They Keep Killing Steed
After a long hiatus, I re-visited this episode the other day. God, it's good! Tara King episodes seem to get their fair share of criticism in the Avengers sites I've visited. I admit I haven't seen too many of them—I have six in my own collection and have seen another two that I don't own—but they are generally quite good (apart from "Homicide and Old Lace"—what a turkey!).
This one is different. "They Keep Killing Steed" is one of the most well-filmed episodes of all the series. Rob Fuest did himself no harm with this one. From the opening scene, it is full of atmosphere. The long shots of the quarry leaping into the close up of Harcoss' eyes. Very clever. The music is extremely eerie and complements the cinematography well.
Sorry, I can't agree with David on Ray McAnally's accent. It may be annoying, but I reckon he was one of the nastiest villains of all. Understated in his evil, quietly confident in his abilities. His dialogue was very convincing, I thought.
The only real let-down, if I can call it that, was the scene that introduced Ian Ogilvy (Baron von Kurt). "...you promised to choose between us..." I know it was the 60's, but good grief! At least he wasn't a complete plonker for the rest of his stint. He even went on to play the Saint in a late 70's series, Return of the Saint, which wasn't too bad.
This episode had a little of everything for everyone. TK-JS interplay, evil villains, good diabolical plot, nice fighting, cool cars, Mother in a daft location, music, filming... oh, what the heck! I'll give it four Bowlers.
'ello Mr Steed!
They Keep Killing Steed
This is an episode that I do not like. The plot is a bit confused and the amount of Steeds are confusing. It is boring watching to many Steeds. Steed is seen several times obviously played by the same actor Patrick Macnee. Mind you, there will always be one John Steed, and that is Patrick Macnee. The plot is a bit worn—arms deals, and someone wants to break up the peace talks, something like that.
Ian Oglvly is not the best supporting actor here for Tara. I think that a three-character series is not the best for The Avengers. The sword fight is totally out of the plot. Why swords? And the locations are limited—to a dump and the hotel—nothing really creative in this episode. There is really no humor, which usually sets off The Avengers in each story every week. Quite a number of the supporting characters are not really doing anything but just sittin,g smoking, or running in and out of the episode.
Ray McNally is not my favorite actor but he is not the worst in this episode. However, he is trying to be funny in this, and unfortunately he is not really, which is a pity. The way the faces are created for the doubles is not too bad, but it is only so-so. Mother turning up in an underwater office is not too bad—possibly this whole episode should have be underwater.
They Keep Killing Steed
I must have missed something here because I thought it was weak as Brian Clemens episodes goes. Basically, I kept asking why no one at the peace conference picked up on so many Steeds coming in. The same guy gave three or four Steeds the dove peace button! And what about the guards at the door? Were they so out of it that they didn't notice all the Steeds? Even the weakest security people could've noticed something hinkey going on and brought it to someone's attention.
And then, when the one Steed kept killing his compatriots—convenient that neither of them made any sound when they died. I know if someone stabbed me, I'd let out some noise.
Also, at the end when Steed comes out of the lab—just because he smiled, Tara knew he was the real Steed. When she had him cornered in the woods, he had problems giving her any clue that he was the original. I guess he finally remembered her Christmas present (the audio was hard to hear).
I see where it was given three bowlers, but sadly, I'd have to give it one. Not one of the better Avengers, no matter who Steed's partner is. Plus, that whole thing with Mother—simply ludicrous!
They Keep Killing Steed
2 1/2 corks.
A very dry episode for me. The saving grace was Mother's boat going down at the start. From there the laughs were few. Some would say this is a more serious episode. I think not; there are only less humorous episodes. And this Baron Von Curt, does he return? Gads. A bright note was that the close-ups of Tara were of a very lovely young lady. It also seemed to me that a very shapely Tara double was in the fight scenes in the gravel pit (if that's what it was). I enjoyed the plot and the Steed switch was slick. The closeness of Steed and Tara was shown by Steed's story identifying himself to Tara, and her patience and understanding of his style. Nice touch.
Best line: "What happened to you?" "He hit me." "He shows wisdom."
Best sight gag: Those handcuffs.
They Keep Killing Steed
3 1/2 corks.
This is the best Tara King episode I've seen as it's so three dimensional and full of colour. Early on in the quarry, it only gradually becomes clear that the action is being seen reflected in a window. Imaginative and colourful shots are used throughout, such as the interludes with 'Mother.' In a later scene the taillight of a reversing car comes right up and fills the screen.
The plot is not the simplest to follow but the events are full of humour. The Baron's first line to Miss King is certainly a bit of a surprise. Later when held captive, Steed's attempt to escape with a bribe sets up another classic. An almost identical situation later with Arcos is amusing simply because he's done it again. But it's Steed's aside as he leaves the Taxi at the Peace Conference that is my favourite (spoiler) "I think I’ve seen someone I Know!"
Steed daringly eliminates the main threat to the Peace Conference. So far the impostors have been easy to spot as Steed has been tied up, and so it's been quite light-hearted! A surviving impostor suddenly creates a real double-agent situation however as he is dressed identically to Steed. Miss King isn't sure if she's met the real Steed so she asks what he gave her for her birthday. He can’t remember. He eventually convinces her it's him by saying "strawberry shortcake." Could that be her birthday present or some other shared secret? He has to leave in a hurry, but when she finally finds him she can't hide her relief, and the Baron's sigh says it all.
They Keep Killing Steed
Plot: "They Keep Killing Steed" really has everything I could ask for in a classic Avengers episode. It has charm, atmosphere, a diabolical mastermind, plenty of fight scenes and of course... a wacky hideout for Mother! This is definitely one of the better Tara King episodes. I really do like the humor and sheer craziness that is apparent in most Tara King episodes. Theses elements that are played for laughs are possibly not so obvious in the Cathy Gale or Emma Peel episodes. This doesn't mean I'm criticising Cathy or Emma's stories; the Cathy Gale stories were filmed around the plot, the same for the Emma Peel monochromes. But once The Avengers was plunged into colour and was aimed at the American market, the series' plots got less detailed and style then became the issue. That is apparent in this episode. The plot is simple—a group of people decide to blow up a peace conference, but to do so they need to get past the guards. So they come up with "instant plastic surgery" with which they create Steed look-alikes to get past the guards. If I was only to rate this story by it's lame plot, then it would only gain one bowler, but I'm not just rating it on that.
I love the entrance to the underground laboratory through the old car, which is placed in a very secret place—in the middle of an open quarry just two miles out of the village. You can just imagine what trouble these devious masterminds would have when a nosey pensioner walks past the quarry with her dog! But anyway, I do like the idea of the entrance. Other highlights are: the army of Steed look-alikes all join the peace conference at the same time (why didn't the guards notice that at least ten Steeds entered within around half an hour?). I also like the fact that Patrick Macnee gets to play a villain (a few of the many look-alike Steeds). I really think Patrick Macnee plays a good bad guy (especially with a foreign accent!). It reminds me of the "The Man With Two Shadows" when Steed has that evil double, or in "Two's A Crowd" when Steed pretends he has a double and acts as a playboy. One criticism is of all the Tara Kings in general: I don't think the fight scenes are long enough. Steed and Tara attack their enemies, the enemies get beaten up, and then they are pushed across the other side of the room where they are knocked unconscious. So basically I wish the fights lasted longer.
Steed & Co: This episode has many memorable actors in it, a couple I recognise from Emma Peel episodes: Ray McAnally ("The Positive Negative Man"), Bernard Horsfall ("The Cybernauts" and "The Fear Merchants"), and Ross Hutchinson ("Man Eater Of Surrey Green"). Oh, and don't forget dear Mother who also starred in "The Town Of No Return" and "Something Nasty In The Nursery." As for Patrick Macnee, as I've mentioned, he not only played Steed well, he also played Steed's doubles well! In this episode, Tara is given a chance to be the leader and do all the explaining when Steed is kidnapped and she's stuck with the most irritating man I have ever encountered in The Avengers (Baron Von Curt). I mean, come on, what a creep! (Tara: "If you own the manor, then why are you staying at the hotel?" Curt: "Ah, well, I own that, too.") How pathetic can you get!
Mother's Headquarters: Well, what can I say? I simply love Mother's underwater HQ! "I'm testing out this sub for the Navy." I like the scene where Mother is in the boat with Ronda and she pulls the plug on the boat so it'll sink to the bottom of the river where they find the sub. Another good scene is when Curt takes Tara to the bridge and she dives in! She then finds the underwater HQ and tells Mother about how Steed has disappeared. Then Tara gets out of the river to find Curt. Tara: "Thanks for not asking any questions." Curt: "I wouldn't know where to begin!"
Miscellaneous: This episode is very well filmed, especially when you think of how hard it would be to arrange a fight scene between Steed and Steed! I also like the way that Steed's doubles have the same accent as they had originally, rather than them all suddenly sounding like Steed once they've under gone the "Instant Plastic Surgery". I didn't really notice any mistakes (but that's probably because I was so interested in the plot.) Personally I hate Tara's wardrobe in this episode, and check out the huge specs in the tag scene, how hideous! Oh yeah, the tag scene... well I think it's quite good, really—the illusion of Tara and Steed being on a beach, but then the camera zooms out and it turns out that the beach is a small set in the middle of Tara's living room.
I suppose considering the bad plot, but then also considering all the plus points like the good cast, sets and well filmed shots, I would have to rate this episode at a very good 8/10 (4 bowlers). So if you're thinking of watching this episode for the first time then definitely give it a go!
They Keep Killing Steed
This was one of the first episodes I saw when I discovered The Avengers, courtesy of Channel 4's reruns, in 1984, and I have to say that it is one of my favourites.
Stories and plots revolving around doubles or duplicates of principal characters (manufactured or otherwise) are nothing new in fiction, especially as far as television series of the 1960s are concerned, but rarely can this particular plot device have been carried off with such panache — one double of Steed would have caused a major headache in itself, but five? Hats off to Brian Clemens for giving such a well-worn plot a shot in the arm!
Robert Fuest's direction is also spot on, creating some very memorable and eerie scenes. For example, the teaser in which the prototype Steed double goes insane and is killed by Arcos when he tries to escape is shot in such a manner as to be quite chilling. Equally chilling is the scene where we witness the horrible fate of agent Nadine after his transformation into Steed goes haywire. This inspired direction, coupled with a quite brilliant score from Laurie Johnson, racks up the tension to such a degree that it's impossible to take your eyes of the screen!
As for the cast, Patrick Macnee gives his usual reliable performance as Steed, plus as the doubles in which he brilliantly conveys the cold-blooded nature of of all five. Linda Thorson gives an okay performance as Tara, but Patrick Newell is wasted as Mother - why bother with his scenes at all, especially as they contain some very strained humour and, consequently, don't add to the development of the plot at all? On the other hand, the performances of the two principal guest artists are of the highest quality. Ray McAnally as Arcos makes for a very charismatic and complex villain (his verbal jousting with the genuine Steed whilst playing chess is another high point of the episode), although he slightly lets himself down with that awful (I assume) East European accent. Ian Ogilvy's Baron von Curt develops quite nicely from being comic relief at the start of the show to playing a pivotal role in its denouement with his masterful swordplay (hard to believe that this is the same actor who, a decade later, transformed the character of Simon Templar into an uncharismatic one-note bore).
The other guest roles (Norman Jones as Zerson and Bernard Horsfall as Captain Smyth) aren't quite as compelling, simply because they aren't given that much airtime, although Zerson does deliver the episode's "coup de grace" as he mistakenly shoots and kills Arcos, believing him to be the genuine Steed.
All in all, though, a truly gripping episode from start to finish — four bowlers plus!
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