Oh dear. With a plot that effectively portrays all the women in this episode as both bitterly resentful man-haters (“ruination to all men”) and dupes, here’s an episode that undermines the progress the show made by casting Honor Blackman in a role that traditionally only men would have been considered for. I guess it’s true, fundamentally, the show was written, directed and produced by white men (unlike, say, another Sydney Newman venture of the era, Doctor Who). But one likes to think of The Avengers as more enlightened than this (despite blemishes such as the infamous memo on writing black characters).
I spent most of the episode hoping this wouldn’t turn out to be as offensive as I remembered, but ultimately, it does. That’s not to say that along the way there aren’t some good things to enjoy. The opening, with a secretary dynamiting her boss is a bit wylie coyote (there’s a giant plunger) but after that things improve for a bit (even though neither Steed nor Mrs Peel appear until the 8th minute). In particular, there’s Christopher Benjamin as J. J. Hooter, perfumier (“I smell a great deal”). There’s some nice photography (including a shot from the roof of the road below, during a car chase). And a fight early on in which Steed is overpowered (by one of the female secretaries) is very well filmed.
But then later… Steed fights two of the women and overpowers them – one by tickling. Ugh.
In a glimpse of the future, we also get to see a mobile phone. I say mobile… It is ENORMOUS.
Mrs Peel’s talents, previously all relating to theoretical physics or electrical engineering, now extend to painting. She’s rather good. Steed is both her muse, and her assistant:
“Just fill that in with umber, will you?”
“Do I look like that?”
The ‘who’s the boss’ thing goes a step further (or a step back – to Mr Teddy Bear) with a ventriloquist’s dummy in the place of the diabolical mastermind.
Tag scene transport: Steed and Mrs Peel are reading The Ventriloquist, and Advanced Ventriloquism (guess which way round)… in a caravan.