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.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

He’s probably paranoid, high-strung, doesn’t like daylight. You know, has a lot of crumbs in his beard, if he has a beard.

Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) (SPOILERS) I’d like to report I had a blast with Godzilla vs. Kong . It’s lighter on its oversized, city-stomping feet than its slog of a MonsterVerse predecessor, Godzilla: King of the Monsters , and there are flashes of visual inspiration along with several engaging core ideas (which, to be fair, the series had already laid the seeds for). But this sequel still stumbles in its chief task: assembling an engaging, lively story that successfully integrates both tiny humans and towering titans.

Roswell was a smokescreen, we've had a half a dozen better salvage operations.

The X-Files 1.24: The Erlenmeyer Flask The Erlenmeyer Flask makes for a fast-paced, tense and eventful ride, but does it make any sense? That less than mattered at the time, but revisiting the mythology arc (for probably the fourth or fifth time) reveals increasingly tenuous internal coherence as the various conspiracy elements begin to pile up and the situations become ever-more convoluted. This will become the Chris Carter’s signature: don’t examine the details too closely, go with the flow. Trust Chris implicitly.

It's Dark Age, by Jupiter!

The Dig (2021) (SPOILERS) An account of the greatest archaeological find Britain would know until Professor Horner opened the barrow at Devil’s End. And should you scoff at such “ fiction ”, that’s nothing on this adaptation of John Preston’s 2007 novel concerning the Sutton Hoo excavations of the late 1930s. The Dig , as is the onus of any compelling fictional account, takes liberties with the source material, but the erring from the straight and narrow in this case is less an issue than the shift in focus from characters and elements successfully established during the first hour.

UFO IN MOSSINGHAM?

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (2020) (SPOILERS) One might reasonably suggest the recourse of the ailing or desperate franchise is to resort, seemingly out of nowhere, to space aliens. Even Police Academy didn’t go that far (to Moscow, yes, but not to space). Perhaps animators think kids have no skills of discernment and will swallow any old sugar-coated crap. Perhaps they don’t, and they will. Ice Age had been enjoying absurd success until Collision Course sent Scrat spinning into the cosmos and grosses tumbled. Shaun the Sheep has been around for a quarter of a century, but this is only his second movie outing and already he’s pulling an E.T. on us. Of course, this may all be part of the grand scheme, and Nick Park is simply doing his bit to familiarise the tots in time for Project Blue Beam.

You stink, my friend.

Mulan (2020) (SPOILERS) Let that be a lesson to Disney. It’s a fool’s errand to try and beat the Chinese at their own game, no matter how painstakingly respectful – or rather, pandering – you are. Indeed, Mulan ’s abysmal $40m box office take in the country – where it did get a proper release, so no plandemic excuses can be cited – feels like a direct rebuke; don’t try and tell us how to suck eggs. There’s an additional explanation too, of course. That Mulan sucks.

By heaven, I’d thrash the life out of you… if I didn’t have to read the Nine O’Clock News.

The Green Man (1956) (SPOILERS) The Green movie from Launder and Gilliat starring Alastair Sim that isn’t Green for Danger. Which is to say, The Green Man can’t quite scale the heady heights of that decade-earlier murder mystery triumph, but neither is it any slouch. Sim is the antagonist this time – albeit a very affable, Sim-ish one – and his sometime protégée, a young George Cole, the hero. If the plot is entirely absurd, Robert Day’s movie wastes no time probing such insufficiencies, ensuring it is very funny, lively and beautifully performed.

Suspicions of destiny. We all have them. A deep, wordless knowledge that our time has come.

Damien: Omen II (1978) (SPOILERS) There’s an undercurrent of unfulfilled potential with the Omen series, an opportunity to explore the machinations of the Antichrist and his minions largely ignored in favour of Final Destination deaths every twenty minutes or so. Of the exploration there is, however, the better part is found in Damien: Omen II , where we’re privy to the parallel efforts of a twelve or thirteen-year-old Damien at military school and those of Thorn Industries. The natural home of the diabolical is, after all, big business. Consequently, while this sequel is much less slick than the original, it is also more engaging dramatically.

A subterranean Loch Ness Monster?

Doctor Who The Silurians No, I’m not going to refer to The Silurians as Doctor Who and the Silurians . I’m going to refer to it as Doctor Who and the Eocenes . The Silurians plays a blinder. Because both this and Inferno know the secret of an extended – some might say overlong – story is to keep the plot moving, they barely drag at all and are consequently much fleeter of foot than many a four parter. Unlike Malcolm Hulke’s sequel The Sea Devils , The Silurians has more than enough plot and deals it out judiciously (the plague, when it comes, kicks the story up a gear at the precarious burn-out stage of a typical four-plus parter). What’s most notable, though, is how engaging those first four episodes are, building the story slowly but absorbingly and with persuasive confidence.

Well, I’ll be damned. It’s the gentleman guppy.

Waterworld (1995) (SPOILERS) The production and budgetary woes of “ Kevin’s Gate ” will forever overshadow the movie’s content (and while it may have been the most expensive movie ever to that point – adjusted for inflation, it seems only Cleopatra came close – it has since turned a profit). However, should you somehow manage to avoid the distraction of those legendary problems, the real qualitative concerns are sure to come sailing over the cognitive horizon eventually; Waterworld is just so damned derivative. It’s a seafaring Mad Max. Peter Rader, who first came up with the idea in 1986, admitted as much. David Twohy, who later came aboard, also cited Mad Max 2 ; that kind of rip-off aspect – Jaws birthing Piranha – makes it unsurprising Waterworld was once under consideration by Roger Corman (he couldn’t cost it cheaply enough). Ultimately, there’s never a sufficient sense the movie has managed to become its own thing. Which is a bummer, because it’s frequently quite good fun.

Farewell, dear shithead, farewell.

Highlander II: The Quickening (1991) (SPOILERS) I saw Highlander II: The Quickening at the cinema. Yes, I actually paid money to see one of the worst mainstream sequels ever on the big screen. I didn’t bother investigating the Director’s Cut until now, since the movie struck me as entirely unsalvageable. I was sufficiently disenchanted with all things Highlander that I skipped the TV series and slipshod sequels, eventually catching Christopher Lambert’s last appearance as Connor MacLeod in Highlander: End Game by accident rather than design. But Highlander II ’s on YouTube , and the quality is decent, so maybe the Director’s Cut improve matters and is worth a reappraisal? Not really. It’s still a fundamentally, mystifyingly botched retcon enabling the further adventures of MacLeod, just not quite as transparently shredded in the editing room.