The Feathered Serpent 2.1 and 2.2

I confess that our son was not overly thrilled about the idea of returning to old Mexico for six more episodes of backstabbing, treachery, and ancient gods. He barely tolerated the first serial, mainly because the villain had the upper hand the entire time, and he doesn’t like villains. He grudgingly admitted that he liked the secret passages in the pyramids, but that was it.

Happily, despite the cliffhanger to part one leaving him bellowing “Oh, come on!” in frustration, he happily agreed that he enjoyed tonight’s installments much more than he was expecting. The second Feathered Serpent serial begins just minutes after the first one concluded. It was taped and shown almost two years later, in the spring of 1978, apparently because it took months to plan around all the very busy actors, including Patrick Troughton, Diane Keen, George Cormack, Richard Willis, and Brian Deacon, having gaps in their schedules at the same time.

That said, Troughton cruised through episode one in just about the easiest job of his career: playing a corpse. He’s not quite dead, it turns out, and the story’s two new villains, an absolutely hideous witch played with gusto by Sheila Burrell and a slaver played by an actor with the remarkably posh name of Granville Saxton, magically revive the evil priest. His resurrection didn’t surprise any adults watching, either in 1978 or today, but man alive, did it aggravate the kid.

With Nasca recovering – and after a fabulous scene where the weakened priest quietly recounts the horrors of the afterlife, where his god, furious with his failure, ripped his soul from his body with the claws of a jaguar – the heroes get on with their story. The Toltec Prince Huemac hopes to marry Empress Chimalma, but must survive a night in a trap-filled pyramid first. The traps are extremely clever and we all really enjoyed working the way out along with Huemac. Best of all, there’s a sequence that looked slipshod, and some behind-the-scenes visual effects trickery got too visible for the camera. Then it turns out that the audience was meant to see that. It was part of the narrative, and not behind-the-scenes at all. Neat trick!

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