“The Ghost Plane” is a fun globetrotting episode written by Donald James. It starts in the south China sea and jaunts everywhere from the Alps to Cambridge to Albania, taking in the same warehouse location that they’d used in “The Invisible Man.” The main guest star this time is Andrew Keir, and I think this must have been made a few months after Keir had filmed Quatermass and the Pit.
We only see the “ghost plane” itself in the opening scene. Somebody has arranged for a defunct idea that a British engineer had suggested to NATO to make its way to China, where a prototype is built and tested against four American jets. It’s a cute mix of stock footage and new model shots of the delta-winged plane. Oddly, I was actually thinking to myself that they should have knocked on Gerry Anderson’s door and hired his team to do the sequence when our son piped up and said “Hey! That plane looks like the Angels in Captain Scarlet!” I don’t think so myself, but I’m amused that he saw a connection. In fact, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons was in production at the same time as this series.
The best scene in the story by a mile was a great sequence where Sharron is locked in a deep-freeze refrigeration unit at the bad guys’ warehouse and the trio use their telepathy to rally to her rescue. I really enjoyed that. I guess that especially in the wake of seeing Captain Marvel, we’d rather have seen Sharron kick the door down herself, but while the Champions are really strong, they’re not quite that strong!
That’s all for The Champions for now, as we put this fun show back on the shelf for a few weeks to keep things fresh, but we’ll pick back up with episode eleven in mid-April. Stay tuned!
I was mentioning last time out how we got used to some pretty beat-up prints of the Tara King episodes, and were always glad when the A&E network showed one that was an upgrade. With that in mind, “Get-A-Way!” looks particularly sublime compared to the old print that they used. Since the story is actually kind of repetitive, it’s one that I shrugged about and didn’t revisit very much. It’s nice to see it with fresh eyes, and looking so excellent.
Our son really enjoyed this one, and was full of ideas about how the three prisoners, enemy agents being detained by the most incompetent guards in Britain, were vanishing. I was underwhelmed by Philip Levene using the hoary old plot of two of Steed’s oldest friends being targeted, but I enjoyed seeing the guest stars Peter Bowles, Neil Hallett, and Andrew Keir.
A quarter of a century ago, when I was young and had stars in my eyes and wanted to be a television writer, I daydreamed of making a very off-key and off-kilter cop show called Department of Murder. I spent a lot of time devising characters and plots, and one thing I definitely wanted to do was bring back these villains: the Business Efficiency Bureau, a trio of psychologists and experts who can be hired to literally eliminate the competition. They do so by identifying phobias and driving business rivals out of their minds.
About the only thing you can say against Philip Levene’s “The Fear Merchants,” which introduced the baddies for what would sadly be their only appearance – The Avengers was rarely a show for return engagements – is that it needs one more bit of oomph to make their villainy work. When they learn one target has agoraphobia, they just dump him in Wembley Stadium and that’s it, he’s incapacitated permanently. The episode needed a fear gas or a some sort of mental programming to really push people over the edge once the villains work their efficiency magic to make the episode both a little more believable and sinister.
Otherwise, it’s just so fun! Our son needed a little help following this one, and he had no idea why I collapsed in laughter over one of the all-time great sight gags, where the camera is following somebody dressed like Steed, until Steed and Mrs. Peel come around a corner and it starts following them instead. He also didn’t understand that the Business Efficiency Bureau changes its business from a monthly retainer into a monthly blackmail payment. In his defense, not only is he still very young, but Levene’s script is delightfully subtle about how the hired firm suddenly becomes the dominant partner. But he absolutely loved the great fight that Steed has with Garfield Morgan, who’d later play DCI Haskins, Regan’s boss in The Sweeney. They brawl in a pit with a bulldozer teetering on the edge above them!
In the cast, Patrick Cargill, who we saw in last season’s “The Murder Market,” is the main villain, and the wonderful Brian Wilde is the businessman who bought a lot more trouble than he bargained for. In smaller parts as Wilde’s rivals, there are the familiar-to-us faces of Edward Burnham, Bernard Horsfall, and Andrew Keir, who would star in Quatermass and the Pit later the same year. Sadly, Annette Carell, who was a frequent guest star in British adventure shows of the period, passed away about nine months after this was shown.