Whoever Shot Poor George Oblique Stroke XR40?
This is one of those episodes which veers between entertainingly naff and entertainingly good.
The central premise that a computer with vital information in its memory banks is badly damaged is worthy of a Third or Fourth season episode. However, the execution could only be in a Tara episode; it is so naff it's fun. The scenes in the operating theatre with Arthur Cox as the anesthetist are gems—that is what ER should be like.
For once Tara is treated with some respect; Steed lets her work undercover like Cathy or Emma, and Linda Thorson gives one of her better performances (especially in that orange top yum-yum). There's quite a good scene while Tara enters a flat which "having curves in would be sacrilege" after which she looks at her vitals (wouldn't be as good a line with Emma or Venus) and remarks "perhaps I should stay outside."
The real masterpiece, however, is Dennis Price, who Navy Lark fans will instantly recognise (he played the bemused Number 1; for more Navy Lark cast, see "The Golden Fleece," "The Big Thinker," "The Hidden Tiger" and "From Venus With Love"). Price fits the butler bill perfectly and it was a real surprise that he turns out to be the villain (at least for me).
However, some rather annoying things are the attempts at sabotage on George—why Steed didn't realise who he was straight away? Who is Loris? She refers to Pelly as Uncle Herbie (?) at one point. Pelly is a bit pathetic, too.
Whoever Shot Poor George Oblique Stroke XR40?
The Tara King season, and even the show as a whole, made room for only a handful of silly, non-ambitious episodes possessed of trifling scripts and inconsistent direction. "Whoever Shot..." is one of them. Not that it is useless, disposable material—The Avengers never went that far. But, very likely, the history of poor George won't be included in the top-ten list of any fan, not even at the bottom of any top-twenty.
In a present world quasi-dominated by computers that even fit in the palm of our hand, it sounds a bit funny to make an "escape in time" and go 35 years back to see what people called "super-computers" then—gigantic devices full of multicolored lights, spitting their messages in strips of paper like an old telegraph, and confined to a "computer room" as big as a house. But this is purely anecdotal, as such things in fact existed. Oddly enough, the computers of the exclusive world of The Avengers had nothing unusual, for they looked quite the same as those in The Man From UNCLE or the robot of Lost in Space. Even when a "computer surgeon" was summoned to operate George...
This sole element could have made a big difference—after all, treating a computer like a human might become an awfully bright approach and a kind prospect! However, the script Williamson gave to the actors doesn't go beyond a second-rate story devoid of too much inspiration and attraction. Perhaps for this reason, the entire cast, save Linda Thorson, offers rather bland, dull performances. Not even Steed manages to stand out this time. With the exception of a few scenes comparable with his height, Steed inexplicably spends a great deal of time as a mere, mute observer of the "operation" Dr Ardmore performs on the computer. Only Steed's escapades to Pelley's manor and a couple of fights, particularly with George's attacker, get to drag him away from the "operating room," adding a bit of a spark to his weaken role.
Undoubtedly, Tara is the only who deserves a round of applause here. The moment she takes off her pussy outfit—which may look highly original in the beginning, but after ten minutes it becomes a tad tiresome—Tara scores a goal when, at Steed's "suggestion," she decides to pose as Pelley's niece. Chattering skillfully in her most refined American accent, Tara manages to take in everyone who seems guilty, except for the one who looks utterly innocent. And while we're on the subject, the character of Jason proves once again that The Avengers definitely set a golden rule: "Beware of butlers!"... In truth, Jason is the most convincing of a group of villains in which Judy Parfitt (who appeared earlier in "Escape in Time," also as a baddie) is relegated to a single task—to keep Pelley drugged all the time.
In any case, once Steed rescues Tara, George is finally back on his "feet" and he's even able to pass Steed the recipe for a "lethal cocktail." Indeed. Maybe Steed had preferred to remain in the operating room before his apartment underwent the consequences of such an explosive concoction! But happily, there's always some champagne around... that fixes everything.
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