The Secret Service 1.4 – The Feathered Spies

Well, if the title isn’t enough of a giveaway, the big mystery in this episode written by Tony Barwick is how a guy who raises pigeons and doves is able to take top secret photos of prototype military jets. How does he do it, wondered nobody older than six.

Two very odd production notes this time around: this is the first time I’ve ever noticed a Supermarionation character actually breaking the fourth wall, turning to the camera partway through the episode to comment on how wacky another character is. And then there’s the very odd-looking decision to take the Matthew puppet on location and have it chased by a dog.

Regrettably, I can’t make screencaps from Region 2 DVDs, so you’ll have to trust me – for now – when I tell you how utterly bizarre this looks. The Secret Service already looks weird with its mix of live action and puppets, but they never stick the two together in the same shot this way. After three episodes, we’re used to something like a close-up of one of the puppets, followed by a real exterior shot of a garden. But suddenly the suspension of disbelief comes crashing down when the two-foot Matthew puppet becomes the fictional, miniaturized two-foot high Matthew “walking” around in that garden. Ian Spurrier had been part of Century 21’s visual effects team for a couple of years; this was his only directing credit. I can imagine that he had some ideas that he wanted to try, but this absolutely did not work. I hope we don’t see it tried again in future episodes.

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