Skip to main content

Would you care to remark upon the remarkability?

The Avengers
6.4: Split!

The opening teaser can go a long way to cementing an Avengers as a good ‘un in the memory, but it can also be just about all there is to a story. Such is the case with Split! in which, once you’ve seen Mercer (Maurice Good, 1.10: Hunt the Man Down, 3.7: Don’t Look Behind You, The New AvengersForward Base) hear the name Boris, undergo a personality change (the clawed hand!) and shoot his Ministry of Top-Secret Intelligence (the name’s probably the funniest part of the episode) colleague Compton (Iain Anders), it’s pretty clear what’s up. The only variable is quite how science fiction the explanation is, and in this case it’s very.


Steed: What have you done to your hand?
Mercer: A legacy from Berlin, October ’63.
Steed: Really?

Brian Clemens’ quickly-penned teleplay is also not so far from Spock’s Brain in terms of silliness. Boris Kartovski (Steven Scott, 1.13: One for the Mortuary, 1.26: Dragonsfield, 3.13: Second Sight – the name Boris Kartovski also featured in 4.22: A Touch of Brimstone) was shot in the heart by Steed, in 1963 Berlin, but he survived thanks to Dr Constantine’s (Bernard Archard, 4.3: The Master Minds) skills, putting him on ice and perfecting (well, never quite perfecting) the ability to place his mind in another’s body. Scott is good value in a performance that’s all eye movement, and sometimes lascivious eye movement at that, even if he looks a little like Mo out of The Three Stooges


Rooke: Perfect! I am the perfect prototype.

The episode’s structured such that whoever the latest incumbent “Boris” is must kill the one who isn’t “taking” and is becoming a liability. So Mercer is shot by Lord Barnes (Nigel Davenport, 4.21: The Danger Makers) and Barnes by Rooke (Julian Glover). Being Julian Glover, naturally he needs to be a bad guy, although he shoots Barnes while he’s still a good guy. His struggle for control at the climax is a particularly strong little scene, begging Steed to dispose of him (“Kill you old chap? I’d rather cure you”). 


Dr Constantine: He wants you to stand where he can see you. He was always one for a pretty woman. His appetite was remarkable, voracious. And he could be cruel. So cruel.

The mind transference also inserts a rather unpleasant rape subtext, with the prospect of Tara becoming host for Boris. Constantine tells her “You will feel no pain, Miss King, no pain at all. Unless you decided to fight it. Then your pain will be considerable” while, as the process is underway, Tarvovski is mock warned “Boris, don’t forget you’re dealing with a lady. Think some nice thoughts”. Steed saves her, of course (“I can’t promise you’ll play the violin again”), but Hinnell (John G Heller 4.12: Man-Eater of Surrey Green, 5.9: The Correct Way to Kill) contriving to shoot Constantine, the dolt, isn’t the most satisfying of solutions.


Tara: Clearly, he is highly intelligent, Strong weak, happy sad, carefree anxious man.
Steed: Is that a fact?
Tara: No I made it up.

Also dissatisfying is that, while we as the audience are way ahead, everyone else is required to be desperately slow. Since the plot is very linear, with little intrigue, it can only be the method by which the villains are doing what they’re doing that’s a surprise, and it wouldn’t be to anyone who’s seen a few science-fiction shows. Tara’s suspicious of Mercer from the start, stealing his report and getting his handwriting analysed, but it still takes a long time (“Brutal extrovert, man who will stop at nothing is a first-class description of Boris Tarkovski”) to put the pieces together (“I was feeling a bit extrovert” says Lord Barnes on smashing a glass in the fireplace).


Swindin: Wemarkable. Quite Wemarkable. Wemarkably Wemarkable.
Steed: Would you care to remark upon the remarkability?
Swindin: Yes, I would.

Still, Christopher Benjamin (JJ Hooter in 4.14: How to Succeed… At Murder, 5.10: Never, Never Say Die) supplies a reliably eccentric turn in the form of handwriting expert Swindin, and there’s a few nice conceits at the ministry (passes must be shown every ten feet of corridor). On the whole, Split! is a more serious-minded story, Clemens and co taking up the baton from the previous short-lived guard, but those tend to work when there’s some mystery or tension to keep the story going, and this one peters out quickly; the idea was much better applied, and more humorously, in 5.16: Who’s Who?


Tara: For a moment I wondered who had gotten into you.

The coda has Steed doing some amusing mugging of a personality change when getting into his suit (with an accompanying music cue) and providing champagne rather than Tara’s preference of ice, grenadine, sake, crème de Violette, calvados, Devonshire cream and an unripened strawberry.









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).

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.

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…

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.

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.

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.

When I barked, I was enormous.

Dean Spanley (2008)
(SPOILERS) There is such a profusion of average, respectable – but immaculately made – British period drama held up for instant adulation, it’s hardly surprising that, when something truly worthy of acclaim comes along, it should be singularly ignored. To be fair, Dean Spanleywas well liked by critics upon its release, but its subsequent impact has proved disappointingly slight. Based on Lord Dunsany’s 1939 novella, My Talks with Dean Spanley, our narrator relates how the titular Dean’s imbibification of a moderate quantity of Imperial Tokay (“too syrupy”, is the conclusion reached by both members of the Fisk family regarding this Hungarian wine) precludes his recollection of a past life as a dog. 

Inevitably, reviews pounced on the chance to reference Dean Spanley as a literal shaggy dog story, so I shall get that out of the way now. While the phrase is more than fitting, it serves to underrepresent how affecting the picture is when it has cause to be, as does any re…