Skip to main content

I think they were after you. Your dressing gown’s absolutely ruined.

The Avengers
2.1: Mission to Montreal

The first episode of Season Two is a stodgy affair, notable mainly for one of three appearances by Dr Keel-a-like Dr Martin King (utilising scripts written for Keel in the first series, before it was known Ian Hendry would not be returning). In Keel’s absence, Steed becomes the welcome lead, but you wouldn’t know it here aside from his handling the concluding fisticuffs.


Mission to Montrealfinds King (Jon Rollason essaying another healthy-smoking medical practitioner) and Steed engaged in a bog standard “secure the stolen microfilm” case, the only distinguishing aspects being its shipboard setting (headed for the city of the title) and the rather unlikely circumstance of a movie star being in its possession. King is required to administer physician’s duties to the star in question, Carla Berotti (Patricia English). She’s on the edge, addled by booze, pills and the murder of her stand-in (a case of mistaken identity).


While there are twists and turns of who’s really who and is doing what, and the occasional red herring (Gerald Sim is much more sinister as “a sad little drunk who wanted to crash the party” than any of the actual villains), the focus is very much on King and Carla, and lacking much spark as a result. Rollason makes King a rugged, square-jawed dullard with neither the charisma of Steed nor the intensity of Keel. He’s certainly no Harry Sullivan as ship’s doctors go.


This wouldn’t be so bad if Steed was able to balance things out or the script (from Lester Powell; his second and final effort for the show) had sufficient zest. Unfortunately, Steed doesn’t show up until 20 minutes have passed (it gets to the point where one fears the worst, and we’ll be stuck with King for the duration). When he does, Macnee is a charm offensive, posing as a steward (he thinks the outfit rather suits him, and innocently boards via the passenger gangway) and liberally insulting King’s wardrobe as Jeeves to the doctor’s Wooster (King denies that he is attracted to Carla, and Steed replies “If you are, don’t let her see you in that dressing gown, old boy. It’s death to the most rudimentary form of romance”).


He also amusingly adjusts his tie in anticipation when a drunken Carla, following the collapse of her party, is looking for someone to dance with – until she remembers the impropriety of a first class passenger dancing with a steward. Steed does seem quite at home stewarding (he has excellent champagne pouring etiquette) to the extent that he has to check himself in the last scene when, familiarly bowler hatted once more, someone calls for a steward.


The opening section appears to be playing slightly with King’s status; is he a good guy or not (Carla is suspicious of him, and the viewers wouldn’t know him; although this was the first to feature King, it wasn’t the first Season Two episode broadcast)? Rollason is unfortunately unable to muster much viewer interest in that idea.


The supporting cast are more reliable in that regard. English rather indulges the opportunity to play an over the top souse (“I’m a junkie now!”), but Iris Russell is particularly strong and steely as the nurse/spy ringleader Sheila Dawson. 


Alan Curtis (Major Green in The War Machines) is a surprisingly affable heavy, instantly identifiable as a villain by the eye patch he sports. John Bennett (Li H’Sen Chang in The Talons of Weng-Chiang, Coser in Blake’s 7’s Weapon, as well as an appearance in the final season of The Avengers) is rather wasted as Carla’s bodyguard Guido Alliaceous Marson while Mark Eden (Marco Polo) does his usual handsome fella routine as Carla’s husband and the one who put her up to the subterfuge.


Don Leaver, who directed the first Avengers episode (and helmed 20 in all), handles the whole thing confidently, enjoying the occasional riff on movie clichés. When Carla is interviewed by the devoted reporters, only her foregrounded profile is seen (legs and bust). Then there’s the fake-out opening, the sort of thing Brian De Palma would much more lasciviously indulge in Body Double. Carla is seen screaming as a man assaults her. It might be the opening of a typical thriller show, or indeed an episode of The Avengers. Then cut is called and we realise this is a film set. But a minute or two later the same things happens again, for real this time, with Carla’s stand-in as the victim (“I’ve made a most terrible mistake, I’ve come to the wrong dressing room” announces Brand).


Aside from Steed and Curtis’ upbeat assassin, this is merely passable. Dr King feels like a stopgap replacement for Keel even if you don’t know that he is, and the things that work for Steed (King doesn’t even have any background to speak of) just serve to underline how routine he is.





Comments

Popular posts from this blog

He’s probably paranoid, high-strung, doesn’t like daylight. You know, has a lot of crumbs in his beard, if he has a beard.

Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) (SPOILERS) I’d like to report I had a blast with Godzilla vs. Kong . It’s lighter on its oversized, city-stomping feet than its slog of a MonsterVerse predecessor, Godzilla: King of the Monsters , and there are flashes of visual inspiration along with several engaging core ideas (which, to be fair, the series had already laid the seeds for). But this sequel still stumbles in its chief task: assembling an engaging, lively story that successfully integrates both tiny humans and towering titans.

You stink, my friend.

Mulan (2020) (SPOILERS) Let that be a lesson to Disney. It’s a fool’s errand to try and beat the Chinese at their own game, no matter how painstakingly respectful – or rather, pandering – you are. Indeed, Mulan ’s abysmal $40m box office take in the country – where it did get a proper release, so no plandemic excuses can be cited – feels like a direct rebuke; don’t try and tell us how to suck eggs. There’s an additional explanation too, of course. That Mulan sucks.

Roswell was a smokescreen, we've had a half a dozen better salvage operations.

The X-Files 1.24: The Erlenmeyer Flask The Erlenmeyer Flask makes for a fast-paced, tense and eventful ride, but does it make any sense? That less than mattered at the time, but revisiting the mythology arc (for probably the fourth or fifth time) reveals increasingly tenuous internal coherence as the various conspiracy elements begin to pile up and the situations become ever-more convoluted. This will become the Chris Carter’s signature: don’t examine the details too closely, go with the flow. Trust Chris implicitly.

By heaven, I’d thrash the life out of you… if I didn’t have to read the Nine O’Clock News.

The Green Man (1956) (SPOILERS) The Green movie from Launder and Gilliat starring Alastair Sim that isn’t Green for Danger. Which is to say, The Green Man can’t quite scale the heady heights of that decade-earlier murder mystery triumph, but neither is it any slouch. Sim is the antagonist this time – albeit a very affable, Sim-ish one – and his sometime protégée, a young George Cole, the hero. If the plot is entirely absurd, Robert Day’s movie wastes no time probing such insufficiencies, ensuring it is very funny, lively and beautifully performed.

It's Dark Age, by Jupiter!

The Dig (2021) (SPOILERS) An account of the greatest archaeological find Britain would know until Professor Horner opened the barrow at Devil’s End. And should you scoff at such “ fiction ”, that’s nothing on this adaptation of John Preston’s 2007 novel concerning the Sutton Hoo excavations of the late 1930s. The Dig , as is the onus of any compelling fictional account, takes liberties with the source material, but the erring from the straight and narrow in this case is less an issue than the shift in focus from characters and elements successfully established during the first hour.

UFO IN MOSSINGHAM?

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (2020) (SPOILERS) One might reasonably suggest the recourse of the ailing or desperate franchise is to resort, seemingly out of nowhere, to space aliens. Even Police Academy didn’t go that far (to Moscow, yes, but not to space). Perhaps animators think kids have no skills of discernment and will swallow any old sugar-coated crap. Perhaps they don’t, and they will. Ice Age had been enjoying absurd success until Collision Course sent Scrat spinning into the cosmos and grosses tumbled. Shaun the Sheep has been around for a quarter of a century, but this is only his second movie outing and already he’s pulling an E.T. on us. Of course, this may all be part of the grand scheme, and Nick Park is simply doing his bit to familiarise the tots in time for Project Blue Beam.

Careful how much boat you’re eating.

Onward (2020) (SPOILERS) Pixar’s Bright , or thereabouts. The interesting thing – perhaps the only interesting thing – about Onward is that it’s almost indiscernible from a DreamWorks Animation effort, where once they cocked a snook at such cheap-seats fare, seeing themselves as better class of animation house altogether. Just about everything in Onward is shamelessly derivative, from the Harry Potter /fantasy genre cash-in to the use of the standard Pixar formula whereby any scenario remotely eccentric or exotic is buried beneath the banal signifiers of modern society: because anything you can imagine must be dragged down to tangible everyday reference points or kids won’t be able to assimilate it. And then there’s the choice of lead voices, in-Disney star-slaves Chris Pratt and Tom Holland.

Farewell, dear shithead, farewell.

Highlander II: The Quickening (1991) (SPOILERS) I saw Highlander II: The Quickening at the cinema. Yes, I actually paid money to see one of the worst mainstream sequels ever on the big screen. I didn’t bother investigating the Director’s Cut until now, since the movie struck me as entirely unsalvageable. I was sufficiently disenchanted with all things Highlander that I skipped the TV series and slipshod sequels, eventually catching Christopher Lambert’s last appearance as Connor MacLeod in Highlander: End Game by accident rather than design. But Highlander II ’s on YouTube , and the quality is decent, so maybe the Director’s Cut improve matters and is worth a reappraisal? Not really. It’s still a fundamentally, mystifyingly botched retcon enabling the further adventures of MacLeod, just not quite as transparently shredded in the editing room.

A subterranean Loch Ness Monster?

Doctor Who The Silurians No, I’m not going to refer to The Silurians as Doctor Who and the Silurians . I’m going to refer to it as Doctor Who and the Eocenes . The Silurians plays a blinder. Because both this and Inferno know the secret of an extended – some might say overlong – story is to keep the plot moving, they barely drag at all and are consequently much fleeter of foot than many a four parter. Unlike Malcolm Hulke’s sequel The Sea Devils , The Silurians has more than enough plot and deals it out judiciously (the plague, when it comes, kicks the story up a gear at the precarious burn-out stage of a typical four-plus parter). What’s most notable, though, is how engaging those first four episodes are, building the story slowly but absorbingly and with persuasive confidence.

Suspicions of destiny. We all have them. A deep, wordless knowledge that our time has come.

Damien: Omen II (1978) (SPOILERS) There’s an undercurrent of unfulfilled potential with the Omen series, an opportunity to explore the machinations of the Antichrist and his minions largely ignored in favour of Final Destination deaths every twenty minutes or so. Of the exploration there is, however, the better part is found in Damien: Omen II , where we’re privy to the parallel efforts of a twelve or thirteen-year-old Damien at military school and those of Thorn Industries. The natural home of the diabolical is, after all, big business. Consequently, while this sequel is much less slick than the original, it is also more engaging dramatically.