“The Sell-Out” Review

Office politics… Steed doesn’t seem to get on with one of his bosses: One-Twelve. He asks to see One-Ten but the request is refused. It’s significant because this is one of those episodes centred around finding a mole, a double agent, but we get to see a lot more of Steed’s organisation that we do later in The Avengers (it’s something that will re-emerge in The New Avengers, however).

This is another Dr King episode but this time, both he and Steed are in the opening scene. However, if we’d had an Avenger with whom we’re more familiar, we wouldn’t have had to ask why Steed blanked him, or whether his happening upon an apparent murder where Steed is present is simply a coincidence. If it had been Cathy, or Dr Keel, we’d have known it was a set up.

Steed has a very different dynamic with Dr King than he does with other Avengers. Dr King is a reluctant Avenger: he even makes a speech about wanting to be “just a doctor” not a secret agent. It doesn’t make for rewarding viewing – if the tension is supposed to arise from wondering King will go along with Steed, and if Steed can trust him, well, this kind of friction gets very tiring very quickly. The friction is the Steed-Cathy relationship is quite different because beneath her disapproval there is a deep trust. Even between Steed and Dr Keel there was trust and mutual respect.

There is some blurring of the line between professional agent and amateur in this – of Steed’s colleagues, who are supposed to be pros, one is also a hairdresser and one is an architect. (The architect is played by Frank Gatliff who appeared in one of the lost season one episodes, One For The Mortuary, and will appear in two more after this as well as a New Avengers episode.)

This episode also features lots of pre-filmed exterior shots that features Steed, something I don’t recall seeing before. This effort at authenticity isn’t entirely effective and is somewhat undermined by a series of technical cock-ups in almost every department: cameras bumping the set, booms in shot, actors fluffing lines and dropping teaspoons…

Oh, and Steed appears to carry a gun in this. He shoots and kills a man with a gun that he himself has brought to the scene. A first?

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

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