Skip to main content

I'm not Pandora. I'm not!

The Avengers
6.28: Pandora

Pandora seems to be a somewhat divisive episode, with complaints ranging from it being atypical to rather dull. I might agree on the former, tonally, as it bears more semblance to a horror tale than an Avengers. That said, it recalls both 5.2: Escape in Time and Avengers girls isolated and in peril in a strange house yarns (3.7: Don’t Look Behind You, 5.15: The Joker). As to it being dull, I tended to being lukewarm on those previous excursions, but I found this one wholly compelling.


That said, I do have a couple of gripes. It’s appalling to cast John Laurie (2.11: Death of a Great Dane, 3.2: Brief for Murder, 5.13: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Station) in his last appearance in the series, and then kill him off. Indeed, it’s a sign of how well this drew me in that I got over the shock (obviously, I’ve seen these before, several times, but memory of his fate had escaped me). 


Then there’s the clunky exposition inserted by Brian Clemens at two different points, slightly diminishing an otherwise first-rate teleplay; “You were the one who found the photograph” explains Rupert (Julian Glover, 4.11: Two’s a Crowd, 5.7: The Living Dead, 6.4: Split!) to his Ministry brother Henry (James Cossins) in front of a drugged-up Tara. Later we get exactly the same thing: “You remember your promise, uncle. She’s back” implores a beside-himself Rupert, his plan to convince Uncle Gregory (Peter Madden, 1.13: One for the Mortuary, 4.9: Room Without a View) that Tara is his long-lost love Pandora apparently having succeeded, and a fortune beckoning.


Juniper: I want to see your uncle now, immediately. It concerns Pandora.
Rupert: You know of Pandora?
Juniper: Well, let’s just say, I knew of your uncle’s obsession.

But the construction is generally expert. Henry’s key role in the Ministry is a convenience, but as Controller it allows him to throw Steed and Mother off the scent of WWI operative The Fierce Rabbit; there were three, one of whom was Laurie’s Juniper, one was old soak Hubert Pettigrew (Anthony Roye) and the other is announced as dead (actually the living Gregory Lasindall). 


And Cossins is pitch perfect as the reluctant, put-upon inferior sibling, making his unconscionable behaviour believable. Glover is, accordingly, a blast as the dominant brother of the two, easily the best role he’s had in the series. 


They’re ably supported by Kathleen Byron (Black Narcissus, Clonemaster Fen in Weapon) as Miss Faversham, giving it a suitably unsettling gothic quality as the housekeeper (there’s a particularly good moment where she says she’ll be expecting her payment when the job’s over, and you know Rupert’s going to get rid of her the same way he did the snooping Juniper).


Rupert: We have a lot to do tonight, Henry.
Henry: Juniper’s body?
Rupert: Must be disposed of. And of course, we must think about killing Miss King.

While Steed shows up to save the day, of course, neither he nor Tara are instrumental in foiling the villains; rather neatly, they bring it on themselves in a clever twist whereby Gregory feebly tells Rupert the fortune is behind the portrait of Pandora. He duly tears the back off, and then, finding nothing, shreds the picture with a knife, before Gregory adds “There it is, a priceless Rembrandt” ruined beneath. A lovely bit of poetic justice. 


Thorson’s really good as the out-of-it damsel in distress, undergoing an attempt to convince her she’s woken up as Pandora in 1915. Albeit, she doesn’t have much to do apart from being drugged and repeating “Tara. Tara King. My name is Tara King”. But the quality that really makes the episode distinct is how well it works as mostly a two-hander between Glover and Cossins. 


Steed: It’s like the augmented London Philharmonic playing the Thunder and Lightning Polka with real thunder!

We don’t see Mother at an HQ this time; Steed cut short his boss’s jaunt in an inaccessible hot air balloon. The coda finds Steed suffering the chimes of an antique clock he’s been given by Tara; an amusing end to an episode that otherwise stands as one of the most fraught for any Avenger.











Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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…

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Everyone wants a happy ending and everyone wants closure but that's not the way life works out.

It Chapter Two (2019)
(SPOILERS) An exercise in stultifying repetitiveness, It Chapter Two does its very best to undo all the goodwill engendered by the previous instalment. It may simply be that adopting a linear approach to the novel’s interweaving timelines has scuppered the sequel’s chances of doing anything the first film hasn’t. Oh, except getting rid of Pennywise for good, which you’d be hard-pressed to discern as substantially different to the CGI-infused confrontation in the first part, Native American ritual aside.

That woman, deserves her revenge and… we deserve to die. But then again, so does she.

Kill Bill: Vol. 2  (2004)
(SPOILERS) I’m not sure I can really conclude whether one Kill Bill is better than the other, since I’m essentially with Quentin in his assertion that they’re one film, just cut into two for the purposes of a selling point. I do think Kill Bill: Vol. 2 has the movie’s one actually interesting character, though, and I’m not talking David Carradine’s title role.

Do you read Sutter Cane?

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
(SPOILERS) The concluding chapter of John Carpenter’s unofficial Apocalypse Trilogy (preceded by The Thing and Prince of Darkness) is also, sadly, his last great movie. Indeed, it stands apart in the qualitative wilderness that beset him during the ‘90s (not for want of output). Michael De Luca’s screenplay had been doing the rounds since the ‘80s, even turned down by Carpenter at one point, and it proves ideal fodder for the director, bringing out the best in him. Even cinematographer Gary K Kibbe seems inspired enough to rise to the occasion. It could do without the chugging rawk soundtrack, perhaps, but then, that was increasingly where Carpenter’s interests resided (as opposed to making decent movies).

When you grow up, if you still feel raw about it, I’ll be waiting.

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
(SPOILERS) It sometimes seems as if Quentin Tarantino – in terms of his actual movies, rather than nearly getting Uma killed in an auto stunt – is the last bastion of can-do-no-wrong on the Internet. Or at very least has the preponderance of its vocal weight behind him. Back when his first two movies proper were coming out, so before online was really a thing, I’d likely have agreed, but by about the time the Kill Bills arrived, I’d have admitted I was having serious pause about him being all he was cracked up to be. Because the Kill Bills aren’t very good, and they’ve rather characterised his hermetically sealed wallowing in obscure media trash and genre cul-de-sacs approach to his art ever since. Sometimes to entertaining effect, sometimes less so, but always ever more entrenching his furrow; as Neil Norman note in his Evening Standard review, “Tarantino has attempted (and largely succeeded) in making a movie whose only reality is that of celluloid”. Extend t…

Check it out. I wonder if BJ brought the Bear with him.

Death Proof (2007)
(SPOILERS) In a way, I’m slightly surprised Tarantino didn’t take the opportunity to disown Death Proof, to claim that, as part of Grindhouse, it was no more one of his ten-official-films-and-out than his Four Rooms segment. But that would be to spurn the exploitation genre affectation that has informed everything he’s put his name to since Kill Bill, to a greater or less extent, and also require him to admit that he was wrong, and you won’t find him doing that for anything bar My Best Friend’s Birthday.

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.

Just because you are a character doesn't mean that you have character.

Pulp Fiction (1994)
(SPOILERS) From a UK perspective, Pulp Fiction’s success seemed like a fait accompli; Reservoir Dogs had gone beyond the mere cult item it was Stateside and impacted mainstream culture itself (hard to believe now that it was once banned on home video); it was a case of Tarantino filling a gap in the market no one knew was there until he drew attention to it (and which quickly became over-saturated with pale imitators subsequently). Where his debut was a grower, Pulp Fiction hit the ground running, an instant critical and commercial success (it won the Palme d’Or four months before its release), only made cooler by being robbed of the Best Picture Oscar by Forrest Gump. And unlike some famously-cited should-have-beens, Tarantino’s masterpiece really did deserve it.