Well, The Prisoner did an episode that was little more than a poorly disguised rip-off of The Avengers, so I guess that it’s only fair that The Avengers does the same to The Prisoner in return. The problem is, despite the fact that the two shows are often talked of in the same breath, that one show lacks the language and trappings of the other. Each has their own weirdness that is peculiar to itself. The isolated village has, for example, a menace that is entirely lacking from The Elizabethan Hotel. The contrast between ‘normal’ village life and conditioning received by those seeking to escape, the distinction between prisoners and warders; these were things explored in their various different aspects over many weeks.
Of course, there’s an element of an open goal squandered, too. McGoohan sells the sense of his captivity by making almost super-human efforts to escape. Tara gives up after she gets splashed by the window cleaner.
The main problem, though, is that this has all the atmosphere of one of those Disney films about children foiling criminals (“those darn kids”) that they used to show on morning TV during the school holidays. They hit people with frying pans. And Basil is a perfect example of the kind of one-dimensional character that might populate those comedies. He brings a new level of incompetence to the security service that Mother leads. Contrary to what we might have thought, Steed isn’t a super agent, he’s just the only vaguely competent operative in an outfit of complete fools. I think back to the once enigmatic civil servant who represented the long arm of a powerful and secret organisation. What has the show become?
The plot itself has an incredibly obvious twist, with Robert Urquart doing exactly what he did (so much better) in Castle De’ath. Dudley Foster (The Hour That Never Was, Something Nasty in the Nursery) is also among the familiar faces.
It’s unusual to see one of The Avengers‘ relatives (Tara’s uncle, in this case). The Avengers have no brothers and sisters, children, fathers or mothers. It’s not only that we never see them, it’s that they are never even mentioned (it makes Mother’s title seem an even more obvious, overstated joke). But we started seeing close friends crop up in series 5, and so this is a progression of sorts. In fact it’s the episode for relatives: Basil is Mother’s nephew.
One question, if it’s worth even asking: Why does Steed gets called to something so mundane as a hit and run?
Dreadful. Absolutely dreadful. Still, I suppose I can always think of Look (Stop Me…), because nothing seems as bad when compared to that.