Well, all these years later, and I've finally seen a Keel episode. Unfortunately, "Hot Snow" is incomplete, but there's still plenty to say about the first act.
The episode starts off nicely, with an introduction to Dr. David Keel and his fiancée, Peggy. One gets a nice sense of their relationship in the first few scenes. I particularly liked their little guessing game as Keel tries to recall the rather important detail he's missing. They couldn't be happier, and Ian Hendry and Catherine Woodville portray it well. But it's clear it can't last.
Meanwhile, we've got Spicer, a stereotypical thuggish type who reminds one that this isn't the Emma Peel era anymore. He's shown lurking around the office a good bit, looking sinister, as he searches for the "snow" which has been mistakenly sent to the surgery. A few things don't add up here—first of all, why Spicer doesn't take the package when he has the chance, instead just staring at it for a bit until he has to hide again. It's not as though Peggy would notice it missing, at least not for awhile—she doesn't pay any attention to it when she answers the phone. If he had taken it then, Keel wouldn't have ended up walking off with it. Also, it's a bit peculiar that Spicer didn't wait until after everyone had left to take the "snow"—he heard Keel and Peggy's plans to meet, so he knew they'd be out. Why not take it then? I realize this is a little nitpicky for a show shot live forty-five years ago, but I thought it detracted from the plot a bit.
In the meantime, we get to meet Dr. Tredding, Keel's partner in the surgery. He's an older, slightly paternal chap to Keel and Peggy, and though we don't get to see much of him, he's a good addition to the show. Sadly, it appears that he is never used again after the conclusion of "Brought to Book," something of which I have only recently become aware. "The Avengers" never featured recurring characters that weren't somehow wrapped up in the spy business, even remotely, be they enemies (e.g., Benson, Brodny), superiors (e.g., Mother, Charles), or one of Steed's many partners. It would've been fun, at least in this season, with everything more in keeping with the crime genre, to have a character with an outside perspective on what Steed and Keel were getting themselves mixed up in each week, someone who wasn't within Steed's sphere of influence.
Spicer's failure to retrieve the "snow" is reported to his superior, Ronnie Vance, who's a good example of the fairly standard villain (a drug dealer) that populates the show in the early years. Despite this, he has a little Yorkie dog as a pet, which is vaguely reminiscent of a certain Bond villain and his cat. (I presume this was intentional, but perhaps not). It is decided that Peggy must die for being a witness to their mistake. Spicer reiterates Peggy and Keel's plans to meet to pick out an engagement ring, and this gives us a very suspenseful scene, as we watch Keel wait for Peggy with the foreknowledge of her ultimate demise. The way the couple goes from happiness to tragedy in seconds is highly effective, and Hendry portrays Keel's subsequent confusion, shock, and grief very well. Peggy's death acts as not only a nice justification for the title, but sets up Keel as the first Avenger with the emotional baggage of losing his significant other, something no fewer than three subsequent characters would endure.
This episode is wonderful to watch for its historical value alone, and I'm glad to finally be able to give it a viewing. What a shame it's incomplete—I'm dying to see John Steed as he began.
4.5 out of 5
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