3.15: The Gilded Cage
An engaging episode on several fronts, from JP Spagge and his scene-stealing major domo to the significant detail that our villains keep keeping one step ahead of Steed and Cathy. It’s also a tour de force for the latter, with Honor Blackman first under the illusion that she’s been banged up for murder and then finding herself out-on-a-limb, trying to walk the tightrope of convincing the bank robbers she really is intent on robbing the bank.
Cathy: How can I go through a whole trial and not remember anything?
That’s because Steed, who has procured the services of Spagge (Patrick Magee, possibly best known for A Clockwork Orange these days, he also featured in Season 2’s Killer Whale), “a sort of entrepreneur of crime”, has been shut out of the picture as the gang attempt to assess Mrs Gale’s bona fides and straight-up-ness, or lack thereof. She first appears to have been banged up for the murder of Spagge, although this is never the most convincing of ruses, as Cathy points out.
Abe Benham: Friends, I give you my latest offering. It’s simply called ‘Gold Vault’.
Edric Connor, a rare prominently-cast black actor in the show, registers solidly on the plank-ish scale, which is a tad unfortunate as Abe Benham is the gang leader and so gets the lion’s share of the dialogue (also featuring is Martin Friend, Styggron in The Android Invasion). He has gusto, though, I’ll give him that.
Cathy’s coolness under pressure is the main appeal of these scenes, as they move up the date of the robbery and grill her on her knowledge of gold (for which she has to prove well-versed about Fort Knox, handy for her 007 outing the following year). The actual robbery, gas mask clad and in a rush of knockout fumes, is memorable, but Cathy having done all the hard work, it’s for Steed to show up and start shooting the bad guys; he even exits set left with those he’s apprehended/maimed, leaving Mrs Gale to have a roll around with one of the remaining villains.
Spagge: I do believe you’re a snob, Fleming.
Fleming: Naturally, sir. That’s what I’m paid for.
Engaging as the heist plot is, though, easily the best part of the episode is Norman Chappell’s erudite butler Fleming (Chappell’s third of six Avengers guest spots). He’s entirely enamoured of Steed’s boundless class (“A gentleman of obvious quality”), and most upset to find he’s working with the police.
This element too, with Steed realising his phone has been tapped and staging his own death (very symmetrical) in order to fool the villains, leads to amusing exchanges, as Fleming, who has “seldom known a man with such exquisite taste” expresses the inclination to send him a floral tribute (“Thirty bob in exchange for forty years”).
Roger Marshall’s teleplay is a solid one, then, but The Gilded Cage doesn’t quite ascend to the level of first rate, partly down to Blackman having to pull all the weight in her scenes. The ending's very good fun, though, as Spagge tries to dob his manservant in while Steed is having none of it (“He’s also a very good butler. I can find a niche for him”) … until Cathy tells him there’s a 10% reward for the man’s arrest.
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