“The Yellow Needle” Lost Episode Review

When an assassination attempt is made on an African head of state (the Prime Minister of ‘Tenebra’) we might expect Steed to be on security duty. In fact, the connection is Keel’s – Sir Wilberforce is an old teacher of his. Keel once worked in Tenebra – like Cathy he seems to have spent time in Africa. Steed’s involvement is revealed much later, and for once it appears that his and Keel’s interests are coincidental (he doesn’t appear to know of Keel’s connection before they discuss the paper).

Assassination and the lethal domestic politics of some visiting dignitary is an occasional theme in early Avengers (eg. as a pretext for the whodunnit in Death a la Carte) but this is more interesting partly because Tenebra is a fledgling democracy and 1960s attitudes to it (“90% of the people are illiterate. They will vote whichever way their chiefs tell them”). But is also interesting to see the freedom for globe-trotting in these studio-bound stories: ironically, the locations constrained later episodes while giving them their distinctive home counties flavour. In this case, Steed gets to fly into the heart of the action in Africa.

It would become the norm in later seasons that Steed rarely adopted another name when undercover, here he goes by ‘Sanderson’ and it transpires this is a real identity he has ‘borrowed’. Unfortunately, Sanderson is known to Shebro (the man Steed is trying to get close to). How often are The Avengers’ covers blown in this way? Steed also encounters Keel’s legacy in Africa: Shebro’s wife has called her son David.

For once, Keel gets a little romance.

It’s another gripping story, building to a tense climax, but it’s odd how abruptly it ends. Unsatisfying. What happens to Sir Wilberforce? And, without wishing to spoil the twist, while the reveal is cleverly crafted to be plausible we lack any explanation of motive.

Another late review from my drafts folder. Apologies for its late arrival!

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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