“The Winged Avenger” Review

There’s a decent (and well executed) gag being saved up which makes it worth limping through the first well-padded 40 minutes. A pastiche of the comic book and contemporary Batman TV series (this episode aired about a year after Batman premiered), the panels of the ‘Winged Avenger’ comic strip begin to converge with the episode’s storyline, leading to some dissolves between well-drawn cartoons and their real-life counter-parts. It’s not only pretty stylishly done, it also lets the show legitimately insert a “POW”, a “SPLAT” and a “BAM” into the fight scene without stepping out of The Avengers‘ usual conventions, by having Steed hit the villain with the appropriate art-boards. The tag scene nods to this cheeky having-their-cake-and-eating-it rip-off with an actually on screen “PING”.

Prior to this fine climax, we have a somewhat feeble story. Bad businessmen are being disposed of, but rather their is no attempt to flesh them out to anything more than ciphers. They’re have no motive (either business or personal) to do anything other than be evil. Perhaps it is an intentional part of the comic book motif to present cardboard characters (“Men without humanity. Men who don’t deserve to live.”) That’d be fine – if it weren’t all too common in the other colour episodes. Contrast these evil doers with Le Mesurier’s conflicted doctor in Mandrake.

Steed seems to enjoy reading The Winged Avenger comic. I wonder how he’d compare it to Tintin? When Emma describes the models in the Winged Avenger offices “Several girls in various stages of undress” Steed enters a reverie “Ah yes” and Emma has to snap her fingers to revive him. (There’s a lot of fairly abysmal dialogue elsewhere, though.)

This episode is written by Richard Harris (it’s one of the few this series not be written by either Brian Clemens or Philip Levene – indeed, the variety of writers diminished towards the end of the last series, as out of the last dozen episodes, Clemens and Levene have provided 10 of the scripts). Is this the playwright, Richard ‘Outside Edge’ Harris, I wondered – and IMDB confirmed it is. (He also wrote the third episode of the first series, so his involvement in the Avengers goes about as far back as it could.)

The major hole in this one is more of a production problem: with the Winged Avenger seen placing hooked claw after hooked claw between the solid stones of the high-rise where the publishers work, it is impossible to imagine how he could also be wearing the boots. Indeed, the physics of the boots, generally a rather problematic (if they stick to the surface, how do you lift them to take a step, and if they are just boots, how do you brace the rest of your body when you walk up a vertical?) In the scenes where the boots are actually seen in action it’s extremely obvious the entire set is on its side/upside down, and when a chair is dropped from the ceiling it wafts down to the floor more the way a sheet of paper floats than anything weighty.

While I’m picking at production issues, the problem with having a guy in a naff beak mask as the villain is that at the start, after he has pushed through some plastic foliage in the opening shots, you are left wondering for a horrible moment whether he is meant to be an actual bird…

Lexius Cray climbs mountains in his living room. A pale imitation of Sir Horace Winslip’s indoor dining car in The Grave-Diggers.

Nerdish detail: there’s a freeze frame under the title in this episode (and The Bird Who Knew Too Much). All the other episodes clearly haven’t done this (except possibly From Venus with Love where there’s no motion, but since it’s a shot of a corpse, this could be the reason). So I’m wondering if this idea is where the freeze-frame in the opening of The New Avengers came from…?

Subtitle: Steed goes bird watching. Emma does a comic strip.

We’re needed: Emma is painting. Steed adds a “Mrs Peel”. (Emma’s painting isn’t as good as her Steed in How To Succeed…at Murder but at least she seems to have chucked her sculpture).

The tag scene doesn’t involve driving a car through the gatehouse, breaking that run, but it is one of the most fabulously charming I remember. Almost worth watching the whole episode for Macnee and Rigg’s performances in those 60 seconds alone.

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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