The GLG Reports
Page 58 of 67

By Grant L. Goggans

"I wonder if it's too late to hand this case over to another department..." Surprisingly, this episode is somewhat better than its reputation claims it to be, but considering it's reputed to be one of the two or three worst hours of the series, that isn't saying much. What it does have to recommend it is Leslie Norman's Bergman-inspired direction. The teaser, with Helen wandering around in a nightdress, barefoot in the snow, is very Bergman, as is the flashback to her fight on the train. He casts Sally Nesbitt, a dead ringer for Liv Ullman, and has lots of "Persona"-like close-ups of her wide-eyed and screaming in bed. However, this film school fun only lasts for a little while, and sadly there's a plot to deal with. It's all right for The Avengers to defy logic, but they rarely defied common sense like in this episode. Even if you accept the "life after death" scheme, which is full of holes in its presentation, and how it is executed, which would really leave their underground base full of Earth and dirt, you still have to accept that their clients are buried on the day of their accident, without any notification to their family or friends. In Steed's case, this is completely out of left field, and robs the viewer of any belief in the story. Roy Kinnear (best known to US viewers as Veruca Salt's dad in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) is equally difficult to believe, although at least he starts out with good dialogue. Happychap got the name Bagpipes from his father, who didn't quite understand his mother's promise of a forthcoming "squeaky little bundle" and named him out of spite. When Steed reflects it's a good thing his father wasn't obsessed with sousaphones, he is delivering the only good line either he or Tara are given, and it's all downhill for Happychap too, as he's reduced to the catchphrase "No, not again!" for the rest of the story. The lack of strong writing for our leads is telling. Tara spends the first three acts telling the bedridden Helen "try to remember" and Steed spends all day in the battle of comedic gurning with Happychap. With no interest in them, and with a plot full of holes, it's obvious Clemens was out of ideas by this point (as if this sorry season didn't make it obvious already), and it all closes with a whimper, a grand march of criminals all handcuffed together after a big fight in a weird set (very, very Batman), and the Avengers being shot into space in the four-stage rocket Steed built in his backyard. The often fun Fulton Mackay (Porridge and many great guest star parts) is wasted in this story, and embarrassingly lathered with brown makeup as he plays a fake swami called the Master. All in all, it's just plain stupid.

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Page last modified: 5 May 2017.

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