Update! Original post below
I've found it!!! That elusive mystery programme referred to in Michelle Gomez's biographies only as "Pinkerton Files" is in fact a half-hour dramatised documentary for BBC Scotland called "Pinkerton - The Eye That Never Sleeps". It was shown on BBC 1 Scotland as part of the Scottish arts series "EX-S" and starred Peter Capaldi as the famous private detective Allan Pinkerton. Yes, Michelle and Peter have worked together before Doctor Who!
My breakthrough came just a few days ago as I was trying yet another search on The British Newspaper Archive. I've searched there many times before for various permutations of the title "Pinkerton Files" but found nothing. This time I did something different, I narrowed the date range to search just the years I suspected most likely, 1993-1994, and this time I found a result in the Aberdeen Press & Journal from 5th April 1994 which contained a TV listing for a programme referred to only by the name "EX-S":
The next result was from the Perthshire Advertiser of the same date and named the programme by its full title, "EX-S: Pinkerton - The Eye That Never Sleeps". By now I knew that this had to be what I'd been looking for; the date fitted, it was BBC, the right kind of programme and the right kind of title to be abbreviated to "Pinkerton Files" for simplicity in theatre programme biographies. And now I had a new and important search term in Peter Capaldi as well as the proper title!
Searching the title together with Peter Capaldi's name quickly brought up a Facebook post from 2016 by Blackwatch Media, in which they shared an image of Peter Capaldi as Allan Pinkerton with the hashtag #ThrowbackThursday.
When Doctor Who was the world's first Private Detective. 'Pinkerton: The Eye that never sleeps'.
Director Nicola Black. Writer Paul Gallagher.
BBC Ex-S 1994.
There were still a few problems, however. Even armed with the title and the time the programme was broadcast, I could find no record of this programme either in the BFI catalogue or on BBC Genome and it quickly became apparent that the EX-S programme was only broadcast in Scotland. At that time on that day, BBC 1 in England broadcast an unrelated episode of Omnibus instead and, since the source for Genome's listings on that day was the London issue of the Radio Times, Pinkerton wasn't there.
Finally, last night, I discovered the final key to the puzzle in the online catalogue for Bristol University archives - their Theatre Collection archive holds an actual copy of the programme!
"BBC1 Scotland ident and announcement, BBC Scotland TV documentary ""The Eye That Never Sleeps"" about Pinkerton, one of the first ever private detectives in the USA. Titles feature firebreather. Programme features sequences with an old style MC played by Peter Capaldi and sideshow performers and historical re-enactments with Capaldi as Pinkerton.
BBC Scotland trailers, BBC 1 Scotland ident and announcement, opening extract of 'Psycho' (1960)."
In the final step to closing the case, I emailed the Keeper of Digital and Live Art Archives at Bristol University, who has very kindly and efficiently confirmed that, indeed, Michelle Gomez was in this programme. I have found her. I have finally found Pinkerton.
Many thanks for your enquiry. We don't have copyright for the programme, so you would need to make a visit to view the programme, but I've just had a quick look at the end credits and Michelle Gomez is listed as 'Tarot Woman'.
The only thing that remains is to visit Bristol University archives to watch the video, which I will do as soon as I have the opportunity. In the meantime, I have updated my Screen listings to include Pinkerton - The Eye That Never Sleeps.
Did Michelle Gomez appear in a television show in the 1990s that isn't listed on her IMDb page? What even is it? That's a mystery I'm trying to solve.
Anyone looking closely at my attached images may notice that the theatre programmes for Sleep With Me (1999), The Vagina Monologues (2002) and The Taming of the Shrew (2008) all make reference to Michelle having appeared in a television production referred to as "Pinkerton Files". A BBC press release from 2004 to accompany the launch of Carrie & Barry corroborates this and even claims it as a BBC production.
Scottish actress Michelle Gomez trained at The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Theatre.
Television appearances include: Green Wing (Channel 4); Janice in two series of The Book Group (Channel 4); Ready When You Are Mr McGill; Manchild (BBC): My Family (BBC); Inspector Rebus (BBC Scotland); The Raven (Gaumont); Taggart (STV); The Bill (Thames); Pinkerton Files (BBC); The Lady's Man (Granada Television); Parahandy (BBC); Taggart (STV); and First And Last (BBC).
There's another oddity on that list, The Lady's Man, also referred to in some biographies as The Ladies' Man, but I think I've identified that (edit: I have!). That's for another blog post.
A scan of Michelle's IMDb page finds no mention of anything resembling "Pinkerton Files". In fact there's no such show to be found anywhere! From the chronology of the listings where it appears, I figure the mystery programme dates from between 1994 and 1998. Nevertheless I have eliminated the similarly named Pinkerton's Progress from 1983 and the animated series PC Pinkerton from 1988, just to be sure.
At this point I contacted the BBC directly to ask them. After all, it's claimed as a BBC programme in their own press release! They got back to me impressively quickly and here is their reply:
Hello there Nova,
Thank you for getting in touch this week.
This press release page is from 2004 and is now archived. Unfortunately due to this it’s difficult for us to get further information.
Looking into Michelle Gomez’s Filmography I can’t see her as being credited for a programme called the Pinkerton Files. Strangely enough I can’t find any mention of such a programme.
I’m sorry I didn’t have more information for you today but thanks for taking the time to contact us.
BBC Enquiries Team
It's a lovely response but clearly the BBC doesn't know what it is either!
So my search for Pinkerton Files continues. If the programme was ever made - and the persistent references to it suggest to me that it probably was - it may have aired with a different title or "Pinkerton Files" may be an episode title within a series. If you have any ideas or suggestions please let me know in the comments.