Visitor Reviews
Page 39 of 164

The Grandeur That Was Rome
Steed's Shadow

A nice plot variant this, which serves as a portent of things to come when The Avengers would become more quirky, less real world. Looney tune Sir Bruno Lucer (Hugh Burden) wants to take over the world—a common enough plot device, I'll grant you—but he's a fanatical admirer of the Roman Empire, and wants to rule as Caesar over a worldwide Roman Empire. It makes a nice change from Nazis popping up all over the place and wanting to reinstate the Reich! Coincidentally, it was interesting to hear Lucer's dictat—"One Empire, One People, One Caesar"—which chillingly echoed Hitler's "Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Führer".

Unfortunately, the storytelling is nothing to write home about, other than to tell the folks that it's bad. There are huge narrative leaps where the viewer is left wondering what the hell has happened. At one point, Steed fights with one of Lucer's cohorts, and is seemingly defeated, the scene ending with Steed up against it—his opponent's sword is at Steed's throat. Shortly afterwards, and with no explanation, Steed is free and we see no more of Lucer's aide. Interestingly, Dave Rogers' reference work, The Avengers (ITV Books/Michael Joseph, 1983), claims that Steed kills his opponent. It also ties up the plot at the end, with "Marcus" and "Octavia" being rounded up and arrested. The episode ends without them being dealt with—I can only assume that Mr. Rogers had access to the script, which was perhaps cut for timing purposes?

Acting is of a variable standard, with a couple of distinctly below-par performances among the guest cast which betray the "as live" nature of the recording. There are stumbles over lines, an actor nearly 'dries' before regaining his composure and the fight sequences are hardly impressively staged. Fortunately, Macnee and Blackman are on top form—as ever—and the three main protagonists, Burden as Lucer, Colette Wilde as Octavia and John Flint as Dodds ('Marcus') provide excellent support. Burden is perhaps a little fey in his portrayal of Sir Bruno and his love scenes with Octavia hardly convince, but he is a superb villain—he went on to play a memorable role in Jon Pertwee's first Doctor Who serial.

Technically, the episode is hardly what you might call "slick." There are several instances of cameras hitting the set, cables, or even performers (that's how it looked!) and after days of rehearsal, that's not good. At this point, I would like to point out that I am a fan of the Honor Blackman episodes, and the technical and acting faux pas in The Grandeur That Was Rome are not regular occurrences in her era.

It was amusing to see Steed's take on the civil servant once more. Bowler, suit, glasses. It made me think of Clark Kent—I was almost expecting him to perform a quick change in a telephone booth! Ms. Blackman's outfitting was rather let down by that awful hat she wears in this and several other episodes. It didn't suit you, Honor! Sorry! However, she did have the measure of Steed again in this episode—loved the quip she gave him as he tried to effect escape from the cell, dressed in a toga: "Mind your dress, Steed!". Great stuff.

So, all round, a good, strong idea, well played by the central cast, but screwed up big time by the lower ranks in the cast—aided and abetted by one of those studio days when clearly everything that could go wrong—did go wrong. One for the completist, I'm afraid.

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Page last modified: 5 May 2017.

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