Saturday, July 14, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 138. Bizarre

Not really the big finish I was looking for - from the title I was hoping for a real Fall Out style psychedelic freakout. There is however one similarity to that final episode of The Prisoner...

The teaser shows us a girl wandering barefoot across a snowy field before collapsing. We later learn that she was thrown out of a train - I must say she doesn't show any signs of rough handling. Shown a photo of recently deceased Jonathan Jupp (John 'Number Two in A Change of Mind' Sharp making his third appearance), she remembers his shocking emergence from a coffin in the guard's van to attack her.

Investigating duties are split three ways, with one Captain Cordell taking on some of the work while Steed drives comedy funeral director Bagpipes Happychap (! - Roy Kinnear in his fourth appearance) to distraction by repeatedly forcing him to have coffins dug up, starting with Jupp's, which proves to be empty. The physical similarity of Sharp and Kinnear is quite a good red herring at this point.

Cordell and Steed discover that the missing corpses are actually alive and well, and being attended to by ladies in a sort of Star Trek-style underground paradise. Menacingly camp travel agent Shaw (George Innes, who has the unusual distinction of having appeared in The Bill, Hill Street Blues and Cagney & Lacey) is running the getaway scheme, and fake fakir Fulton 'Dr Quinn' Mackay (third appearance; here bearing a disturbing resemblance to Kenneth Williams' Khasi of Khalabar) provides the simulated death-like state necessary for the deception.

Unfortunately, Cordell and Steed have to take the trip underground themselves in order learn this; Cordell doesn't make it out alive, but with Tara's help Steed does, and a big fight later they're able to handcuff and lead out of the grave in a long line all the villains and fugitives, to the final dismay of Mr Happychap.

One thing that is truly bizarre about this episode is the closing gag, which sees Steed and Tara accidentally blasted into space in the former's kit-built rocket. 'Mother' is taken aback by this turn of events, but thoughtfully addresses the camera to assure us that they'll be back.

Also seen: Michael Balfour, who's the very English-looking cowboy killed by the Kid in Living In Harmony.

Previously seen: Sally Nesbitt from The Joker.

Naive Avengersthon - 137. Take-over

Now this is a good one, a real thriller with lots of tension. The teaser shows us Fenton Greville (Tom 'Vorshak' Adams) and his henchman killing a man apparently by remote control. (dissolute.com.au suggests that the victim is played by Michael Craze).

Steed's set for a country weekend with his friend Bill Bassett (Michael 'Lord Melbury' Gwynn) and his wife, and invites Tara to join them if she has time: but before he arrives, the Bassetts have unexpected guests in the shape of Greville and his associates, including the lovely Circe. Crazy name, crazy girl as we soon find out. The Bassetts and their butler (John 'Sid' Comer) are subjected to surgery at Circe's hands which leaves them susceptible to Greville's remote killing device.

Steed innocently arrives in this awkward situation, and although his friends have been ordered on pain of death not to tell him what's going on, he soon susses out that something's wrong. This is one of Steed's best episodes - he's outnumbered by three dangerous men and one insane woman, and constantly has to improvise plans, especially when they try to kill him during a shooting expedition. He escapes but is injured: luckily Tara duly turns up at this point to give him a breathing space, and with one final ingenious move by Steed the villains are overpowered, and prevented from carrying out the long-range assassination for which, we're told, the Bassett's house made an ideal base.

Greville is one of the best villains in the show so far. He's cultured, well-mannered and utterly sadistic, clearly getting a big kick out of dominating Bassett. He also can't bear to lose, which causes him to make some foolish decisions in his battle of wits with Steed. The way in which he and his friends bluff their way into the house and take it over is just great.

His associates aren't bad either, particularly Garfield 'Haskins' Morgan. The bit where he insults the Bassetts for having stale coffee underlines his unpleasantness better than any amount of violence would. Circe is quite frightening - there have been a number of mad young women in the show, but none of the others had scalpels and anaesthetic.

I got really involved in this - at the point where Tara and Mrs Bassett first get the drop on Greville, I found myself yelling 'Go on, shoot him!'

Probably the best episode of anything Terry Nation ever wrote.

Naive Avengersthon - 136. Requiem

Now this is more like it. Steed leaves for a secret location to protect vital witness Miranda (Angela 'Carry On' Douglas) - and Tara is captured by the villains (including Denis Shaw, who's the shopkeeper in The Prisoner) and plunged into another drugged nightmare. When she escapes, she's caught in an explosion at Steed's flat and comes to to see 'Mother''s body being carried away on a stretcher.

She's taken to hospital by Dr Wells (the Bill Clinton-like John 'Agrippa/Dr Spencer Quist' Paul) and Major Firth (John Cairney). Firth is frantic to discover Steed's location because, he tells Tara, a miniature bomb has been placed in Steed's gold pencil, which could detonate at any moment.

Tara recalls that Steed once spoke to her about the secret location, and the poor girl has to do all she can to remember the location. Firth and Wells take her to 'Mother''s funeral and Steed's bombed-out flat in an effort to help her recall.

But she gradually realises that things aren't all that they seem, and that Firth may want to know Steed's whereabouts for quite a different reason. The cracks in the facade are subtly conveyed, particularly by Cairney and Paul, who are very plausible but somehow don't seem quite right. And there's one scene where Shaw and his confederate pass through the shot - our attention isn't drawn to them but their presence there shows us that something is up.

There's also some excellent false tension in Steed and Miranda's scenes. She's comically beating him at a variety of strategy games while we, if we've fallen for the deception, are tensely waiting for the booby-trapped pencil to explode.

Tara escapes and saves the day, helped by 'Mother' cleverly setting up a false secret location for the villains to find from Tara's memory clues.

A great episode - it's not only exciting, we really feel for poor Tara who's quite devastated by the funeral and her apparent injuries. And the deception is excellently done.

Previously and also seen: John 'Ralph in The Visitation' Baker from You Have Just Been Murdered.

Previously seen: Harvey Ashby in his third appearance.

Naive Avengersthon - 135. Homicide And Old Lace

'So it's come to this, an Avengers clip show.' What a shame that Malcolm Hulke and Terrance Dicks should return to write such a half-arsed episode.

There's some initial excitement when two old ladies appear to be preparing to assassinate 'Mother' - and Rhonda gets to do a two-handed lightning pistol draw - but we're not here for action, these are his aunts and this is a framing device for a story about how Steed and Tara took on Intercrime, who appear to have expanded considerably since the story of the same name.

What enjoyment there is is in the tricks with form, and self-references to running out of plot and 'the big fight'. There's a good freeze frame and resume at one point when the aunts interrupt the story.

The reuse of clips from other stories isn't very satisfying, that always just feels like they can't be bothered.

Note how the fake phone call from the Prime Minister's office turns up again in Hulke's Green Death.

Donald 'Beyus' Pickering from The Winged Avenger as Cartwright. His face would fit more in one of the older BW stories, he seems out of place in this.

Tara wears a fantastic pair of boots in this story, they're probably the best ones seen in the show.

Rhonda nearly gets to speak in the closing gag, but sadly we're disappointed.

I suppose I liked the idea that the government has fake versions of all Britain's art treasures in storage, so that if the originals are removed for safety in wartime, public morale will be kept up. But I feel like this episode is a fake version of an Avengers story. Not one I shall remember with pleasure. It's no Girl Who Was Death.

Previously and also seen: Bryan 'Alf Roberts' Mosley from The Gravediggers.

Also seen: Edward 'War Chief' Brayshaw, Kristopher 'Fu Peng' Kum, Stephen 'Petrov in The War Games' Hubay, Gertan 'Ola/King Pengvin/Washy time!' Klauber, Kevork 'Rudkin in Wheel In Space' Malikyan.

Previously seen: Mary Merrall from The Girl From Auntie, Gerald Harper in his third appearance, Ann[e] Rutter from Super Secret Cypher Snatch.

Naive Avengersthon - 134. Thingumajig

Lurking death in the tunnels - this must be a Terry Nation script. Quite a suspenseful one too, with archaeologists being zapped to death in a cave system under a church, and mysterious tracks being left behind. Steed and companion of the week Inge (Dora Reisser, who I kept hoping was Caroline John doing an accent) excellently find a crashed van in a quarry; inside is an open crate marked Extreme Danger with two now empty compartments.

So far so good, and we're pretty uneasy about what the threat (both threats) might actually be. But when we do see them, they're just small oblong black boxes, whirring painfully as they lurch across the floor. This is such a let-down that we can't really care much about Iain 'Garron' Cuthbertson's plot to distribute thousands of the boxes and drain the whole country's electricity supply.

Tara has some rubbish comedy scenes with Willoughby Goddard (all the way from The Frighteners), and has to deal with the second box which Steed has, perhaps rather irresponsibly, sent to her house. Some tension does creep into this scene, but I'm still wondering what they were thinking with the box design.

A disappointing episode. The buildup is good, but it writes cheques the reveal can't cash.

Previously and also seen: Edward 'Prof Kettlewell' Burnham returning from The Fear Merchants. Vernon 'Chief Scientist' Dobtcheff in his third appearance. John 'Doc Morrissey' Horsley as the doctor, returning from Mr Teddy Bear where he also played a doctor.

Previously seen: Jeremy 'sitcoms' Lloyd returning From Venus With Love, Hugh Manning in his third appearance, Russell Waters from Castle DeAth, John Moore from The Hidden Tiger and Harry Shacklock in his third appearance.

Naive Avengersthon - 133. Pandora

A really creepy, Sapphire-and-Steel-esque episode. Tara's turn to have her head messed about with, as she apparently wakes up in 1915 to find Rupert (Julian Glover in his fourth appearance) insisting that her name is Pandora, and that she has to marry 'Gregory'.

Rupert is superbly unpleasant. There's a very effective scene where he keeps telling his accomplice 'You're raising your voice'. It doesn't look like a threat when written out, but the way he says it, it gives the impression of massive suppressed violence. As does the way he slices a block of cheese during another scene.

Notice the Mrs Gale and Mrs Peel files in the cabinet. Also the authentic George V stamp and wavy line cancels on the envelope Tara finds on the doormat.

Tara's red car gets burnt out, but we see it again in at least one later episode.

The 'Pandora' seen in the teaser is supposed to be a stuffed dummy, but I took it to be a woman with a bandaged face, so I kept expecting her to turn up in the attic or a locked room, and was disappointed when she didn't.

The reveal at the end is fantastic, one of the best in the show so far. And of course the viewer feels satisfied that Rupert has brought about his own downfall.

Previously and also seen: John Laurie in his fourth appearance, Reginald 'Smithers in Planet of Giants' Barratt, Geoffrey 'radio comedy' Whitehead returning from Trojan Horse.

Previously seen: Peter Madden from Room Without A View.

Naive Avengersthon - 132. Who Was That Man I Saw You With?

There's a clever pair of parallel 'suspicion' plots in this one - Tara is tasked with breaching the defences of the War Room as a test of security, and at the same time the elegant Dangerfield (Alan 'Temmosus' Wheatley) is setting up a web of circumstantial evidence to make her look like a traitor.

The second plot, however, requires 'Mother' and Steed to be uncharacteristically obtuse. Tara has to demonstrate the framing technique on Steed himself before he'll believe her.

Steed's exclamation of 'What a lovely suit!' before he starts beating up Dangerfield in the finale is predictable, but very enjoyable nonetheless.

Previously and also seen: Aimee 'Dona Arana' Delamain from November Five. Ralph 'Balaton in The Pirate Planet' Michael

Also seen: William 'Mailer' Marlowe.

Previously seen: Alan Browning returning from Intercrime, Alan Macnaught[ao]n from Town Of No Return, Richard Owens from The £50,000 Breakfast.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 131. Fog

Very underwhelming this. The central idea is OK - that one member of a club of pseudo-Ripper obsessives is murdering foreign dignitaries who threaten his interests - but there are two major annoying things about this episode.

Firstly, although the historical murderer that the club admire flourished in 1888, and had the Ripper's M.O., he's actually called the Gaslight Ghoul, possibly because the real Ripper targeted prostitutes and that idea (a) isn't US-friendly and (b) doesn't suit the type of killing that's being done in the main action.

Secondly, although the story obviously takes place in London in 1968, its heart is in Victorian London and so all the visual trappings are from that era. I suppose that might be considered clever by a more sophisticated viewer, but I thought it was contrived. For example, a lot of the action centres around a firm that runs hansom cabs (presumably for novelty purposes), Tara is in a Victorianesque costume and all the 'exterior' shots are shrouded in Victorian fog. Steed actually explains this, when he's welcoming the comedy foreigners, as a typical feature of London; when he and the viewer know quite well that pea-soupers had been rendered a thing of the past by the Clean Air Act in 1956.

One thing I did like though was the presence of Patsy 'All my puff' Smart as the housekeeper. That seemed appropriate to the setting.

Previously and also seen: Paul 'The Marshal' Whitsun-Jones, who I completely missed, in his fourth appearance.

Previously seen: Nigel Green and John Garrie from The Winged Avenger, Arnold Diamond from Who's Who?, Frank Sieman from Six Hands Across A Table, Norman Chappell (fourth appearance), William Lyon Brown from Death's Door.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 130. Stay Tuned

A very unsettling episode. The opening has an interesting similarity to Arrival with Steed just about to go on holiday when he's knocked out. We're then immediately shown him about to go on holiday once more; I thought I had a dodgy DVD at this point because all his actions are repeated. And that isn't the last time it happens either.

Not only has he lost his memory but he begins to behave strangely, trying to kill himself and Tara at one point. I don't think it helps that he chooses to consult a highly sinister-looking psychiatrist about his amnesia. The one thing he can remember is the image of a Chinese weightlifter, and he thinks he's achieved a breakthrough when - shadowed by a man who we can see but he can't - he locates a house with a doorknocker in just such a shape. What a moment when the door is opened by Kreer, played by Roger Delgado. Oh Steed, things could have been so much worse.

Delgado is, intriguingly, playing an evil hypnotist here. You could read this ep as a missing Master adventure. Unfortunately he's killed off before we can see much of him. What a waste. Luckily, as well as the invisible man his other confederate is Kate 'Rani' O'Mara.

They're conditioning Steed to assassinate 'Mother'; he is, however, able to break free of their conditioning before punching the invisible man and going off for a proper holiday. Hurray!

Great stuff this, both the psychological unpleasantness and the fascination of the repeated holiday departure scenes.

Also seen: Duncan 'Galloway' Lamont, Denise Buckley from Dance of the Dead.

Previously seen: Iris Russell and Howard Marion-Crawford, both making their third appearance.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 129. Take Me To Your Leader

A really good episode this with a fascinating central concept, a case that's programmed with verbal instructions to enable it to be passed along a sequence of enemy couriers. On this particular run, Steed and Tara's mission is to insert themselves into the chain and eliminate each successive courier, in order to find who's at the end of thes list.

Excellently, each courier also has a key with which to make the case issue its instructions: so our heroes can't eliminate them and seize the case back until that's happened. For each exchange they have to improvise tactics, and quickly.

One of the exchanges takes place at a ballet class for girls, forcing Steed to try and bribe the young contact with lollipops (she holds out for £25 instead). Penelope Keith very funny as the long-suffering teacher. I wonder if it's her or a stuntwoman in the balletic fight that ensues with Tara?

The plot forks into two in the closing act, with the introduction of a deadly decoy case. Tara's escape from the crypt is quite ingenious. Then there's just time to double-bluff the viewer about who the man at the end of the chain really is.

My only regret with this story is that there did seem to be a couple of cheats, in which the case's program seemed to be responding to events rather than strictly issuing the next instruction. It's supposed to have a tape player in it, not a radio receiver. I'd love to have the job of programming such a case and ensuring that the speeches fitted the planned locations of the couriers.

This is one of my favourites so far. It's ingeniously put together and it rattles along excitingly. I particularly liked the way that the scene in the teaser makes perfect sense in retrospect, when Steed and Tara reach the same stage in the chain that we saw there.

Previously and also seen: Michael 'Mace' Robbins from Mr Teddy Bear, Michael 'General Williams' Hawkins from The Golden Fleece.

Also seen: Patrick 'Hobson/Gamling' Barr, Henry 'Anton in Enemy of the World' Stamper

Previously seen: Raymond Adamson making his third appearance, John Ronane returning from Murdersville.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 128. Love All

This episode features Martha, probably the most unalluring femme fatale ever seen on screen. She's like Maureen Lipman playing George Orwell's charlady. But we soon find that there's a solid reason for her hypnotic appeal to civil servants who know government secrets.

The plot requires Steed and 'Mother' to be very obtuse in realising what's going on, so that Tara can confound them with her intuition. Once Steed's on the trail, there's an over-long scene at Casanova Ink, romantic publishers; Patsy 'Carry On' Rowland's explanation about how the books are generated by a computer programmed by their in-house genius Bromfield (Terence 'Lord Ravensworth' Alexander in his third appearance) is amusing enough, but the story's marking time here.

Once it gets going again, Steed soon discovers the hypnosis mechanism and deploys it against the Casanova plotters. Interesting that they don't chicken out of having Bromfield affected by it too, but as this is the 60s it merely causes him to think that Steed is a terribly decent chap. This bit is rather sweet actually.

Not a bad episode, the comedy is acceptable and we do feel rather sorry for Martha's victims. But ultimately not a very exciting episode either.

Also seen: Frank 'Ortron' Gatliff, Peter 'Cyril' Stephens, David 'Ralpachan' Baron and Larry Taylor, who's the Mexican lynchmob leader in Living In Harmony and also, so they say, the Burpa in the 'name of a good dentist' gag in Khyber.

Previously seen: Brian Oulton returning from The Charmers.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 127. The Morning After

Steed and Tara are knocked out by nerve gas capsules while attempting to capture Jimmy Merlin (Peter 'Leader Clent' Barkworth in his third appearance). Merlin succumbs to the gas too, and next day all three find themselves in an apparently deserted world. A strong Triffids vibe here, and an even stronger Invasion of the Dinosaurs one when Steed and Merlin face summary execution as looters.

Several escapes and recaptures from and by Brian 'Yrcanos' Blessed (returning from The Superlative Seven) later, we find exactly what Brigadier Joss Ackland's motive is for ensuring that he has the town all to himself for a day. Luckily Merlin shows some honour among thieves and saves the day.

An intriguing episode, but - as in some of the other ones with very interesting conceits - once the real threat is revealed, it's disposed of very quickly. Very little Tara in this, she spends most of the time asleep.

Reminded me a bit of The Hour That Never Was, in the way that the silent scenes take up such a long time, making the action seem all the more brutal once it starts.

Also seen: Donald 'Vural in The Sontaran Experiment, yunnerstan' Douglas.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 126. The Interrogators

A very good episode, where we spend less time on the hunt for the villains and much more on being intrigued as to what they're up to. The interrogations interspersed with tea breaks and friendly chat are completely intriguing.

My only complaint is that I'd liked to have known who Colonel Mannering (Christopher Lee returning from Never, Never Say Die) is and how he came to know about 'Mother' and contrive his ingenious plan to use Mother's organisation's own secrecy against it.

Previously and also seen: Neil 'Thawn' McCarthy (third appearance). Philip 'Ganatus' Bond, Glynn 'Dave in Minder' Edwards, Neil 'Sam Seeley' Wilson (third appearance). The non-speaking Chinese bloke is supposedly Vincent Wong (Ho in Talons).

Previously seen: David Sumner from Death on the Rocks, Cardew Robinson from The £50,000 Breakfast.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 125. The Rotters

I like the super-fast dry rot gimmick in this, but it's not much of a story. The rot gun is simply used to corner and kill off previous associates of its inventor, who fortuitously all place themselves in positions where the destruction of wooden objects terminally affects their safety.

However there's a great sinister duo (Jerome 'Dr Stevens' Willis in his third appearance, Gerald Sim in his fourth) with their faux 60s working man outfits and laconic posh chat.

Back on the negative side, there's a stupid fight between Tara and unpleasant henchman Sandford. She runs girlishly off into the woods rather than driving away in her car, and he clumsily attacks her with a woodsman's axe, which predictably gets stuck in a tree and rendered useless.

And there's a very silly conclusion where Charles 'Songsten' Morgan reveals his ridiculous plan to hold the world to ransom with fake pillarboxes which spray an even more effective wood-rotting fungus.

Previously and also seen: John 'Rev Ernest Matthews' Nettleton returning from The See-Through Man. Harold 'Gilbert M' Innocent from The Medicine Men.

Also seen: Amy 'his sister Dolly' Dalby.

Previously seen: Toni Gilpin from Death on the Rocks, John Stone (third appearance), Noel Davis from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Station, John Murray Scott from November Five. And Garry Marsh who may or may not be the Brigadier from Look (etc).

Friday, July 06, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 124. Killer

Agents are being lured to a factory, then efficiently killed and dumped. It's completely obvious what's going on and exactly who 'Remak' is, the fun is in the way the exact details are explained. And the principal villains are great: William Franklyn from Silent Dust in a vicious check jacket, and Grant Taylor as a hefty businessman. There's a wonderful scene in the pub that they use in the operation where they calmly take tea as their latest victim is taken away. 'Sandwich?' asks Taylor politely.

Harry 'McDermott in Terror of the Autons' Towb does the agent-luring for them; very appropriately because not only is the factory a plastics factory, but there's a coach-load of plastic dummies involved in the story too. (Though I couldn't work out exactly what the purpose of this was).

There are also various similarities in the Remak scenes to the City sequence in Death to the Daleks - particularly in the way that some of the agents survive the first attack only to perish in the second, and only our hero is clever enough to get all the way through.

One thing is still puzzling me though, why did Grant Taylor spend all that cash on an elaborate killing mechanism? They could just have lured people to the factory and shot them, then dumped the corpses in the same way, and it would have been a lot cheaper. Wouldn't make such a good story of course.

Very little Tara in this, and agent Lady Diana Forbes-Blakeney takes over as companion of the week. I was hoping she was Caroline Blakiston again, but it wasn't her.

Previously and also seen: John 'Edward Waterfield' Bailey in his third appearance, James 'Security Chief' Bree from Immortal Clay, Anthony 'Baron von Gruner' Valentine from The Bird Who Knew Too Much.

Also seen: Michael 'Moberley in Seeds of Doom' McStay.

Previously seen: Jonathan Elsom from The See-Through Man.

Naive Avengersthon - 123. Wish You Were Here

In Prisoner territory here with a hotel who offer a special service: the indefinite detention of inconvenient people. They'd have gotten away with it too if they hadn't branched out into murdering them too. It's largely played for laughs - the means of detention are inventive but polite and non-fatal, and the permanent guests have the best food and wine. But it still recalls the superficially civilised atmosphere of the Village and the suggestion of a corresponding threat somewhere below the surface.

Helping convey this threat is Derek 'Greg Sutton' Newark in his third appearance. This is an actor who can give a distinct air of menace just by eating breakfast.

Steed's scenes are largely confined to a brainstorming session with 'Mother' where, surrounded by cardboard cutouts of various agents, they're trying to work out which one is a traitor. 'Mother''s nephew Basil - can't work out who this is but he seems familiar - is despatched to assist Tara at the hotel. I love the disdain Patrick Newell puts into his 'dear boy' line here.

Basil isn't a lot of help, but fortunately Tara is more than capable of devising a plan. Wonderful scene where she and her confederates barricade themselves in the hotel kitchen, then calmly proceed to cook and serve themselves a gourmet meal while the staff attempt to break down the door. A bit like the 'dinner party under fire' scene in Khyber.

Previously and also seen: David 'Solicitor Grey' Garth in his third appearance. Dudley 'Maurice Caven' Foster in his third appearance

Also seen: Louise 'Gia Kelly' Pajo - I see she ended up in Pris btw. John Cazabon, who I think is the man with the umbrella who Number Six disconcerts in an unconvincing studio 'exterior' scene in Once Upon A Time

Previously seen: Liam Redmond returning from Small Game For Big Hunters, Robert Urquhart from Castle DeAth, Gary Watson in his fourth appearance, Richard Caldicot from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Station.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 122. They Keep Killing Steed

Arcos (Ray McAnally returning from The Positive-Negative Man) has a plan to blow up a peace conference. And his operative will have a perfect disguise in the form of Steed's face. The whole face-changing thing is excellent - the bulbous transformation masks are very sinister and we're satisfyingly shown on two occasions what happens when the process goes wrong.

Steed's improvised counter-plan is very clever, an example of 'If the system is big enough to break you, try helping it on its way.'

Lots of running about for Tara, but because she doesn't really know what's going on at any stage, she doesn't really drive the plot much. She just gets to visit 'Mother''s riverbottom base, and ponce around with the pretty Baron von Curt, the companion of the week. He may look like Jason Donovan's effeminate brother but he's an effective fencer.

A very good episode with lots of style - a further example in the way that Arcos' secret evil base is entered through the doors of a burnt-out van in a quarry.

Ray McAnally is a real thoughtful villain, his chess-playing scene with the captive Steed is a delight. Norman 'Hieronymous' Jones as his henchman.

Previously and also seen: Bernard Horsfall (third appearance).

Also seen: Reg 'Krail' Whitehead, and, very briefly, Angharad Rees.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 121. Legacy of Death

Intriguing opening with Farrer (Richard Hurndall) giving last-minute instructions to his butler Zoltan (!) (John 'Sondergaard' Hollis in his fourth appearance) before climbing into his coffin. Not long later, Zoltan arrives at Steed's flat to present him with his legacy of a jade dagger.

Such is the value of the dagger that several competing gangs of grotesques are ready to murder their way to it. Stratford 'Monarch' Johns, returning all the way from The Frighteners, as Sidney Street, is the best of them.

The climactic reveal of Farrer's intentions makes a good scene, though of course we don't really expect anyone to get their hands on the treasure and we aren't surprised. Street displays a sort of nobility at the end, it's rather good.

Also seen: Tutte Lemkow (Cyclops in The Myth Makers). The wonderful Peter 'The Supervisor' Swanwick. Michael 'Collins in Pyramids' Bilton.

Previously seen: Ronald Lacey from The Joker. Kynaston Reeves from What The Butler Saw.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 120. Noon Doomsday

I watched this one in a rage because I was waiting for a parcel that didn't come, so it's a wonder that I saw anything good in it at all. Steed is recuperating from an injury at the fantastically-secure 'Department S' - unfortunately it becomes a trap for him and Tara when assassin Gerald Kafka (!) comes looking for revenge.

Amusing array of unhelpful responses from the other patients - one (Peter 'Packer' Halliday) would help, but is too selfish; one is crippled by anxiety; another is afflicted by a combination of lust for Tara and cowardice. The only one brave enough to help is immobilised in plaster, but insists Tara wheels him to the window so he can keep lookout. This gallant man is played by one Anthony Ainley...

Tara takes on all three assassins, but isn't quite good enough to beat Kafka. Luckily Steed has a surprise up his sleeve, or pretty close to his sleeve anyway.

Ray 'Robbie Box' Brooks rather good as one of Kafka's assistants. T.P. 'Captain Cook' McKenna (third appearance) as the other.

Previously seen: Lyndon Brook from The Hidden Tiger, John Glyn-Jones from A Sense of History, David Glover from The See-through Man.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 119. False Witness

Not really keen on this one - the idea of a drug that makes people lie is interesting enough, but the execution is silly. Putting it in milk deliveries seems a hit-and-miss way of doing it, and why does it make the first two victims believe the lies they're telling (convincingly enough for a lie-detector in one case), but leave Tara aware that they're false?

'Mother' has a mobile HQ on a double-decker bus on this one, an image iconic enough for me to have heard of it before I started this 'thon.

Previously and also seen: John 'Chang' Bennett returning from Mission to Montreal, Rio 'Harker' Fanning from Dead Man's Treasure.

Also seen: Simon 'Zadek' Lack, Jimmy 'Idmon' Gardner.

Previously seen: Barry Warren from Too Many Christmas Trees, Tony Steedman from The Little Wonders, William Job from Man-eater of Surrey Green and Arthur Pentelow from Trojan Horse.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 118. Game

A good episode. Monte Bristow (Peter 'Count Grendel' Jeffrey in his third appearance) has made it big in the games business after his unfortunate wartime court-martial for black-markeetering. And he's out for revenge by making his enemies play for their lives in occupationally-themed games.

Steed is last on the list, and he's lured to the games room by clues in the form of jigsaw pieces. Not so much for Tara to do in this ep other than assemble the jigsaw and protectively build a barricade of furniture to safeguard Steed in his flat.

Bristow is a great villain - I particularly like the way that he's basically cheated in making the games unwinnable, and his consequent chagrin when Steed starts winning. His butler (Garfield 'Haskins' Morgan from The Fear Merchants) politely insists at this point that Steed gets his fair rewards.

Some of the games are very well realised, particularly the stock market and wargame ones chosen for the two investor and soldier victims respectively. Unfortunately I didn't think Steed's game of 'Secret Agent' was one of them, it was more a series of fights. Steed's ingenious gamesmanship in the doors puzzle is great though.

Also seen: Aubrey 'Prof Parry' Richards, again as a professor; Brian 'Adam in The Dinosaur Invasion' Badcoe.

Previously seen: Anthony Newlands from Dial A Deadly Number, Alex Scott from Too Many Christmas Trees.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 117. Super Secret Cypher Snatch

I ought to like this because there's a surprising change of pace (literally and metaphorically) halfway through when we first realise how the cypher secrets might be being snatched. And it has Donald 'Eckersley' Gee as leader of a group of murderous window-cleaners, who attack Steed with a ladder during a car chase at one point. And there's Allan Cuthbertson (third appearance), and Tara working undercover in his 60s office.

But somehow it didn't grab me. I think this is one problem with the cartoon style of the later series, the silliness of the high class window cleaning firm and the cypher HQ with its comedy red-helmeted guards don't sell the idea that the theft of the codes is a serious matter. Somehow it's not made to seem important.

Return of the 'group drill in everyday activities' thing at the window-cleaning firm.

Previously and also seen: Alec 'Bob Hall' Ross from Brief For Murder. Clifford 'Major Branwell' Earl from Escape In Time.

Previously seen: Ivor Dean, third appearance. Anthony Blackshaw, fourth. Simon Oates from You Have Just Been Murdered and Nicholas Smith, again from Escape In Time.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 116. All Done With Mirrors

A great episode. The gimmick - a line-of-sight sound transmitter and receiver - is a lot of fun; there's a supporting character with a pivotal role, something I always like; and there are some beautiful shots of cliffs. In accordance with Hitchcockian dictates, someone is duly pushed off said cliffs - and there's even an attempt at an explanation for how they survive.

The lighthouse fight is pretty broad-brush but I enjoyed it.

Not so much Steed in this as 'Mother' has placed him under close arrest for workplace politics reasons. As the arrest consists of being attended to by ladies, Steed isn't complaining.

When he joins the action, there's a lovely look from him when he hears Tara's voice out of nowhere and thinks she's a ghost. Not often we see him nonplussed.

An enormous crop of returners in this one btw:

Previously and also seen: Peter 'Dr Warlock' Copley from The White Dwarf. Edwin 'Captain Hart' Richfield making a triumphant sixth appearance. Tenniel 'Major Daly' Evans, third appearance. Peter 'Savages' Thomas, third appearance. Graham 'Underwater Menace/Mr Garfield' Ashley from Propellant 23. Michael 'Carry On "Man"' Nightingale from A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Station. David 'Rinchen' Grey all the way from Girl On The Trapeze.

Also seen: Dinsdale 'Judson' Landen. Robert 'dolly soldier' Sidaway.

Previously seen: Michael Trubshawe from Dial A Deadly Number. Joanna Jones from The Correct Way To Kill. Nora Nicholson from Build A Better Mousetrap. Anthony Dutton from Return of the Cybernauts.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 115. You'll Catch Your Death

An excellent conceit - viral specialists being killed off by infectious letters. I wonder if the CIA got the idea for the anthrax attacks in November 2001 from watching this episode?

Unfortunately it turns a bit silly at the denouement, with people falling out of the nostrils of a giant display nose at a secret research facility. (And only an Avengersthon would require me to type a sentence like that.) And this sits very oddly with Steed's cold-blooded murder of the chief black hat: having safely bottled him up in a pit, he deliberately exposes him to the infection.

Very good sinister postman/chauffeur villain duo - chauffeur a young Dudley Sutton - quite a dangerous look he had back then, you can see why he was cast in Entertaining Mr Sloane.

I enjoyed Steed's speculation about the reverse selection process at the nursing academy, designed, he thinks, to choose all the most dishonest students.

Note the 4d sepia 1967 Machin definitives on the deadly envelopes. (Replaced in 1969 by the 4d vermillion as the sepia was too close in colour to the 5d dark blue). These would have been thought of as the new stamps at the time, having recently replaced the Wilding type seen in You Have Just Been Murdered. Interesting that though the villains are prepared to buy 10,000 envelopes from a high-class stationery firm, they're too mean to pay for first class 5d stamps.

Henry 'Benny Hill's straight man' McGee as the stationer btw.

Previously and also seen: Fulton 'Dr Quinn' Mackay returning from Return of the Cybernauts. He's wasted in this part though. Charles Lloyd Pack, who I think paints Six's portrait in It's Your Funeral, returning from Silent Dust. Hamilton 'Gen. Scobie' Dyce returning from Death on the Rocks.

Also seen: Valentine 'Black Guardian' Dyall as the butler.

Previously seen: Bruno Barnabe (third appearance). Geoffrey Chater from You Have Just Been Murdered. Andrew Laurence from Murdersville.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 114. Whoever Shot Poor George (etc)

The running metaphor in this of computer (or computor, as the sign seen in the opening shot authoritatively has it) 'George' as a patient undergoing treatment really put my teeth on edge. When it comes to computer episodes I much preferred The Big Thinker. This ep has the same central idea - a sabotaged computer contains vital information which certain people are desperate to prevent from being revealed - but where TBT revolved around the personalities of the programming staff, this centres around melodrama and larger-than-life characters. Such as Dennis Price's suave butler and Judy Parfitt's icy, commanding spy (her fourth appearance).

I did like Steed's accidental discovery of the saboteur, and his sudden swift attack on him which makes everyone think he's gone mental.

Also the way in which the vital information has been inserted into the computer by tortured Sir Wilfred (Clifford 'Wrong Number Two' Evans in his third appearance) is pretty clever.

Note the fact that, in an attempt to read George's memory, they replace his central processor with the one from another computer. Rather than transferring George's memory to the other computer, which would be a lot easier.

Previously and also seen: Arthur 'Cully' Cox from From Venus With Love.

Also seen: Frank Windsor (the Inspector in Ghost Light). Valerie 'Carry On' Leon.

Previously seen: Anthony Nicholls from School For Traitors. Adrian Ropes (third appearance) as a likeable but doomed young programmer.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 113. My Wildest Dream

Good concept here, cathartic therapy being used as a way of getting people to commit murders for strategic business purposes. And the villains would have gotten away with it too if they hadn't foolishly decided to legitimise the killings by setting Steed and Tara up to be witnesses to each one.

Peter 'Denethor/Genial Harry Grout' Vaughan as the experimenting therapist Jaeger. Though he isn't the real villain of the piece...

An excitingly shot, fast-moving fight for Tara in the optics lab. Some great boot shots here.

Couple of good supporting characters in Jaeger's assistant Nurse Owens, and Tara's admirer the Hon. Teddy Chilcott (Edward 'Jackal' Fox), who starts off in amiable toff territory and gets more and more disgruntled until he begins to seem more like a stalker. At that point he's viciously attacked and drugged by Nurse Owens (some more boot action here).

Also seen: Philip Madoc making his fifth appearance (joint record so far). John 'Egrorian' Savident who was also the Squire in The Visitation.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 112. Look - (etc)

Directors of a property company are being killed off, one by one, by a pair of old-style vaudeville entertainers. The only clue is the unique clown make-up of the principal assassin - so Tara has to visit the clown makeup registry, where each maquillage is recorded on an egg. I can see the logic of having a 3D record, but they wouldn't be fresh eggs would they? They'd go off. And they wouldn't be stored in a tiny room with a 1-foot wide passage between the flimsy shelves. The registrar is, incredibly, played by John Cleese. I thought at first it was Patrick O'Connell (Ashton in Dalek Invasion of Earth) who has a very similar voice. But it's definitely Cleese.

In proper Hitchcockian style, the eggs are duly all smashed, and the search moves to the crumpled paper-strewn room of gag writer Bernard Cribbins (returning from The Girl From Auntie). I kept flashing back to the 'Funniest joke in the world' sketch during these scenes. Amusingly, once Cribbins is killed, Steed has to search through the piles of paper for a vital clue, a bit like Liz in The Silurians.

There's a sad but funny scene where Tara has to guard remaining director Lord Dessington, and the poor old man tries vainly to converse with her about the Far East and camels. I thought it was a bit cruel of her to give him all those wide-eyed looks and displays of leg. When they do finally find something to talk about, he gets killed anyway.

The search eventually leads to Vauda Villa, home for variety artistes who are not presently in demand. The criminal mastermind is unmasked as the straightest of the company directors (John 'The Marshal' Woodvine returning from The Murder Market), though I would have appreciated an explanation of how he became an expert Punch & Judy man.

It's a stupid episode but a funny one. The assassins (Jimmy Jewel and Julian Chagrin) are excellent, they dance off-camera after each murder with that hat-waving routine that such entertainers used to do. (Who they're doing it to is another question). Steed and Tara do the same bit at the end, though they're not half so good. And in the closing gag Steed demonstrates his new mastery of the quick change, very like the Fourth Doctor trying out costumes in Robot.

Previously and also seen: Robert 'Lesterson' James making his third appearance. Talfryn 'Llanfairfach here' Thomas returning from A Surfeit of H20.

Also seen: Garry Marsh who's one of the prisoners in Convict 99. Johnny Vyvyan who was in many Hancocks, most notably as the professional marcher in The Oak Tree.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 111. Have Guns - Will Haggle

Very promising start with a precision raid on an ordnance depot, but that's as good as it gets. Lovely 60s sky in the scene where Tara's bouncing on the trampoline during the initial investigation at the depot. The rest of the story is fairly by-numbers stuff centring around Steed's attempts to stop evil Colonel Nsonga from buying the stolen weapons at auction.

A couple of interesting characters are Lady Adriana who conducts the auction - with the suggestion that she's getting more than a financial thrill out of the deal - and her charming but deadly gun-thief brother Conrad (Jonathan 'Silas P' Burn).

Tara fights rather a tense duel while dressed in what must be the shortest skirt seen on the show to date.

Previously and also seen: Timothy 'Binro' Bateson returning from The Correct Way To Kill (think I missed him in that).

Also seen: Michael 'Jarvis in The Wheel In Space' Turner. Roy 'Toberman' Stewart.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 110. Get-A-Way!

This one didn't engage me at all, with its tale of captured assassins incarcerated in a prison with monastic trappings, escaping by means of camouflage techniques derived from lizards.

The monk theme just annoyed me, I found it hard to think of reasons why a prison would be run like that other than that it looked cool. It's a sort of unsubtle version of the top hat/sunglasses dress code for the top men in the Village in certain Prisoner episodes. I suppose you could argue it's another form of camouflage, such as a sinister secret prison might have, but why carry it to such lengths when no-one can see what's going on inside anyway?

Previously and also seen: Andrew 'film Tyler/Wyler' Keir returning from The Fear Merchants. Neil 'Maylin' Hallett returning from The Winged Avenger.

Also seen: William Wilde, who's the Draconian spaceship captain in Frontier in Space. Michael 'Ffinch' Elwyn, playing another lieutenant here. Robert 'The Caber' Russell.

Previously seen: Peter Bowles on his fourth appearance. Peter Bayliss returning from The Murder Market. Barry Linehan returning from The Golden Fleece. James Belchamber returning from Quick-Quick Slow Death.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 109. Split!

The old mind-swap trope again, but differently done, with people having the personality of evil Boris Kartovski (Steven 'Kebble in Power of the Daleks' Scott returning from Second Sight) merged with their own, leading to much angst and many 'evil hand' scenes.

Bernard 'Marcus Scarman' Archard from The Master Minds as the experimenting doctor behind the error-prone process. The climactic scene sees him trying to apply it to Tara - disappointingly, she's freed before it takes effect. I was expecting to see her be the only character who successfully resists. Julian Glover, making his third appearance, gets that role instead.

Christopher Benjamin makes his third appearance, and his second as an eccentric expert - a graphologist this time, although he calls himself a calligrapher. A calligrapher might be a graphologist too, and vice versa, but they aren't necessarily the same thing.

Previously and also seen: Maurice 'Phineas Clanton' Good returning from Don't Look Behind You.

Previously seen: John Kidd from A Surfeit of H20. Nigel Davenport from The Danger Makers. John G. Heller from The Correct Way to Kill.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 108. The Curious Case of the Countless Clues

The central conceit of this - putting people in the frame for crimes by meticulously planting false evidence, then blackmailing them - is a good one, but I was put off by the silliness of the Sir Arthur Doyle character (Peter 'The Book' Jones returning from The Thirteenth Hole). Why does he dress up like Holmes? Who is he - Steed's boss or the eccentric chief constable? Are the blackmailers relying on his gullibility for their plan to work?

I can't fault it for failing to push buttons though: I found my indignation thoroughly aroused during the blackmail scenes, and there's some crude but extremely effective tension at the climax where the temporarily wheelchair-bound Tara is struggling to put the chain on her front door before the villains arrive.

Similarly, Steed completely fails to co-operate with the blackmail scheme when it's tried on him. He simply beats up the henchman (Tony 'Glitz' Selby) and steals his landrover, as the easily-manipulated viewer cheers.

I'm putting them down for doing it by numbers, but they do have enough originality to defuse the tension of Steed hurrying through the night to rescue Tara by having her sort it all out by the time he arrives.

Pedantry alert with Steed's line 'I'll tell you in words of one syllable: your life is in danger.'

Previously and also seen: Kenneth 'Vic Spanner/Packard' Cope returning from The Bird Who Knew Too Much. George A. 'Mr Griffiths' Cooper returning from The White Dwarf.

Also seen: Reginald Jessup (Savar in The Invasion of Time).

Previously seen: Edward de Souza from Six Hands Across a Table

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 107. Invasion of the Earthmen

Agent Grant (George 'some character' Roubicek returning from The White Dwarf) gets killed by a snake in a quarry as a group of unearthly-looking people watch and laugh... the only possible way this scene can finish is with the caption 'TELEPLAY BY TERRY NATION'.

Familiar Nation dabs all over this one. There's the linear plot - Steed and Tara search for Grant and are led to a sinister militaristic school run by Brigadier Brett (William 'Mr Range' Lucas from Death's Door), which they infiltrate and then have to escape from.

And there's the tried and trusted Nation trope of the dark and deadly tunnel. Note the spider ordeal ripped off from Dr. No.

Some good bits nevertheless: Steed's grim 'I think he's dead' when Tara casually asks what he thinks has happened to Grant. And the bubble-headed astronaut figure seen floating behind a window is an extremely eerie image.

There are different transmission orders for this series apparently, I'm continuing to follow the order that the discs come in in the boxed set. Which is playing havoc with the continuity, Tara has a wig on for reasons which I hope are connected to this, because it looks dreadful.

Also seen: Warren 'Ay thangyew' Clarke as principal student.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 106. The Forget-Me-Knot

An intriguing opening with agent Shaun turning up on Steed's doorstep with amnesia, able to remember only that there's a traitor in the organisation. Steed hurries off to introduce us to the new-style organisation headed by 'Mother' (Patrick Newell making his third appearance; as he's going to be a regular, he won't be noted again). I know all this stuff is iconic for the final Avengers era, but I found it a bit tiresome as I have a pathological aversion to running jokes about silly names. I suppose the best I can say is that it's less camp than Major Bee and his floral codename system (what happened to him I wonder?)

Steed also meets a certain Tara King, who slides with suspicious ease into the companion of the week role. Of the week... She's awed by Steed's reputation when she meets him. It's often a bad sign when a new character in a show behaves as if she's a fan.

Meanwhile, back at Steed Towers, Mrs Peel is worsted by the villains so that we can learn that the amnesia is induced by drug-loaded darts. These are annoyingly variable in their effect - although we're carefully shown the 'half strength' or 'full strength' dart being chosen each time, it doesn't seem to make a consistent difference. Mrs Peel gets a half dose and spends most of the rest of the ep trying to remember who she and Shaun are, whereas Steed gets two full doses and has remembered everything after a few hours and some hints from Tara.

Much unjust suspicion later Steed has outed the traitor, which isn't hard as he's the most villainous-looking character in the episode. Bit disappointing that. Shaun gets darted a third time and is rather cruelly made the target of comedy. I thought that was a bit mean, I hope he got better.

The prominence of Tara in this had made even me realise that it must be Mrs Peel's farewell appearance, so I was wondering how they'd get rid of her. I was wondering about a Cathy Gale-style retirement due to trauma, from amnesia rather than being caught in a fire. But they surprise me by having Peter Peel, her husband who she thought dead, return from the Amazonian jungle.

There's an intimate leave-taking between her and Steed, but it's followed by something even better. Rather a spoiler so look away now: watching her from the window as she leaves, Steed is astonished to see her being helped into a car by Mr Peel, who has Steed's sartorial style and much of his manner, except that he's brisk where Steed is suave. This is all in long shot so it's Steed's very amusing reactions that we focus on. Mrs Peel throws Steed a meaningful glance and is driven away. It's a wonderful farewell scene, both funny in its absurdity and touching in the implied compliment to Steed.

After this there's rather a sad moment, with Steed in his flat, unflatteringly lit and with sad music making him seem a bit like a washed-up 60s politician. Luckily Tara arrives (having passed Mrs Peel on the stairs) to make the tea. Cue new closing credits.

Incidentally the cut-and-shut credits (old ones at the start, new ones at the beginning) make it hard to tell which series this ep belongs to. dissolute.com.au says series 5, my boxed set says series 6.

Previously and also seen: Jeremy 'Kal' Young (third appearance). John 'Alydon' Lee who I missed in The Bird Who Knew Too Much.

Also seen: Alan 'Herrick' Lake. Douglas Sheldon (Kirksen from Dalek Master Plan).

Previously seen: Jeremy Burnham (third appearance). Edward Higgins from The Mauritius Penny.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 105. Mission... Highly Improbable

An enjoyable episode, and one which held my attention completely for at least the first 35 minutes, which they don't all do.

The miniaturisation effects are mostly pretty good - the bit with Sir Gerald (Kevin 'Vaughn' Stoney, who I completely missed) in the long grass was excellent, those plants they used really did look like huge blades of grass.

Ronald 'the Rook' Radd, making his third appearance, as the generic 'Eastern Bloc' spymaster, a role which has made considerably more than three appearances so far.

Previously and also seen: Nicholas Courtney returning from Propellant 23 to add a Captain to his Colonel and Brigadier, and to suffer the indignity of being flushed down a drain. Richard 'Gatherer Hade' Leech making his third appearance.

Also seen: Jane 'Number Twenty-four' Merrow.

Previously seen: Francis Matthews returning from The Thirteenth Hole.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 104. The Positive-Negative Man

One of those episodes that sets up an apparently unearthly/monstrous threat before deconstructing it. The opening is rather reminiscent of an Auton attack, with a blank-faced figure menacingly advancing with outstretched gun-hand. But we find it's purely human researchers who are behind him and his power to create massive electrical discharges.

A choice of possible villains in this one, something we don't always get in The Avengers. Surely it must be bitter Peter Blythe from A Sense of History, not harmless Ray McAnally!

One of my favourite supporting characters so far in ultra-professional nerdish secretary Miss Wentworth-Howe (Caroline Blakiston making her third appearance). The reaction from Mrs Peel to her producing the safe key from her stocking top is delightful, as is the revelation that she spends her days orf fly-fishing. She doesn't need any tips from Steed either.

Some enjoyable disdain from Mrs Peel when exposed to the sight of a naked man liberally smeared with non-conducting oil.

Nice to see some attempt at justification, on experimental grounds, for the unnecessarily complex way that the villains choose to try and finish off our heroes.

Previously and also seen: Bill 'Ploppy' Wallis from A Touch of Brimstone.

Previously seen: Michael Latimer, from A Touch of Brimstone again. Sandor Eles from Concerto.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 103. Murdersville

This is rather good, both because of its competent implementation of the 'sinisterly stuck in Much Incest-on-the-Sly' trope and because it bothers to come up with a more original motivation for the evil locals than the usual devil worship, smuggling etc.

And also because it's one of the toughest situations Mrs Peel has found herself in. Even she can't beat up a whole village, though she tries her best before being hunted down by helicopter. (Found myself thinking of The Daemons during this scene).

Yokel duo Hubert and Mickle really help sell the threat - all the more unpleasant for their jocularity.

A Steed-lite episode, though he turns up at the end to rescue Mrs Peel, not till after she's been ducked in the village pond and locked up in a chastity belt (historical fact: no evidence that these ever existed). There's then a moment where she holds two villainous village women at custard-pie-point.

Previously and also seen: Robert 'Taltallian' Cawdron from A Touch of Brimstone. Geoffrey 'Mr Perry' Colville from Concerto.

Also seen: Eric 'Leo Ryan' Flynn. Joseph 'various Sensorites' Grieg. Tony 'Jackson/Morgan' Caunter. Sheila 'Ann Fourmile in George & Mildred' Fearn.

Previously seen: John Sharp returning from Traitor in Zebra. Norman Chappell making his third appearance. Irene Bradshaw from The Golden Eggs.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 102. You Have Just Been Murdered

An excellent conceit here, extortion backed up by efficient, silent demo assassination attempts to show the targets that they really mean business. As so often in the newer series though, it's undone a bit by silliness - chief blackmailer Needle breaking into TV transmissions to present his demands 60s gameshow-style.

A nice scene where Mrs Peel dominates timorous, tiny millionaire Lord Rathbone (Leslie French returning from Death of a Great Dane.) Clifford Cox (the army sergeant in Spearhead from Space) as his gamekeeper btw.

Interesting that the threat in the climax comes from measures the central victim Unwin (Barrie 'Paris' Ingham) has taken to fight back. Very harsh final shot here with Steed and Mrs Peel laughing heartily at the sight of Needle's smoking corpse lodged in a tree.

Pex fact: Steed's fortune on display in the closing gag makes him worth £2083 6s 8d, or about 500 grand in contemporary terms.

Philately fact: Note the 4d blue Wilding definitive on the envelope that Steed's party invitation comes in - even though production started nearly two months after the new Machin definitives came out on June 5th 1967.

Also seen: John Baker (one of the Time Lords at the start of Colony in Space).

Previously seen: Frank Maher making his fourth appearance.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 101. The £50,000 Breakfast

This is a fairly close remake of Death of a Great Dane. As in earlier cases, I will enumerate the principal differences and interesting similarities.

The courier is one Dusty Rhodes, not George Miller, though the showbiz connection and wife are still there. We get to see the crash in which he is injured. Mrs Rhodes is rather different from Mrs Miller, a kind of Elsie Tanner vibe about her from Pauline Delaney (returning from The Golden Eggs.)

The two dogs are Russian wolfhounds, not Great Danes. The Litoff organisation is again so named, which makes it hard to explain how this episode can take place in the same universe as Death of a Great Dane.

Frederick Jaeger's Getz is replaced by the hard-nosed Miss Pegram (Yolande Turner from The Girl from Auntie).

The butler role is still there, but differently named. Dr Sir James Arnell is just as before, except played by David Langton (making his third appearance). If you want to imagine what the alt-Lethbridge-Stewart might have been like, you can start here.

There are a couple of extra strands of plot, concerning Litoff's 'niece', and the car Rhodes was killed in, but they aren't crucial.

Instead of a wine-tasting there's a cigar-tasting, if that's the right term.

Previously and also seen: Jon 'Count Federico' Laurimore from Honey For The Prince. Nigel 'Hardin' Lambert. Cardew Robinson (the fakir in Khyber).

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 100. Dead Man's Treasure

Quite a clever setup to this - agent Danvers (Rio 'Harker' Fanning) hides a vital despatch box inside a chest that's going to be used for a treasure hunt, then sends Steed an invitation to same. Steed visits the hunt organiser, proto-Clarkson Sir George Benstead (Arthur Lowe), who has a fantastic cutting-edge racing car simulator. Ominously, Sir George exposits that the simulator gives the driver mild electric shocks for veering off course: Steed is on the brink of persuading him to tell him where the treasure chest is, when he's killed by a non-mild electric shock from the simulator.

So the only way for Steed and Mrs Peel to find the despatch box is to take part in the treasure hunt. After that it turns a bit dull, and there's a very annoying character who blethers on about all her dead fianc├ęs. It's a relief to get away from her and onto the final gag, with Mrs Peel as we've never seen her before.

Previously and also seen: Edwin 'Captain Hart' Richfield making his 5th appearance (the record so far, I think).

Also seen: Neil 'Thawn' McCarthy. Norman Bowler, who was one of the Tregennises in the Granada Devil's Foot.

Previously seen: Ivor Dean from The Removal Men.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 99. Return of the Cybernauts

Bit of a let-down this one, a disappointing return for the eponymous cybernauts. In fact I think there's only one of them, and it takes second place to a revenge plot by one Beresford, who it's revealed is brother to Dr Clement Armstrong from The Cybernauts. Peter Cushing is very good as Beresford, both when he's creepily chatting up Mrs Peel and when he's expositing his plans for vengeance (assisted by clips from The Cybernauts, cheekily presented as security camera footage.)

Fulton Mackay as scientist-with-a-price Chadwick - some interesting hints of Dr Quinn in his performance. Nice wince when he sees Dr Armstrong on video being attacked by the cybernauts.

Frederick 'Prof Marius' Jaeger returns as sidekick Benson, his third appearance altogether. He ruefully rubs the back of his head when reminded of his previous bruising encounter with Steed.

The 'puppetisation' gimmick is quite unsettling, both when we see it tested and when it's used on Mrs Peel. She and Steed escape from it quite easily though.

Also seen: Roger 'Dr Runciman' Hammond, Noel 'General Smythe' Coleman.

Previously seen: Charles Tingwell from The Nutshell.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 98. Death's Door

An excellent episode, with a more serious tone than we've seen in some time. In fact I'm not sure if there are any komedy bits in it at all.

Sir Andrew Boyd's highly topical project for a united Europe is in peril - because he can't bring himself to enter the conference room owing to eerie premonitory dreams. When he's duly killed, his replacement Lord Melford starts having the same dreams and the same panic. Allan Cuthbertson (from Death At Bargain Prices) is great as Melford, a perfectly credible diplomat and lord yet also able to make the bizarre dream scenes work.

Very tense scene where target practice turns nasty on Steed and he finds himself as the target. Ingenious solution from the Steedster too.

Mrs Peel's fight with one of the henchmen is unusually fast and realistic. It looks like they're really trying to hurt each other rather than just practicing judo.

Previously and also seen: Clifford 'Number Two' Evans returning from Dial A Deadly Number.

Previously seen: Paul Dawkins, playing a doctor as he did in Death A La Carte.

Also seen: William 'Mr Range' Lucas. William Lyon Brown who's a supernumerary doctor in Dance of the Dead.

Naive Avengersthon - 97. Who's Who???

Rather a fun episode with Steed and Mrs Peel subjected to forcible body-swapping by vulgar foreign agents Basil (Freddie Jones) and Lola (Patricia Haines making her third appearance). I thought Jones and Haines were better at doing Steed and Mrs Peel than Mcnee and Rigg were at doing Basil and Lola. Jones' Basil/Steed is particularly likeable.

I wasn't so keen on the Avengers' organisation, revealed here to have huge Union flags on its walls and a system of highly camp floral codenames. I did however enjoy it when Lola/Mrs Peel stuck her chewing gum under the conference table.

Previously and also seen: Malcolm Taylor from Mission to Montreal, who was also Walters in The Ice Warriors.

Previously seen: Campbell Singer from Six Hands Across A Table.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 96. The Joker

I hope there'll be no controversy this time when I say this is a remake of Don't Look Behind You. I shall enumerate the principal differences and interesting similarities: Mrs Peel is lured to yet another empty house by one Prendergast masquerading as Sir Cavalier Rusicana, rather than one Goodman pretending to be Sir Cavalier Rusagne.

Ola is just as annoying, but differently so, and she sticks around for the big finish. The red wine with fish bit is still there. The other grotesque has actually been hired by Ola, and comes on as a baron rather than a wannabe film director. We actually see how he dies (she shoots him). He still has a lot of the same lines though, and still does the 'dramatic chords' bit.

Steed is disabled by a fall downstairs in the opening sequence (possibly the first time anything has happened in that bit that materially connects to the rest of the plot). He's set up with a sidekick in the shape of Major Fancy (!), but the latter gets poisoned and Steed has to limp through the rest of the story on his own. In this version he doesn't just turn up at the end, we cut back to his thread throughout.

It's hard to say which version I prefer. The house isn't quite so menacing in colour, but on the other hand, the constant playing of the song (Mein Liebling, Mein Rose, pop pickers) in The Joker has a sinister quality all of its own. Mrs Gale's reaction at the denouement is better than Mrs Peel's.

There's no effort to address the fact that Steed should remember a very similar adventure indeed two series ago. They should have had him going 'Oh no, not again,' or something. And Mrs Peel might have been a bit suspicious after her experience in The House That Jack Built.

Previously and also seen: Peter 'Count Grendel' Jeffrey, returning from Room Without A View.

Previously seen: John Stone from The Secrets Broker.

Also seen: Ronald 'Bishop of Bath & Wells' Lacey.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 95. Something Nasty In The Nursery

I found the opening scene of this incredibly sinister - the agent pursued by the unseen figure in the wheelchair, the regression to childhood and brutal killing. It actually made my skin crawl. But the more times a similar scenario was repeated, the less sinister and the more humourous it began to seem. By the time Mrs Peel is suffering the ultimate 60s indignity of someone trying to run her over in a Mini van, my fear was entirely gone. Even the scene where Steed comes under wheelchair machinegun attack felt like something out of One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing. So my final reaction was one of disappointment.

I liked the 'helpless bachelor' bit where Steed has to mind the babies, because it's so very much of its time.

Interestingly postmodern closing gag, which would have been better if it had reflected the actual events of The Joker better.

Previously and also seen: Paul Eddington returning from Immortal Clay. Patrick 'Col. Faraday' Newell, who's the second actor to make a return from Town Of No Return.

Also seen: Clive Dunn as the toyshop proprietor. Yootha 'Mildred' Joyce. Trevor 'Mr Lucas' Bannister. Dennis 'Gharman' Chinnery (also Gunther in Many Happy Returns). Dudley 'Caven' Foster from The Hour That Never Was. George Merritt, who delivers the invitation in Dance of the Dead.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 94. A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Station

Wonderful railway-themed episode with some stylish villainry. Also a great opening which plays with our expectations of what kind of story it's going to be: first a vaguely Sweeneyish chase through a marshalling yard, then the suggestion of a Sapphire-and-Steel-esque timeslip at the deserted station. That's Michael Nightingale on the run btw (the bank manager in Carry On Cowboy and the stand-in Supervisor in Dance of the Dead).

The bride-and-groom villain couple are great: Isla Blair (Isabella in The King's Demons) with her callous humour and Drewe Henley seeming all the more evil in his immaculate morning dress.

John Laurie (third appearance) is fun as an obsessive railway fanatic. It's amusing when he attacks the gun-toting Drewe Henley for shooting up his prized signalbox. But, like other recent supporting characters, he performs a pivotal action in saving Mrs Peel from falling out of the train door during the ensuing fight.

Rather a nasty anti-Harold Wilson joke at the end. Sure, I doubt that Steed and Mrs Peel would be Labour voters, but it seems odd that the script goes so far out of its way to insult him, particularly when American viewers, usually well-catered for by this series, wouldn't understand the 'raincoat' reference.

Also seen: Tim Barrett (who Reggie Perrin tricks into calling C.J. a slimy creep). Richard Caldicot[t] who I think is the navy representative at Six's debriefing in Many Happy Returns.

One of the thugs in the opening chase is apparently played by a Jonathan Miller. It can't be him surely? IMDB says it's him.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 93. The Superlative Seven

As I was warned, this is a remake of Dressed to Kill, and while it has its good points, I'd much rather watch the original.

Utterly ludicrous opening and closing sequences. Funny yes, but you couldn't take them seriously however hard you tried. There seemed to be a glitch in the opening - Mrs Peel tells Steed he's needed, but then seems surprised when she reads the party invitation. (Later we're told Steed thought it was 'suspicious' - well he would, wouldn't he, after DtK?)

Get to the point, Shallow... well, the train is replaced by a plane, and instead of holding vital parcels of land, the party guests all excel in physical pursuits - fencing, shooting, feats of strength, bullfighting... Kanwitch - John 'Sondergaard' Hollis (third appearance) - and Jessel (Donald Sutherland) intend to utilise them in a test of Jessel's unbeatable fighting technique.

The flight to a remote island in an unmanned aircraft is good, very unsettling. And on the island we have another of The Avengers' superficially hospitable houses which are actually sinister traps. Empty houses are to The Avengers what bad fathers were to Buffy.

With seven characters and six empty coffins we know what to expect; eventually just Steed and sharpshooting Hana Wilde (Charlotte Rampling) are left. Mrs Peel arrives to save the day, but Mrs Wilde is equally handy in keeping Jessel at bay until Steed can knock him out. I'm liking these increased roles for supporting characters in recent episodes.

It was also good to be shown how Kanwitch and Jessel's secret room actually connected to the rest of the house.

Also seen: Brian 'Yrcanos' Blessed; Leon Greene, who was the intimidating chef in the union-baiting Carry On At Your Convenience, and may be the man who says 'Fire capacitators!' in Flash Gordon.

Previously seen: Hugh Manning (The Thirteenth Hole), James Maxwell (The Outside-in Man), Gary Hope (November Five).

(Thanks to dcampbell for pointing out Brian Blessed)

Friday, June 01, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 92. Epic

This was excellent, exactly the kind of story that the current format is suitable for telling. In this regard it's like The Winged Avenger, and it takes some similar liberties with form (like Mrs Peel's impression of the MGM lion).

There are some interesting parallels with several Prisoner episodes - Arrival when Mrs Peel is gassed and wakes up in what seems to be her flat, Living In Harmony with the Wild West scenes and the confusion between reality and a script controlled by someone else, The Girl Who Was Death with the WW1 machine gun attack and the continuous succession of bewilderingly different settings.

In the light of my earlier complaints about the tweeness of the London 'exterior' sets in this series, it was interesting to see them being presented as, well, sets.

What I particularly liked is the way that the people behind the Epic start off seeming all-powerful, and able to manipulate Mrs Peel at will, but then the cracks begin to show and we end up seeing them as two aging luvvies and a mad director. Peter Wyngarde (returning from A Touch of Brimstone) as Kirby is pivotal in conveying this change, with his un-epic expressions of pain when being punched by Mrs Peel, defensively muttering afterwards 'I'm not a stuntman.'

Not so much for Steed to do in this, mainly trying to work out where he's heard Kirby's voice before. Now he knows what an Avengersthon feels like.

A couple of good closing gags, including the balsa chair/real chair one that was used in that episode of The Young Ones.

This must have been one of my favourites so far, because I couldn't stop watching it once I'd started. Normally I watch the eps in 2 or 3 chunks.

Previously seen: Kenneth J Warren making his fourth appearance. Anthony Dawes from The Outside-in Man as the corpse.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 91. Never, Never Say Die

A fantastic postmodern opening sequence with Mrs Peel apparently watching The Cybernauts before Steed appears on her telly to say that she's needed. Note the cutting edge wired remote control.

Primed by this, we have no trouble guessing that the mysterious man (Christopher Lee) who survives being run over twice by Christopher Benjamin (returning from How To Succeed At Murder), and hates radios, might just be a robot. Even if we missed it, the fact that his name is Dr Frank N. Stone (which I missed first time round) is there to help us. The real mystery is in whether he or his sidekick Penrose (Jeremy 'Kal' Young, returning from A Touch of Brimstone), or both, is evilly motivated.

Unusually there's a companion of the week in Dr James (Patricia English making her third appearance), who gets to play a pivotal role in resolving the final fight.

It's a rule that in any story involving doubles, the regulars have to get doubled, and this is no exception; but this time their duplicates are saved for comedy purposes at the end. It's quite funny though. Unlike the closing gag itself, which is a rubbish joke about politicians.

Also seen: Arnold 'Pte Godfrey' Ridley as an old remote-controlled boat enthusiast. Alan Chuntz (the chauffeur in Seeds of Doom). Geoffrey Reed (the skipper of the Polotska in Checkmate).

Previously seen: John Junkin returning from Dressed To Kill.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Joe Orton and Doctor Who

From Joe Orton's diaries, February 5th 1967:

Yesterday I was watching an episode of Dr Who and I spotted a little boy in that called Frazer Hines.


Airdate lists suggest this must have been Underwater Menace episode 4. And what a pity Orton didn't have a cine camera handy to record the episode in which Jamie made such an impression on him.

And for April 15th 1967:

Watched Dr Who on television. Rubbish, but there's a young boy in it who is worth looking at... I mentally undress him. I'm sure the BBC would be horrified if they realised that even a science fiction series can be used erotically.


That was The Faceless Ones episode 2. Joe Orton would have made a great DW forum poster (if he'd cottoned on to the correct spelling of Fraser anyway). Incidentally, reading the diaries again last week I realised that he may be talking about Hines as possible casting for Sloane. I would have liked to have seen that.

He also overheard two women on a bus talking about a Dalek story. One thought it was too far-fetched. The other agreed: 'You know where you are with human beings, don't you,' she said.

Finally, in January 1967 an excerpt from Orton's play Loot is televised. In the director's chair is none other than a young Peter Moffat, who told Orton how much he'd like to have a go at doing Entertaining Mr Sloane on TV too. (Nothing came of it because Rediffusion were too timid to broadcast a play about a man and woman competing over a dodgy young man).

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 90. The Correct Way To Kill

Now this one must be the remake of The Charmers which I was warned about. It was actually a lot better than I expected - for example Michael 'Toymaker' Gough (returning from The Cybernauts) is a lot better as the Russian spymaster than the character's name, 'Nutski', suggests. And Philip Madoc (making his fourth appearance) can raise the tone of any episode, though he's wasted in this.

Anna Quayle, who I find was the awful wacky Mrs Monroe in the later Grange Hill era, is also pretty good as Steed's Rrrussian partner, an appealing blend of ugly and sexy. I was disappointed though by the way her initial scene showed her as capable of kicking serious arse, thus setting us up with the expectation that she'll use these skills again in the denouement, but she doesn't.

Peter 'Leader Clent' Barkworth from The Medicine Men, and Graham Armitage (Barney in The Macra Terror, returning from Quick, Quick Slow Death) are great as the two principal killer city gents. Their immaculate suits, bowlers and brollies give them an extraordinarily sinister air, and their Thompson Twins impression in the teaser only heightens the effect. (To be precise I refer to the Tintin duo, not the 80s pop trio, though that would have been funny).

I enjoyed this a lot more than The Charmers. The style of series 5 is a lot better suited to this kind of story.

Also and previously seen: Terence 'Lord Ravensworth' Alexander, rather ironically returning from The Town of No Return.

Also seen: not Colin Jeavons but Timothy Bateson as the chiropodist - I think he was the original Grange Hill caretaker.

Naive Avengersthon - 89. The Hidden Tiger

I liked this one: prominent people are once again being mysteriously clawed to death, apparently by a lion this time. After some misdirection at an experimental farm, the trail leads to the headquarters of the Philanthropic Union for Rescue, Relief and Recuperation of cats. I liked the succession of cut-out cats in the driveway with warning notices on them: NO DOGS, STRICTLY NO DOGS, DOGS ABSOLUTELY PROHIBITED.

Edwin Cheshire, the director of PURRR, looked very much like a young Ronnie Barker, and indeed that's who was playing him. Very cat-like, though I thought having him lap his glass of milk was too obvious and spoilt it.

The deaths are quickly seen to be rehearsals for a sinister plan on a very large scale, designed by Cheshire's sinister colleague, Dr Manx (!) (Lyndon 'Silanus' Brook). I appreciated the way that he guiltily thinks his plan has been turned on him and dies as a result of panicking. Also that the correct solution to the mystery is proposed as a joke in the first five minutes.

Also seen: Frederick Treves (Brotadac and Kenneth Williams crony).

Previously seen: Michael Forrest returning from Death Dispatch.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 88. The Living Dead

An interesting combination here: initially a story about ghosts appearing near the scene of a mining disaster, and then it veers wildly off into James Bond territory.

The feel of the two parts is very different: in the first part we have comedy with two rival ghost-hunting organisations, represented by the spiritual Pamela Ann 'Janley' Davy returning from Mission to Montreal and the scientific Vernon 'Chief Scientist' Dobtcheff returning from Room Without A View.

The second part on the other hand is quite sinister: similarities to Bond yes, but also the unsettling combination of ruthlessness and ridiculousness of the Village.

Previously and also seen: Julian Glover returning from Two's A Crowd, John 'Prof Krimpton' Cater making his third appearance.

Also seen: Jack 'Sgt Arnold' Woolgar.

Previously seen: Edward 'Zastor' Underdown from The Murder Market, Howard Marion Crawford from What The Butler Saw, Alister Williamson all the way from Hot Snow and Jack Watson from Silent Dust.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Naive Avengersthon - 87. The Winged Avenger

Lot of spoilers in this appreciation I'm afraid, it's the only way to give an adequate impression.

Businessmen are being killed off (again) - this time by a huge avian creature. The closeups of it climbing up buildings with its claws are excellent - unfortunately they use the same ones for two different buildings, and they don't match the masonry on either. But that's the only flaw here, the Winged Avenger is made to seem very frightening.

The trail leads Steed to the bickering writer/artist duo behind the Winged Avenger comic. The identity of the Avenger becomes clear, and as Steed is driven to the location where Mrs Peel's gone to follow up some misdirection, he flips through the latest Winged Avenger storyboards, which show a certain Elma Peem in dire peril. There's a brilliant dissolve between each successive board and Mrs Peel's identical situation.

When Steed arrives to save the day, he defeats the Avenger by whacking it over the head with boards bearing legends like POW!, BLAM! and SPLAT!, all to the cheeky accompaniment of the Batman TV theme. This scene is genuinely hilarious, and the closing gag features a PING! of its own.

I noticed at the start of series 4 that it took them a while to get into their stride with the new format, and similarly this seems to be the point in series 5 where they've found the right kind of story to tell with the new-style show. One of my favourite episodes so far.

Jack MacGowran as the flight-obsessed Professor is excellent, just the right blend of naivety and obsession.

Also seen: Neil 'The Maylin' Hallett. Frank Bellamy at the pen for the comic art.

Previously and also seen: Colin 'Max Quordlepleen' Jeavons back from A Touch of Brimstone.

Previously seen: A.J. Brown returning from Small Game for Big Hunters, Hilary Wontner from Silent Dust. Roy Patrick making his third appearance.

Naive Avengersthon - 86. The See-Through Man

A third example of the 'fantastic happenings which turn out not to be quite so fantastic' story, revolving around the possible invention of an invisibility formula, and its uses to a certain foreign power.

Unfortunately it's also an example of a komedy spy story, as can be seen from the presence of Warren Mitchell (his fourth appearance) as Brodny again. I find the constant scenes of him cringing before his political bosses very irritating.

It's not a bad story overall I suppose, the invisibility is quite ingeniously explained, though if there was a reason for the mysterious happenings in the park, I missed it.

Also seen: John 'Rev Ernest Matthews' Nettleton.

Previously and also seen: Roy Kinnear making his third appearance, Moira 'Domitia' Redmond coming all the way back from Hot Snow.