Multiple versions of Steed is not a new concept in The Avengers. The Man With Two Shadows and Two’s A Crowd for example, not to mention the duplicates in Never, Never Say Die and probably several others. I sense I’m losing track at this point. Generally, though, the number of Steeds has peaked at two – and it’s there that this episode seeks to break new ground. It seeks to do this through a form of plastic surgery involving…. an injection, and a mask. Duplicating Steed appears to be the work of a few minutes…
“Well I won’t bother you with the technical jargon.”
“Thank you very much.”
“Plastoids and pigments and molecular reconstruction.”
Steed is remarkable easy to capture: an obvious decoy and a fake taxi. He’s taken to a secret bunker in a quarry, whose entrance is disguised as a car. Perhaps this might have seemed quirky in a better constructed episode. Here it’s all too obviously an easy and cheap way to avoid building a secret hideout entrance. Equally ill-thought out and poorly executed is one of Mother’s most stupid headquarters yet: the underwater lair. Rhonda scuttles the rowing boat that she (in a diving suit) and Mother (in his three-piece as usual) are occupying along with the standard assortment of coloured telephones that appear to need no form of connection or power source. Mother witters on about peace and quiet again as the boat fills with water.
Tara gets her own pseudo-Steed in the form of the blonde Baron playboy. Is he a testing the water for Mike Gambit? Was there a worry that Steed was getting too old, and a younger third party was needed to do the more demanding fighting while Steed played statesman? Clearly, with his fencing skills and his inexorable attractiveness to women, the baron is Clemens’ idea of the essence of Steed distilled (not mine). But his presence means that when Steed disappears, rather than writing Tara as pursuing her own initiative in the rescue, he has her depend on this goof to drive her around and do her sword fighting.
Steed’s switch in the bunker is a clever ploy, but it’s not ever made clear why multiple people are infiltrating the conference. It’s implied only a copy of Steed is needed. Obviously Steed’s plan wouldn’t work if several people weren’t sent, but there doesn’t seem to be any benefit for the bad guys here. And why does Ray McAnally’s Steed revert to his original face when he dies when none of the other Steeds did that when they were killed? It’s totally unnecessary since that shot is the last and it has no consequence in the plot.
Steed’s steel hat: at one point he throws his bowler, it falls with a metallic thud.
And a couple of things reused: firstly the bridge from The Hour That Never Was and the many other episodes, as well as the titles of this season. Secondly, when Steed throws the gavel, isn’t that the shed explosion from Have Guns – Will Haggle we see? Did they get two explosions for the price of one? And is that why it is suddenly night?
Not a terrible episode, but flawed and generally a bit lacklustre. The photography is disappointingly unimpressive for a Fuest directed episode – but there are some crunchingly good fight scenes.