Invasion of the Earthmen
This has to be one of the most universally hated episodes of The Avengers ever. But why?
Well, simply watching it makes it very clear. Before you have the chance of a good episode, a good script would be helpful. Terry Nation should be applauded for trying something original as the idea of training young cadets for space conquest, freezing them and then one day reviving them when space travel is commonplace is very good (even if not very Avenger-esque). It's a shame that it is so lacking in any form of humour. Episodes of The Avengers without humour are nothing new (see "The House That Jack Built"), but they usually have something strong going on to pull it together.
The relationship between Steed and Tara is in its infancy and seems very awkward and not particularly enjoyable to watch. There is no evidence of the spark that later developed. Steed calls Tara "Miss King" all the time, and it just doesn't feel right. Linda Thorson's inexperience is very apparent. She hasn't yet developed her carefree attitude and takes everything far too seriously. Even in the poorest episodes you can always rely upon the repartee between the leads, but "Invasion" doesn't have any. That tag scene makes me very uneasy!
One can see what John Bryce's team were trying to do but they just don't pull it off well enough. Don Sharp's debut as director is pretty poor. The best images are from the early location footage in the village and outside the hotel. But the inclusion of the dog and the camera angles make me suspect that this is actually the work of second unit director, John Hough. The sets are awful, completely lacking the style that is usually present. The quarry set is so bad that I thought that I was watching a Star Trek episode. The school is basically are load of corridors, which don't make for good television. The less said about Brigadier Brett's office the better — Tin Foil Paradise. Laurie Johnson's music, though quite atmospheric at times, doesn't do the story any favours. The performances are all pretty bad, although given the material, it isn't really surprising. Even the usually reliable Macnee looks like he's struggling to resist the onset of rigor mortis.
Like another of Nation's episodes, "Take Me To Your Leader," he doesn't take advantage of a good central idea and the whole thing just seems pointless. It had potential but just doesn't work. It does have a very strong atmosphere, especially in the opening scenes but just that's not enough.
One Bowler for good intentions.
Invasion of the Earthmen
For all the gaping flaws in style, design and acting ascribed to "Invasion of the Earthmen" by fans, there's actually quite a good vestigial story to be found here. Terry Nation, having previously developed the Daleks for Doctor Who and who would later devise the epic Blake's 7, foregrounds his interest in Nazi analogy and studies of social Darwinism. Planning the conquest of outer space with his army of cryogenically frozen Aryan astronauts and keenly interested in the "survival of the fittest", Brigadier Brett is a Hitler for the space age.
So the episode contains a decent enough plot with The Avengers getting to grips with some big science fiction concepts without alienating the audience with technobabble or pretentiously overblown dialogue. Sadly, the chief flaw of "Invasion" lies in its lumpenly indelicate realisation. The episode moves very slowly and, rather than follow the Tara King era's natural inclination for humorous romps, it all seems to be played absolutely straight. So, potentially funny, amusingly arch moments simply do not work, and the quarry is so blatantly artificial that the set pieces are singularly devoid of tension.
This malaise even seems to have spread to the actors. Patrick Macnee resigns himself to go through the motions with a distinct lack of enthusiasm. Hampered by an unflattering blonde wig and Peter Pan costume, Linda Thorson has evidently lost all inspiration and minces about like some misguided Principal Boy in uninvolving fashion. The guest cast don't seem to think it's worth the effort, either. With more development of Brett's character as another eccentric diabolical mastermind and some much-needed mockery of the po-faced students of the Alpha Academy, things could have been so much better. Throughout the episode, production and script pull in different directions and neither benefit.
Viewed through a kitsch perspective, sometimes an episode that is just plain awful is more likeable than one that utterly fails to fulfill its potential. All "Invasion" really needed to become a good episode was a sharpened script and some higher production values. As it is, it's probably my least favourite of the Tara King period and a criminal waste of the talent involved.
Invasion of the Earthmen
This is a real oddball of an episode. It does actually have a quite good plot but this episode is let down a bit. Not only because Linda Thorson is wearing that wig, but because of the change in tone throughout the episode.
For the most part this episode is told in the gritty 'realistic' style of the Cathy Gale era due to the bulk of the work being produced by John Bryce the producer of the third season and just under half of the second season. This in itself makes the episode stand out from those around it with the small exception of "False Witness," "The Curious Case of the Countless Clues" and "Have Guns - Will Haggle." But no, the Doctor Who-esque plot makes the episode stand out as well and it's only part of a Doctor Who plot. As Joe Lloyd rightly points out, this episode does have a Doctor Who feel to it at times: space wars, cryogenics, crawling through caves and we even get lots of running up and down corridors, but it's almost as if Terry Nation was trying to paste elements of several shows he'd written into one. I think the plot is quite good but it needs something extra to keep it going.
The cold reality style suits the material, but then we get the annoying wig explanation scenes. We've got one at the start that's enough; we don't need more, even if do we get lots of Linda's legs in the process. The opening harkens back to the "Mrs Peel—We're needed" sequences in the fifth season, which is a relief.
William Lucas is great as Brigadier Brett, turning what would be a military buffoon in another man's hands into a character who does at least have some redeeming features. It is nice to see a Tara villain who just isn't plain Barmy; his motivation is well defined and he is convincing. Which cannot be said about Trump, who just doesn't quite cut the mark. Warren Clarke, who is now quite a good actor, here seems a combination of a rain forest's worth of wood and someone who'd rather be somewhere else. The music is flat and dull and does very little to keep the story going. And the usually reliable Don Sharp gives direction worthy of Kim Mills! In fact, Kim Mills has done better.
The introduction scene is handled well, with a nice mood-setting sequence. But that snake... No comment. Another redeeming feature of the episode is the hunt scenes with the two students hunting one another—a good idea not utilised properly. Also the doctor who style journey through the caves (used mainly by Terry Nation) is quite good fun.
The tag scene really changes the Steed/Tara relationship, practicing their karate, to put it politely. It's not as bad as David suggests.
Two and a half out of five.
Invasion of the Earthmen
I can honestly say that there isn't an Avengers episode that I can admit to really hating, but this one comes pretty close. Terry Nation never really got The Avengers formula right and this, his first effort, is rather poor. It looks cheap, and that's something The Avengers never really looked before, as far as I'm concerned. I'm normally petrified of snakes, but the one in the episode is laughable while the Humpty Dumpty astronaut would've been rejected from even the cheapest Doctor Who story. The quarry sets look awful, and who on Earth told the set designer that green and purple go together? But then being the late sixties, who knows what he was on?
So the effects are naff, but what about the storyline? The plot, although interesting and with a good sense of mystery, is slight, and Nation resorts to his overused idea of making the villains psuedo-Nazis (in copycat Star Trek uniforms!) There is little of the usual humour to be found, and it all seems so cold, serious and decidedly un-Avenger-like.
The young members of the cast (including Warren Clarke from Dalziel and Pascoe) aren't given much to do except march around, while Linda Thorson (filming her second episode) shows how inexperienced she was at the time, and gives a very uneven performance. She's not completely to blame, as her character in this episode is more like a Doctor Who assistant—getting captured and screaming when she falls over, and not like the capable trainee agent she would later become. And she's much better-looking without the Harpo Marx wig! Fortunately Patrick Macnee puts in his usual good performance, although it's strange hearing him call Tara "Miss King." William Lucas as Brigadier Brett makes a reasonable villain, but isn't given enough to do, either.
No Avengers episode is completely without merit, but this comes close. In its defense it was the second Tara King story to be filmed, during a period of unrest in the show's history. This probably explains why it was buried in the middle of the season when transmitted, rather than being one of the first shown.
Invasion of the Earthmen
What to say about an episode that went through so many ups and downs before being put on screen? Conceived in the midst of chaos behind the scenes after Diana Rigg's departure, Fennell-Clemens' dismissing, the return of the (until then) reliable John Bryce, Linda Thorson's arrival, Patrick Macnee's displeasure and the Bryce/Fennell-Clemens casting, "Invasion of the Earthmen" seemed doomed from the beginning.
One can't ask for the moon, to be sure. But I have to confess that notwithstanding the pressures of the time factor on the one hand, and the American partners on the other, Fennell and Clemens did what they could to save this episode from utter ignominy. Just a few teaspoons of sugar to the cake Bryce had made weeks before, and the end product would leave the oven a bit burned to a crisp, but at least still palatable.
Terry Nation's script, based on his penchant for Nazism, phobias and survival of the fittest, is not too far removed from earlier episodes throughout the show. However, being his first story for The Avengers, "Invasion of the Earthmen" doesn't seem to match the Avenger-ish spirit, mainly because the humor that always typified the show is desperately missing in it. Not even newcomer Don Sharp's direction could improve the state of affairs.
To top it all off, the settings and "special effects" leave a lot to be desired. The Alpha Academy looks like a cloister whose walls were painted in the most outlandish colors—very 60s. An enigmatic robot-astronaut hanging around pointlessly (could we consider him as the eccentric character of the episode?) in the end turned out to be a disguised man, who winds up in the floor once Tara kicks him down. And finally, tell me how could that bogus snake have killed an agent? An Avengers mystery, no doubt... As for the cast, well, the neo-Nazi Brett in fact doesn't qualify as a diabolic mastermind, but regardless, he is the best of a cast that does not add a thing, for the insipid uniformed youngsters are just that—insipid.
Tara, who appears in her second episode wearing a blond wig as a result of the mess the stylists made of Linda Thorson's own hair, does her best to polish her role, but maturity was many episodes away yet. Her relationship with Steed is purely formal, although the hug she gives him in the tunnel, emphasizing "Steed... you're wonderful!" reveals her upcoming "baby-deeply-in-love-with-her-idol" fate. Visibly affected by his initial rejection to this new season of The Avengers, Patrick Macnee plays a Steed who for the first time appears somewhat unfit, driving an AC instead of his traditional Bentley, and virtually deprived of his tongue-in-cheek humor. Could we permit that unusual feature in Steed? Not until The New Avengers pulled in, at least...
With a summary like this, many readers may wonder whether that cake Fennell-Clemens removed from the oven didn't cause us some indigestion. Honestly, I don't think so. In spite of its evident flaws, "Invasion of the Earthmen" is a rare Avengers episode full of action and intrigue that maintains a very good pace. After all, one has to admit that, at the time of filling up the holes Bryce left, Fennell and Clemens were much less successful in remaking "The Great Great Britain Crime" as "Homicide and Old Lace."
Invasion of the Earthmen
I was extremely unsure if I would be able to tolerate this episode after reading all the unfavorable reviews, but, fortunately, I managed to get through it. And in all honesty, I thought "Invasion of the Earthmen," surpassed such Tara episodes as "Whoever Shot Poor George..." and "My Wildest Dream." It would be difficult to list all my reasons for liking "Invasion," so I'll just give a brief explanation.
First of all, I thought it was a novel idea to have Tara working on her first official case. Miss King eagerly follows her mentor around during the whole hour, picking up valuable tips on how to be a spy. By the end of the episode, she has proven herself quite capable of being an agent. True, she still has a lot to learn, but I like the idea of having her develop her spy skills through the series. At least we know where and when she started her work, while we never know how Cathy and Emma became such brilliant amateurs.
Then there's the wit. Though not as abundant as in later Tara episodes, there are a few clever lines. For instance, Steed's remark when Tara and he are locked in Brett's office. "They certainly know how to make you feel wanted." Also, the beginning where Steed comes to Tara's flat to tell her of the case is filled with humorous lines. Steed informs her that the best way to throw an enemy is through a double-plated glass window. I think it's my favourite scene.
Tara King acts like an inexperienced agent half the episode, while the other half, she fights expertly and gets out of danger all by herself. I particularly enjoy the scene where Tara hits two students with a fire bucket and then runs, jumps, and kicks an astronaut in the face. Well done, Tara! She also uses her brains when she's stuck in the Tube, using her leather vest to stuff in the hole where the spiders are emerging.
Now, granted, I am not a space fan. While most Avengers fans claimed the plot was one of its better parts, I found it very uninteresting. However, I think the other merits make up for that shortcoming.
Another thing I thought weakened the story was Patrick Macnee's lackluster performance. At times he mutters his lines instead of delivering his usual clear and crisp dialogue. Furthermore, Tara's wig is ghastly. I'm glad the screenwriters explained why she was wearing a blond wig, but I wish the directors had never decided Linda Thorson needed to be a blonde.
All in all, the story was clear and the dialogue was quite sharp despite the fact that "Invasion of the Earthmen" is considered one of the worst Avengers episodes ever. I give it two and a half bowlers out of five.
Invasion of the Earthmen
Plot: This is the one universally hated Avengers episode, and I actually quite like it! This is probably because I'm also a big fan of Doctor Who and Sci-fi in general. The combination of science and a plan to dominate outer space with an army is straight out of a Bond film. I understand why most Avengers fans hate this episode, mainly because they probably don't like sci-fi, or at least don't like it when it's mixed with The Avengers. The plot is very original (for an Avengers episode anyway!); it has a few twists which make it more fun to watch. I also like the chemistry between Tara and Steed in this one, especially all the jokes made about her blonde wig, to wit, "All right, keep your hair on!"
Miscellaneous: The music score in this episode is new, unlike most Tara episodes where they re-use Emma Peel incidental and stick it all together. I think the fight scenes were a little short (as with most of the Tara King fights) but the fight music played with it was very exciting! I only recognise one actor (besides Linda and Patrick): William Lucas, who starred in "Death's Door" as Stapley. Also note that we never get the pleasure of seeing dear Mother in this episode—this is because Mother was devised by Brian Clemens for the episode "The Forget-Me-Knot" which was filmed after this one.
Overall I think John Bryce did a good job on this one and I would rate this at 9/10 (4 bowlers). So, if you're into sci-fi and The Avengers, then I'd give this one a go, especially if you're thinking of watching it for the first time. But if you're not so keen on the science based episodes then I wouldn't bother watching it because you'll just be disappointed.
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