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 evidentlynot 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 season 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 good 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 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 rather 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!)


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

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

I just hope my death makes more cents than my life.

Joker (2019)
(SPOILERS) So the murder sprees didn’t happen, and a thousand puff pieces desperate to fan the flames of such events and then told-ya-so have fallen flat on their faces. The biggest takeaway from Joker is not that the movie is an event, when once that seemed plausible but not a given, but that any mainstream press perspective on the picture appears unable to divorce its quality from its alleged or actual politics. Joker may be zeitgeisty, but isn’t another Taxi Driver in terms of cultural import, in the sense that Taxi Driver didn’t have a Taxi Driver in mind when Paul Schrader wrote it. It is, if you like, faux-incendiary, and can only ever play out on that level. It might be more accurately described as a grubbier, grimier (but still polished and glossy) The Talented Ripley, the tale of developing psychopathy, only tailored for a cinemagoing audience with few options left outside of comic book fare.

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…

I'm reliable, I'm a very good listener, and I'm extremely funny.

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)
(SPOILERS) When I wrote my 23 to see in 2019, I speculated that James Cameron might be purposefully giving his hand-me-downs to lesser talents because he hubristically didn’t want anyone making a movie that was within a spit of the proficiency we’ve come to expect from him. Certainly, Robert Rodriguez and Tim Miller are leagues beneath Kathryn Bigelow, Jimbo’s former spouse and director of his Strange Days screenplay. Miller’s no slouch when it comes to action – which is what these movies are all about, let’s face it – but neither is he a craftsman, so all those reviews attesting that Terminator: Dark Fate is the best in the franchise since Terminator 2: Judgment Day may be right, but there’s a considerable gulf between the first sequel (which I’m not that big a fan of) and this retcon sequel to that sequel.

This is very cruel, Oskar. You're giving them hope. You shouldn't do that.

Schindler’s List (1993)
(SPOILERS) Such is the status of Schindler’s List, it all but defies criticism; it’s the worthiest of all the many worthy Best Picture Oscar winners, a film noble of purpose and sensitive in the treatment and depiction of the Holocaust as the backdrop to one man’s redemption. There is much to admire in Steven Spielberg’s film. But it is still a Steven Spielberg film. From a director whose driving impulse is the manufacture of popcorn entertainments, not intellectual introspection. Which means it’s a film that, for all its commendable features, is made to manipulate its audience in the manner of any of his “lesser” genre offerings. One’s mileage doubtless varies on this, but for me there are times during this, his crowning achievement, where the berg gets in the way of telling the most respectful version of this story by simple dint of being the berg. But then, to a great or lesser extent, this is true of almost all, if not all, his prestige pictures.

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…

We’re Americans. We read your emails.

Domino (2019)
(SPOILERS) Brian De Palma essentially appears to have disowned his unhappy latest motion picture experience (“I never experienced such a horrible movie set”). He opined that he came in on a script that wasn’t of his own devising (by Petter Skavlan of Kon-Tiki) and did his failing best to apply his unique vision to it. And you can see that vision, occasionally, but more than that you can see unaccustomed cheapness and lacklustre material that likely wouldn’t play no matter how much cash was thrown at it.

Exit bear, pursued by an actor.

Paddington 2 (2017)
(SPOILERS) Paddington 2 is every bit as upbeat and well-meaning as its predecessor. It also has more money thrown at it, a much better villain (an infinitely better villain) and, in terms of plotting, is more developed, offering greater variety and a more satisfying structure. Additionally, crucially, it succeeds in offering continued emotional heft and heart to the Peruvian bear’s further adventures. It isn’t, however, quite as funny.

Even suggesting such a thing sounds curmudgeonly, given the universal applause greeting the movie, but I say that having revisited the original a couple of days prior and found myself enjoying it even more than on first viewing. Writer-director Paul King and co-writer Simon Farnaby introduce a highly impressive array of set-ups with huge potential to milk their absurdity to comic ends, but don’t so much squander as frequently leave them undertapped.

Paddington’s succession of odd jobs don’t quite escalate as uproariously as they migh…

There’s nothing stock about a stock car.

Days of Thunder (1990)
(SPOILERS) The summer of 1990 was beset with box office underperformers. Sure-thing sequels – Another 48Hrs, Robocop 2, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, The Exorcist III, even Back to the Future Part III – either belly flopped or failed to hit the hoped for highs, while franchise hopefuls – Dick Tracy, Arachnophobia – most certainly did not ascend to the stratospheric levels of the previous year’s Batman. Even the big hitters, Total Recall and Die Hard 2: Die Harder, were somewhat offset by costing a fortune in the first place. Price-tag-wise, Days of Thunder, a thematic sequel to the phenomenon that was Top Gun, was in their category. Business-wise, it was definitely in the former. Tom Cruise didn’t quite suffer his first misfire since Legend – he’d made charmed choices ever since playing Maverick – but it was a close-run thing.

You ever heard the saying, “Don’t rob the bank across from the diner that has the best donuts in three counties”?

2 Guns (2013)
(SPOILERS) Denzel Washington is such a reliable performer, that it can get a bit boring. You end up knowing every gesture or inflection in advance, whether he’s playing a good guy or a bad guy. And his films are generally at least half decent, so you end up seeing them. Even in Flight (or perhaps especially in Flight; just watch him chugging down that vodka) where he’s giving it his Oscar-nominatable best, he seems too familiar. I think it may be because he’s an actor who is more effective the less he does. In 2 Guns he’s not doing less, but sometimes it seems like it. That’s because the last person I’d ever expect blows him off the screen; Mark Wahlberg.

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.