This is 1970s Doctor Who in 1965. After a run of 10 good or outstanding episodes, the first dud of season 4.
It’s a distinctly sci-fi episode, featuring the only time The Avengers come across an alien life form (unless I’ve overlooked something). The life-form is a plant… (Doctor Who fans will be perhaps be thinking of The Seeds of Doom, by Robert Banks Stewart who also wrote… not this episode, but The Master Minds a few episodes back). UNIT – no, sorry, War Office soldiers – turn up. Athene Seyler plays an eccentric botanist (a much better performance that in Build a Better Mousetrap).
There’s a big deal made out of some of our horticulturalists wearing hearing aids… but it’s not that the plant controls people using sound, because Doctor Sheldon succumbs to the influence when her hearing aid comes out, despite being hard of hearing. And Steed and Mrs Peel can block the signal by wearing hearing aids (because ‘it’s transistorised’ or something….)
Like Seeds of Doom, a house is laid siege by a plant. Unlike Seeds of Doom there are no dodgy model shots of the exterior (thankfully) but all the same, there are thrashing tentacles. This is another episode where the story concept goes beyond what even the highly impressive production team on season 4 were capable of realising satisfactorily.
We do get to see health and safety roundly flouted as three people ride in Emma’s two-seater – Steed perches on the boot.
Given the obligatory fight cannot really be with a vegetable, Steed and Mrs Peel are pitted against one another. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this sort of thing – on a couple of occasions when Steed and Cathy independently decided to do a bit of B&E in the same place at the same time with the inevitable result that Cathy has laid Steed out before they’ve had time to identify one another. This is a bit more prolonged.
Steed’s typical ruthlessness is on display when he tries (successfully, as it happens) to feed an unconscious Emma, marinaded in herbicide, to the plant. “I’m a herbicidal maniac.” Er, well, yes.
Ultimately it’s completely the wrong sort of story for The Avengers. All the flaws of Earth-bound 70s Who with no Doctor.
Tag scene: on hay bales on a tractor.