“Warlock” Review

Ooh-er! That dancing! Ahem. Is it me, or is it hot in here?

Essentially, this is the pilot for the X-Files, albeit 30 years and and 7 months before the Mulder and Scully appeared. The supernatural theme is witch-craft, Cathy is the Scully-style sceptic and while Steed isn’t exactly proclaiming “I want to believe” he’s much less bothered about whether witchcraft is real than discovering where the propellant formula has gone.

The odd thing about this is that in the realm of The X-Files the paranormal is real (aliens too). The Avengers has originated as a gritty crime drama. Later, we will get some daft sci-fi (aliens too) and occasionally a hint of the paranormal (Too Many Christmas Trees). Here it’s not explicit that the warlock is genuine, but it appears that even if witchcraft is not real (Cathy is not convinced) then telepathy credible, on a par with hypnosis. And the visual ‘effect’ (it’s very, very poor) strongly implies something more. What particularly curious about this sudden departure is that it follows, in transmission order, the very rationalist Box of Tricks in which form of alternative healing is shown to be entirely a sham. (There’s a similar contrast later between credible and incredible sci-fi with episodes such as The See Through Man and Who’s Who??? in the same season.)

Did I mention the dancing?

This is the second episode Honour Blackman recorded, and was apparently originally shot as the introduction and later re-filmed to fit in sequence. We first meet Cathy in the British Museum and Steed calls her Mrs Gale, but otherwise there’s not a lot that to indicate a lack of familiarity (although Steed is surprised that Cathy is a bad drive – she also has a bed temper in this). We do get a passing reference to Cathy’s time in Africa, however. And we get a Cathy fact: her birthday and time is midnight, 5th October 1930. There’s also a fight between the two of them – which Cathy wins easily (they both break into the same apartment without warning one another, and so don’t know who they are scuffling with).

And then there’s the dancing… Did I mention that?

There’s no champagne – but Steed has a brandy and soda, and One Ten has a pint (which he complains about). Incidentally, @lone_locust will be interested to learn that the barmaid in the establishment they visit is not called Doris but Myrtle…

Cathy briefly plays the classic ‘damsel in distress’ (as Mrs Peel later will in episodes such as The Gravediggers or A Surfeit of H2O) but not for long! (Cathy doesn’t take it lying down…)

Atypical things: Steed is carrying again – he’s even seen checking his gun loaded. And what kind of car is Steed driving? Certainly not a Bentley…

 

About Simon Wood

E-learning officer, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more…

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