I initially selected “Day of Execution” a couple of months ago because of its superb guest cast, including Donald Sutherland and Rosemary Nicols as two of McGill’s friends, Robert Urquhart as a contact at a local newspaper, and, toward the end, T.P. McKenna as somebody who keeps sending McGill death threats but calling him “Mariocki” for some reason. Last week, I double-checked the five I’d picked to show our son, and noticed that Philip Broadley wrote this one. We’ve mentioned this writer several times here at the blog, most recently two weeks ago, and I started really looking forward to this. Man in a Suitcase seems to be exactly the right series where Broadley would excel.
Boy, did he ever. This episode is terrific. I’d watched maybe eight or nine episodes from Network’s DVD set when I got it about three years ago and other things got in the way, and never realized that McGill had a real place to live in London. Or maybe just for this one installment he does. He has a nice two-story apartment with a curious little half-kitchen partway up the stairs and regular dry cleaning service.
An old college buddy is in town, and he’s been romancing an attractive girlfriend. The rules of the economy of speaking parts tells us that at least one of them is in on these mistaken identity death threats, but this story keeps the audience guessing who, how, and why for a really long time, sustaining the tension beautifully through some location filming at Heathrow Airport and a cracking nighttime car chase. Our son said that for the most part he enjoyed it, but he also felt it was a little slow to him. So maybe it didn’t sustain itself quite as well in his corner, but I thought it was excellent.
I can’t swear that there’s any real evidence that adventure shows from the period did voodoo episodes with any regularity, but I guess there’s enough of a cultural memory, forged by Live and Let Die and by Marvel Comics, that it’s not at all surprising that there’s a Champions episode set in Haiti dealing with voodoo. There was also an episode of The Saint called “Sibao” made a few years earlier. So the plot this time is about voodoo being used as a cover for hypnotizing the rich and powerful and turning them into secret assassins via subliminals and ultrasonics.
Donald Sutherland fails to fool anybody as an innocent journalist this week. Of course he’s the master villain. There are actually two things about Tony Williamson’s story that annoyed me. First is the stereotyping and second is the way the script is built around making the audience worry that some nefarious voodoo plot has ensnared Sutherland, when the character had absolutely no reason to even get close to Sharron in the first place, let alone give her the big clue that something is wrong by abruptly acting hypnotized and giving her something to investigate.
On the other hand, this is an awesome Sharron episode. She was only in the previous story for one scene, but she leads this investigation, and while the focus pulls to Craig and Richard for a while, the only real question is whether the show’s going to stay true to its promise to treat all three superhumans as equals or if it’s going to act like a dumb sixties show in the end and make the woman helpless. It picks the right answer.
“The Superlative Seven” loses a little of its luster when the story turns into And Then There Were None on a mysterious island, because most of the seven in question act incredibly illogically. It’s still a very fun mystery, and everything getting to the island is fabulous. Seven experts in physical combat have all been invited to a fancy dress party on an airplane, only to learn that they’ve accepted invitations from different people. And then the plane takes off with nobody at the controls.
The episode is best known for its amazing cast, which includes Charlotte Rampling, BRIAN BLESSED, and Donald Sutherland. Sutherland had been doing a lot of work in the UK in the mid-sixties before he became a big-name film star. In another one of those odd coincidences, Marie and I saw him in the last episode of The Saint that we watched together, just last week. Sutherland and John Hollis play the two villains behind the cat-and-mouse game.
Our son really got into this one, and he was completely convinced that Charlotte Rampling’s character was the mystery killer. He enjoyed it tremendously, and was a little disappointed that he was mistaken. In fairness, however, the villains did cheat.
Oh, one last note: our son didn’t know what the word superlative meant. I told him that it meant magnificent.