Regardless of Charles Crichton's wise direction, this is an episode in which one finds oneself unable to decide what it aims for. If scriptwriter Burnham thought of it as a comedy, the story is pretty lacking in humor. If he tried to confer dramatic strokes, it results in a plot too trivial and dubious.
Sure enough, we're in Avengerland, and everything can happen. That is to say, it is possible that many of the characters in the episode can become liars by taking a cup of white coffee (except for Steed, who takes it black). Very Avenger-ish. After all, in "Mission... Highly Improbable," all those who were reached by a particular invisible ray were miniaturized to the size of a ball point pen. But what should have been approached with a touch of finesse is the "quality" of such lies. Actually, it cannot even be said that they're "lies" in the truest sense of the word—those affected by the milk adulterated with hallucinogens just deny the true thing and affirm the false thing. Or they repeat quite insistently: "This is not important," or "I'm not behind you." I mean, everything is reduced to turn an affirmative sentence into negative. As simple as that. Good practice for non-English speakers, I should think! There's no wittiness nor amusement in this, because it has been handled much too superficially. Maybe some of the unusual characters with bizarre conduct, in the vein of Colonel Rawlings of "Small Game for Big Hunters," Professor Poole, of "The Winged Avenger," or Bradley Marler of "Look - (stop me..." would have done wonders here. At least a bit of humor had been supplied this way.
Still, there're eccentricities as well as curiosities. As we all know, with the exception of a few episodes, Mother's "office" was always a hilarious detail in the setting of this season. This time his office is placed into a double-decker that runs around the streets of London as Mother, Steed, Melville, Tara, Rhonda and others hold the usual meetings inside. Sure, this is not an ordinary vehicle—not only no casual passengers are allowed aboard, but the seats were removed to build a true office, complete with a bar... On the other hand, Steed shows his not too docile nature when he has to reproach a colleague's behavior, specifically and directly in Melville's face. We'd never seen him so angry with Ministry agents, had we? Nor so annoyed as when, in an attempt to save their contents, he picks up the bottles of milk Tara threw to the floor. This clearly proves our favorite secret agent had his temper, after all... Good!
Madness increases when the episode comes close to its end, and the events in the dairy are funnily mixed together. Impressive fights, ambiguous reactions due to the hallucination the villains have this time, thanks to Steed, and a captive Tara on the verge of becoming a giant pat of butter. The scene wherein Steed leaves the dairy with Tara, dragging the huge slab she's trapped in, is definitely uproarious.
In my opinion, "False Witness" doesn't essentially rank among
the best episodes of the Tara season. But I feel I wouldn't be fair if I
didn't admit the episode at least entertains with fine direction, decent
performances and no pretense of superiority. A nice way to spend an hour,
watching a story with an Avengerish plot in its concept, but not entirely in
Of 4 corks... 3 1/2. The banter in the fight scene was most enjoyable. Tara's attempts to communicate were pure delight.
Best laugh: Tara in the butter tub.
While many of The Avengers plotlines (nearly my favorite show of all time, so I'm not being critical, just observant) are bizarre to say the least, I found the plot to this show to be one of the most believable. Or, perhaps, just one of the most fun. The idea that a company could put an anti-truth serum in milk and infect whomever they chose was nearly plausible, and I believe the crew had fun with this.
Again, we see Steed acting like a disapproving father as he realizes Tara has called up Sir Joseph and left a message that has apparently both concerned him and embarrassed him. He puts on that air the moment he discovers that Tara is in his flat, and as soon as she comes into the room he firmly sits her in a chair and leans against his desk to question her, totally confused by her answers, which are obviously lies. We have already seen how terribly angry he became with Melville for the same type of behaviour, knocking him to the ground for it, and it's probably fortunate for Tara that Steed had already dealt with the problem earlier with Melville and had some knowledge of what might be causing it, or he might have been even more stern with her. I love the way he watches her in that scene, trying desperately to understand. He can sense there is a reason for it, but just doesn't know yet what it is.
The conversation toward the end of the episode, inside the dairy (after Steed has "doctored" the champagne the men are all drinking), is priceless - everyone speaking the opposite of what they mean out loud. ("You don't know what this means, do you? Steed isn't here."). And Tara's answers to questions put to her whilst inside the butter machine ("You don't want to be rescued, do you?" "No!") are great.
As far as the tag, I would like to point out that Alun Hughes, who designed Emma Peel's clothes, also did Tara's. Linda Thorson didn't design her own clothes, she just wore what she was told. I've never liked pink and red together, even when Emma Peel wore them, and the blue and purple Linda wore was not the greatest, but remember, she was just doing her job. So, when she asked Steed if he liked her new outfit and he said no, remember he was lying to her, and be kind. Not all of her outfits looked bad, and some were even great.
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