Another fine adventure with an elaborate extortion plot with plenty of action involving a class 81 diesel locomotive, and a helicopter car chase. It’s colourful again, and exciting, and a huge amount of fun.
I’ll pick on a few flaws first, though. Steed and Emma seem to be uncharacteristically petty about each others driving (“if I’d wanted to drive on two wheels id have come by bicycle” and “you do drive at a funereal pace Steed” – does he?) And there’s some cumbersome dialogue “one has to drive a lotus Elan with Elan” and repeated references to champagne as if to prove the production’s claim to the heritage of the show. It’s also as if they haven’t quite found their voices yet: Steed is a little to Wodehousian pastiche-English (all “I say” and “as I live and breath”) while Emma veers into Withnail territory at one point (“the finest champagne known to humanity”). The journey from visual to audible seems to have been harder work here with some fairly undisguised description – although there are some very visual aspects (a fire-breathing scarecrow in a minefield). Finally, the henchmen are a little too cartoonish, too self-aware (“henchmen rarely know anything”). But that’s it, those are my nits picked.
Speaking of the henchmen, they do give Mrs Peel my favourite witticism of the episode: “Aren’t you a little puny for hired muscle? If I’d hired your muscle I’d want my money back.”
I love it when The Avengers get involved with trains (Dressed to Kill and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Station). We start out at Kings Cross, followed by a midnight drive across Piccadilly Circus, then head into the rural home counties for some railway trespassing. As is typically for season 5 stories, Steed spots another old friend (this one’s from the RAF) Dick “True” North. In Return to Castle De’ath we got some scooby-doo-style mask identity switch for no particular purpose; it’s surprising to have something similar here, but it’s done with purpose and it’s entertaining handled too (“my face has fallen off”). Another call-back is to A Surfeit of H2O where Mrs Peel is put in a wine press (here it’s a cider press).
There’s almost a breach of the “no policemen” edict – I couldn’t quite believe my ears until I realised what had happened. I needn’t have feared.
The music is again excellent, so and blends into the action perfectly (the oddly inappropriate ‘Dragnet’ style sting excepted). I can’t overstate how brilliant Wadham is, he is once again superb in this episode. Poulet’s performance “warms up” – somehow it becomes more relaxed, into that liquid lightness that typifies the character, as the episode progresses. I felt a bit uncertain about her early on. By the second half, she absolutely excels in the role. The episode concludes with one of those perfect tag scenes that offers both the effervescence the show is loved for, and exemplifies the affection between Steed and Mrs Peel. A delight.