“The Master Minds” Review

This is one of the few episodes of season 4 I could remember very little about, partly no doubt because I missed taping it back in the 90s, but also partly because it is not terribly memorable. But while it may not be outstandingly good, it’s certainly not outstandingly bad and effectively watching it fresh (I’d have to guess I’d only seen it once before, and could remember none of the plot or characters) there are lots of little moments to enjoy.

It’s in two parts, the first relating to a robbery committed by a government minister. Mrs Peel once again does the job of a nurse and seeing her administering injections and the like, I felt slightly concerned over whether she had any qualifications… Steed, whilst going through the ministers desk, tackles a gunman by wrapping him in a curtain – only to discover that ‘he’ is a young woman wearing a leopard-print coat over a bikini… The minister’s daughter.

This week’s organisation is not known by an acronym, but it’s fairly clear what RANSACK is based on in real life. Mrs Peel completes Steed’s IQ test for him! Clearly he’s not even in her league, and when he has to sit an exam she provides him with the answers which he copies from his shirt cuff, like a (very) slightly more successful Arnold Rimmer.

The political dimension means there are scenes at Westminster – it doesn’t feature quite as heavily as in November Five, though.

Patricia Haines (previously seen in The Nutshell) is wonderful as the sexy, games-mistressy archery teacher, and Ian MacNaughton – yes that Ian MacNaughton, producer of Monty Python’s Flying Circus makes a guest appearance. It turns out he looks uncannily like Peter Capaldi. (He’s a psychiatrist: “Your facetiousness, Mr. Steed, covers an edgy temperament. In fact, I’d say your nerves mostly jangle like wires in the wind.”)

The plot itself has more than one or two holes in it (the Q&A under hypnosis is hardly credible, and it seems a stretch that they didn’t detect that Steed wasn’t ‘with’ the programme.) On the other hand, the fight scene is terrific – hand to hand to the sound of fighter aircraft on the cinema screen.

Transport in the tag scene is just Steed’s bentley.

A pleasant surprise to have an unremembered episode prove so entertaining, even if it is unremarkable overall.

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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