This is almost like a writing exercise in paring down an Avengers episode to the minimum possible plot to allow a series of vignettes of pleasing eccentrics and enthusiastic spycraft to hang loosely together in what might, just about, be called a story. It’s rather enjoyable – not a classic, perhaps, but well crafted, well paced and well played.
The crux of the story is, of course, a speaking suitcase. It speaks instructions to its own couriers, who must provide the correct key, but will explode if tampered with. In this way an absurd number of cutouts can ensure the recipient of the payment within is untraceable. The suitcase has a better vocabulary than I did when I first watched this episode in the 90s; I remember learning the word hermetic from it.
At the beginning, Tara is working with Captain Andrews who, exceptionally for anyone employed by Mother (apart from Steed and Tara) is actually competent. Or at least, he appears to be. Soon, though, his 30 hidden men prove to be too stupid to spot the Alsatian carrying the suitcase… And it transpires Andrews has disguised one of his men as a scarecrow (yes, really). Oh well. On the plus side, there’s a bubble car.
Penolope Keith actually gets a speaking part for once, though the best dialogue gets given to her juvenile co-star (“A girl can do a lot with £25”). She’s rather effective at disarming Steed (“You wouldn’t want to take advantage of me just because I’m a little girl, would you, Mr Steed?”) and quite financially focused (“Aren’t we going to empty his wallet?”). Ultimately, Steed turns this to his advantage, coming to an accommodation with her, even if he doesn’t quite warm to her.
“£25 invested in blue chip equities will show a high yield by the time I’m 21.”
“If you reach it.”
Tara fights Karate Tim and his sexism (“this is a man’s club. and you’re not a man”). This is far less elegantly played than the scenes in The Cybernauts but that’s a high bar.
For reasons that aren’t quite clear, a man with a sword-clarinet who had the suitcase in the opening gets it again. Still, it means he gets to fight Steed…
“This is no time for a clarinet solo. A# I imagine?”
We do discover Steed is not as musical as his furnishings imply:
“I thought you could play the tuba? You’ve got one in your apartment?”
“That’s to put flowers in.”
Steed’s steel bowler has become a staple: Steed helps Tara’s fight Karate Tim (“What did you hit me with? An iron bar?”).
Yes, ultimately the traitor’s plot is excessively and absurdly overcomplicated, but the story’s momentum never really allows us to consider this. Fun and entertaining.