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.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

What do you want to be? Rich or dead?

Blake's 7 1.3: Cygnus Alpha

Well, the quality couldn’t last. Vere Lorrimer does a solid job directing this one, and the night shooting adds atmosphere in spades. Unfortunately the religious cult on a prison planet just isn’t that interesting (notably, big Brian Blessed was about the only well-known British thesp who wasn’t cast in the similarly themed Alien 3).

It’s Who-central from the off with lovely lovely lovely Kara (Pamela Salem – The Robots of Death and Remembrance of the Daleks) and the Caber, I mean Laran (Robert Russell, Terror of the Zygons) noting the incoming London. Which reuses a shot from Space Fall (the spinning object is a planet, clearly one with an unhealthy speed of rotation).
The length of journey issues in this story don’t bear much analysis. It’s now four months since the events of Space Fall, and poor old Leylan has clearly been affected badly by what went down. But he’s only now sending his report? Useful for the wayward viewer, but a bit slack otherwise.

So.…

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

She's killed my piano.

Rocketman (2019)
(SPOILERS) Early on in Rocketman, there’s a scene where publisher Dick James (Stephen Graham) listens to a selection of his prospective talent’s songs and proceeds to label them utter shite (but signs him up anyway). It’s a view I have a degree of sympathy with. I like maybe a handful of Elton John’s tunes, so in theory, I should be something of a lost cause with regard to this musical biopic. But Rocketman isn’t reliant on the audience sitting back and gorging on naturalistic performances of the hits in the way Bohemian Rhapsody is; Dexter Fletcher fully embraces the musical theatre aspect of the form, delivering a so-so familiar story with choreographic gusto and entirely appropriate flamboyance in a manner that largely compensates. Largely.

Whoever comes, I'll kill them. I'll kill them all.

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
(SPOILERS) There’s no guessing he’s back. John Wick’s return is most definite and demonstrable, in a sequel that does what sequels ought in all the right ways, upping the ante while never losing sight of the ingredients that made the original so formidable. John Wick: Chapter 2 finds the minimalist, stripped-back vehicle and character of the first instalment furnished with an elaborate colour palette and even more idiosyncrasies around the fringes, rather like Mad Max in that sense, and director Chad Stahleski (this time without the collaboration of David Leitch, but to no discernible deficit) ensures the action is filled to overflowing, but with an even stronger narrative drive that makes the most of changes of gear, scenery and motivation.

The result is a giddily hilarious, edge-of-the-seat thrill ride (don’t believe The New York Times review: it is not “altogether more solemn” I can only guess Jeannette Catsoulis didn’t revisit the original in the interven…

Move away from the jams.

Aladdin (2019)
(SPOILERS) I was never overly enamoured by the early ‘90s renaissance of Disney animation, so the raves over Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin left me fairly unphased. On the plus side, that means I came to this live action version fairly fresh (prince); not quite a whole new world but sufficiently unversed in the legend to appreciate it as its own thing. And for the most part, Aladdin can be considered a moderate success. There may not be a whole lot of competition for that crown (I’d give the prize to Pete’s Dragon, except that it was always part-live action), but this one sits fairly comfortably in the lead.

Isn’t Johnnie simply too fantastic for words?

Suspicion (1941)
(SPOILERS) Suspicion found Alfred Hitchcock basking in the warm glow of Rebecca’s Best Picture Oscar victory the previous year (for which he received his first of five Best Director nominations, famously winning none of them). Not only that, another of his films, Foreign Correspondent, had jostled with Rebecca for attention. Suspicion was duly nominated itself, something that seems less unlikely now we’ve returned to as many as ten award nominees annually (numbers wouldn’t be reduced to five until 1945). And still more plausible, in and of itself, than his later and final Best Picture nod, Spellbound. Suspicion has a number of claims to eminent status, not least the casting of Cary Grant, if not quite against type, then playing on his charm as a duplicitous quality, but it ultimately falls at the hurdle of studio-mandated compromise.

Looks as though vaudeville may have just decided to fight back.

The Avengers 6.7: Look – (Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One) But There Were These Two Fellers…
Well, it took a while, but The Avengers finally rediscovers the sparkle of the best Rigg era episodes thanks to a Dennis Spooner teleplay (his first credit since the first season), one that spreads itself just about as broadly as it’s possible for the show to go – Look – (Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One) But There Were These Two Fellers… was purportedly rejected for the Rigg run for just that reason – but which is also nigh on perfect in pace, structure and characterisation. And guest spots.

You ever heard the saying, “Don’t rob the bank across from the diner that has the best donuts in three counties”?

2 Guns (2013)
(SPOILERS) Denzel Washington is such a reliable performer, that it can get a bit boring. You end up knowing every gesture or inflection in advance, whether he’s playing a good guy or a bad guy. And his films are generally at least half decent, so you end up seeing them. Even in Flight (or perhaps especially in Flight; just watch him chugging down that vodka) where he’s giving it his Oscar-nominatable best, he seems too familiar. I think it may be because he’s an actor who is more effective the less he does. In 2 Guns he’s not doing less, but sometimes it seems like it. That’s because the last person I’d ever expect blows him off the screen; Mark Wahlberg.

No one is very happy. Which means it's a good compromise, I suppose.

Game of Thrones  Season 8
(SPOILERS) How many TV series that rely on ongoing plotlines – which is most of them these days – have actually arrived at a wholly satisfying conclusion? As in, one that not only surprises but pays off the investment viewers have made over (maybe) seven or eight years? I can think of a few that shocked or dazzled (Angel, The Leftovers) and some that disappointed profoundly (Lost) but most often, they end on an “okay” (reasonably satisfying, if you like) rather than on a spectacular or, conversely, enormously disappointing note. Game of Thrones may not have paid off for many vocal fans who’d accept nothing less than note-perfect rendering of certain key desired developments, but much of the season unfolded in a manner that seemed just the kind of thing I would have expected; not, on the whole, shocking, blind-siding, or (give-or-take) spectacular, but okay, or reasonably satisfying.