In a perfect world, we’d have got a few more TV series of Hitchhiker’s Guide. What we got was delightful, and it has a sweet little ending, but it doesn’t resolve what happened to Trillian, Zaphod, and Marvin. You would have to listen to the radio series or read the books for that. But there should have been a lot more Hitchhiker’s on TV. Add it to my silly little list of shoulda-beens along with a Peter Wyngarde Master and adding Jack Kelly to the eighties Bret Maverick series.
But it ends well, with Aubrey Morris showing up as a bath-obsessed starship captain in charge of a coterie of hairdressers, television producers, and management consultants, and some devilish putdowns directed at marketing bean-counters who think that the color of a wheel is more important than its function. Ford and Arthur are left to sadly realize that the revelation of the “great question” wasn’t spoiled by the Earth’s destruction by the Vogons, but by having the planet infected by hairdressers, television producers, and management consultants two million years previously. It’s so deliciously mean-spirited.
Our son enjoyed it very much and was also a little disappointed that there’s just one series, although Hulu’s threatening to make a new version, so we may have more of that in the future. Plus there’s the feature film, which we’ll look at in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned for that!
This is another very, very funny episode, centered around Catweazle losing his magic dagger, which is called Adamcos, and worrying himself to near-death over it. He believes that he will literally die without it because of some curse or magical requirement. Who can tell if that’s true?
Anyway, the trail leads them to an antiques dealer in Westbourne. He’s played by Aubrey Morris, who we saw in the most recent episode of The Avengers that we watched, just last month. Morris had lots of small roles in ITC dramas and in movies from the period like A Clockwork Orange and The Wicker Man, but I remember him best as the captain of the pointless bunch in the B-Ark at the end of the TV version of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
I like the way they find new modern horrors to terrify Catweazle, and how Geoffrey Bayldon goes to town with his overreactions. This time, he runs across a music box and a mirror in the antique shop and we howled with laughter, even if I had to ask whether he hadn’t been in the same room as a mirror in a previous episode. This is great stuff.
Roger Marshall’s “Silent Dust” is certainly the weakest episode of The Avengers that we’ve watched so far, but in its favor, it has a lengthy chase and fight in the climax that kept our son very entertained. The problem seems to be that the writer was given a brief to do a story that ends with a big fox hunt, and there isn’t a lot of plot to get there. The villainous threat-of-the-week is about an experimental fertilizer that has the reverse effect and kills topsoil and livestock, but it might as well be a threat about anything. All that matters is getting the heroes and villains to don red coats and ride around with hounds at the end.
Amusingly, I’d forgotten that the last of the baddies gets his comeuppance when Steed picks up a “Down with Blood Sports” sign that a protester has discarded and uses it as a polo mallet on him. I realized that our son has no experience with fox hunting. So I paused it to give him a quick rundown, more of the iconography than the actual history, and mentioned that in the last several decades, this sort of hunting has become very controversial, and was finally banned in the UK about twelve years ago. Then I said something dopey: “When this was made, it was probably around the last time that hunts were organized without public protests.” Of course, the very next scene had four or six people milling around the toffs with protest signs. Had I looked at it before opening my big mouth, I’d have known that the RSPCA had been trying to put a stop to “cultural amusements” like this since the 1820s.
But other than the hunt, there’s not a lot of interest in this story. The villains are identified way too early, using the unusual approach of “every suspect is in on it,” and even though there are some recognizable faces like Charles Lloyd Pack, Norman Bird, Isobel Black, and William Franklyn, it’s really not one of the most engaging episodes.
Weirdo trivia: Oddly, this episode was among those not purchased by ABC for the American run, and it picked up an alternate name. American fans way back then who were curious about the unseen installments of the show inquired about it among 16mm film traders in the sixties and seventies and a bootleg copy was apparently doing the rounds under a working title: “Strictly For the Worms.” It was so well known by that name that you used to see this listed in guidebooks and tape trader lists as: “Silent Dust (Strictly For the Worms).”
We’ll take a few weeks’ break from The Avengers now, but stay tuned! Steed and Mrs. Peel will be back in December!