“Game” Review

Visually daring, with its surreal epic versions of board games, but conservative in terms of plot, this episode is entertaining if only because it’s Avengers by numbers. From the opening, where there’s a hint of Dead Man’s Treasure with a man driving a life-size scalextric, to the war-games obsessed Brigadier (an inferior version of Pertwee’s character in From Venus With Love), this draws on episodes past, in particular The House That Jack Built for the idea of being trapped in a game. The visuals, especially for the life-size snakes and ladders, are reminiscent of the surreal sequences in Too Many Christmas TreesSomething Nasty in the NurseryDeath’s Door etc. Though it’s obvious why it’s appealing to make extensive use of these big abstract sets (including for the showdown) since they can be shot in a studio requiring minimal dressing, so must be very cheap.

Petter Jeffrey is always an effective villain, but the revenge story is weak – and once again, the story is centred on one of our heroes (Steed sat on a court martial); these obsessions were a novelty when we got Don’t Look Behind You but now it feels the idea of Steed or his partner just doing their job and reducing the sum total of criminality and/or treachery in the world is the rarer occurrence.

The way Tara arrives at Steed’s flat suggests their relationship has become very familiar, an impression reinforced by her sensitivity to Steed’s non-verbal communication (“Steed. You’re not telling me something.”) Part of the reason for this certainly has to do with episode order…

I said at the start (of series 2) that I’d watch these in broadcast order. That made the progression of Steed and Cathy’s relationship seem a little uneven, but wasn’t a big problem since they were old friends already. Now, for the first time since the days of Dr Keel, we see the main characters meet (in The Forget-Me-Knot) and so the initial development of the relationship should be seen within the series. But the subsequent episode order is…problematic, owing to multiple production changes (which I will mention when we reach Have Guns…Will Haggle) which meant even in production order, The Forget-Me-Knot is third in the season. To add additional confusion, the way the show was broadcast in the US means that broadcast order becomes ambiguous: The Tara King episodes began to air over there first, so some episodes aired first on one side of the atlantic, others on the other. At this point I could choose to go for the first aired internationally; but I’ve decided to stick with the broadcast order in the UK. It’s all fairly arbitrary, so character progression will be either non-linear, or non-existent.

The difference between the Steed has with Tara and that he had with Mrs Gale or Mrs Peel is evidence when he gives her backside a powerful slap…

Since the last half dozen episodes of series 4 all but a handful of scripts have been by Brian Clemens or Philip Levene. That’s going to change in series 6; this one’s by Richard Harris, who also wrote The Winged Avenger and an episode for the very first series. The direction is by Robert Fuest who was a designer on several Peter Hammond episodes (including The Frighteners), the influence is apparent.

Also of note: Steed’s driving a rolls rather than a bentley.

Oh, and the titles are all new again! The target sequence seen at the end of The Forget-Me-Knot was used for the first batch of Tara King episodes aired in the US. For the later episodes, and the UK airings, the titles have been much upgraded (for the opening at least – the money obviously ran out before they shot the end titles, which are simply a card deck being manipulated). The titles are colourful and surreal, filmed in a meadow with suits of armour, a door and armfuls of flowers. And the bridge, used in The Hour That Never Was and so many other episodes since, features in the sequence as Tara runs along the balustrade. It’s not as cool as the series 4 montage of stills, but it’s far classier than what we’ve had since. Terrific.

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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