Skip to main content

Now then, you show nanny where you keep those pretty little missiles.

The Avengers
5.14: Something Nasty in the Nursery

Once Upon a Time, the penultimate episode of The Prisoner, sprang to mind more than once while rewatching Something Nasty in the Nursery, with its regressed adults and distorted guitar twangs announcing the sinister. It's very nearly a great episode, the only thing letting it down being the lack of any rug pull or shift in perspective beyond the initial setup.


Mr GoatI can guess why you’re here.
SteedYou can?
Mr GoatAn aura of proud fatherhood surrounds you.

What it has in spades is style, very much of a woozy, psychedelic lilt thanks to James Hill's impeccable direction (he might be the most consistently impressive of the series' returning craftsmen). From the moment Wilmot (Dennis Chinnery, Gharman in Genesis of the Daleks, as well as appearing in The Chase and The Twin Dilemma) picks up a bouncy ball – baby bouncers – and the screen becomes a swirl off hypnotic blue and  yellow, accompanied by nursery rhyme music, we know we're in good hands. 


WilmotMinisters of the Crown, my colleagues, personal friends.
SteedIt's ridiculous.
WilmotQuite, these men are from the best families. They're British to the core!

Rather like What the Butler Saw, the setup finds suspicion falling on three individuals when vital defence secrets are known to be leaking. And at least two of them are very familiar faces, Paul Eddington's Beaumont (2.17: Immortal Clay – The Good Life co-star Penelope Keith is credited as Nanny Brown) and Patrick Newell's Sir George "Georgy Porgy" Collins (4.1: The Town of No Return, Mother-to-be, of course, The Android Invasion). There's also Webster (Paul Hardwick). 


The ruse, as (over-) elaborated by Mr Goat (great name, memorably played by Dudley Foster – the crazy dentist in 4.14: The Hour That Never Was, Cavan in The Space Pirates, and here memorably sinister in a Norman Bates kind of way as alter ego Nanny Roberts) to someone who knows full-well anyway; it requires the handling of a baby bouncer, whereby, "Absorbed into the skin, this drug produces feelings of infancy. But the memory remains unaffected, enhanced even, as long as they feel secure". And susceptible to being asked questions about top secret information. 



Mr GoatNow then, you show nanny where you keep those pretty little missiles.

Eddington and Newell, in particular, give commendably infantile performances ("Here cuddles. Come here. Here’s a good boy"), and there are some quality moments with our lead duo, Emma coming under the influence and a fake-out where Steed is assumed to be likewise (except he's wearing gloves, pretending he’s been dosed, and proceeds to rip up the map showing the locations of those pretty little missiles).


The episode features a number of incidental pleasures, including Steed's visit to Old Martin's Toy Shop ("Toys for the offspring of the nobility"), where there’s disappointment that, even though he’s gentry, he isn't landed – as Avengers Forever points out, Mrs Peel doesn't take that particular trip, as teased by the opening haiku – a sequence in which Gordon (Trevor Bannister as a loathsomely enthusiastic heavy) attempts to run Emma down, and Mr Martin's (Clive Dunn, 47 but playing 20 years older, and sans moustache) death via gun-in-a-box. 


There's also an attempt on Steed's life with a bomb that ends up in his tuba, which is unceremoniously straightened for a resultant sight gag. And Steed is left with a coterie of mewling babes, none of whom are ultimately revealed to be real (they're dummies in the prams); "Ah, just like you. You'd make a dreadful daddy" chides Emma on entering.


The crimes are at the behest of GONN (the Guild of Noble Nannies), not one of the best acronyms. The "Mrs Peel we're…" comes via a children's carousel, while the coda finds the duo self-reflexively crystal gazing ("I see some writing. It says 'Watch next week' "), as Steed leads off with some cryptically unanswered insights into the fathomless depths. 



















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

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

We live in a twilight world.

Tenet (2020)
(SPOILERS) I’ve endured a fair few confusingly-executed action sequences in movies – more than enough, actually – but I don’t think I’ve previously had the odd experience of being on the edge of my seat during one while simultaneously failing to understand its objectives and how those objectives are being attempted. Which happened a few times during Tenet. If I stroll over to the Wiki page and read the plot synopsis, it is fairly explicable (fairly) but as a first dive into this Christopher Nolan film, I frequently found it, if not impenetrable, then most definitely opaque.

She was addicted to Tums for a while.

Marriage Story (2019)
(SPOILERS) I don’t tend to fall heavily for Noah Baumbach fare. He’s undoubtedly a distinctive voice – even if his collaborations with Wes Anderson are the least of that director’s efforts – but his devotion to an exclusive, rarefied New York bubble becomes ever more off-putting with each new project. And ever more identifiable as being a lesser chronicler of the city’s privileged quirks than his now disinherited forbear Woody Allen, who at his peak mastered a balancing act between the insightful, hilarious and self-effacing. Marriage Story finds Baumbach going yet again where Woody went before, this time brushing up against the director’s Ingmar Bergman fixation.

You can’t climb a ladder, no. But you can skip like a goat into a bar.

Juno and the Paycock (1930)
(SPOILERS) Hitchcock’s second sound feature. Such was the lustre of this technological advance that a wordy play was picked. By Sean O’Casey, upon whom Hitchcock based the prophet of doom at the end of The Birds. Juno and the Paycock, set in 1922 during the Irish Civil War, begins as a broad comedy of domestic manners, but by the end has descended into full-blown Greek (or Catholic) tragedy. As such, it’s an uneven but still watchable affair, even if Hitch does nothing to disguise its stage origins.

Anything can happen in Little Storping. Anything at all.

The Avengers 2.22: Murdersville
Brian Clemens' witty take on village life gone bad is one of the highlights of the fifth season. Inspired by Bad Day at Black Rock, one wonders how much Murdersville's premise of unsettling impulses lurking beneath an idyllic surface were set to influence both Straw Dogs and The Wicker Mana few years later (one could also suggest it premeditates the brand of backwoods horrors soon to be found in American cinema from the likes of Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper).

The protocol actually says that most Tersies will say this has to be a dream.

Jupiter Ascending (2015)
(SPOILERS) The Wachowski siblings’ wildly patchy career continues apace. They bespoiled a great thing with The Matrix sequels (I liked the first, not the second), misfired with Speed Racer (bubble-gum visuals aside, hijinks and comedy ain’t their forte) and recently delivered the Marmite Sense8 for Netflix (I was somewhere in between on it). Their only slam-dunk since The Matrix put them on the movie map is Cloud Atlas, and even that’s a case of rising above its limitations (mostly prosthetic-based). Jupiter Ascending, their latest cinema outing and first stab at space opera, elevates their lesser works by default, however. It manages to be tone deaf in all the areas that count, and sadly fetches up at the bottom of their filmography pile.

This is a case where the roundly damning verdicts have sadly been largely on the ball. What’s most baffling about the picture is that, after a reasonably engaging set-up, it determinedly bores the pants off you. I haven’t enco…

James Bond. You appear with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season.

Moonraker (1979)
Depending upon your disposition, and quite possibly age, Moonraker is either the Bond film that finally jumped the shark or the one that is most gloriously redolent of Roger Moore’s knowing take on the character. Many Bond aficionados will no doubt utter its name with thinly disguised contempt, just as they will extol with gravity how Timothy Dalton represented a masterful return to the core values of the series. If you regard For Your Eyes Only as a refreshing return to basics after the excesses of the previous two entries, and particularly the space opera grandstanding of this one, it’s probably fair to say you don’t much like Roger Moore’s take on Bond.

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.

My dear, sweet brother Numsie!

The Golden Child (1986)
Post-Beverly Hills Cop, Eddie Murphy could have filmed himself washing the dishes and it would have been a huge hit. Which might not have been a bad idea, since he chose to make this misconceived stinker.

He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
(1982)
(SPOILERS) I don’t love Star Trek, but I do love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That probably isn’t just me, but a common refrain of many a non-devotee of the series. Although, it used to apply to The Voyage Home (the funny one, with the whales, the Star Trek even the target audience for Three Men and a Baby could enjoy). Unfortunately, its high regard has also become the desperate, self-destructive, song-and-verse, be-all-and-end-all of the overlords of the franchise itself, in whichever iteration, it seems. This is understandable to an extent, as Khan is that rare movie sequel made to transcendent effect on almost every level, and one that stands the test of time every bit as well (better, even) as when it was first unveiled.

I don’t think you will see President Pierce again.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
(SPOILERS) The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and other tall tales of the American frontier is the title of "the book" from which the Coen brothers' latest derives, and so announces itself as fiction up front as heavily as Fargo purported to be based on a true story. In the world of the portmanteau western – has there even been one before? – theme and content aren't really all that distinct from the more familiar horror collection, and as such, these six tales rely on sudden twists or reveals, most of them revolving around death. And inevitably with the anthology, some tall tales are stronger than other tall tales, the former dutifully taking up the slack.