The central conceit in this episode is one of Flemingesque sadism: surgically implanted phosphor bombs. It’s a simple set-up where it’s almost impossible to imagine how Steed or his friends could get the upper hand and regain some control. Home invasions are scary, especially when the invaders appear to be psychopaths. This is dark, and rather serious – closer to The New Avengers in some ways – but despite the fact it’s not the whimsical Avengers of series 4 it is excellent. If there had been a series 7 it should have taken the tone and style of this episode, which plays to all Terry Nation’s strengths, and made me rather regret being so critical of Thingumajig, where the weaknesses were far more evident.
One particularly Avengers aspect is the character of Circe (“Circe works very hard at being a character”) in the tradition of series of girls affecting eccentricities since Ola in Don’t Look Behind You.
Once again we have a story where it’s Steed’s friends that give rise to his involvement, not his job. His friends have an exceptionally nice house – it’s large enough to accomodate an antique car in the hallway, which is very cool. It’s all beautifully photographed, too.
Steed successfully pulls off some rather juvenile trickers (hurling his bag with a glove on a stick into the bog) and never gets spotted when he hides behind the furniture, but ultimately his vulnerability (he suffers an – unspecified – injury during the hunt) brings back some of the tension the show has been lacking in recent years. There’s a fight without music which somehow makes it more brutal.
This is a Tara-lite episode, although despite that she still manages to get tied up. There’s no Mother, which is good in itself, but had there been it would have jarred terribly with the tone and style.
Coming late in the season (this was the penultimate episode produced) this episode really feels like an attempt to do something different, and it’s a very confident and successful effort at that. There are some excellent, convincing performances, and had the show taken this direction, I think it could have had a future.