Wednesday, January 3, 2018


Episode aired 26 November 1972

Lt. Columbo was sent to London as the envoy from the Los Angeles Police Department to learn new policing techniques from New Scotland Yard.  While there, he helped Detective Chief Superintendent Durk solve the murder of Sir Roger Havisham, a renowned theatrical impresario.  For a time, it looked as though the true perpetrators of the crime would get away with it, having framed Sir Roger's butler and then staging his "suicide".  The whole business gave newspaper editors the chance to blare that old cliche across their front pages:


But Columbo knew that wasn't right, that the true murderers would get away with it, but he had no way to prove.  Even more stressful was that he was pressed for time; he had been booked on a flight back to London that afternoon.  He knew that as soon as he was gone from the country, Durk would declare the case closed.

As he sat in the park reading the Evening Echo newspaper, Columbo was so engrossed by the account of Tanner's suicide that he failed to notice the old man sitting next to him on the bench just across the green from the Wellington Arch.  In fact, it's quite likely that he had no clue who the old man was.  Had he recognized him, Columbo might have gushed and sang his praises... in the usual back-handed sort of way the detective had.  

He might have otherwise babbled on about how his nephew read all of those books of his about those little people who lived in the holes in the ground, and the warriors with their glowing swords, and the elves with their arrows, and the dwarves with their adzes.  And the talking trees and that Great Eye and the giant spiders!  Oh!  And that one ring to rule them all?  You have quite an imagination, sir.  And that's just based on what my nephew told me!

You surely figured it out by now.  That little old man sitting quietly on the bench feeding the pigeons while smoking his pipe?

I'm claiming that he was the televersion of J.R.R. Tolkien, author of "The Hobbit" and "The Lord Of The Rings", the modern day father of high fantasy and the creator of Middle Earth.

Just in case you still have no clue who that is.....

From Wikipedia:
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE, FRSL (3 January 1892 – 2 September 1973) was an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor who is best known as the author of the classic high-fantasy works "The Hobbit", "The Lord of the Rings", and "The Silmarillion".

He served as the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon and Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford, from 1925 to 1945 and Merton Professor of English Language and Literature and Fellow of Merton College, Oxford, from 1945 to 1959. He was at one time a close friend of C. S. Lewis—they were both members of the informal literary discussion group known as the Inklings. Tolkien was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II on 28 March 1972.

Edith Tolkien died on 29 November 1971, at the age of 82.  According to Simon Tolkien:

"My grandmother died two years before my grandfather and he came back to live in Oxford. Merton College gave him rooms just off the High Street. I went there frequently and he'd take me to lunch in the Eastgate Hotel. Those lunches were rather wonderful for a 12-year-old boy spending time with his grandfather, but sometimes he seemed sad. There was one visit when he told me how much he missed my grandmother. It must have been very strange for him being alone after they had been married for more than 50 years."

Tolkien was appointed by Queen Elizabeth II a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1972 New Year Honours and received the insignia of the Order at Buckingham Palace on 28 March 1972. In the same year Oxford University conferred upon him an honorary Doctorate of Letters.

Tolkien had the name "LĂșthien" engraved on Edith's tombstone at Wolvercote Cemetery, Oxford. Tolkien died 21 months later on 2 September 1973 from a bleeding ulcer and chest infection, at the age of 81.
Under his name, "Beren" was engraved on the tombstone.

Tolkien has been portrayed on television before:
  • Jack Turner in two episodes of 'Legends of Tomorrrow'
  • Ben Lambert (younger) & Robert HIckson (older) in "C.S. Lewis: Beyond Narnia"
  • Ian Bellman in a four-part series 'The Question of God'



But I think this actor looks more like the author than any of the actors who were actually hired to portray him.  Usually the actors involved were costumed to play Tolkien at younger ages - as a soldier on the French battlefield or as a young instructor at university.  But here this actor, without actually meaning to, looks like the classic pose for Tolkien in his sunset years:

I've given some thought to the timelines for both Tolkien and Columbo and I think they can be reconciled.  "Dagger Of The Mind" was first broadcast on November 26, 1972.  Although I prefer that TV shows take place around the time they are broadcast, this doesn't have to be a rule carved in stone.  As long as it doesn't interrupt any other episode of 'Columbo' in their space on the Toobworld timeline, I can be flexible about this.  (By the way, the last episode of the first season was broadcast in February of 1972.  The second season premiered later that same year in September.  So March is free and clear for the Lieutenant to travel to London.)

So I would set the episode earlier in the year, in March of 1972.  Rather than the approach of dreary weather near the end of the year, "Dagger of the Mind" could have been taken place during the dreary weather near the end of Winter.

Mr. Tanner...?
Could you tell me, 
Was there any sort of rain out here last night
Rain, sir? No. 
We haven't had a drop all the week.

I've looked into the weather for March, 1972: as March 1972 progressed, the weather became warmer and relatively dry.  There were some warm and sunny days from the 14th to the 25th, but as the month ended it became more seasonal with gradual cold and some rain.

On the 14th, winds veered southeasterly and it became warmer. On the 15th,16th and 19th, the temperature reached 19C, (66 Fahrenheit) and it remained pleasantly warm until cooler westerly winds set in on the 26th.

Here are the basics of Tolkien's personal timeline leading to a joining with Columbo's chronology:

JANUARY 1 1972
In the New Year's Honours List, J.R.R. Tolkien is awarded a CBE. (Commander of the British Empire.)


MARCH 13, 1972
Because of the death of his wife the year before, Tolkien moved to rooms at 21 Merton Street, Oxford.

MARCH 21, 1972
The dress rehearsal for "MacBeth" starring Nicholas Frame and his wife Lillian Stanhope is held.  The producer Sir Roger Havisham arrives backstage at the theatre unseen by anyone.  He accuses his paramour Lillian of whoring herself out to get him to finance the production.  He plans to close the show and make certain neither Frame nor his wife ever work on the stage again.  In order to stop him, Nicky struggles with Sir Roger and blows were exchanged, finally ending with Lillian throwing a jar of cold cream at the producer's head.  Sir Roger dies and Nicky and Lillian begin an elaborate plan to cover it up.

MARCH 22, 1972
Lt. Columbo arrives at Heathrow Airport where he is met by Detective Sgt. O'Keefe.  They keep Detective Chief Superintendent Durk waiting because Columbo wants to do some sight-seeing.  They call at the home of Sir Roger's, where the body was found.  (Sir Roger was the uncle, twice removed, of Durk's wife.)  

The opening performance for the play proceeds as planned for that night.  Columbo is able to attend and starts finding clues.  The actors realize that the stage door custodian took Sir Roger's umbrella by mistake and they need to retrieve it; they need to keep people from thinking he had been at the theatre.  After getting it back, they try to leave it at Sir Roger's house only to find that his personal effects were all taken to the wax museum for an upcoming exhibit about Sir Roger.  So they have to break into the museum and exchange the umbrellas.  A very busy night!

MARCH 23, 1972

Columbo and Durk partake in some activities that had been originally scheduled for Columbo's visit.  They also meet up with Tanner for a trip to the wax museum to identify the umbrella.  This makes Tanner realize that Nicky and Lillian were behind Sir Roger's death.  Later that morning, Tanner arrives at Nicky and Lillian's home with the intent of becoming their new butler, basically blackmailing them into hiring him.  

MARCH 24, 1972
Another workday for Columbo learning about the new techniques at Scotland Yard. He also gets to meet several other British detectives like Detective Jack Regan of the Flying Squad   So as to free up their workload, Durk and O'Keefe have a real "copper" assigned to help Columbo through the day.  His name is PC George Dixon, a true veteran of the force still working into his 70s.  (While on his beat with Columbo, Dixon is called upon to help deliver a baby in the Luther household.  The parents are going to name him John.)  Meanwhile, Nicholas Frame has convinced Tanner to smuggle rare books out of Sir Roger's home in order to sell them, so that Tanner can get the money he's accustomed to.  Frame shows up at the cottage where Tanner lives and kills him, making it look like suicide.  

At the same time, Professor J.R.R. Tolkien has arrived in London from Oxford to prepare for the CBE ceremony at Buckingham Palace.  Having been registered at his hotel, he goes to the tailor to make sure his morning coat and various accouterments are up to snuff as it were.  

MARCH 25, 1972
Arrangements have been made for Columbo to go home.  With some free time, Professor Tolkien goes to Green Park near the Wellington Arch in order to feed the pigeons.  He sits on a bench with Lt. Columbo.  At the wax museum Columbo tricks Nicholas Frame and Lillian Stanhope into admitting that they killed Sir Roger and that Nicky murdered Tanner. 

MARCH 26, 1972
Lt. Columbo flies home to America.

MARCH 28, 1972
Tolkien received his Order of CBE from the Queen in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

As you can see, there's really nothing about this that causes major upheavals to the life of J.R.R. Tolkien, nor to the purity of the episode.

But check back soon.  I'm going to post a conversation Columbo might have had with "Tolkien" before the cameras were rolling.....


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