Steed has yet another close friend – a schoolfriend in this case – and once again we are regaled with stories of how what a high achieving model of perfection Steed always was. This makes his schoolfriend traitorously jealous, but it makes me bored. I complained about Steed losing his interesting edge before – how he’d gone from being a dangerous outsider to a universally respected (and worshipped) pillar of the establishment. Wouldn’t it have been just a little bit more interesting to find out that Steed had to struggle, a little bit, to become the man he is?
So we get a flashback to the ‘Eastern sector’ (just as we did in To Catch a Rat) when the schoolfriend does a bunk over to the other side. This being 10 years previously must have been during the colour Mrs Peel era – though obviously, she’s not with him. Incidentally, this friend of Steed’s from schooldays is described by a witness as ‘mid-forties’. Macnee is actually in his mid-50s at this point, and they’re supposed to be the same age (Clive Revill, playing the friend, is in his late forties, but is aged up). Is this a clue that Steed is supposed to be in his mid-40s here? In which case, when he was in Berlin in 1953 with Cathy Gale, he’d have been around twenty? And around 30 when we first meet him in Hot Snow? He schools days are almost dated, in a comment about a trophy he won in “19- Oh, years ago.” The line on the Honours Board at his cricket club that gets burnt out is 1957, but I don’t think that tells us anything.
In respect of age, Purdey acknowledges Steed’s seniority whilst flirting with him:
“You know the Chinese don’t think in terms of age. Only experience?”
“A nightcap? Then I’ll get you a taxi.”
“Let’s start with a nightcap.”
I don’t remember Purdey coming onto Steed this strongly in series 1… She’s got a kind of brotherly regard for Gambit (“You’re okay, Gambit”) while he seems to have given up on her, and goes of chasing a very pretty maths teacher named Penny Redfern.
Further to the pump-action clay pigeon shooting, Steed criticises Gambit’s cricket bowling. This seems much meaner somehow. Gambit’s backgarden was a yard (he bowles like a baseball pitcher). Later his ignorance of latin is shown up (doesn’t know what Victor Laudanum means) and he tells Penny he joined the navy when he was 14.
Though, alas, we don’t get to see it, Steed’s Bentley features in this. It gets blown up.
Despite all the overachieving grating with me, my favourite line is probably:
‘Steed, a man who’s been awarded the military cross does not say “what medal?”’
So-so plot, but the production values seem just a little bit more solid, and the episode rattles along at a fair lick. Not bad.