Skip to main content

You’ll just have to face it, Steed. You’re completely compromised.

The Avengers
Season 6 Ranked – Worst to Best

The final run, and an oft-maligned one. It’s doubtful anyone could have filled Emma Peel’s kinky boots, but it didn’t help Linda Thorson that Tara King was frequently earmarked to moon over Steed while very evidently not being the equal Emma and Cathy were; the generation gap was never less than unflatteringly evident. Nevertheless, despite this imbalance, and the early hiccups of the John Bryce-produced episodes, Season Six arguably offers a superior selection of episodes to its predecessor, in which everyone became perhaps a little too relaxed.

33. Requiem

A tiresome and irritating plot reliant on hoodwinking Tara into revealing the location of Steed and his protected witness. This is a series nadir, not just a season's one. The ‘B’ plotline, in which Steed plays various games with Angela Douglas, is only marginally superior. At least Mother (who is officially dead) has some decent moments.


32. Bizarre

Sad to say, The Avengers does not end well. If the title matched the content, that would be something, but this is a substandard retooling (in premise) of 3.9: The Undertakers, and even the usually reliable Roy Kinnear can’t save it. Still, the coda is fun (and okay, a little bizarre).


31. Noon-Doomsday

Calling Terry Nation reliable in Doctor Who suggests something very different to the same in The Avengers, where generally it’s a positive. This early effort received some harsh words from Brian Clemens (who, in fairness to Terry, wrote both the lowest ranked entries of the season). Where he’d later borrow (or homage) with aplomb, Noon-Doomsday is a bare-bones High Noon rip-off, and rather dull with it. Ray Brooks’ assassin makes for one of the few exceptions.


30. My Wildest Dream

Another where the premise has been better utilised previously (in 5.26: Honey for the Prince). Still, we get to enjoy Peter Vaughn hamming it up as a German agresso-therapist, one who encourages “killing in fantasy”. Notable too for a very upset Philip Madoc and early appearance from Edward Fox.


29. Split!

A Spock’s Brain type affair, in which one of Steed’s nemeses manages to make a comeback from beyond the grave. Dotted with decent performances – reliables Christopher Benjamin for laughs and Julian Glover for serious thesping – but mostly, it plays out in all-too obvious a fashion.


28. Have Guns – Will Haggle

Our duo pose as arms traders in a salvaged John Bryce production. It has a bit of a stinker of a reputation, but its problem is mostly that it gets stuck in one place for the duration, rather than leading to the usually round of investigations and confrontations. Nevertheless, there’s solid work from Nicola Pagett, Jonathan Burn and Johnny Sekka.


27. Whoever Shot Poor George Oblique Stroke XB40?

The operating-on-a-computer-like-it’s-a-person has been done before, of course (only with a bomb – 4.8: The Gravediggers), but it’s still fairly amusing, with a cyber-surgeon setting to work on the title character. The rest is rather less inspired.


26. Homicide and Old Lace

Commonly cited as the absolute dog end of the show, it’s certainly true that the salvaged footage from The Great Great Great Britain Crime isn’t exactly scintillating. Although, it does boast Gerald Harper on top military idiot form. What makes this pretty painless is the spirited banter between Mother and his aunts as he attempts to tell his tall tale in spite of their constant interruptions.


25. They Keep Killing Steed

Some decent elements here, not least Ian Ogivily’s irresistible (to the ladies) Baron von Curt, but the multiple “Steeds” isn’t as cleverly used as it might have been. That said, the real Steed enjoys putting down Ray McAnally’s villain, who has the nerve to consider himself the Avenger’s equal.


24. Get-A-Way!

Peter Bowles provides reliable villainous chops as another of those bounders who thinks he’s up to Steed’s standards. But woefully isn’t. A very science-fiction bottle of invisibility vodka is key to his escape. Some rather stodgy plot points in the mix, but some nice stylistic touches and Tara is granted a well-choreographed fight.


23. Thingumajig

Terry Nation’s script featuring a robotic box delivering death beneath a church boasts a cute title and Iain Cuthbertson on fine form – and Willoughby Goddard taking more than a modicum of snuff – but while it’s serviceable, it isn’t as good as the various elements suggest it should be.


22. Super Secret Cypher Snatch

Strong direction from John Hough, and some effectively executed ideas – hypnosis gas rendering the victims oblivious to the cypher being snatched – and design elements – white overalls and bowlers worn by the villains. Plus strong support from Angela Scoular and Simon Oates. But Tony Williamson’s teleplay feels a draft or two away from being really good. 


21. Who Was That Man I Saw You With?

A fun, fashion-conscious villain, but a highly unlikely plot centring on delivering a devastating rocket attack against Britain through making Tara appear to be a traitor… It doesn’t really fly, but Aimee Delamain is wonderful as a lip-reader who proves vital to Steed solving the case.


20. Invasion of the Earthmen

Thoroughly lambasted, this one, but it has a suitable bonkers plan, a suitably shabby snake, a suitably silly spaceman suit, and a reasonably dramatic, murderous hunt-the-Tara plot going for it. It’s no masterpiece, but it’s very watchable.


19. The Forget-Me Knot

Like Bizarre, in a sense, as it’s a disappointing send off. But also like Bizarre, the actual send-off scene is rather good (actually, flat-out great in this case), and the memory-loss plot with Emma and Patrick Kavanagh is very silly but mildly amusing. As a Tara introduction, it’s no great shakes either – it’s better as a Mother introduction – but it gets by on nostalgia value.


18. All Done with Mirrors

An inspired setting, both in terms of location filming and the lighthouse focus, as Tara investigates sudden death via the use of a “retrometer” (requiring the mirrors of the title). Perhaps a little light on the eccentricity front.


17. Fog

Completely off the map as far as a semblance to even the “real” Avengers world is concerned, with its faux-Victorian London – aside from the occasional Mother-commandeered Mini Moke. Fog finds Steed and Tara investigating the murderous Gaslight Ghoul’s reignited reign of terror. Generally not very highly regarded – and it is very thin – but it ticks along breezily and Nigel Green is tremendous.


16. False Witness

A really daft plot, one that gets into all sorts of deep water with its logistics, use of opposites, double negatives and communications, via a drug that compels one to indicate the opposite of one’s intentions. Despite all this, it’s often quite amusing (especially the butter gags).


15. You’ll Catch Your Death

The villainous scheme involving a deadly cold virus is on the pedestrian side (and that’s despite the giant nose prop), but the proceedings are considerably enlivened by an array of eccentric supporting players – Charles Lloyd Pack, Ronald Culver, Valentine Dyall.


14. Killer

Jennifer Croxton’s Lady Diana isn’t actually all that special in the might’ve-been Steed partners department, but this deadly titular killer episode is generally very well done, with a particularly effective, trap-laden finale requiring Steed to show his mettle. And the occasional amusing detour (courtesy of Michael Ward’s camp Freddie, “packager extraordinary”).


13. Stay Tuned

The Master and the Rani team up to baffle Steed. Tony Williamson perhaps doesn’t make the most of the Groundhog Day/hypnosis element, but there’s a highly effective villainous turn from Gary Bond, haunting Steed’s peripheral vision.


12. The Curious Case of the Countless Clues

Peter Jones’ Sir Arthur Doyle takes the literal at the expense of the intuitive, in an effective blackmailing scenario that even manages to imbue genuine suspense at times (Tara laid up with a sprained ankle, set upon by villains). The best of the brief and generally rather disdained John Bryce-produced run.


11. The Rotters

Very much in the Rigg era tradition, with the titular characters – Gerald Sim and Jerome Willis – using dry rot guns and veneer of gentility to achieve their ends. The highlight finds Steed playing nice with the duo whenever Amy Dalby’s elderly lady is in the room, leading to the sorry remains of a piano.


10. Game 

Like Killer, this really comes into its own during the climax, as Steed must face the formidable Peter Jeffrey’s traps. The early sections are also diverting, though, in which Jeffrey does for those he perceived did him wrong via a series of deadly games. Some effective visuals from Robert Fuest help to make this a memorable episode – despite the forgettable title – including Tara trapped in a giant hourglass.


9. The Interrogators

Christopher Lee is provided with a decent role as recompense for the dual duff ones in Never Never Say Die. There are some amusing plays on stiff-upper-lip-under-duress attitudes, and Steed comes to the rescue in a very cool manner. Only the less than convincing method of persuading the test subjects to give away their secrets lets the side down.


8. Take-Over

The Avengers equivalent of a Michael Haneke film, in which Steed intrudes on a particularly unpleasant home invasion. The only thing preventing this from being top notch is the decision to have Steed laid low, rather than constantly matching a villain who’s clearly not in his league.


7. Love All

A great dowdy/beauty dual performance from Veronica Strong, while writer Jeremy Burnham has huge fun with his love potion device, be it a the expense of traffic wardens, Terence Alexander, or mostly, Tara. 


6. Wish You Were Here

Steed-lite as Tara re-enacts The Prisoner in a guest house. Only played very much for laughs, particularly in the case of Mother’s prattish nephew, sent along to help out but mostly doing anything but.


5. Pandora

Tara has her mind messed with by a nefarious – is there any other kind? – Julian Glover, attempting to convince her she’s the titular character, in one of the series’ occasional Avengers-girl-menaced-in-an-isolated-house stories. Something of a marmite episode, but it’s expertly told and offers a masterful two-hander between Glover and James Cossins.


4. Take Me To Your Leader

There are three Terry Nation tales in the Top Ten, something you’d be hard-pressed to find comparably in his Doctor Who output. If this trail-of-clues yarn undoubtedly treads in the footsteps of Legacy of Death, it’s still immensely funny and satisfying. Steed and Tara must play pass-the-talking-suitcase-to-its-source, intercepting each party on the way. It’s more about the gag rate than the plot, but even that is highly inventive.


3. The Morning After

Pretty much a solo outing for Steed, with Tara suffering the effects of knockout gas (several times). He’s teamed with Peter Barkworth’s quadruple agent Jimmy Merlin in a mysteriously deserted town. A superbly written odd couple yarn, with effective location work from John Hough and a suitably menacing turn from BRIAN BLESSED!


2. Look – (Stop Me If You’ve Head This One) But There Were These Two Fellers…

Dennis Spooner lets rip in the series at its most unapologetically lunatic. Killer clowns on the loose, cameos from Cleese and Cribbins, and Steed going undercover as “Gentleman Jack. A smile a song and an umbrella”. If it feels like an escapee from the previous season, apparently it was.


1. Legacy of Death

And Terry Nation takes the crown. This Maltese Falcon riff fully illustrates why Nation used to write for Tony Hancock, as Legacy of Death deals such a rapid-fire succession of gags, it scarcely matters that some go astray. Stratford John and Ronald Lacey make for a memorable duo as the chief pursuers of a deadly dagger, a trail of corpses accumulating wherever they go (most especially in Steed’s flat). And no true classic would be complete with John Hollis (who, of course, ROCKS!)


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Maybe the dingo ate your baby.

Seinfeld 2.9: The Stranded The Premise George and Elaine are stranded at a party in Long Island, with a disgruntled hostess.

Nanobots aren’t just for Christmas.

No Time to Die (2021) (SPOILERS) You know a Bond movie is in trouble when it resorts to wholesale appropriation of lines and even the theme song from another in order to “boost” its emotional heft. That No Time to Die – which previewed its own title song a year and a half before its release to resoundingly underwhelmed response, Grammys aside – goes there is a damning indictment of its ability to eke out such audience investment in Daniel Craig’s final outing as James (less so as 007). As with Spectre , the first half of No Time to Die is, on the whole, more than decent Bond fare, before it once again gets bogged down in the quest for substance and depth from a character who, regardless of how dapper his gear is, resolutely resists such outfitting.

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.

Just a little whiplash is all.

Duel (1971) (SPOILERS) I don’t know if it’s just me, but Spielberg’s ’70s efforts seem, perversely, much more mature, or “adult” at any rate, than his subsequent phase – from the mid-’80s onwards – of straining tremulously for critical acceptance. Perhaps because there’s less thrall to sentiment on display, or indulgence in character exploration that veered into unswerving melodrama. Duel , famously made for TV but more than good enough to garner a European cinema release the following year after the raves came flooding in, is the starkest, most undiluted example of the director as a purveyor of pure technical expertise, honed as it is to essentials in terms of narrative and plotting. Consequently, that’s both Duel ’s strength and weakness.

These are not soda cans you asked me to get for you.

The Devil’s Own (1997) (SPOILERS) Naturally, a Hollywood movie taking the Troubles as a backdrop is sure to encounter difficulties. It’s the push-pull of wanting to make a big meaningful statement about something weighty, sobering and significant in the real world and bottling it when it comes to the messy intricacies of the same. So inevitably, the results invariably tend to the facile and trite. I’m entirely sure The Devil’s Own would have floundered even if Harrison Ford hadn’t come on board and demanded rewrites, but as it is, the finished movie packs a lot of talent to largely redundant end.

Ours is the richest banking house in Europe, and we’re still being kicked.

The House of Rothschild (1934) (SPOILERS) Fox’s Rothschild family propaganda pic does a pretty good job presenting the clan as poor, maligned, oppressed Jews who fought back in the only way available to them: making money, lots of lovely money! Indeed, it occurred to me watching The House of Rothschild , that for all its inclusion of a rotter of a Nazi stand-in (played by Boris Karloff), Hitler must have just loved the movie, as it’s essentially paying the family the compliment of being very very good at doing their very best to make money from everyone left, right and centre. It’s thus unsurprising to learn that a scene was used in the anti-Semitic (you might guess as much from the title) The Eternal Jew .

You are not brought upon this world to get it!

John Carpenter  Ranked For anyone’s formative film viewing experience during the 1980s, certain directors held undeniable, persuasive genre (SF/fantasy/horror genre) cachet. James Cameron. Ridley Scott ( when he was tackling genre). Joe Dante. David Cronenberg. John Carpenter. Thanks to Halloween , Carpenter’s name became synonymous with horror, but he made relatively few undiluted movies in that vein (the aforementioned, The Fog , Christine , Prince of Darkness (although it has an SF/fantasy streak), In the Mouth of Madness , The Ward ). Certainly, the pictures that cemented my appreciation for his work – Dark Star , The Thing – had only a foot or not at all in that mode.

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.

Sleep well, my friend, and forget us. Tomorrow you will wake up a new man.

The Prisoner 13. Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling We want information. In an effort to locate Professor Seltzman, a scientist who has perfected a means of transferring one person’s mind to another person’s body, Number Two has Number Six’s mind installed in the body of the Colonel (a loyal servant of the Powers that Be). Six was the last person to have contact with Seltzman and, if he is to stand any chance of being returned to his own body, he must find him (the Village possesses only the means to make the switch, they cannot reverse the process). Awaking in London, Six encounters old acquaintances including his fiancée and her father Sir Charles Portland (Six’s superior and shown in the teaser sequence fretting over how to find Seltzman). Six discovers Seltzman’s hideout by decoding a series of photographs, and sets off to find him in Austria. He achieves this, but both men are captured and returned to the Village. Restoring Six and the Colonel to their respective bodie

Isn’t sugar better than vinegar?

Femme Fatale (2002) (SPOILERS) Some have attempted to rescue Femme Fatale from the dumpster of critical rejection and audience indifference with the claim that it’s De Palma’s last great movie. It isn’t that by a long shot, but it might rank as the last truly unfettered display of his obsessions and sensibilities, complete with a ludicrous twist – so ludicrous, it’s either a stroke of genius or mile-long pile up.