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.