Skip to main content

Don’t fight it, Mrs Peel. We’re inseparable.


The Avengers
Season 5 Ranked - Worst to Best

Season Five is arguably The Avengers season where the show achieved its greatest visibility – now in full colour, Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg returning as its most formidable partnership – but also one that experienced a slight slip in quality from what is rightly regarded as the previous year's pinnacle. There’s little in the way of outright turkeys here – it has that much in common with Season Four – but fewer outright gems too.

24. The See-Through Man

Brodny! That wacky Russian, he’s so funny. No, not really, although there's no denying Warren Mitchell's chemistry with Macnee. The invisibility plotline, in a season divided between actual science-fiction premises and fake-out ones, fits comfortably into the latter.


23. The Positive-Negative Man

Whereas this one, with Michael Latimer painted green and electrocuting people, appeals to the former. A bit dull, despite some cartoonishly victim-shaped impact craters.


22. The £50,000 Breakfast

Redundant remake of Season Two's Death of a Great Dane, most notable for a cameo by Anneke "Polly" Wills (Dressed to Kill).


21. The Fear Merchants

Patrick Cargill's cool shades and minimalist office space only go so far in making up for a fairly standard murder-for-hire yarn.

20. Escape in Time

Peter Bowles is a winner, as is the time-tunnel effect, but you know this is a scam almost from the first, which makes much of the proceedings feel like they're treading water.


19. Never, Never Say Die

About as sci-fi as the show gets, with several Christopher Lees running around and a plot that's pretty much a robot version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It's all rather dry, unfortunately, and double the Lee would only pay off if he were well used.


18. The Joker

Another remake, of Don't Look Behind You this time, benefiting from strong production design and the commanding presences of Ronald Lacey and Peter Jeffrey, but it’s a story – Avengers girl in peril in an empty house – that has been overdone already prior to this instalment (and it won’t be the last of them).


17. Return of the Cybernauts

The second sequel of the season (if you count Brodny's return as the first) with Peter Cushing's stock villain out for revenge and wooing Mrs Peel. It's more engaging than the original, but that's still not quite enough.


16. The Bird Who Knew Too Much

Reasonably diverting spy fare in which Ron Moody's parrot passes secrets to the enemy. Emma and Steed pose for Kenneth Cope while a couple of vicious killers add an unpleasant streak. Like much of the season, you get the feeling other episodes have done this better.


15. The Correct Way to Kill

A remake of The Charmers, and I'm not being a purist by rating the originals as superior to the Season Four versions in each case (particularly since I first saw this season long before the Cathy Gale episodes); the school for killers is a serviceable idea, but the positives of Philip Madoc and Anna Quayle (Olga from the Volga) have to be balanced against the disappointments of Michael Gough and Terence Alexander.


14. Mission… Highly Improbable

Steed gets shrunk, Emma gets shrunk, and an over-sized desktop set gets a good work out. For all the conscious absurdity of the premise, it probably doesn’t revel in its potential for silliness quite enough. The villain, meanwhile, has a disturbingly offhand manner in disposing of his miniaturised victims.


13. You Have Just Been Murdered

A rarity in that the gag title premise doesn’t wear thin, as Simon Oates repeatedly doesn't kill his bribery victims (until he does). Also present and correct: various attempts at double crosses, Mrs Peel getting some quality riverside action, and a villain who lives in a haystack.


12. The Living Dead

One of the season's fake SF/fantasy episodes, although the Bond villain plot to take over the country via an army beneath a sleepy rural town, complete with Julian Glover in a Fahrenheit 451 hat, goes some way to compensate for the absence of actual ghosts. Particularly notable for an extreme burst of ultra-violence on Emma's part.


11. The Hidden Tiger

Killer cats played out surprisingly effectively, thanks to Sidney Havers' stylish attack sequences. Notable too for Ronnie Barker's comic relief, Rigg's catfight with Gabrielle Drake and some shameless wordplay ("Mrs Peel! Pussies galore!")


10. Death's Door

Effectively trippy dream sequences (those faceless reporters) supporting an intriguing if ultimately implausible how-did-they-do-that, all in aid of an attempt to confound a European peace conference (imagine that). Includes a tense scene where Steed ends up as target practice. That would be Sidney Havers directing again.


9. Something Nasty in the Nursery

More messing with subjective reality for devious ends, as politicians are reduced to infantile states in order to persuade them to offer up secrets. Particularly unnerving amidst the regressed adults is Dudley Foster's Nanny Roberts.


8. From Venus With Love

Space visitors killing members of the British Venusian Society? A bright selection of supporting players (Jon Pertwee, Jeremy Lloyd's chimney sweep Bert Smith - "Actually, it's Bertram Fortescue Winthrop Smyth. To be absolutely accurate") and a mastermind whose identity isn't unveiled until quite late in the game add to the appeal.


7. Epic

Emma under pressure and Brian Clemens working with what's on hand at Elstree result in a mostly inspired riff on the motion picture business as Jason Wyngarde takes full advantage of the opportunity to devour scenery at every turn.


6. Who's Who???

Body swap tales can be a desperate fall-back option for creatively bereft staff, but this one's largely a success thanks to the performances of Freddie Jones and Patricia Haines. Only Macnee as Jones doesn’t quite convince.


5. The Superlative Seven

The familiar Agatha Christie (and Dressed to Kill) structure can't diminish this one, thanks to a colourful supporting cast (Brian Blessed, Donald Sutherland, Charlotte Rampling, John Hollis) and an effective reinvention of the story, rather than the kind of straight retelling that has dampened other remakes this season.


4. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Station

Always welcome Avengers guest star John Laurie steals the show as a railway enthusiast, but this episode chugs along very pleasingly on all accounts; particularly winning are the exchanges between a captive Steed and James Hayer's Ticket Inspector.


3. Murdersville

A visit to Little Storping In-the Swuff finds Emma at the mercy of a murderous free-for-all, with a particularly unpleasant Colin Blakely. Indeed, if not for his lack of comeuppance – a pie in the face hardly counts – this would have full marks.


2. The Winged Avenger.

Ee-urp!


1. Dead Man's Treasure

An infectiously frivolous, summery jaunt as a Laurie Johnson provides an indelible musical accompaniment to a race round the countryside. Emma and Steed and are mixed and matched with guest co-drivers as dirty tricks abound. Reeks of effortless '60s cool.



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.