Jason King 1.25 – An Author in Search of Two Characters

When this one ends, you can’t help but boo. “It was all a dream” endings stink, we expect much, much better of writer Dennis Spooner than that, and the stakes were low enough that it seems incredibly unnecessary. “It was all a dream” should be reserved for Cloudbase getting blown out of the sky by the Mysterons or something awful like that, right? But this actually works, if you’re willing to do a little work. The villains’ big scheme is to intercept a bunch of under-the-table tax-free money that Jason is accepting for rewrites on an action-adventure series being filmed at Elstree Studios. You know why Jason dreamed this whole adventure? Guilt. Guilt for being a big dirty tax cheat. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

And why am I willing to give Spooner the benefit of the doubt when I’d give it to… um, pretty much nobody else? Because the episode is a loopy joy, absolutely full of familiar and much-loved performers from the period. There’s Ivor Dean, Liz Fraser, Dudley Foster, Roy Kinnear, Sue Lloyd, and Neil McCarthy, all of whom appeared at least once during the filmed years of The Avengers. There’s also Aldenham Grange, which was in “The Hidden Tiger” and the Aldenham Park Bridge, from the Tara King “suits of armor” title sequence and about five other episodes, so the whole shebang’s like they made this episode specifically for Avengers fans to watch with big dumb grins on their faces. Plus Elstree Studios actually appears as Elstree Studios, and not the back of every warehouse in Europe.

The kid mostly enjoyed it, particularly a subplot in which – wait for it – Jason gets to impersonate an Irish actor who is trying to impersonate Jason and steal the money. And this isn’t even the last time we’ll have somebody dressed up as Jason. Tune in Saturday for the thrilling conclusion!

Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) 1.8 – It’s Supposed to be Thicker Than Water

Earlier this month, I had a little giggle over a red Renault going over a cliff in an episode of The Champions and wondered when we’d see the white Jaguar doing its famous tumble. Well, the footage, which was originally shot in 1965 for The Baron, made its way into this series with this episode. John Hallam is the unfortunate driver this time out.

I had wondered how many more times we’d run into this footage over the course of this blog, and the answer seems to be at least three more. The good people at Randall and Hopkirk (Declassified) have a page devoted to the four Jags used in the footage as well as the Renault. I made sure our son knows that anybody getting into a white Jag by himself in one of these shows is asking for trouble. Let’s see whether he remembers.

I have to say that this episode, written by Donald James, doesn’t quite live up to the promise of its thunderously good pre-credits sequence. A very old man in a horse-drawn carriage commissions Jeff to take an envelope to his nephew for a much-needed fee of £50 (that’s like $1100 today). Jeff accepts, and then the guy drops the surprise: his nephew is an escaped convict who jumped the wall six weeks previously.

So I was a little disappointed that Jeff finds the nephew almost instantly, and this quickly turns into the second “somebody’s killing all the relatives” inheritance story in three weeks. But I liked this more than “Who Killed Cock Robin?,” in part because Liz Fraser plays the unlikely suspect – slash – survivor who latches onto our hero, and she’s delightful. She plays the assistant to a stage magician, which is convenient when the plot makes its way to the usual scene of Jeff getting in trouble and Marty needing to get help. Marty just has to wait until she gets put into a hypnotic trance!

The Avengers 4.17 – The Girl From Auntie

If the previous episode of The Avengers was heavy and dated, then this delightful comedy was just what we needed. Our son was very taken with it, which is encouraging, because it’s almost like the official template for the color series: lots and lots of dead bodies of unusually-named men in unusual circumstances, silly organizations formalizing a hobby led by a silly eccentric, grandiose crime, and great guest stars. It’s breezy and very, very fun.

Tackling the cast first, the big name here is the much-loved Bernard Cribbins as a fellow obsessed with knitting. His oddball knitting circle has the office next door to the baddies. Comedy star Liz Fraser plays Steed’s impromptu partner Georgie Price-Jones. She’s been hired to impersonate Mrs. Peel, who’s been kidnapped, and Steed brings her along to get to the bottom of it. There’s also the delightful Sylvia Coleridge, who we saw in an Ace of Wands installment, as a daffy old lady, and David Bauer, one of ITC’s deep bench of American actors, here playing an enemy agent from the eastern bloc. They never actually say Russian, of course. All part of the fantasy. Going back to the previous post about The Avengers and its unreality, even when Bauer’s character ends up in a jail cell, we never actually see a policeman on screen!

I really love the villainous enterprise this time. It’s called Art Incorporated and is led by Gregorio Auntie, played by Alfred Burke. Their shtick is they obtain the unobtainable for extremely exclusive clients and leave behind reproductions. Burke, who is best remembered for playing PI Frank Marker in the long running Thames drama Public Eye, is a really entertaining villain and he has a great scene opposite Macnee.

This template gets tweaked a little in the color series before it becomes pretty standard and, eventually, we have to admit, a little rusty. One positive change they’d make is letting the audience briefly meet the various oddballs with silly names before Steed and his partner find their bodies. Still, even though we have only the briefest acquaintance with John, Paul, George, and Fred Jacques (“the Starr Brothers”) in this outing, they’ll always be remembered.