I’m still not quite sure what the distinction between scifi and other stuff actually is, or why it matters (though I still hope to have it explained to me @fusionpatrol). But there’s no doubt that some episodes of The Avengers venture deep into the territory of scifi, and White Dwarf is the first of them. Unfortunately, it’s a rare dud – the second season hasn’t always sparkled, but it’s rarely misfired like this.
The episode fails both in portraying the political reaction to the central astronomical phenomenon, and in sustaining the drama around it. Also, to my inexpert eye, it would appear to be a rather dubious account of the science – is it really possible to confirm the white dwarf’s trajectory from one reading, and yet impossible to take that reading for 6 months? Politically, would so little resource be devoted to the research – let alone the communications and security apparatus you’d expect to accompany a discovery with global implications. (It’s unusual for a case to grab headlines in Avengersland, too – though quite how the call up makes the paper when Steed claims they’re keeping the reason secret is never explained). Dramatically, it never gets off the ground – beginning with an undisguised astronomical info dump, failing to build any suspense or develop any sympathetic characters. The script, surprisingly, is by Malcolme Hulke.
The acting is of a generally low standard. And, in a most bizarre production choice, Steed’s ultimate fight switches to film midway through, losing all its edge.
In atypical stuff, Steed carries a gun again. There are no policemen (though they get mentioned a lot) and no blacks, but there is an Indian astronomer from “Bombay”.
There’s a reappearance of Steed’s dog from The Big Thinker – it looks like Freckles really has been replaced!