Skip to main content

It could have been an accident. He decided to sip a surreptitious sup and slipped. Splash!

4.10 A Surfeit of H20

A great episode title (definitely one of the series’ top ten) with a storyline boasting all the necessary ingredients (strange deaths in a small village, eccentric supporting characters, Emma even utters the immortal “You diabolical mastermind, you!”), yet A Surfeit of H20 is unable to quite pull itself above the run of the mill.


Of course, in the such glorious days as these of HAARP and – alleged – weather control, an evil corporation (Granny Gregson’s Glorious Grogs Incorporated, its factory engaged in the fermentation of intoxicating liquors; selling various invidious varieties of vino, basically – this is a fine episode for alliteration) indulging a localised downpour “for about a year” seems almost innocuous. Although, they have the right general idea for their nefarious scheme; providing “relentless, never-ceasing rain” to order: “It’s the biggest military weapon since the nuclear bomb” (and we had one of those a few episodes back).


Steed mentions cloud seeding in passing (but not Wilhelm Reich), but isn’t clear quite how the diabolical types are supposed to have achieved this in Colin Finbow’s sole teleplay for the show. Sidney Hayers, in his second spin in the director’s chair following The Cybernauts, delivers inventively, particularly when it comes to finding such unlikely elements as a manhole in the middle of field. My favourite visual signature, however, is the Naked Gun-style cartoon body print puddle left by a drowning victim (John Kidd’s Sir Arnold Kelly).


Part of the problem with this one is that the villains aren’t remotely interesting, even given the estimable presence of Geoffrey Palmer in his fourth and final appearance in the series. Dr Sturm (Albert Lieven) – geddit? – at least has a suitably despicable torture technique, though, possibly inspired by the previous year’s Goldfinger, strapping Emma down on a vegetable press (“Well, I will just have to squeeze this information out of you”).


Steed: What is it?
Joyce: Old bark.
Steed: Must have put the dog in it, too.

More memorable is Steed’s obligatory object of flirtation (“Can I help you?”: “Anytime”), Joyce Jason (Sue Lloyd, for whom Michael Caine memorably made an omelette in the same year’s The Ipcress File), particularly his pestering her for wine purchases (vegetable wines, hence the press: “Have you ever tried to tread potatoes?”) before settling on Buttercup (“Now, that’s more my cup of tea”). Macnee’s on great form as an infernal nuisance (“See he gets what he wants and get the idiot out of here”).


Jonah Barnard: The flood cometh!
Mrs Peel: Yes, well I’ve put a down payment on a canoe.

The supporting eccentrics don’t quite attain classic form, alas, although Noel Purcell is memorably boisterous as prophet of doom Jonah Barnard, mocked by villagers and preaching to a congregation of a boy and dog, transforming into highly pugilistic mode (“Mr Steed, I’m not a violent man by nature, but when faced with the problem of survival…”) and strangling a villain with gusto (“Hallelujah!”), the latter possibly a wry commentary on religious extremism.


There’s also Mr Cheeseman himself, Talfryn Thomas, in typically scene-hogging mode as Eli Barker, with the occasional memorable line (“Poaching isn’t like stealing, is it?” he comments of his drowned brother’s career path).


Mrs Peel: Gentlemen should knock before entering.
Steed: What are you, a sparkle in a seaweed soda?
Mrs Peel: No, I’m a kick in the nettle noggin.

The highlight, as it often is, is the interplay between Steed and Emma, from his casual rescue of her (above), to a discussion of Eli’s demise (“It could have been an accident. He decided to sip a surreptitious sup and slipped. Splash!”), to Steed expressing surprise at Jonah’s accusation of Emma entering a pit of iniquity (“Is she a very sinful woman?”) to the flattening of Steed’s bowler (“It was over very quickly. I don’t think it suffered”).


Indeed, there’s nigh on a torrent of good lines (“Lovely weather we’re not having” and the titular “There seems to be surfeit of H2O in this vicinity”), the bare bones are promising, it’s fun seeing Steed hopping in and out of different costumes according to location rather than design, and Emma’s always dressed to impress, but this one never quite gets beyond an arresting premise.















Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Popular posts from this blog

You were this amazing occidental samurai.

Ricochet (1991) (SPOILERS) You have to wonder at Denzel Washington’s agent at this point in the actor’s career. He’d recently won his first Oscar for Glory , yet followed it with less-than-glorious heart-transplant ghost comedy Heart Condition (Bob Hoskins’ racist cop receives Washington’s dead lawyer’s ticker; a recipe for hijinks!) Not long after, he dipped his tentative toe in the action arena with this Joel Silver production; Denzel has made his share of action fare since, of course, most of it serviceable if unremarkable, but none of it comes near to delivering the schlocky excesses of Ricochet , a movie at once ingenious and risible in its plot permutations, performances and production profligacy.

No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

The Matrix  (1999) (SPOILERS) Twenty years on, and the articles are on the defining nature of The Matrix are piling up, most of them touching on how its world has become a reality, or maybe always was one. At the time, its premise was engaging enough, but it was the sum total of the package that cast a spell – the bullet time, the fashions, the soundtrack, the comic book-as-live-action framing and styling – not to mention it being probably the first movie to embrace and reflect the burgeoning Internet ( Hackers doesn’t really count), and subsequently to really ride the crest of the DVD boom wave. And now? Now it’s still really, really good.

Well, something’s broke on your daddy’s spaceship.

Apollo 13 (1995) (SPOILERS) The NASA propaganda movie to end all NASA propaganda movies. Their original conception of the perilous Apollo 13 mission deserves due credit in itself; what better way to bolster waning interest in slightly naff perambulations around a TV studio than to manufacture a crisis event, one emphasising the absurd fragility of the alleged non-terrestrial excursions and the indomitable force that is “science” in achieving them? Apollo 13 the lunar mission was tailor made for Apollo 13 the movie version – make believe the make-believe – and who could have been better to lead this fantasy ride than Guantanamo Hanks at his all-American popularity peak?

I can’t be the worst. What about that hotdog one?

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) (SPOILERS) It would have been a merciful release, had the title card “ The End ”, flashing on screen a little before the ninety-minute mark, not been a false dawn. True, I would still have been unable to swab the bloody dildoes fight from my mind, but at least Everything Everywhere All at Once would have been short. Indeed, by the actual end I was put in mind of a line spoken by co-star James Wong in one of his most indelible roles: “ Now this really pisses me off to no end ”. Or to put it another way, Everything Everywhere All at Once rubbed me up the wrong which way quite a lot of most of the time.

We’ve got the best ball and chain in the world. Your ass.

Wedlock (1991) (SPOILERS) The futuristic prison movie seemed possessed of a particular cachet around this time, quite possibly sparked by the grisly possibilities of hi-tech disincentives to escape. On that front, HBO TV movie Wedlock more than delivers its FX money shot. Elsewhere, it’s less sure of itself, rather fumbling when it exchanges prison tropes for fugitives-on-the-run ones.

Drank the red. Good for you.

Morbius (2022) (SPOILERS) Generic isn’t necessarily a slur. Not if, by implication, it’s suggestive of the kind of movie made twenty years ago, when the alternative is the kind of super-woke content Disney currently prioritises. Unfortunately, after a reasonable first hour, Morbius descends so resignedly into such unmoderated formula that you’re left with a too-clear image of Sony’s Spider-Verse when it lacks a larger-than-life performer (Tom Hardy, for example) at the centre of any given vehicle.

So, you’re telling me that NASA is going to kill the President of the United States with an earthquake?

Conspiracy Theory (1997) (SPOILERS) Mel Gibson’s official rehabilitation occurred with the announcement of 2016’s Oscar nominations, when Hacksaw Ridge garnered six nods, including Mel as director. Obviously, many refuse to be persuaded that there’s any legitimate atonement for the things someone says. They probably weren’t even convinced by Mel’s appearance in Daddy’s Home 2 , an act of abject obeisance if ever there was one. In other circles, though, Gibbo, or Mad Mel, is venerated as a saviour unsullied by the depraved Hollywood machine, one of the brave few who would not allow them to take his freedom. Or at least, his values. Of course, that’s frequently based on alleged comments he made, ones it’s highly likely he didn’t. But doesn’t that rather appeal to the premise of his 23-year-old star vehicle Conspiracy Theory , in which “ A good conspiracy theory is an unproveable one ”?

Twenty dwarves took turns doing handstands on the carpet.

Bugsy (1991) (SPOILERS) Bugsy is very much a Warren Beatty vanity project (aren’t they all, even the ones that don’t seem that way on the surface?), to the extent of his playing a title character a decade and a half younger than him. As such, it makes sense that producer Warren’s choice of director wouldn’t be inclined to overshadow star Warren, but the effect is to end up with a movie that, for all its considerable merits (including a script from James Toback chock full of incident), never really feels quite focussed, that it’s destined to lead anywhere, even if we know where it’s going.

He’ll regret it to his dying day, if ever he lives that long.

The Quiet Man (1952) (SPOILERS) The John Wayne & John Ford film for those who don’t like John Wayne & John Ford films? The Quiet Man takes its cues from Ford’s earlier How Green Was My Valley in terms of, well less Anglophile and Hibernophile and Cambrophile nostalgia respectively for past times, climes and heritage, as Wayne’s pugilist returns to his family seat and stirs up a hot bed of emotions, not least with Maureen O’Hara’s red-headed hothead. The result is a very likeable movie, for all its inculcated Oirishness and studied eccentricity.

He doesn’t want to lead you. He just wants you to follow.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (2022) (SPOILERS) The general failing of the prequel concept is a fairly self-evident one; it’s spurred by the desire to cash in, rather than to tell a story. This is why so few prequels, in any form, are worth the viewer/reader/listener’s time, in and of themselves. At best, they tend to be something of a well-rehearsed fait accompli. In the movie medium, even when there is material that withstands closer inspection (the Star Wars prequels; The Hobbit , if you like), the execution ends up botched. With Fantastic Beasts , there was never a whiff of such lofty purpose, and each subsequent sequel to the first prequel has succeeded only in drawing attention to its prosaic function: keeping franchise flag flying, even at half-mast. Hence Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore , belatedly arriving after twice the envisaged gap between instalments and course-correcting none of the problems present in The Crimes of Grindelwald .