by Ryan Hallman
The Linda Thorson era of The Avengers is without a doubt "the" most controversial of all. Many debates have raged over the years as to whether she was a positive or negative influence on the show. My own personal belief is that she was a little of both. While she certainly doesn't deserve a lot of the criticism that was thrown at her, she does seem on certain occasions out-of-place with her portrayal of Tara King. This season of The Avengers provided viewers with a real mixed bag of treats—some good—some bad—and the majority falling somewhere in the middle. "Stay Tuned" is definitely one of the season's highlights, with a off-beat and moody script provided by Tony Williamson and intriguing direction from Don Chaffey.
The story sees bowler-hatted hero Steed struggling to piece together the last three weeks of his life. Not recalling anything of his holiday—for which there is plenty of evidence to indicate that he did go—Steed is naturally a very worried man. With Tara's help, Steed tries to re-piece the missing gaps in his memory and find out what really happen to him.
This episode benefits greatly from a dark and somewhat atmospheric feel, which is particularly emphasised in the lighting of many scenes—noteworthy are the sequences where Steed & Tara are struggling for control of her car, and where Steed is being "shadowed" through the dark streets of London by a assailant he cannot "see." The music—which was lifted from "The Joker"—is highly effective in this setting. The sets are also quite impressive, lending a suspicion nature to the proceedings.
Patrick Macnee is afford the opportunity to turn a strong and—considering the circumstances in which his character finds himself—troubled performance as Steed. Linda Thorson plays a rather secondary role in the episode, but nevertheless is quite good as Tara, who struggles to help Steed regain his mind and help him get to the bottom of this dilemma. The guests are also very good in their respective roles. Gary Bond, Kate O'Mara (who looks so deliciously "sixties"!), and Roger Delgado make memorable villains. Iris Russell is a particular stand-out as "Father" (pre-dating Judi Dench's portrayal of "M" in the Pierce Brosnan James Bond movies)—a strong assertive woman in charge of a top secret government department. All in all, a top story to enjoy watching—perfect to sit back with friends who are either familiar with the show or not.
Tony Williamson gives, in my opinion, his best script; the only real competition is "Too Many Christmas Trees." It's nice to see our master spy does mange to throw away his spy persona in once a while and metaphorically let his hair down. The opening scenes bring back the eeriness that "The Forget-Me-Knot" provided, and cranks it up a notch with Steed behaving more like a guy who has lost his memory, with his constant searching for answers.
There is a really good scene for Tara in which her reaction to Steed possibly meeting someone—she's really upset by that, isn't she? The atmosphere is brilliantly maintained up until the end, with the psychologist analyzing Steed and the really eerie scenes of Steed exploring London. The scene with the man following Steed and whistling while Steed can't see him is an excellent sequence, as is the scene with that girl at his flat (honesty is the best policy).
Music from "The Joker" is wisely re-used to give that spooky atmosphere early on. Of course this leads to the guest cast, notably Roger Delgardo as Kreer. They really should have used him more then they did; his brief performance shows us how brilliant he is at being a mastermind. I can't help but feel that the Doctor Who production team were watching as Kreer and The Master are very similar. The fight between him and Tara is wonderfully done, with the calmness in the room before and after.
While watching this I can't help think that Tony Williamson had seen "The Forget-Me-Knot" in production, liked it, and rewrote to make it better as elements are very similar.
A smashing Tara episode. Four bowlers.
Generally speaking, I prefer the more goofy, upbeat episodes of The Avengers. I enjoy off-the-wall plots, farfetched villains and eccentrics aplenty. Leave gritty realism, I figure, to disease-of-the-week movies on Lifetime.
"Stay Tuned" doesn't fit that cheery mold, but it is satisfying nonetheless. Darker and more brooding than I'd like, but still a well-made hour of television.
Two things jump out at me from "Stay Tuned":
Other highlights include:
Four out of five bowlers for a serious-but-good episode.
4 bowlers out of 4. This one is just the second best Tara King episode (the first being "Who Was That Man I Saw You With?").
In my opinion, a lot of Tara King episodes are as good as Emma Peels, but "Stay Tuned" is superior to many of Emma's episodes... It begins with a very strange but intriguing scene wherein Steed prepares to leave on holidays; he close the windows, transfers his call to the usual number, but when he open the door to leave, a smiling man hits Steed and after that he just closes the door! What a smashing debut... Another scene that surprises me was when Tara and Steed are in Tara's car talking, and suddenly Steed takes the wheel and tries to kill both of them! This episodes has its own very special atmosphere, and one of the scenes that best demonstrates this is when Steed is walking in the street at night, and we hear and see someone whistling but Steed doesn't, and again Steed is knocked out. Again we return to Steed transferring his calls again, which is very bizarre the first time you watch the episode. And the finale is superb: Steed at last hits the man who had been hitting Steed from the beginning... how marvellous!
With respect to actor performances, this episode is fabulous, especially for Steed's fans. Patrick Macnee's performance is breathtaking; he gives the perfect sentiment of paranoia for the atmosphere of the episode—so perfect, in fact, that sometimes in the episode I really thought Steed was a little bit mad and out of his mind. And it was very interesting seeing Father; I really wish that she had been in more episodes...
"Stay Tuned" has very good locations—we see Steed in the streets of London at night, which is very rare. Also, the interior of the psychiatrist's office is bizarre yet beautiful. We see Tara's Lotus a bit more than usual, which is fun. And lastly, Father's office of is exceptional and quite refreshing.
To complete another perfect Tara King episode, Howard Blake utilised recycled music perfectly and is very well chosen for the kind of story.
All in all, it's an episode that I never tire of, and I surely recommended to everyone who wants to get in the spirit of The Avengers. It's the perfect episode.
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