Super Secret Cypher Snatch
Imaginative and having plenty of spark and wit, "Super Secret Cypher Snatch" is one of the best episodes of the Tara season, and in fact, one to think of every time a general review on the series is set about. Tony Williamson, the scriptwriter of nine Avengers shows (four for the Peel season and five for Tara's) has not always excelled in his job; however, "Super Secret Cypher Snatch" is a real winner. Also, John Hough, in his debut as director, does excellent camera work in more than an occasion.
In a story where there's no fantasy nor masterminds, but instead hypnotic conditioning and a direct approach to espionage told á la Avengers, such elements typical of the 60s pop culture are also present. And in this case, they make us go back for a few minutes to the legendary Antonioni's film, Blow Up. These are the scenes played by Peters, the MI12 photographer, who records everything with his camera. He even takes a picture of Tara "for the collection" and winds up with a bullet from one of the window cleaners, just when he already had the answer to the question no one knew.
But there are even more details like this, if small ones, that make the end product a first-rate show. To begin with, the title of the episode is stunning. When one suspects the unintelligible legend "Sepet Sucpre Cncehc Sypare" appearing for a few seconds in the beginning is an anagram of the title that follows in the next frame, a simple reviewing in slow motion proves one was wrong. The true meaning of this play with the titles is unclear, but I can't imagine anything else than a subtle reference to ciphers, that is, those codes saying something when in fact they really mean another thing. However, the change between titles is made in a split second, too fast as to being noticed. Back in 1968, at a time when no videos nor DVDs were available, I doubt many people detected this wise trick.
Once again, Mother's "office" found a right place—in the middle of an open field! The lack of furniture isn't trouble for anyone, though: Tara, Steed and Mother discuss their affairs on, beside and in their respective cars. Highly original. You thought the colored phones and the table carrying the spirits wouldn't be there? Ask the ineffable Rhonda...
Tara gives a brilliant performance in which she even manages to get a desk job at the Cypher HQ in the style of her predecessors Emma Peel and Cathy Gale, who had the curious ability to find a job overnight. And Steed once again does his job in style at the outlandish "Classy Glass Cleaning" office. The great scene is that fight in the forest, where (surprisingly) replacing his three-piece suit and Chelsea boots for immaculate white coveralls and sneakers to impersonate one of the baddies, Steed must fight a member of the gang who watches the Cypher HQ surroundings. Remarkable is how, after the fight, the blackened Steed's coveralls return to their immaculate white when he enters the Cypher HQ offices. Certainly, Steed could be the perfect candidate for a joint ad for "Ace," "Ariel" and "Bi-O-Kleen"...
All in all, this is an episode to enjoy through and through, displaying a wonderful relationship between Tara and Steed—especially in the humorous tag scene—and to value one of the most inspired Williamson's scripts. Another of the (many) great moments the sixth season gave us, full of top-class entertainment.
Super Secret Cypher Snatch
Plot: The story opens with an old lady on a bike minding her own business until a angry youth on a motorbike chases her into a field. It is then when the plot starts to get interesting—the old lady turns out to be a man in a dress who's just stolen top-secret documents from the Cypher HQ; that man is in the field to pass on the documents to an agent in a helicopter, and then the youth catches up and fights the man in a dress then kills him. And that's where the youth discovers the top-secret papers. And to top it all off that was only the introduction to the episode!
I do find it hard to review an Avengers episode mainly because the series spans such a long period of time (1961-1969). If you watch a Cathy Gale episode then compare it with a Tara King, it's like comparing two different series. I particularly like this episode because it's so over-the-top (until compared with "Look...", then this episode appears quite serious!) I love the touches of humor, like the whole idea of making the enemy the window washers! And (no matter how absurd) I think the concept of the memory spray or whatever it's called is great, especially when it's used on the workers in the final fight scene. Now that is a good scene, all the workers at Cypher HQ are stunned and wired up to the memory thing, while Steed fights an army of window washers around the room!
Steed & Co: The interactions between Steed and Tara are also particularly good in this episode. Although I'm not a huge fan of Tara King, I don't however hate her like some Avengers fans do. I think she deserves her place in Avengers history just as much as Emma and Cathy, although the fact that Linda Thorson had never acted before she did The Avengers does sometimes show. The scenes with Tara, Steed and Mother are also great (dialog-wise); I like the way a sentence in their conversation is passed round the three (e.g. Tara starts the sentence, Steed continues it and Mother finishes it!). In this episode there are a few actors that I recognise from Emma Peel episodes: Allan Cuthbertson ("Death's Door," "Death At Bargain Prices"), Simon Oates ("You Have Just Been Murdered"), Clifford Earl ("Escape In Time"), Nicholas Smith ("Escape In Time"), and Ivor Dean ("Dead Man's Treasure").
Mother's Headquarters: In this episode Mother has two different headquarters. I like them both (especially as I am a fan of Mother's various different HQ's). Patrick Newell is only seen once in his wheelchair in this episode, and this was at his first headquarters (as seen at the start of this episode). I've just discovered that this is for a reason: Patrick Newell had previously broken the wheelchair whilst filming for the previous episode ("All Done With Mirrors") and had to limit the use of his wheelchair in this episode (for instance, where the trio meet up in the field, Patrick Newell sat in his wheelchair with Ronda outside his Rolls in the script, but this was then changed to him sitting in the passenger seat while Ronda stands outside his door.) I'm not sure if this is completely accurate trivia, but I'm pretty certain it is. The two headquarters seen in this episode are Mother's usual indoor HQ with an entrance from two tall ladders (suggesting that the HQ is underground). The other HQ is in a large open meadow where Steed, Tara, Mother and his faithful companion Ronda meet to discus the developments in their new case.
Miscellaneous: The incidental music in the episode is (as with most of the Tara King episodes) a scramble of Emma Peel's incidental. I distinctly heard some "Never, Never Say Die" music, chase themes from a few of the Emma Peel monochromes, and they re-used a tune from "Something Nasty In The Nursery"! Even though the majority of this episode's music is like a patchwork quilt of Emma Peel themes, it does also have a couple of noticeable new tunes composed for this particular episode. As well as the serious lack in originality (music-wise), this episode also has quite a few mistakes: Two dialog fluffs and a continuity mistake (that no one else has probably even noticed because it's so small!). When Steed acquires a window washing suit from a man he's just defeated, he then fights another window cleaner. During their battle Steed's white bowler falls off and rolls down an embankment. When we see this shot again, the bowler has moved to the top of the embankment probably so Patrick Macnee could easily pick it up again, ready for the big fight at Cypher HQ. All I know is that Kay Fenton and Co. at the 1968 continuity department weren't doing their job very well!
Overall I would have to rate this episode a generous 7/10 (3 Bowlers). I think this episode is definitely worth a watch, and if you're planning on watching it for the first time then I would definitely recommend it. This episode has all the qualities of a classic Avengers episode and I think you would be silly to miss out on it!
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