School for Traitors
This episode is the first Venus Smith episode I saw and it's quite good.
I knew that I loved this story the minute the Jazz burst into the opening scenes. The only real niggle about the music is why couldn't it be Humprey Lyttleton and his band (Ray Ellington would have been nice, but he's black so he could never be in The Avengers).
The episode has really dated because the subject matter is still an issue here in Merry-England. There is an allusion to the spies trained at Cambridge throughout and it's a good premise. Melissa Stribling is excellent in her role as a "black widow." She has this sort of evil, dangerous streak which would probably attract a lot of men to her.
Another nice thing is that the blackmail for once doesn't involve affairs and/or accidental killings, which dominate the crime genre today. Higby is a great character in his dirty mackintosh. He is such an Emma Peel villain it's uncanny; perhaps this is an early sign of the way the show would head.
Julie Stevens is quite good at playing the innocent caught up in events. Another thing which crops up in seventies crime shows (Julie did have some influence) is her involvement, which is believable and a good ploy. It makes you wonder why she didn't kick Steed's backside away in some episodes ("The Removal Men," "A Chorus of Frogs").
Patrick Macnee is quite laid back and allows John Standing and Julie Stevens to take the limelight, and he even makes a fluffed line look real. East is a good character as well, and it would have been interesting to see him as a regular (hello fan fiction writers).
Overall: Four and a half bowlers.
School for Traitors
The Avenged?: Some feckless college students.
Diabolical Masterminds?: Blackmailers recruiting bright young things as future spies. Probably less interesting than the real life McLean/Burgess case that no doubt inspired it. The best line is from the ringleader, the expansive publican (bar manager) Higby: "Why is it that beer always tastes so much better after closing time?"
The Avengers?: Venus's fourth transmitted story. She still moves rather like a puppet with tangled strings. She and Steed call each other "love" occasionally, and seem to be friends at last, so I'm led to think that the antagonism is now reserved for Steed/Cathy.
Umbrella, Charm and a Bowler Hat?: Eventually. Venus fends off East who is quite smitten with her; it's unclear why, as he's a thoroughly pleasant chap and is even happy to accompany her on guitar. Foolish girl!
Bizarre?: No, but a bit of a slog. No mystery whatsoever, and ho-hum direction. A reasonable college quadrangle set, which gets overused and becomes obviously indoors, despite Venus saying what a lovely change it is to sing outdoors for a week. The most bizarre thing is that One-Seven shows up at the college to assign Steed the case, since Steed has already set up Venus to look after one the first of the blackmail victims. Why does One-Seven need to be there (apart from ABC saving on another set) — even as an exposition device he adds nothing that couldn't have been explained by Steed to Venus, and he must have rushed a bit to beat Steed's speedy arrival. (Yet another boss! Steed's department seems rather top-heavy in the early years; loads of bosses but they only assign one agent, who then has to inveigle four of his reluctant acquaintances to assist him!) The villainess keeps small crocodiles because they're "elemental, like me." Er, quite.
There's a blooper as a big shadow, perhaps a production crew member, scuttles (noisily!) across the foreground in Claire Summers' hallway just before Higby reaches the door for his last scene. Venus' warning whistle is also rather feeble and breathless.
One bowler (it would be two if Venus had abstained from enforced jollity with songs like "Yellow Bird" and "Put on a Happy Face," to which she is even less suited than her usual jazz repertoire).
School for Traitors
Plot: Good. Blackmailing promising students at the university so that, when they are in a position of power, they can be manipulated is believable. The problem with this episode is that, except for the twist at the end, it is too see-through. I knew at once that Higby and Claire Summers were accomplices when Higby identified the check as being forged.
Direction: OK. Nice shot through the aquarium.
Acting: Very Good. Excellent performance from John Standing.
Tag: Poor. Pointless.
Miscellaneous: Similar to "A Sense of History" considering the college setting. The eye painted on Claire's door reminded me of the Cyclops peephole on Emma's door. The episode would have been better if Venus didn't sing in it, not that she can't sing but that it is pointless to plot advancement. For some odd reason I liked this episode.
Overall Rating: 5/10
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