And now back to 1977, for the second and final series of The New Avengers. Believe it or not, I’m really flying blind with this run. I’ve only seen five of these thirteen episodes, and didn’t enjoy them very much. Brian Clemens’ “Dead Men are Dangerous” isn’t bad at all, though. I liked it much better than the ones I’ve seen before. At least as far as I remember.
I do have a quibble with one intensely silly flaw, though. Like “The Last of the Cybernauts…??”, this begins with a pre-title sequence that the narrative later tells us happened in the past, in this case “ten years ago,” so call it 1967. Then, Steed drove his old school chum and rival, played by Clive Revill, over to a prepared breach in the border so Revill could smuggle himself into East Germany. But Revill is a double agent and guards were waiting to kill Steed. Revill took a bullet in the chest but was dragged away, and spent the next decade being a top spy for the other side while the bullet pressed closer and closer against his heart.
So with days left to live, Revill decides to avenge all of his old jealousies and second-place finishes behind Steed, their school’s “Victor Ludorum.” Gambit’s girlfriend-of-the-week, a teacher played by Gabrielle Drake, identifies Revill as being in his mid-forties. Which, admittedly, Revill himself was at the time, but come on, his character and Steed have to be at least ten years older than that. Were they trying to pretend that the star of the show wasn’t middle-aged?
Our son enjoyed it and thought it was really exciting in places. I liked it just fine, but I might have liked it a little more had we not seen at least three of Steed’s oldest friends die in this show already. Incidentally, Steed has a lovely new home in this series. It’s Fulmer Hall in Buckinghamshire, and it appears in at least four episodes. One of his old aunts must have left it to him, because I just don’t believe the Ministry pays nearly enough for the mortgage on it.
I was thinking that tonight’s episode of The Champions, written by Donald James, might have been too complicated for our son, but he breezed right along with it and quietly said “This is really exciting!” as Craig executes a prison break. At its core, the story is a mystery: who is paying a man who broke into an embassy in London to photograph plans, and what did he do with the film. The ambassador believes the British government is behind the theft and has imprisoned their own agent, so while Craig and Richard are planning to break him out, the ambassador engages an underworld fixer and his gun-toting moll, played by Gabrielle Drake, to bring the convict to him.
The most surprising moment of the story comes when Richard loses a fight. Even superhumans have an occasional off day, but in Richard’s defense, there were three of them, they were huge, they caught him by surprise, and he did kayo two of the thugs before losing consciousness.
Mood affects enjoyment so much, and a bad mood can knock even a favorite thing down six or seven notches. My “favorite” example is an visit about a decade ago to Dave Poe’s BBQ in Marietta GA. It’s one of my ten or eleven favorite Atlanta-area barbecue places, and the sibling squabbling of my two oldest kids ruined the meal so much that I didn’t bother returning for at least three years.
Last night, I was preoccupied with some business as we watched Philip Levene’s “The Hidden Tiger,” which is one of everybody’s favorite color Avengers episodes. I’ve loved it since the first time I saw it, maybe thirty years ago, and because it was the wrong darn night to watch a great episode of television, it all fell flat to me. Bah. We should have postponed everything and tried again later.
On the other hand, our son really enjoyed the story and says that it’s also one of his favorites, so I’m glad he got the chance to see it as soon as possible. I like the way there’s such an effective shift in tone about halfway through. It’s a played-straight hunt for a large wild animal for about twenty minutes, and then it becomes a whimsical investigation into three criminals with cat names, Mr. Cheshire, Miss Angora, and Dr. Manx, played by Ronnie Barker, Gabrielle Drake, and Lyndon Brook. I think our son appreciated some villains who weren’t at all scary. I know he really loved Mr. Cheshire’s silly habit of drinking milk by lapping it gently with his tongue! Add in some awful puns and lots of cats roaming the corridors of the PURRR organization, and you’ve got a silly hour that kids are guaranteed to enjoy more than any grouchy grownups on the sofa.