Visitor Reviews
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You'll Catch Your Death
by Terylene

Up till few months ago, many people would have smiled at the innocent, silly thing this story deals with, wagging their head at the wittiness of the prolific scriptwriters living in Avengerland. The mere idea that someone could collapse and even drop dead few seconds after they opened an empty envelope seemed as ridiculous as getting drowned under a torrential rain in a field flat as a pancake. Even so, no one would be surprised to hear that reality often outstrips fantasy, nor that The Avengers was ahead of its time. Nowadays, the facts occurring beyond Avengerland, within the real world, certainly are not a replica of Jeremy Burnham's script... but they get close enough. And what could have been a chimera in 1968 it isn't any longer in the present 21st century.

It's not my intention to philosophize about the latent dangers of a bacteriological warfare, but to outline a brief comment on episode #132 of The Avengers, "You'll Catch Your Death." I'm not sure if it happened by chance or by an ill omen, but this was the top-rated episode in the UK during 1968; consequently, this show remains as one of the favorites along the history of The Avengers. Frankly, there's no reason for such viewer ratings. But indeed there are enough elements in it to raise this episode to a category quite superior to which many fans downgraded it these days. It's true there are several clichés in this plot, as a sign of the exhaustion that began to spoil the originality The Avengers scripts once had. But at the same time, many interesting things worthy of appreciation are present.

The Tara-Steed partnership is solid, far distant from that shown during the first episodes. At last we see them working as a true team. And finally Tara—although she can't dodge captors always ready with some chloroform at hand—is able to manage things by herself, escaping from her confinement in a very astute, clever way (I'll talk about this point later). Colonel Timothy is an old nutcase who forces all visitors to his house—including Steed—to vaccinate, and at the end, fights with the baddies with his combat jacket and helmet on. Mother's "office" is very hard to recognize this time. What is it, exactly? An abandoned gym? A big, empty shed? What do those multicolor stepladders mean? And what about that "pool" that cannot even be called a swimming pool? Not to mention Rhonda, offering Steed and Mother an ice cream cone. Peculiarities, of course.

Like many other episodes, "You'll Catch Your Death" does not lack in some incongruence and obvious slip-ups that our critical eye never fails to notice. As others observed, it's remarkable how these nifty viruses affect only the addressees and not all of those who rush to help them. As a counterpoint, Steed opens his envelope whilst wearing a gas mask and later provides his visitor, Dr Fawcett, with another mask. A continuity error? Maybe.

The way Tara gets out of her prison shows her wise reasoning. While checking the cabinet there, she happens to find two bottles labeled "ether" and "potassium chlorate." Then she remembers the latter explodes on impact (which, under certain circumstances, is true) and combines it with ether to make an explosive mixture. Great! However, from a strictly chemical point of view, I have some reservations about the legend on the potassium chlorate flask which reads, "Allow to dissolve slowly in the mouth." Hmmm... one assumes this is pure potassium chlorate; honestly, knowing this hazardous substance nowadays is mainly used in printing, dyeing, matches, chemical analysis, explosives and pyrotechnics, and is defined as an "irritant poison," I'd never take one of these pills! Even though some medicinal uses of potassium chlorate have been reported in the early 1900s, this is my advice: if you'd like to take 100% pure potassium chlorate in your mouth, ask your pharmacist first! Perhaps Mr Burnham might have chosen a less contentious substance... but then, Tara couldn't have done her own chemistry!

However, these are only ins and outs. Luckily, for this reviewer, in general terms the episode maintains a very good shape all the way through. It does not take much effort to realize that it's a fine piece of entertainment.

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Page last modified: 5 May 2017.

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