“Second Sight” Review

Steed is the bureaucrat rather than the spy in this, smoothing the way for corneal graft tissue to be imported (“We rely on Mr Steed’s cooperation”). The modern medical breakthrough stuff in this is  reminiscent of the kind of medical pretext that would be employed to justify Steed bringing Keel into earlier episodes. But this is confidently whimsical both visually and in the dialogue (even if somewhat cavalier in its treatment of medical ethics). Where this assignment would have suited Keel perfectly, Cathy finds maintaining cover a challenge.

We get a sumptuous set (designed by Terry Green) with an office designed for a blind man (tactile ceilings, an acoustically calibrated shooting range). There are some quite progressive concepts around accessibility (Halvarssen points out that everyone has disabilities, and since the room is designed for him, other people find it awkward) although there are some uncomfortable moments, and Steed does speculate that Halvarssen enjoys the disabilities of others. There are some unfortunate cracks (as in “he won’t see anyone” when noting he rarely grants an audience). There’s some exaggerated sexism from Dr Spender: “Now, now, now you’re a woman, after all! Please leave these things to me.”

We do, however, get some superb dialogue, with lots of sparring between Steed and Cathy:

“I’m representing Her Majesty’s Government in the affair.”

“Does the government know?”

There’s also an allusion to the central premise of The Avengers when Halvarssen tells Anstice

“I am an amateur and even a talented amateur should not mix with a professional”.

Mrs Gale has provided ample evidence of how wrong he is in that!

Peter Bowles (as Anstice) is always a treat – this is his first of four appearances. There’s a moment where Bowles draws attention to a pen, asking for it back after lending it to Steed, and odd unintentional foreshadowing of the next episode he will appear in, in which pens are a key element of the plot. As Halvarssen (returning after Chorus of Frogs) John Carson is great as Halvarssen. Oddly, his next appearance will coincide with Bowles’ return.

Part of the episode is set in a clinic in Switzerland – making this the first venture abroad for series 3?

The view from Steed’s apartment windows appears to be uninterrupted, which seems inconsistent with the exterior we saw from the assassin’s point of view in The Gilded Cage. Speaking of point of view shots, we get the killer’s POV shot – is this the first instance? This will be used frequently later on, often in the opening scene: the victim backs away, raises his hands in front of face and gurns and expression of horror and fear.

About Simon Wood

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

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