The Persuaders! 1.13 – The Long Goodbye

I choose to believe that a couple of years after they made “The Long Goodbye,” the episode’s writer, Michael Pertwee, was talking with his brother, actor Jon Pertwee. The actor, then working in Doctor Who, mentioned that he’d like to have some kind of space-rocket car. Michael said “Well, there’s a funny thing, because I did this episode of The Persuaders!…”

Perhaps fortunately, the resulting car, which is known as both the Alien and the Whomobile, isn’t quite as ridiculous as this one, but it made its debut in a 1974 episode of that series and both are just lovably, wonderfully seventies in every way.

This car is driven around London by the Space Queen as part of a soap promotion, and Brett hijacks it. I picked this episode not merely for its car, but by its driver, the beautiful Valerie Leon. Nicola Pagett, Madeline Smith and Anouska Hempel are also in this story, along with familiar faces Peter Sallis and Glynn Edwards. It’s full of fine actors, good-natured silliness, and wonderful location filming all around London. It may not be the meatiest episode of the series, but it’s breezy and very entertaining.

The Saint 5.19 – To Kill a Saint

Foiled again! I selected “To Kill a Saint,” which was first shown in February 1967, because I thought it just possible that our son might recognize two actors from their very familiar voice work on the Gerry Anderson shows that our son has enjoyed so much: Peter Dynely, who was Jeff Tracy in Thunderbirds, and Francis Matthews, who was Captain Scarlet. But the joke was on me: the episode is set in Paris, and they’re speaking with French accents, so even with a great big hint, of course the kid didn’t recognize them.

It did mean we got one last glimpse of the bumbling Parisian police contacts Quercy and Luduc, played by John Serret and Robert Cawdron. This was the sixth and last appearance of these characters. We actually saw Serret briefly in another role in the last episode we watched, “The Queen’s Ransom”. Our kid really enjoyed this one. It’s full of twists and mistaken identities and somebody trying to kill Templar and frame a crime boss, and somebody else trying to kill the crime boss and frame Templar. At one point, someone breaks into Simon’s hotel room to trash it and make him think the crime boss ordered it. As Simon, knowing he was going to catch somebody up to something and having left Luduc behind*, stomped down the corridor, eyebrow raised, our son just howled with laughter.

But I can’t help but be amused by our son just not paying any attention to actresses. I told him up front that he wouldn’t recognize Pamela Ann Davy, as he really only knows her as a cartoon version in “The Power of the Daleks”, and he certainly wouldn’t recognize Valerie Leon, who has just a tiny cameo, but this is the third of seven Saint episodes we’ve watched with Annette Andre, and she’s just another pretty girl to him. I think I’ll make a “you’ve seen her before” sign and point it at the screen. I’ll get to do that twice Sunday night…

*Simon really does owe Luduc a nice lunch once all the paperwork on this one gets finished. He did give the poor sergeant his word of honor…

Space: 1999 1.5 – Death’s Other Dominion

So Space: 1999 has joined our son’s other little rotation of shows that we occasionally watch together in the afternoons, which reminds me of just how incredibly spoiled for choice the kids of today are. Remember all those afternoons in the late seventies when you felt like putting down the toys and books or coming in from outside playing for some TV time, and you just had to cross your fingers there was something better than F Troop on? Children today will never know our ennui.

Anyway, I decided against writing about the other shows we occasionally look at together, in part because who needs the extra work, and in part because Space: 1999 is usually so uninspiringly stupid. Not even a groovy guest star might have tempted me. He and I could watch BRIAN BLESSED in anything and I don’t have to write about it. I could even pass on the opportunity to make a joke about the possibility of spending eight hundred-plus years in the company of Valerie Leon, eternally thirty years young. Or a joke about one actor’s obvious hairpiece, or another about carved from ice on a distant planet or not, these dudes have the most 1970s pad I’ve ever seen.

No, I mention “Death’s Other Dominion” today for another reason. In this story, the Alphans deal with a time warp or something not really explained and meet the members of a lost expedition from Earth. From the Alphans perspective, all contact was lost just fifteen years previously, but for the people of Ultima Thule, it’s been about 880 years and they have not aged a day. Experiments to understand their immortality have left some of their number slowly vegetating in a distant cave as “the revered ones,” their minds completely gone as they twitch silently or rock side to side. And this really got under the kid’s skin in an unexpected and devilish way. Just before Tubi took an ad break, our son got up and went to the other sofa, eyes wide, as he said “This has really, really creeped me out.”

He was still so bothered by the implications and the visuals that when the episode comes to its thunderously memorable and incredibly grisly climax, he was less bothered by that freaky moment than the shuffling, mindless men and women walking back and forth in an ice cave, forever. I remembered the ending from when I first saw this one as a teenager – it foreshadows the finale of Raiders of the Lost Ark in a chilling way – but had completely forgotten the cave of the revered ones. Funny what sticks with you. This might stick with him for quite some time.

Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) 1.11 – That’s How Murder Snowballs

“That’s How Murder Snowballs” has an absolutely wonderful opening sequence. The story is set around the Palace Theatre, and begins with the death of one of the acts, live on stage. A mind-reading trick goes wrong, and the supposed clairvoyant is killed when his assistant, played by David Jason in a very small role, shoots him dead from the seventh row of a packed house. Somebody switched the blank cartridge for a live bullet.

There is an element of the episode which has dated rather badly, and is so incredibly obvious that I believe most grownup viewers today will be able to pick out the killer almost immediately. Our kid didn’t have a clue, of course, but he loved the runaround and the hijinks. The episode is a bottle show, set almost entirely in the same theater over a couple of days, as Jeff joins the company as a new mind-reading act, whose “trick” everybody is trying to deduce. Valerie Leon has a part as one of the dancers, and if the story suffers a little from a lack of logic as the killer strikes again and again when there really is no reason at all to, that’s okay. Some killers aren’t logical, and some of them act like they’e got fifty minutes of television to fill. I certainly enjoyed this story, and it was very nice to see a police inspector who’s on Jeff’s side for once, but it does wear its “only on TV” badge with pride.