“Hostage” Review

Sometimes simplicity can be effective, even if it means repeating the most frequently repeated tropes of a TV show. But I have my reservations about this one. The core elements of the plot are simply Purdey gets kidnapped (again) and Steed gets framed as a traitor (didn’t that happen just four episodes ago?) This allows room for the development of a Steed/Gambit face off, as well as an excessive amount of hanging around at the office. But I’m utterly sick of Purdey being kidnapped – is it really so difficult to imagine her as an agent in her own right, rather than just motivation for the men? Worse still, I am disquieted by Steed’s actions in this one.

In the office exchanges, we discover that Gambit has never met Purdey’s mother but another colleage – Spelman – has (“You haven’t had your feet under that table yet?”) Surprisingly, however, it transpires that Gambit knows Purdey’s mother’s telephone number off by heart.

Steed vs Gambit is telegraphed early on:

“Do you know you and I have ever faced each other.”

“You’re too young to die, Gambit. Besides I don’t fight fair.”

But out of Gambit’s earshot, Steed is less cocky.

“Could you beat him?”

“I wouldn’t like to try. he’s a very tough man.”

The smart money is still on Steed, of course, and indeed he manages the impressive feat of rendering Gambit unconscious simply by kneeing him in the balls. Th circumstances arise because Steed decides not to tell Gambit about Purdey’s kidnapping – just as he withheld the truth from Purdey in Faces (and, come to that, Mrs Peel in Two’s a Crowd).

A plus in this episode is William Franklyn, who is always good. Even if his character does seem to be delusional when it comes to appraising security in the department.

“Whispering that there maybe a traitor here. Yes, even in this tighter than tight security barrel.”

Tighter than tight security barrel? What about Wallace? And if you hear there’s a mole, would you start telling your colleagues about it – and in the corridor?

Steed’s gun is stolen. Presumably that’s the Colt .45 he only keeps for sentimental value which was also used to frame him in Medium Rare? If so, that’s two friendly agents who have been shot with the same gun now… We also get a bit more of the boring deification of Steed, coupled to an extraordinary reason not to ‘officially’ investigate Steed: “Steed’s the hub of this organisation. If he gets wind of it, and hands in his resignation…”

But Steed is a traitor. He does, in fact, steal the allied attack plans to hand over to the enemy. That’s what I like least about this episode – the sentimental betrayal of his country. “It’s only paper…” he says, but lives will be lost because he breaks “that rule” – putting personal considerations above the good of everyone. It doesn’t matter that he wins out, because he couldn’t have known he would – those were the stakes he was gambling with to serve his own ends. It’s a casual diminution of the character of Steed as developed over the 150+ preceding episodes.

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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