The Golden Fleece
Cries of racism are usually directed at this episode, but I don't think that it is the case here. Yes, there are certain aspects that could be called prejudice, but not racist. I would say that the Chinese characters are treated quite respectfully. Mr. Lo is a very good character with a certain mystique to him. It is more the other characters' assumptions about him that are racist—for example, the way that Major Ruse naturally writes Mr. Lo off as being at fault instead of one of his own men. "Foreigners, they're all the same."
The major characters are very human. They all have their own agendas and motivations. I like the way that the English officers only turned to crime to financially support those who'd left the army. It seems unusual to have a real world concern (at that time?) featured in The Avengers. But that's not to say that it doesn't work.
This episode features a very impressive array of acting from all concerned. Firstly we have Warren Mitchell demonstrating just what a versatile actor he is. He brings real conviction to his performance, and a subtlety that he sadly wouldn't get another chance to display in the show. Robert Lee as Mr. Lo is very good; it's a shame that the ageing make-up wasn't more effective. I love his comment about it always being misty in London (how times have changed). Having seen him in this it's a great pity that he would end up relegated to being the butt of the joke in the late seventies comedy Mind Your Language.
One of the many things I love about the videotape years is the way that Steed and Cathy actually live in their respective homes. Their homes are used as much more than a backdrop—the amount of times they lounge around reading magazines, etc. Roger Marshall again shows us how well he writes for their characters, giving them some great moments, i.e. arguments. My favourite is the one with the cushion, especially when Cathy falls back off the foot stool and starts laughing.
There is some imaginative design work on display; it's particularly nice that the Chinese restaurant is made to look out of the ordinary (in keeping with the series' early directive about unusual locations).
Peter Hammond adds his usual flair to the proceedings. The opening scene is worthy of special note. Not much really happens in the scene, but Hammond directs it in such a way as to make it interesting. Macnee always benefits from Peter Hammond's direction as he gives him all those wonder touches like playing with his umbrella.
I give it four out of five. A strong story.
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