Charming, Elegant and Ruthless
Wellingham, the silver-haired string-puller,
is examined by David Koukol.
In Always Glad to Help, Shaikh Hammad wants the UK to help him
overthrow his father. He approaches Wellingham with the promise
of turning the Shaikhdom pro-West and buying British weapons.
Wellingham pressures SIS to mount the coup quickly, and wants
the glory of this all for himself.
‘Vanity, or power?’ asks Sir James Greenley.
‘Just Wellingham,’ Burnside replies. His answer
is telling, all the more so for being delivered without any of
Burnside’s customary sarcasm, but rather a matter-of-face
tone --a brilliant artistic choice by Roy Marsden. The implication
is that Wellingham has outgrown the need for his actions to be
examined or explained in any way — he manipulates because
it is in his nature and he certainly wouldn't hatch a scheme that
would knowingly put the UK at a disadvantage.
And, to top it, when SIS exposes Hammad’s true intentions,
Wellingham manoeuvres brilliantly. In living colour In the final
episode, Opposite Numbers, we see Wellingham depicted as a passionate
believer in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks with Russia. Perhaps
he is, but he is still Wellingham. ‘You see this as your
moment of glory,’ Burnside tells him, ‘Sir Geoffrey
Wellingham on the front page of the Observer colour supplement.’
And we believe Burnside’s assessment, based on Wellingham’s
actions in the past and on the relationship he and Burnside share.
‘There are reasons you know me so well,’ Burnside
says to Wellingham in episode 2, ‘it must be like looking
in a mirror.’ Wellingham does not dispute this. In fact,
in Operation Kingmaker (Episode 13), when he has out-maneuvered
his former son-in-law, Wellingham declares, ‘I've been playing
this game rather longer than you.’
So, beyond himself, does Wellingham care for anyone? He certainly
doesn’t seem to be a very good father, never having a kind
word to say about his daughter and always complaining about her
spending too much time at their home. True, these comments surface
in conversations designed to steer Burnside and Belinda towards
some manner of reconciliation, but one would think Wellingham
would make the prospect of reuniting with Belinda an attractive
His complaints don’t seem designed to fill Burnside with
a longing for his ex-wife, and so, sadly, we may take Wellingham’s
words as true expressions of his feelings. Lady Wellingham Lady
Wellingham, based on the two times we see her, seems to be a compassionate,
caring person. And yet, Burnside claims (in A Proper Function
of Government) that Sir Geoffrey married her ‘for money.’
Perhaps even Wellingham requires companionship, thus providing
him the kind of psychological stability that Burnside seems to
lack. What he provide his wife is open to speculation. And the
question begs to be asked: Does Wellingham care for Burnside,
even a little? It seems safe to say that he does — after
all, Wellingham does sign a document betraying the UK government
in order to save Laura Dickens — Burnside’s true love.
Wellingham risks his entire career, his reputation, all that
he's worked for, plus the security of the UK and it relationship
with the CIA.
Tragic events make the document unnecessary, but the fact that
he was willing to do it provides Wellingham with the single moment
in which he redeems himself, making it impossible for him to be
written off as simply an untrustworthy bastard. Why does he care
for Burnside? Well, it has already been said that the two men
share much in common, so if they are mirror images... and if Wellingham
cares the most about himself...
There is a lighter side to the man, as well. Wellingham has a
definite sense of humor. When Burnside tells him, in Is Your Journey
Really Necessary? of a scandal that involves sex, Sir Geoffrey
quips, ‘Lot of it about, I'm told.’ In Unusual Approach
Wellingham and Peele make an unlikely pair who turn the tables
on Burnside when he wagers he can give up smoking and they, perceptibly,
don’t believe him.
Such moments aside, Wellingham remains a dark-hearted, attractive
manipulator. More dangerous than Burnside, and more mentally stable
as well. Kudos to great writing and terrific acting for the fact
that we end up caring about the miserable sod! When, in Enough
of Ghosts, Wellingham is abducted in Brussels, we're on the edges
of our seats, rooting for the Sandbaggers to rescue him. How interesting
1, Page 2