The Avengers 6.12 – Split!

The six episodes that followed “The Forget-Me-Knot” were originally shown in the United States with this fun and silly title sequence with a cartoon crosshairs following our heroes around an orange room. They were later removed and replaced with the second Tara King sequence, the one with the suits of armor in a field. For some reason, they missed out on “Split!”, and it has the correct opening sequence. Sadly, the closing credits are the ones with the hands doing card tricks that should only be on the ends of the 26 suits of armor episodes. One of these days, somebody will get all these right on DVD.

Incidentally, there’s a third title sequence – well, third-ish – that is even more common to American viewers. Somebody cut the fifty second suits of armor sequence down to twenty-five seconds so that the ABC network could cram in one additional commercial. When A&E was running the Tara King episodes in the early nineties, we always sat up when we got the full version. We knew instantly that we were in for a better experience. Most of A&E’s copies of the Tara King stories were grotty, beat-up old 16mm prints, but there were a few that came from a fresh 35mm source and looked comparatively glorious. I remember that “Take-Over” was one of these. They all still had between one and three minutes of edits, but while they weren’t uncut, at least the full version of the credits let us know that it was going to look great.

As for tonight’s content, Brian Clemens’ “Split!” is a very entertaining story about a supposedly dead enemy agent who still seems to be active more than four years after Steed shot him through the heart. The cast includes familiar faces like Bernard Archard, Christopher Benjamin, Nigel Davenport, and Julian Glover, and the villains are so diabolical that our son got incredibly ticked off and outraged about their plans for Tara. He insists that he knows that she wasn’t in real trouble, just that these bad guys are much more cruel than he is used to seeing.

The Avengers 4.20 – The Danger Makers

Here’s another fourth season Avengers with a pile of great character actors from the period. This one features Nigel Davenport, Moray Watson, and the awesome Douglas Wilmer. Unfortunately, there’s that law about using a high-profile actor like Wilmer working against the writer’s intention here. Roger Marshall had scripted a few of these already, and we’ve become used to the stock character of a specialist doctor, usually employed by Steed’s branch of the ministry, not having an enormous amount to do with the plot. But Wilmer doesn’t play those kinds of characters, and there are exactly two suspects available who could be the mysterious “Apollo,” the leader of the Danger Makers. It’s probably going to be Douglas Wilmer.

This is the episode with the nailbiting scene where Mrs. Peel gets initiated into a society of thrillseeking military men by way of electrified poles and see-saws. It’s impossible to watch without holding your breath. The whole thing is hugely entertaining, but it required some more explanations than usual for our kid. We didn’t bother with one of the villains’ hobby of phrenology; we were already behind with explaining chicken runs and Russian roulette. We chose to emphasize that nobody really plays that, but he’s going to see an awful lot of it in movies and TV. At least I hope nobody really plays it.