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How can one have an accident with a face pack?

The Avengers
2.12: Death on the Rocks

More death in the title, and more diamonds too. Unfortunately, Death on the Rocksis a much less enticing affair than Death of a Great Dane, a standard undercover job in which Mr and Mrs Steed infiltrate a diamond ring (well, not a literal diamond ring).

Cathy’s endless font of knowledge is once more referenced (“You lived in Africa – you probably know more about illicit diamonds than I do”), and a background subplot features her apartment being redecorated by a less-than-bright workman, terrified by the head of a blue wildebeest (conservationist Cathy is playing a tape recording of lion noises at the time) and concerned when Steed tells him a stuffed crocodile is still alive; later Steed has taken over the painting when Cathy summons him (“Well, what did you want to see your loving hubby about so urgently?”) The redecoration motif continues in their new (Samuel Ross’s ex-) sumptuous lodgings (“It won’t go too well with my wife’s trophies, I’m afraid”, Steed advises of the current décor, pointing to a lion’s head).

Fenton: Your federation has run this industry long enough. It’s time we changed that.

The plot involves diamonds smuggled into the country among rock salt crystals (just add water and the valuables are revealed). There’s a touch of megalomania in there too; when Diamond Federation man Van Berg (Richard Clarke) shows up at a meeting of the accomplices and seizes the diamonds on display, Fenton (Gerald Cross, the voice of the Megara in The Stones of Blood) shoots him and, in response to the protestation that they couldn’t possibly take the Federation’s place and do a deal with the government, he replies “Why not? We shouldn’t be the first monopoly to establish ourselves over a few dead bodies. There’s a price for everything” Cynical and plausible, although the actual means in Eric Paice’s teleplay are a bit of a stretch.

The antagonists are split into the reluctant/coerced and the ruthless. Samuel Ross (Meier Tzelniker) is concerned for the safety of his daughter Jackie (Toni Gilpin), who is seeing the undesirable soon-to-be fiancé Nicky (David Sumner). Nicky’s very much put in his place when he takes Steed aside at a party the latter has thrown (Steed is schmoozing the ladies, dancing with each in turn, the smoothy). Steed deviously turns down the offer to trade diamonds for the syndicate, and Nicky threatens other forms of persuasion. Steed, the epitome of cool, merely retorts to the less-confident-than-he-professes youth “You’re sweating, Nicky”.

The opening teaser has Ross’s wife (Annette Kerr) killed by a beautician (“How can one have an accident with a face pack?” asks Cathy; “It was made of a plaster of Paris compound and hardened rather quickly” Steed explains casually).  That’s about as eccentric as the episode gets, though. Of note is Hamilton Dyce (General Scobie in Spearhead from Space; anyone who has seen it will instantly assume he’s a bad egg, long before he’s actually revealed as such) as one of the ring leaders, willing to kill his wife (Naomi Chance) to further his scheme. Ellen McIntosh makes a particularly efficient make-over murderer.

The shootout finale is as hasty as the show is accustomed to, albeit with additionally less-than-impressive hiding behind boxes while exchanging shots on a tiny set. A so-so episode, then, solid yet unremarkable.


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