Some of the Tara King episodes are very forgettable, so when I look at the titles, I struggle to remember if I’ve even seen them. There are two reason why I’m sure I’ve never seen this one (perhaps the last episode that’s new to me). Before I saw it, it knew it was the episode with John Cleese, which I’d long wanted to see and never had. After I saw it, I knew I couldn’t easily forget something this utterly, utterly terrible. Is this the worst Avengers episode of all? Unless there’s a surprise in the few remaining unwatched, I must be.
Playing on the deliberately quirky, clown killers who only murder whilst in makeup, there’s no restraint, and no logic either. Things start out ominously with a musical cue and a dance “off stage” after every assassination. It gets gradually worse. Having the strings pulled by a mastermind hiding behind puppetry is not new (it wasn’t a great idea in How To Succeed…At Murder either, though I suppose both of these might have been inspired by the excellent Mr Teddy Bear). Neither is CUPID (Cabinet Underground Premises In Depth) which seems a rather pointless project when The NUTSHELL (Thermonuclear Underground Target Zone Shelter) is already a rather superior bunker. It culminates in an inexcusably feeble comedy fight where the villain does quick changes every few seconds. This is far worse than the obviously rigged genie effect at QQF (Quite Quite Fantastic), partly because it’s even less plausible, partly because it’s overused, but also because the cuts are poorly done so it fails even as an effect.
Meanwhile, the music is almost as irritating as the plot. The whole effect is fingernails on a blackboard.
Cleese plays the official recorder of clown make-up: each unique clown face is painted on an egg. I found this among the most irritating of concepts in the episode, as it seems so far fetched. It turns out that Clowns International do actually maintain a Clown Egg Register at Wookey Hole. I bet they don’t store the eggs on flimsy shelves you have to walk between to reach any part of the office, though. Monty Python’s Flying Circus would start airing less than a year after this episode (and, incidentally, repeats would succeed the series 4 episodes of The Avengers in the 10.30 slot on FR3 during my childhood holidays).
Bernard Cribbins is back (after The Girl From Auntie), and he’s easily the best thing in the episode. A genuinely entertaining turn, despite the absurd over-blown mess around him (exemplified in his scenes by the mountain of rejected jokes entirely filling his office).
There’s also a scene that I recognised from the clip-shows, with Tara and her protectee discussing their shared love of music, that has a modicum of charm. A tiny oasis.
Talfryn Thomas (A Surfeit of H2O) is under utilised, and wasted when he is.
But basically, awful. Just awful.