Peter Falk subtly said goodbye directly to the camera in this Columbo episode
"This far and no further" was not exactly true.
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If the Columbo episode "The Conspirators" feels a little different, there is a good reason. The plot of the episode — which sees the detective swept up into the world of gunrunning, Irish politics and the IRA — was originally conceived as a pilot episode for some other unnamed television series by Pat Robison. Screenwriter Howard Berk wedged Lt. Columbo into the script and the story became the intended finale for Columbo.
Yes, Peter Falk appeared as Columbo on television through 2003, but this 1978 was meant to be his farewell. That becomes quite clear when you get to the end of the episode.
In the finale scene, Columbo sits with Irish poet Joe Devlin (Clive Revill) over a bottle of whiskey. The detective marks a notch in the label of a bottle of "Full's Irish Dew" and says he will drink "this far and no further." It's a line and a practice Devlin does himself in the episode. The Irishman etches a line in the bottle with his ring and says, "This far and no further," noting how much he intends to drink.
But when Peter Falk delivers the line as Columbo, it is loaded with meaning. Falk looks directly into the camera, at his fans. He is stating his intentions to play Columbo "no further."
This was not the first time Columbo snuck in a cheeky farewell to fans. The season five finale, "Last Salute to the Commodore," saw the detective literally heading (well, rowing) off into the sunset in the final shot. It was thought that this would be the finale for the character and series.
Of course, Columbo would return for two more seasons on NBC. Yet, "The Conspirators" felt more like a true finale. Because, for a decade, it was.
Columbo would return in 1989 on a different network, ABC, in what was essentially one of the earliest examples of a nostalgic television reboot. Falk just could not leave behind such a beloved character. We get it.
As for that line, "This far and no further," there's a fun link to the Star Trek universe, too. In the movie Star Trek: First Contact, Patrick Stewart's Jean-Luc Picard delivers the line to Lily Sloane (Alfre Woodard). "The line must be drawn here! This far and no further!" the Captain declares.