Mr Teddy Bear
Upon finding out that a terrific episode like "Mr Teddy Bear" opened the Second Season in UK in September 1962, one can't help but regard it as historical. Conceived at a time of virtual hodgepodge among the starring roles, the maneuverings the TV business made around these first episodes of the Second Season, appear quite perplexing. "Mr Teddy Bear" was the seventh episode to be produced, but the first to be shown to British viewers. One may infer the understandable confusion the public must have experienced when they realized Steed had, alternatively, three different partners: Mrs Gale, Venus Smith and a Dr King. This latter came from a few episodes produced before Honor Blackman and Julie Stevens were hired. As a consequence, Cathy wasn't formally introduced in "Mr Teddy Bear." The public would have to wait until an episode called "Warlock" (only in January 1963!) to learn a little more about Mrs Gale, and in the meantime, assume she came from "nowhere" as Mrs Peel would, just a few years later.
However, not for this reason "Mr Teddy Bear" loses its own charming. In no way. By now, Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman had already worked together in three episodes. This forth would prove again that although their characters still kept a rather distant relationship, there was a spark that undoubtedly would jump out of the screen not too much later. We should remember, basically, that it was the first time the audience saw Steed teamed up with a woman. The fact is that the wise insolence shown by Steed, who still calls her "Cathy" (as he did in an earlier episode, "Death Dispatch") coupled to his "know-it-all" attitude, created in Mrs Gale a rather unpleasant situation of mixed feelings, sort of repulsion-attraction towards Steed, that leaves several pearls along the way. Just watch her furious look when Steed laughs openly at her, upon learning Mr Teddy Bear's cigarette case contained fingerprints of a chimp instead of the killer she tried to identify. Or her expression "Why aren't you dead?", wanting to sound funny, but truly ignoring Steed had escaped death miraculously. These are good examples of a battle between sexes (or should we say between characters?) that believe it or not, was pretty evident during the Second Season of The Avengers.
This special situation in which Steed and Cathy compare notes in fact holds the audience's attention, but by no means spoils the other fundamental elements of the episode. The surrealist scenes wherein Cathy arranges the "murder" of Steed with Mr Teddy Bear, talking all the time to a teddy bear with solemn gravity, place this episode as the precursor of others that would be based on the same idea. "How To Succeed....At Murder" and "Look - (stop me if you've heard this one) But There Were These Two Fellers..." also showed villains who gave wicked orders camouflaged by toys.
The killing methods Mr Teddy Bear makes use of, show his intelligence and originality; and by the way, gives this episode the privilege of presenting the first diabolic mastermind of the entire show. Alerted that Steed's life could truly be in danger in the hands of this unpredictable professional, One-Ten and his men take all precautions possible and leave Steed half-naked while his clothes are meticulously checked after his visit to Mr Teddy Bear's warehouse. (For those who had the chance to see the original "Cape Fear" in B&W, Steed's "strip-tease" sequence is very similar to that played by an unforgettable Robert Mitchum in that superb thriller of 1962.) Nevertheless, no one could have suspected that Mr Teddy Bear had smeared Steed's phone with a lethal poison, forcing Steed to inject himself an antidote before it was too late. And the ironic thing is that the "executioner" calls Steed to warn him... "You have just been murdered!"
For these and many other things, "Mr Teddy Bear" will remain as a great classic, a masterful piece among the most representative episodes of The Avengers. It's hard to understand that forty years after the episode was produced, it still retains all the freshness that even seems to improve as time goes by.
Mr Teddy Bear
"Perhaps you've noticed: I'm not a gentleman." Cathy dons her leather 'action suit' for the first time. She doesn't get a fight this week, but she does grapple playfully with Steed (he moves as if to kiss her and gets pushed to the floor for his pains). In story production order, Cathy is by now really getting into her stride (before taking a break for Venus Smith!).
The praise this story receives is deserved, but it's true that it is best watched after some of Cathy's others. Between the hard-nosed crime stories before it, and the more fanciful tales to come in the third and fourth seasons, only at this point in the series could a scene like Cathy's final confrontation with the 'superb technician' assassin have such an edge of uncertainty as to its outcome. Gripping! She's used a gun before and looks prepared to kill, resolute in the face of the threat of sudden death from an expert in its techniques.
Cathy is abrupt with Steed; "I've already thanked you" when he reminds her that he saved her life, and "not on the furniture!" when he brings his dog around to her flat. He holds his ground when she says he should go to the bottom of the class: "Well, you should be caned in front of the class!" Kinky. We also see Steed's home for the first time — it comes with en-suite atropine antidote!
The Avenged?: A long line of victims, the last of which is Michael Robbins' hapless biker, discovered in a scene that made me jump! Steed revels in the ageing biker's misery: "I see here it says you've been driving trucks for years. But I suppose it's a bit too difficult to follow anyone in a truck!"
Diabolical Masterminds?: Why did Mr Teddy Bear swallow the pill? He could just have given up. But he probably had pride of some sort, and couldn't face losing and a probable hanging for murder. He apologises for lying to Cathy. One almost feels sorry for the downfall of this complex man, although his charm hides ruthless professionalism (as does Steed's). The scene-setting of One-Ten explaining Mr TB's wartime resistance background is time well spent. His mistake of returning to the scene of an earlier crime is an apparent plot hole.
The Avengers?: Cathy is clever, witty and charming. She gives as good as she gets with Steed, though. The famous "why aren't you dead" is delivered with real venom, hinting at a real sense of loss when she thought he'd died, and also anger at his casual lack of reassurance. Watch her seething as he discusses the photogenic quality of his corpse.
Umbrella, Charm and a Bowler Hat?: Steed strips (not all at once) for a booby-trap check. However it seems "you can leave your hat on" as that doesn't seem to get checked — odd when Mr TB reminded Steed to take it with him. He's gangsterish with Cathy: "So forget about concealing six-shooters in your stocking-tops, baby blue eyes!" And Cathy doesn't do 'charm'. She does something far better: directness. Oh, and what a gorgeous Chinese silk jacket.
Bizarre?: For all its reliance on high-tech gadgetry and long-distance assassination, this episode works as a brilliant character piece. Don't let the awkward intro scene put you off, they are the only unconvincing performances in the piece. It twists and turns and raises a smile. Even One-Ten seems a bit more lively than usual. Fun scenes include Steed carrying on a conversation with his unseen foe while whacking merry hell out of a gadget-laden room with his umbrella, Cathy's clever exchanges with Mr Teddy Bear, and Steed's teasing of the trucker/biker.
Mr Teddy Bear
"Mr Teddy Bear" launched not only Cathy Gale, but many elements of what was to become the lasting Avengers style on an unsuspecting world. There's the air of the surreal, the diabolical mastermind and the technical gimmicks. All that's missing is the fighting that arrived soon afterwards and the parody of the thriller genre that developed in later years. In "Mr Teddy Bear" there are cute elements, but we seem to be meant to take it fairly seriously. The episode rattles along at a rapid pace with lots of action. This opener to the second series certainly showed the future potential of The Avengers, although most of the second series didn't live up to it.
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