Early in this colour Peel series, the first stories (all by Philip Levene) inverted sci-fi tropes. There was the alien invasion that was a hoax, the time machine that was a hoax, the invisibility formula that was a hoax, etc. etc. Now we have the mind-swap machine that is… real. Even though the script is once again by Levene (who also appears in this as… Daffodil). As with Too Many Christmas Trees The Avengers has decided to simply to depart from reality. “It would be different if they looked alike. Doubles – that’s been done before. But swapping psychis?” Doubles has indeed been done before (The Man With Two Shadows, Two’s A Crowd etc. Acknowledging that this plot is nonsense in story doesn’t really help. It has also departed from normal style, adding an announcer with an “Important announcement” after each ad-break which is a ‘jokey’ retelling of the ‘plot’.
Because we have other actors playing and being Steed and Mrs Peel, there is plenty of the show playing itself up. The villains bait their trap using the rose in the gun-barrel from the “Avengers in Color” card at the start of the titles. There’s a manufacturer’s note on the stilts a corpse has been posed with: “A clue.” “Rather an obvious one.” But, of course, this is the sort of clue that usually passes without comment. So the show is sending itself up but without any of the glorious self-awareness of Epic.
Mrs Peel handles the murder weapon at the scene of the crime which indicates a certain procedural ignorance, but she’s an expert on roses. “It’s a crimson glory. Won first prize at the chelsea flower show.” The least said about flowers in this episode, the better, though. The ‘flower’ network is one of those under-whelming over-laboured jokes that will abound in the Tara King era. It’s ludicrous rubbish, but the executions are brutal and tasteless.
Mrs Peel can also operate the machine brain swap machine (Steed goes off to look for a manual). Compare this to the tension that is created in A Surfeit of H2O from the fact that Steed wasn’t at all sure he couldn’t operate a machine whose function (crushing things) was far less sophisticated.
As with the more recent colour episodes, there’s some decent photography. But the design is awful. The sets are poor. The machine is reminiscent of the awful machine props of the start of the series (the ceramics machine in The Fear Merchants, the time machine in Escape in Time) though the excellent photography makes the best use of it possible. Freddie Jones does a respectable job of impersonating Macnee’s behaviour (“the last of my ’47, and not even chilled”) and manner. Once again there’s also great work by Laurie Johnson (though I’m not entirely sure it feels like Avengers music).
I did, however, enjoy the tag scene in this one, in which Emma sees through Steed’s pretence that she has forgotten her birthday. She has already packed for a trip to Paris: “One should never take a man for granted, but one does.” Somehow, the tag scenes are becoming the best bits…
Subtitle: Steed goes out of his mind. Emma is beside herself.
We’re needed: A simple (almost perfunctory) scene. It’s just done in a mirror. Almost as if they’d run out of ideas or enthusiasm for this device…