“The Tale of the Big Why?” Review

Unusually, this is a straight procedural, with our heroes tracing a blackmailer’s stash by… interviewing witnesses, retracing the blackmailer’s route, etc. It feels rather slow, and the pursuers are scruffy and dull. But the episode, which I’d never seen before, started growing on me – with all the driving around the countryside, and a funky Laurie Johnson theme (which I am familiar with, since it’s on The London Studio Orchestra’s Avengers CD).

The first notable thing is that the titles have been upgraded. We no longer get a montage of clips – the new titles are more fitting of The Avengers using stills, albeit with a stop-frame effect bringing them gradually into the foreground, and opening to reveal a life action pose. Much better.

The episode starts off with Gambit in prison – something it would’ve been entertaining to see more of. Steed spends a lot of time briefing (another) minister (is there an inexhaustible supply?) It’s becoming rather an (unfortunate) feature Purdey in Gambit get to go out in the field, and so get more of the action, while Steed is relegated almost to the role of Mother, managing the politics.

When Steed does see some action, his steel bowler makes a reappearance. He uses it to block a shotgun blast, though it’s the steadiness of his stance that is the most implausible aspect of this, physcially. The ricochet blasts the assailant through the window, but Steed doesn’t seem to feel the recoil at all.

Steed and Gambit get stranded in the countryside, causing Steed to throw away his bowler and brolly (WHAT?) while Purdey, not for the last time, gets herself kidnapped.

It’s the ending that’s most brilliant though. Steed is the only one who knows the corner villain has no bullets in his gun. Gambit, nevertheless, acts on Steed’s instruction to take the gun. Purdey says:

“I wish you two would tell me when you’re going to practice this kind of telepathy.”

“Telepathy? No. I trust Steed.”

A slow burner, but good.

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

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