Proof that times have changed for the Avengers: tonight’s episode is a treasure hunt story, with our heroes competing against two villains to track down a Macguffin that’s worth a lot to somebody. But these villains are just so characterless. They’re resourceful, violent, unpleasant, but they’re so disagreeably anonymous. They’re certainly no Street and Green. They’re not even the gentlemen chappies from “The Rotters.” They’re just seventies thugs.
I didn’t care for them, but “The Tale of the Big Why,” written by Brian Clemens and directed by Robert Fuest, is otherwise a pretty good chase story. There are several interested parties whose paths intersect with the Macguffin – one of them is played by Roy Marsden – and lots of great location filming. I loved Fuest’s decision to show the passing of time by letting the camera land on a glass of beer as different characters drive past a village pub. There’s also a hostage exchange which goes terribly wrong for the outclassed bad guys and is enormously fun.
Our son was rather less pleased than me. There are a few “back to square one” moments in the story, which just left him confused. Was this show over or not? By the time they revealed what the Macguffin is and why it’s important, the law of conservation of TV speaking parts has told the audience whose career is going to be ended by it. (Hint: surprisingly, it isn’t Geoffrey Toone, who’s playing some minister or other. He sensibly stays back at Whitehall, where the finger of suspicion stops pointing.) I suppose that’s why they quickly wrapped up the plot along with a last bit of violence in the final ninety seconds, which didn’t help an overtired kid up a little past his bedtime finally understand what all the fuss was about.