A comprehensive avian-based espionage scheme underpins this one; and it’s actually a reasonable episode – certainly the best of the colour lot so far. Not so good as to stick in the mind (which is why it was a pleasant surprise since to find it wasn’t too bad, since I’d forgotten almost everything about it), and it’s not without a couple of plot holes, but it’s entertainingly eccentric and yet it takes itself absolutely seriously. The essential Avengers formula.
Also, compared to the previous colour episodes, the photography is hugely superior, opening with some good low-angle chase shots and sustaining an imaginative approach throughout. The colours are still a little garish (parrots, pink doors) but at least there appears to be some co-ordination. And the choice of locations greatly adds to the visual appeal (particularly the swimming pool diving boards).
The thug-du-jour is a smiling machine-gun wielding assassin in an arran sweater, who looks like he’s stepped out of an episode of The New Avengers and travelled back a decade for this guest-baddie gig. Kenneth Cope plays a groovy 60s photographer in what amounts to a repeat of the photography scenes in The Murder Market, and by comparison it’s neither as lively nor as credible – though he does get Mrs Peel to pose wrapped in a Union flag with a parrot.
Ron Moody is back (after just five episodes) as the splendidly birdy Mr Jordan (“I was upstairs, having a little warble… I am composing a concerto, for beak, bird-throat and warble”).
My two nitpicks are: a thug knocking Steed out but leaving him alive – after failing to kill him with an umbrella grenade (why the change of policy?) and an unlikely booby trap with some string which should have pulled the trigger on a pistol, but was just as likely to pull the stand the pistol was attached to along the floor – since the stand was on wheels. Details – one in the writing, another in the production – that haven’t been attended to which pull the viewer right out of the story.
In Emma’s flat we see both the lab bench from The See Through Man, and the sculpture that we first saw her working on in The Fear Merchants (she’s chipping away with a hammer and bolster this time).
Subtitle: Steed Fancies Pigeons. Emma Gets the Bird.
We’re needed: Emma opens her window and an arrow comes through with a note attached – followed by Steed (and so we learn Emma’s new flat is on the ground floor).
Oh, and I may have spoken too soon regarding the lack of transport in the tag scenes in this series – for this and the two preceding episodes, The Avengers have driven a car through the same gatehouse arch, with some ‘comical’ mishap. This week’s car goes backwards – you can see from the exhaust it’s reverse film.