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

I just hope my death makes more cents than my life.

Joker (2019)
(SPOILERS) So the murder sprees didn’t happen, and a thousand puff pieces desperate to fan the flames of such events and then told-ya-so have fallen flat on their faces. The biggest takeaway from Joker is not that the movie is an event, when once that seemed plausible but not a given, but that any mainstream press perspective on the picture appears unable to divorce its quality from its alleged or actual politics. Joker may be zeitgeisty, but isn’t another Taxi Driver in terms of cultural import, in the sense that Taxi Driver didn’t have a Taxi Driver in mind when Paul Schrader wrote it. It is, if you like, faux-incendiary, and can only ever play out on that level. It might be more accurately described as a grubbier, grimier (but still polished and glossy) The Talented Ripley, the tale of developing psychopathy, only tailored for a cinemagoing audience with few options left outside of comic book fare.

Dude. You’re my hero and shit.

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)
(SPOILERS) I was going to say I’d really like to see what Vince Gilligan has up his sleeve besidesBreaking Bad spinoffs. But then I saw that he had a short-lived series on CBS a few years back (Battle Creek). I guess things Breaking Bad-related ensure an easy greenlight, particularly from Netflix, for whom the original show was bread and butter in its take up as a streaming platform. There’s something slightly dispiriting about El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, though. Not that Gilligan felt the need to return to Jesse Pinkman – although the legitimacy of that motive is debatable – but the desire to re-enter and re-inhabit the period of the show itself, as if he’s unable to move on from a near-universally feted achievement and has to continually exhume it and pick it apart.

Two hundred thousand pounds, for this outstanding example of British pulchritude and learning.

The Avengers 4.18: The Girl From Auntie
I’ve mentioned that a few of these episodes have changed in my appreciation since I last watched the series, and The Girl from Auntie constitutes a very pronounced uptick. Indeed, I don’t know how I failed to rate highly the estimable Liz Fraser filling in for Diana Rigg – mostly absent, on holiday –for the proceedings (taking a not dissimilar amateur impostor-cum-sidekick role to Fenella Fielding in the earlier The Charmers). I could watch Fraser all day, and it’s only a shame this was her single appearance in the show.

The past is a statement. The future is a question.

Justified Season Six
(SPOILERS) There have been more than enough damp squib or so-so show finales of late to have greeted the demise of Justified with some trepidation. Thankfully it avoids almost every pitfall it might have succumbed to and gives us a satisfying send-off that feels fitting for its characters. This is a series that, even at its weakest (the previous season) is leagues ahead of most fare in an increasingly saturated sphere, so it’s a relief – even if there was never much doubt on past form – that it doesn’t drop the ball.

And of those character fates? In a show that often pulls back from giving Raylan Givens the great hero moments (despite his maintaining a veneer of ultra-cool, and getting “supporting hero” moments as he does in the finale, 6.13 The Promise), it feels appropriate that his entire (stated) motivation for the season should be undermined. He doesn’t get to take down Boyd Crowder, except in an incarcerating sense, but as always he is sanguine about it. After…

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…

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.

Poor Easy Breezy.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)
(SPOILERS) My initial reaction to Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was mild disbelief that Tarantino managed to hoodwink studios into coming begging to make it, so wilfully perverse is it in disregarding any standard expectations of narrative or plotting. Then I remembered that studios, or studios that aren’t Disney, are desperate for product, and more especially, product that might guarantee them a hit. Quentin’s latest appears to be that, but whether it’s a sufficient one to justify the expense of his absurd vanity project remains to be seen.

What you do is very baller. You're very anarchist.

Lady Bird (2017)
(SPOILERS) You can see the Noah Baumbach influence on Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, with whom she collaborated on Frances Ha; an intimate, lo-fi, post-Woody Allen (as in, post-feted, respected Woody Allen) dramedy canvas that has traditionally been the New Yorker’s milieu. But as an adopted, spiritual New Yorker, I suspect Gerwig honourably qualifies, even as Lady Bird is a love letter/ nostalgia trip to her home city of Sacramento.

You’re only seeing what’s in front of you. You’re not seeing what’s above you.

Mr. Robot Season 2
(SPOILERS) I suspect my problem with Mr. Robot may be that I want it to be something it isn’t, which would entail it being a much better show than it is. And that’s its own fault, really, or rather creator and writer-director of umpteen episodes Sam Esmail’s, who has intentionally and provocatively lured his audience into thinking this really is an up-to-the-minute, pertinent, relevant, zeitgeisty show, one that not only has a huge amount to say about the illusory nature of our socio-economic system, and consequently the bedrock of our collective paradigm, but also the thorny subject of reality itself, both of which have been variably enticing dramatic fodder since the Wachowski siblings and David Fincher released a one-two punch at the end of the previous millennium.

In that sense, Mr. Robot’s thematic conceit is very much of a piece with its narrative form; it’s a conjuring act, a series of sleights of hand designed to dazzle the viewer into going with the flow, rath…

It’s the Mount Everest of haunted houses.

The Legend of Hell House (1973)
(SPOILERS) In retrospect, 1973 looks like a banner year for the changing face of the horror movie. The writing was on the wall for Hammer, which had ruled the roost in Britain for so long, and in the US the release of The Exorcist completed a transformation of the genre that had begun with Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby; the realistic horror film, where the terror was to be found in the everyday (the home, the family). Then there was Don’t Look Now, which refracted horror tropes through a typically Nic Roeg eye, fracturing time and vision in a meditative exploration of death and grief. The Wicker Man, meanwhile, would gather its reputation over the passing years. It stands as a kind of anti-horror movie, eschewing standard scares and shock tactics for a dawning realisation of the starkness of opposing belief systems and the fragility of faith.

In comparison to this trio, The Legend of Hell House is something of a throwback; its slightly stagey tone, and cobweb…