her husband home. Rule dresses in a USAF uniform and goes into the base to make contact, convincing the delusional Hunter that he is an officer under his command.

After playing along with the charade and a few unsuccessful attempts to disarm Hunter, Rule tries to convince the Colonel to come back to reality. They fight, and Hunter, desperate to protect the base as he was ordered to do back in Vietnam, drives off in his jeep with a bag full of grenades. The police give chase along a rain-soaked runway, until finally Hunter loses control and crashes, blowing himself and the jeep sky-high.


This is an incredibly powerful piece of television, which was quite groundbreaking when first released, as the Vietnam War was still in progress at the time. Of the regular cast, only Robert Vaughn appears in this episode, and most of the scenes are between him and Ed, including an incredibly emotive dialogue where Hunter describes his torture at the hands of the Vietnamese. This is a must for any Ed Bishop fans out there.
DVDs of the complete series have recently been released in the United Kingdom by Carlton (see and should be readily available on the Internet. The First Circle is on the second volume of the first series set.

Information on The Protectors is available from


Hunter arrives at the Airfield...

...and salutes the empty runway

Shoots the security guard...

...when challenged

Preparing the base...

...against attack

Another flashback...

...this time Hunter relives his radio calls when Base 7 is attacked

Called out by Harry Rule...

...whom he sees as one of his officers

Describing captivity..."You ever see their faces? Up close?...

...No facial hair, and their eyes are like black slits in a peach..."

Rule tries to tell...

...Hunter the truth

This page by Jessica Ramage