Visitor Reviews
Page 54 of 164

Esprit de Corps
by Iain Clarke

I think David has to blame this one on living on the other side of the pond. To be into this episode, as I really am, you have to understand the political situ of the time, along with elements of the history of the British Monarchy. Even if you don't live here, you can get a hint of the idea, which is a good one. I disagree that the lack of sight of any troops lets the thing down. Personally, I find it adds to the tension: what you don't see and imagine outside the barracks is more frightening than what you would see. It also has a special place in my heart as the first episode of The Avengers that I saw. What lets it down is the rushed ending. We get a nice, slow, steady build up of tension throughout the episode, and then the whole thing seems to gallop at the end, completely ruining the curve, not to mention a solid piece of direction and scripting. The use of film for the exterior shots adds an extra touch of class.

This is a really fine episode for a lot of reasons. Firstly, Pat and Honor are clearly having fun, Pat especially. His line about getting "supplies" is great, but for me he manages to trump it with his response to Honor's line, "I suppose it never occurred to you that you're not supposed to put leather in a washing machine?" to which he replies, "yes, but surely cows get wet sometimes?" His scenes with Jessop are fantastic, and his surly military historian act is a scream. The way he "gooses" Cathy to get her attention stands out, too—had it been another situation, there's no way he'd have got away with it! Honor's judo scenes and her reactions to Trench and Stuart-Bollinger are well judged.

The late Roy Kinnear, as ever, is excellent as the "conveniently corrupt" Private Jessop, who does good for Steed and Cathy in the end. The scene where he and Steed discuss the merits of the latter's last dinner is priceless, and at the end of Steed's tensely shot break in his delivery of "Are ye hungry Major Steed?" is a great way to end the first act. I think the implication is that Jessop either loads the firing squad's rifles with blanks or persuades them to miss. I wish that had been cleared up, as it is a little messy.

John Thaw is regarded today as one of our country's finest screen actors, and here you can see why. His Captain Trench is the complete opposite to Jessop. No redeeming features, if any, surly, ambitious, and arrogant. The way he drools over Cathy and ends up receiving a good kick for his troubles is wonderfully played. His blatant distrust and dislike of Steed is well shot and acted. I just wonder how he manages to demolish the staircase when he's shot! As the video notes, this was probably a warm-up for his role in the ATV series Redcap about the military police. It's a credit to the actor that we manage to hate his villain as much as we gun for his heroes, such as Regan and Morse. I wish they'd explained the plot more about his affair with Bollinger's wife; they refer to it, but it never really serves any significant purpose. Better to have been left out.

Mention must also go to Duncan Macrae as the flamboyant army general—a solid performance that occasionally goes too far, but is well thought out and executed. He and Kinnear would later star in a sitcom together called The Rag Trade, by the way.

Nice. 8/10.

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