It’s unusual for an adversary of The Avengers to make a return. The cybernauts return twice (here, and once in The New Avengers). In The Cybernauts a lot of the suspense was derived from the mystery around the killer – what could be so tall, so strong, so unstoppable? Now we know the cybernauts, there’s no point trying to make that a mystery, so instead the story is told from the baddies’ perspective. We know from the start who they are and what they are up to. The tension must arise from whether they will be found out by our heroes – for example, when a cybernaut is returning ‘home’ and The Avengers are outside picking up Emma’s purse. This doesn’t quite work as a device: it’s hard to have sympathy for a man hell-bent on destroying our more charming regular protagonists. And we know, too, that they will surely defeat him.
Peter Cushing is the creepy villain who is introduced as a friend of Steed and Emma (since when did they have friends?) This causes some New Avengers style triangular tension: “You like Beresford, don’t you?” And with this rare friendship any regular security protocols appear to have been abandoned.
Cushing is the second actor who played the Doctor to appear in the Avengers. Unlike Jon Pertwee, he played the Doctor before going on to his Avengers role. Frederick Jaeger is back as Benson, and Fulton Mackay is unmistakable, the amoral scientist:
“Research is research. Whatever we discover here may benefit manking.”
“A small section of it, anyway.”
Having the cybernauts back after Never, Never Say Die seems odd not because the duplicates in that were so much more sophisticated they make the cybernauts look like antiques, but because of the status of the cybernaut footage in that episode. Why was Emma watching what, in this episode, is revealed to be CCTV from Dr Armstrong’s cameras? The technology in this one is so much less plausible than in The Cybernauts: Find a ma in a city of 10 million by his heartbeat? Pish. A watch than can control your brain… (“If a man’s heart stops beating it can be kept going but an electrical impulse. The device in this watch is more versatile. Once switched on it takes over the brain.” Er, what?) And why test the conductivity of Steed and Mrs Peel’s skin, if it turns out to work on Neville who it hasn’t been calibrated for?
Series 5 of The Avengers was broken into two parts both in production and broadcast; this is the first episode from the second batch. There’s no subtitle at the start, and no “we’re needed” intro scene. It feels as though an effort has been made to make the tone more serious, after the unappealing excesses of Who’s Who??? It is well filmed, makes great use of locations, and has good sets. It does look great (light years ahead of From Venus With Love). It’s also worth noting that with this episode, Diana Rigg has Honor Blackman in terms of the number of episodes she has appeared in.
There is still a tag scene, in which Steed ‘repairs’ Emma’s toaster (it gets fired through the roof, leaving Emma to ask of the toast it left behind “Shall I butter them or preserve them for posterity?”) Again, the tag scene is best thing in the episode (though Steed’s shirt is fairly horrible).