Skip to main content

Always keep you bowler on in times of stress. And watch out for diabolical masterminds.

The Avengers
6.1: The Forget-Me-Knot

I’d best clear up one thing right away. I like Tara King. Maybe it was my age I first saw her (eleven or twelve) or being simultaneously made aware of how unbeatable Mrs Peel was, and thus hers was a period I could have for myself in some way, but I didn’t perceive the assumed drop in quality, and liked her slightly dappy, make-do quality. Of course, I can see “objectively” that the relationship with Steed isn’t a patch on that of Emma or Cathy, but its biggest failing is not that it isn’t a match of equals, but rather the attempt to impress a romantic twist upon it.


Tara: You didn’t say it.
Steed: Say what?
Tara: Rara-rara-boom di-ay.
Steed: I very seldom do.

Macnee admitted he wasn’t initially keen on Thorson’s casting, and purely on the basis of a few sums, he has a point. Blackman was a mere three years younger than Macnee, Rigg a more noticeable sixteen years his junior (that chemistry went along way to plug the gap). Thorson, however, was lagging a tender quarter of a century behind, with the result that anything beyond her idolising him to his bemusement comes across like a creepy uncle, or Sir Rog in For Your Eyes Only. It speaks volumes that she’s a year younger than Joanna Lumley, who played Purdey more age appropriately in The New Avengers, recognising Steed as very much her senior and so making her flirtatiousness a form of wistful doting. While Macnee quickly got on very well with Thorson, he remained unconvinced of the thrust of their relationship: “[Thorson]’s character loved Steed, but I always thought that was a bad idea. The show was so much better with Steed and his leading lady as sparring equals, without the woman being subservient. But with Linda, it leaned that way”.


The other factor that counts against Tara from the off is her theme. It’s a nice piece in and of itself, but it’s just too much in context, suggesting Tara is exploding with unbridled, sultry passion for Steed (and so the implication that it must be vice versa).


The Forget-Me-Knot generally seems to be regarded as a disappointment, making a scrappy show of sending off Emma and introducing Tara (and Mother). That’s fair, if you go in with unrealistic expectations; it’s certainly wafer thin in terms of plotting. But as light weight as it is, even by Avengers standards, there’s something very amiable about it, even – or perhaps especially – the dependence on lame amnesia gags and the complete lack of any coherence with regard to the hows and whys of the experiencer’s loss of memory. 


Emma: Certainly strange, that we both seem to be suffering from amnesia.
Mortimer: What’s amnesia?
Emma: Loss of memory.
Mortimer: Oh. Who’s lost their memory?
Emma: You have.
Mortimer: Oh, sorry. I’d forgotten.

There were rumours this was a cobbled-together piece of extant Season Five material, something Brian Clemens has denied, attesting that he wrote it up when he came in to replace John Bryce and it was decided a proper handover was needed. The result was Rigg’s material being filmed in a speedy four days, and for the most part sharing her scenes with Sean Mortimer (the very game Patrick Kavanagh, later Father Seamus Fitzpatrick in Father Ted). Mortimer, having discovered a traitor in the Organisation (that’s the one Steed works for), has been shot with a memory-removing dart of unspecific effect and duration, hence his being shot repeatedly throughout the episode, and kidnapped. 


Emma: I remember the name Steed.
Mortimer: So do I. That must be you then.
Emma: Well it must be me.

There’s nothing very highbrow about the exchanges and riffs between Mrs Peel and Mortimer, but Rigg and Kavanagh have decent comic chemistry, ensuring their extended stay in a cellar is quite breezy. The highlight might be a very silly sequence in which Sean stands on one leg, pulling a silly face to distract a henchman, with Emma proceeding to attack him and managing, in the process, to shoot Sean again.


Dr Soames: One drink too many. That’s what’s wrong with him. Give him a sedative.

Rather like the earlier 3.24: The Charmers and its remake 5.9: The Correct Way to Kill, this is a story where agents team up, although this time, they’re all on the same side. Tara is instantly in awe of Steed after attacking him while in training and can’t believe he’s guilty, so goes to his aid when he too is rendered amnesiac (a very dispassionate doctor – John Lee, 5.3: The Bird Who Knew Too Much – has no interest in what really may be ailing Steed) and put on the suspect list of being a defector. 


Steed: I knew it. The way I opened that lock. I’m a burglar.

Various elements of this don’t really work – why Tara feels she has to give him her address, other than it being Chekov’s Address, paying off in a later scene when he needs to find help but can’t remember anything; when Tara is inevitably shot, she turns into an automaton (“Sorry but it’s the rules”) in response to Steed’s pleas, which doesn’t make much sense – but I didn’t have a problem with her mix of resourcefulness and inexperience. And the brick in her handbag is a masterful touch.


Filson: Even the biggest idols can have feet of clay.

Less successful, depending on how you look at it, are the villains. Simon Filson (Jeremy Burnham, 4.1: The Town of No Return, 5.1: The Fear Merchants) is so obviously set up as the defector in Mother’s midst, until you find he isn’t, that he’s never a remotely satisfying red herring. You’re left asking the question, why is he such a bastard? As for George Burton (Jeremy Young, 4.22: A Touch of Brimstone, 5.10: Never, Never Say Die), there isn’t any backstory at all.


Mother: What’s Mortimer doing at your place?
Steed: Trying to remember. He seems to be suffering from some kind of amnesia.
Mother: Drugged?
Steed: Possibly.
Mother: Brainwashed?
Steed: Perhaps.
Mother: Cheers.
Steed: Cheers.

This is, of course, the first appearance by Patrick Newell (4.1: The Town of No Return, 5.14: Something Nasty in the Nursery) as Mother. So indelible a presence is he, I’d have likely sworn, before I revisited the show in the ‘90s, that he’d also appeared in the last Rigg series. Mother’s a bit more active here than he’ll later be, use ceiling grips to move around his room and fixing drinks himself (he’ll soon have an assistant to do that kind of business for him). He’s instantly such a – welcome – pillar of the proceedings that you wonder how the show ever got by without him.


Emma: And talking of forgetting, just remind me, are you the man who…
Steed: I’m afraid so.

And the fond farewell. While I’m considerably better disposed towards this episode than Avengers Forever, I do agree that the final Steed-Emma scene is in another league. Witty, silly, short and sweet. There’s whatever she whispers to him (above), offering one last piece of obligatory innuendo, and the reaction to the news that Peter Peel’s alive – “Air ace found in Amazonian Jungle”. But that’s merely a prelude to the wistful and wonderful final exchange:

Emma: Always keep you bowler on in times of stress. And watch out for diabolical masterminds.
Steed: I’ll remember. Emma. Thanks.


Steed dropping the formality for that one occasion, and then the punchline reveal: Peter Peel is the spit of John Steed!


It’s easy to understand why Emma’s replacement, based on Steed inviting Mother to choose (“You know my taste. I’ll trust your judgement”), caused disgruntlement with both fans and the main cast member, since Rigg was probably an impossible act to follow no matter who was settled on. As if in acknowledgment of this, the season’s (first set of) end titles aren’t nearly as good as the previous season’s; they’re trying a little too hard. That is, perhaps, the key. Rigg and Macnee made it look effortless. As appealing as the Tara King era can be, it’s never quite that.









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.

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.

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?

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.

Haven’t you ever heard of the healing power of laughter?

Batman (1989) (SPOILERS) There’s Jaws , there’s Star Wars , and then there’s Batman in terms of defining the modern blockbuster. Jaws ’ success was so profound, it changed the way movies were made and marketed. Batman’s marketing was so profound, it changed the way tentpoles would be perceived: as cash cows. Disney tried to reproduce the effect the following year with Dick Tracy , to markedly less enthusiastic response. None of this places Batman in the company of Jaws as a classic movie sold well, far from it. It just so happened to hit the spot. As Tim Burton put it, it was “ more of a cultural phenomenon than a great movie ”. It’s difficult to disagree with his verdict that the finished product (for that is what it is) is “ mainly boring ”. Now, of course, the Burton bat has been usurped by the Nolan incarnation (and soon the Snyder). They have some things in common. Both take the character seriously and favour a sombre tone, which was much more of shock to the

You think a monkey knows he’s sitting on top of a rocket that might explode?

The Right Stuff (1983) (SPOILERS) While it certainly more than fulfils the function of a NASA-propaganda picture – as in, it affirms the legitimacy of their activities – The Right Stuff escapes the designation of rote testament reserved for Ron Howard’s later Apollo 13 . Partly because it has such a distinctive personality and attitude. Partly too because of the way it has found its through line, which isn’t so much the “wow” of the Space Race and those picked to be a part of it as it is the personification of that titular quality in someone who wasn’t even in the Mercury programme: Chuck Yaeger (Sam Shephard). I was captivated by The Right Stuff when I first saw it, and even now, with the benefit of knowing-NASA-better – not that the movie is exactly extolling its virtues from the rooftops anyway – I consider it something of a masterpiece, an interrogation of legends that both builds them and tears them down. The latter aspect doubtless not NASA approved.

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.

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 .

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 ”?

You’d be surprised how many intersectional planes of untethered consciousness exist.

Moon Knight (2022) (SPOILERS) Now, this is an interesting one. Not because it’s very good – Phase IV MCU? Hah! – but because it presents its angle on the “superhero” ethos in an almost entirely unexpurgated, unsoftened way. Here is a character explicitly formed through the procedures utilised by trauma-based mind control, who has developed alters – of which he has been, and some of which he remains, unaware – and undergone training/employment in the military and private mercenary sectors (common for MKUltra candidates, per Dave McGowan’s Programmed to Kill ). And then, he’s possessed by what he believes to be a god in order to carry out acts of extreme violence. So just the sort of thing that’s good, family, DisneyPlus+ viewing.