Skip to main content

My security device is now primed. I will give audible warning of any unauthorised contact.

The Avengers
6.24: Take Me to Your Leader

Terry Nation hits another bullseye – or near enough – with Take Me to Your Leader, in which he shrewdly uses a similar “trail of suspects” approach to previous winner Legacy of Death, as Steed and Tara are required to navigate a suitcase – one that provides the bearer with instructions – to its owner when – in theory – it’s required to be passed from enemy agent contact to enemy agent contact in relay. It isn’t perhaps as uproarious as his previous teleplay, but more than makes up for it in inventiveness.


Andrews: Who have you got out there? The invisible man?

It’s a means of transmitting vital secrets used by the other side, although it seems in this instance, it contains half a million in notes. The first contact turns out to be a dog, and with pickup man Trent (Cliff Diggins, 4.8: The Gravediggers, 4.15: The Hour That Never Was, 5.12: The Superlative Seven, 5.17: Death’s Door) badly injured, then dead, it’s up to Steed, arriving breezily at the eleven-minute mark, to fill in (“I’d like you all to meet Mr Strauss, Mr Richard Strauss”). 


Nation’s careful to play on expectations here, such that Steed requires Tara to save his bacon several times, the first when he fails to consider that the wardrobe he’s required to place the case in has a false back (it looks as if Condon – Raymond Adamson, 2.7: The Decapod, 3.8: The Grandeur That was Rome, 4.20: The Quick-Quick Slow Death – has got away, until Tara pops up in the seat of his car behind him). Then when Steed has to deliver the case to Miss Graham.


Sally: Are you trying to bribe me, Mr Seed? Oh good. Frankly, my susceptibility to bribes is one of my few failings.
Steed: Then we both know where we stand.
Sally: Good, then let’s talk money and not lollipops.

Steed arrives at a dance glass for six-year olds run by Audrey Long (Penelope Keith, 4.2: The Murder Market, 5.14: Something Nasty in the Nursery), but Miss Graham, Sally (Elizabeth Robillard) turns out to be one of the juniors, and an extremely mercenary one at that. It’s necessary for Tara to sort out Audrey when Steed gets coshed, although she has to be persuaded from trying to plead with Sally for the location of the key that will give the next location when it’s turned in the lock (“Don’t waste time with the girl talk, I should think she’s one of the Gnomes of Zurich”). 


Robillard’s no child prodigy as performers go, but she more than gets away with delivering the lines and provoking the requisite laughs (Steed tells her money isn’t everything when she receives her £25 bribe, to which she replies “Oh Mr Steed, don’t shatter a little girl’s illusions”).


Cavell: I was right about one thing. She certainly has style.

Tara has to make the next contact, being as it would have been Audrey, and duly meets Cavell (Michael Robbins, 1.26: Dragonsfield, 2.6: Mr Teddy Bear, Richard Mace in The Visitation), a sleazy type keen on returning to see Tara when he’s done his business. Amusingly, he keeps his key under his toupee. And the tape seems to somehow know to sort out Tara (“You will kill your last contact”) even though Audrey wouldn’t have been able to relay that she was an impostor. But then, how did it know to shout “Stop! Thief!” in the teaser scene when Holland (Matthew Long) tried to steal It from Shepherd (Michael Hawkins, 1.24: The Deadly Air, 3.4: The Golden Fleece)? So he goes back to kill Tara, only for Steed to break in and through subterfuge incite Cavell to give her the next address (“I’m sorry sweetheart, really I am” mocks Tara as she and Steed exit).


Captain Tim: If anyone had told me, I’d never have believed it. That last blow. What did you hit me with? An iron bar? Your good. Very good. Superlative even.

It’s Tara who needs assistance – albeit, she’s doing a pretty good job of things – at the next meet, since Steed knows Captain Tim (John Ronane, 5.22: Murdersville), who runs a karate class. It’s not terribly convincing, given Robbins’ physique, that “Cavell is supposed to be the only person in the world who could beat me in a fight”, but a whack with the bowler puts paid to him; with Tim’s leg broken, it’s on to Shepherd again, succumbing to impaling on a cello, but fortunately Tara happens on the notes on a harp; some amusing banter here, with Steed unable to play the tuba despite having one in his apartment (“They’re to put the flowers in”) and Tara able to play the trumpet (“First time”). 


Briefcase: I am a substitute case, designed to mislead any pursuers. To maintain security, it is necessary that you do not survive.

For a guy known for his back-of-a-fag-packet scripts for Doctor Who, Nation’s both consistently witty and inventive in his Avengers contributions (well, aside from Noon-Doomsday). Here, at the point the pass-the-case needs a little oomph, he gives us two different cases to follow, one of which leads Tara to a crypt and potential poisoning, the other has Steed chase it to… Mother. 


SteedThey were obviously trying to cast suspicion on you. It might have worked if I hadn’t been involved. Well, you’re certainly no traitor. As far as I’m concerned, despite your little foibles, you’re above suspicion. 
Mother: Thank you very much for saying so. Foibles?
Steed: The problem is–
Mother: What foibles?!

I’ve mentioned before how highly I rate Newell’s regular status on the series, and he’s on great form here (“I am in a creative mood, Rhonda. Trundle me”), especially enjoying the weight of suspicion bearing on him (“I think I make a very good number one suspect”). 


There has to be a weak link, though, and that’s Nation making no effort whatsoever to hide that Stonehouse (Patrick Barr) is the bad guy, and there’s no way Glasgow (Henry Stamper, Anton in The Enemy of the World) is any kind of red herring. This mightn’t have been so bad, but then Stonehouse is given one of the worst confessionals ever (“All right. So it was me all along. Doesn’t matter now. There’s enough here to enable me to disappear forever”).


Steed: He’s a teeny bit picky with his food. Likes venison, steak tartare and vintage port. Other than that, he’s no trouble at all.

Still, the two cases Stonehouse gets confused with almost makes up for it. Even more so one of the absolute best codas in the show (the best?) is devoid of Steed and Tara, but for their voices: a conversation is carried out via suitcases, one brought in by the adorable Fang, discussing who will look after the poor pooch (“Just one more thing. He will insist on inviting all his friends round to stay”: “It shouldn’t happen to a dog”).










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

Popular posts from this blog

I’m smarter than a beaver.

Prey (2022) (SPOILERS) If nothing else, I have to respect Dan Trachtenberg’s cynical pragmatism. How do I not only get a project off the ground, but fast-tracked as well? I know, a woke Predator movie! Woke Disney won’t be able to resist! And so, it comes to pass. Luckily for Prey , it gets to bypass cinemas and so the same sorry fate of Lightyear . Less fortunately, it’s a patience-testing snook cocking at historicity (or at least, assumed historicity), in which a young, pint-sized Comanche girl who wishes to hunt and fish – and doubtless shoot to boot – with the big boys gets to take on a Predator and make mincemeat of him. Well, of course , she does. She’s a girl, innit?

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.

I’m the famous comedian, Arnold Braunschweiger.

Last Action Hero (1993) (SPOILERS) Make no mistake, Last Action Hero is a mess. But even as a mess, it might be more interesting than any other movie Arnie made during that decade, perhaps even in his entire career. Hellzapoppin’ (after the 1941 picture, itself based on a Broadway revue) has virtually become an adjective to describe films that comment upon their own artifice, break the fourth wall, and generally disrespect the convention of suspending disbelief in the fictions we see parading across the screen. It was fairly audacious, some would say foolish, of Arnie to attempt something of that nature at this point in his career, which was at its peak, rather than playing it safe. That he stumbled profoundly, emphatically so since he went up against the behemoth that is Jurassic Park (slotted in after the fact to open first), should not blind one to the considerable merits of his ultimate, and final, really, attempt to experiment with the limits of his screen persona.

Death to Bill and Ted!

Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991) (SPOILERS) The game of how few sequels are actually better than the original is so well worn, it was old when Scream 2 made a major meta thing out of it (and it wasn’t). Bill & Ted Go to Hell , as Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey was originally called, is one such, not that Excellent Adventure is anything to be sneezed at, but this one’s more confident, even more playful, more assured and more smartly stupid. And in Peter Hewitt it has a director with a much more overt and fittingly cartoonish style than the amiably pedestrian Stephen Herrick. Evil Bill : First, we totally kill Bill and Ted. Evil Ted : Then we take over their lives. My recollection of the picture’s general consensus was that it surpassed the sleeper hit original, but Rotten Tomatoes’ review aggregator suggests a less universal response. And, while it didn’t rock any oceans at the box office, Bogus Journey and Point Break did quite nicely for Keanu Reev

Everyone creates the thing they dread.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) (SPOILERS) Avengers: Age of Ultron ’s problem isn’t one of lack. It benefits from a solid central plot. It features a host of standout scenes and set pieces. It hands (most of) its characters strong defining moments. It doesn’t even suffer now the “wow” factor of seeing the team together for the first time has subsided. Its problem is that it’s too encumbered. Maybe its asking to much of a director to effectively martial the many different elements required by an ensemble superhero movie such as this, yet Joss Whedon’s predecessor feels positively lean in comparison. Part of this is simply down to the demands of the vaster Marvel franchise machine. Seeds are laid for Captain America: Civil War , Infinity Wars I & II , Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok . It feels like several spinning plates too many. Such activity occasionally became over-intrusive on previous occasions ( Iron Man II ), but there are points in Age of Ultron whe

This entire edifice you see around you, built on jute.

Jeeves and Wooster 3.3: Cyril and the Broadway Musical  (aka Introduction on Broadway) Well, that’s a relief. After a couple of middling episodes, the third season bounces right back, and that's despite Bertie continuing his transatlantic trip. Clive Exton once again plunders  Carry On, Jeeves  but this time blends it with a tale from  The Inimitable Jeeves  for the brightest spots, as Cyril Basington-Basington (a sublimely drippy Nicholas Hewetson) pursues his stage career against Aunt Agatha's wishes.

Poetry in translation is like taking a shower with a raincoat on.

Paterson (2016) (SPOILERS) Spoiling a movie where nothing much happens is difficult, but I tend to put the tag on in a cautionary sense much of the time. Paterson is Jim Jarmusch at his most inert and ambient but also his most rewardingly meditative. Paterson (Adam Driver), a bus driver and modest poet living in Paterson, New Jersey, is a stoic in a fundamental sense, and if he has a character arc of any description, which he doesn’t really, it’s the realisation that is what he is. Jarmusch’s picture is absent major conflict or drama; the most significant episodes feature Paterson’s bus breaking down, the English bull terrier Marvin – whom Paterson doesn’t care for but girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) dotes on – destroying his book of poetry, and an altercation at the local bar involving a gun that turns out to be a water pistol. And Paterson takes it all in his stride, genial to the last, even the ruination of his most earnest, devoted work (the only disappoint

I think it’s pretty clear whose side the Lord’s on, Barrington.

Monte Carlo or Bust aka  Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies (1969) (SPOILERS) Ken Annakin’s semi-sequel to Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines tends to be rather maligned, usually compared negatively to its more famous predecessor. Which makes me rather wonder if those expressing said opinion have ever taken the time to scrutinise them side by side. Or watch them back to back (which would be more sensible). Because Monte Carlo or Bust is by far the superior movie. Indeed, for all its imperfections and foibles (not least a performance from Tony Curtis requiring a taste for comic ham), I adore it. It’s probably the best wacky race movie there is, simply because each set of competitors, shamelessly exemplifying a different national stereotype (albeit there are two pairs of Brits, and a damsel in distress), are vibrant and cartoonish in the best sense. Albeit, it has to be admitted that, as far as said stereotypes go, Annakin’s home side win

If you ride like lightning, you're going to crash like thunder.

The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) (SPOILERS) There’s something daringly perverse about the attempt to weave a serious-minded, generation-spanning saga from the hare-brained premise of The Place Beyond the Pines . When he learns he is a daddy, a fairground stunt biker turns bank robber in order to provide for his family. It’s the kind of “only-in-Hollywood” fantasy premise you might expect from a system that unleashed Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man and Point Break on the world. But this is an indie-minded movie from the director of the acclaimed Blue Valentine ; it demands respect and earnest appraisal. Unfortunately it never recovers from the abject silliness of the set-up. The picture is littered with piecemeal characters and scenarios. There’s a hope that maybe the big themes will even out the rocky terrain but in the end it’s because of this overreaching ambition that the film ends up so undernourished. The inspiration for the movie

Your Mickey Mouse is one big stupid dope!

Enemy Mine (1985) (SPOILERS) The essential dynamic of Enemy Mine – sworn enemies overcome their differences to become firm friends – was a well-ploughed one when it was made, such that it led to TV Tropes assuming, since edited, that it took its title from an existing phrase (Barry Longyear, author of the 1979 novella, made it up, inspired by the 1961 David Niven film The Best of Enemies ). The Film Yearbook Volume 5 opined that that Wolfgang Petersen’s picture “ lacks the gritty sauciness of Hell in the Pacific”; John Boorman’s WWII film stranded Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune on a desert island and had them first duking it out before becoming reluctant bedfellows. Perhaps germanely, both movies were box office flops.