This episode is really a bit of a mystery. It seems very un-Avengers in it's nature, yet somehow manages to pull it off. The most notable thing about it is, within the first twenty minutes, neither Steed nor Tara appear very often, and the plot seems to hang around Grenville and Bill a lot more. Grenville is a devilishly suave piece of work who would not look out of place in a Roger Moore Bond film. Tom Adams really brings life to the character and makes him believable, if somewhat subdued, in his delivery; considering most Tara masterminds are over-the-top, Grenville if anything seems more like a season two villain who would be up against Cathy or Dr King, and this episode seemingly harks back to the more somber days, perhaps an acknowledgement of John Bryce's ideals for the abandoned Tara season. I wonder if Terry Nation was writing the script when Bryce was in charge of Tara's episodes, giving it a distinctive Cathy Gale feel. Other Cathy Gale aspects are the minimal music score and the lack of extensive location work.
Keith Buckley gives a reasonable performance as Lomax, but the character is never really given much air time, which begs the question: what is he there for? This episode's highlights have to be Circe and Sexton. Hilary Pritchard delivers a wonderful performance and really gives the character bizarre behavior, with a dangerous, understated threatening quality; without a doubt, Circe is not as effective an eccentric as Ola in "Don't Look Behind You," who was a 100% genuine nutcase. Pritchard gives the character a spooky and unnerving, childlike conviction to the character, which creates an uneasy feeling in the sequence when she cuts the word BANG in a newspaper while Laura looks on. Sexton, on the other hand, is the perfect eccentric villain, wonderfully played by Garfield Morgan at his sophisticated best. His musings about the dreadful coffee are great, as are his comments at dinner.
John Comer's appearance is criminally brief; he brings the episode a more lightweight feeling, particularly at the beginning when Grenville first arrives and they have no idea who he is. This would make a better intro sequence than the one used, as it feels tacked-on and pointless as the phosphor bombs are illustrated with Grooms' death.
Robert Fuest provides a Cathy Gale feeling in the direction, echoing Peter Hammond, what with the brandy glass taking the foreground, and the constant use of natural cover to block out images; there is a wonderful shot with Lomax in a rocking chair as seen through the lenses of a pair of binoculars.
The quick outdoor sequence is shot wonderfully in the bitter February cold, which lends a great feeling to the sequence while providing an impression of the dying days of the series. It is still quite odd to see Steed getting injured this late in the series, and the notion of Steed and Tara walking into somebody else's plot is amazing in its uniqueness. Unfortunately, this episode gets a bit dull in it's execution, and Elizabeth Sellers performance is a but wooden. But if there were more episodes picking up on this style, it would be welcome.
I have to agree with Nick rather than Dave here. This is easily an Avengers script, but just not one of the era. Cathy could easily have been involved with this episode. Indeed, with the film bits included, it could have almost been done live. It's gritty, down to earth, and a welcome break from some of the Tara excesses. It could almost have been done as a stage play; the sets are simple yet superb. Fuest directs with a bleak simplistic touch inside and out, and Laurie's understated music works to better effect, too. If this had been the thrust of the Bryce episodes, then it would have made a better fare than some of the other offerings.
There are some great touches for Steed. The eccentric habit of celebrating Christmas in February and the backwards music game are obvious. But look at the way he knows that something is wrong from the minute he sets foot in the place, and hides it so very well until he forces the issue. We also get the typical Steed trait of turning up the charm when he knows he's been rumbled or he know s that someone doesn't like him, just to define the boundaries. His work on the morning shoot is, again, more reminiscent of the Gale era Steed than the Tara one.
Tom Adams is marvellous as Grenville, obviously an anti-Steed. While knowledgeable and sophisticated, his use of charm and etiquette are as sinister as Steed's is warm. He's a sore loser and extremely self-satisfied, a genuine villain of better quality than most. Garfield Morgan's food-loving Sexton is worthy of a mention, too. Smooth malice! Nice. Hilary Pritchard as Cierce may not be quite as much of a fruitcake as the wonderful Ola, but remember that she likes to "work" on being a character. More than one man I know finds the whole scissors scene more than a little kinky.
The only thing that loses points for me is that the place is just a little bit slow in places. And if the lighter explodes the bombs individually, how does the thing know? All I can think of is how Groom manages to die but Bill and Laura don't. Was this just an easy way for Nation to avoid the scenario where, threatened with the lighter, Grenville would simply say, "fine, but you'll end up killing your friends as well! Stalemate!"? Shame if he did.
Watching "Take-Over" for the first time bothered me. I felt like I had seen it before. (It shares a plot with the 2006 film Firewall.) That being said, "Take-Over" is still not an Avengers episode. It deserves a place next to "Dead Men Are Dangerous" and "Obsession," the darker of the New Avengers episodes.
Usually when a series goes darker, the show or film gets better, as long as it doesn't stay on that course. Bizarre, the final episode, was light-hearted. The other two on the volume ten DVD are also standard Avengers fare. However, this was something not ever tried in The Avengers. An untapped formula, with at least half of its grade going to the novelty of something new. Emma and Steed, once in a while, had such episodes, but Tara was, probably purposefully, written out of that niche. Her serious, worried, and tense emotions all usually congregated in one face. That's not saying she's a bad actor (her performance is probably better than Diana's sometimes), just she isn't good in this role.
And what a role to fill. Patrick Macnee would echo this emotional role in the New Avengers, and it was him alone that made those two so memorable. He threw away the "joking at disaster" attitude after really realizing his friends were in danger, and was, most likely, heartbroken at what exactly was going on to Bill and Laura.
All this tension and suspense played out impeccably... and then Tara comes in. And, while I by no means dislike her character, she's gone most of the episode, and her sudden addition is a little too timely, a little too much like the other episodes. Then, it trips over itself, but thankfully doesn't go all the way that sometimes happens and just falls flat. By no means Thorson's fault, just the entire atmosphere changes. It isn't the tense, suspenseful episode of who-knows-what now, it's the you-know-what's-going-to-happen-next episode of The Avengers. (Probably the only time you didn't want this to happen.) The lightheartedness and tongue in cheek comes back and leaves a bitter taste. The episode is impeccable for the first 40 minutes... then gets very good.
Fortunately, Tara is acted out very well. (Her captivity made her appearance a little more bearable.) The script deficiencies are smoothed out very nicely and Steed and Tara save the day again.
Script: 7.5 of 10 (minus two and a half for the final act)
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