Guest Essays
Page 6 of 14


The theme of doubles, particularly that of Steed, is a reoccurring one throughout the series, including The New Avengers. Each series has dealt at least once with the idea of a double to be used in place of our heroes for whatever skullduggery in the following episodes: "Man With Two Shadows," "Two's a Crowd," "They Keep Killing Steed" and "Faces." The results, however, vary from show to show.

"Man With Two Shadows" is the most credible and most effective in handling the idea of a double. The whole issue of how viable the idea is, what would needed to be done and how detectable it would be, is addressed better than the other shows. The most interesting parts of the episode deal with how far the enemy forces reproduced their copy, even down to injuries and scars. Also interesting is the moral tone of this story. It is clear by their actions that the villains have no scruples and are rather vicious. Their alternate version of brainwashing, the brutal means how they disfigured one of their targets and using an innocent girl show how ruthless they are. However, the British government does not behave much better since at the end they intend to use the enemy agent to their advantage and allow the girl to continue being duped and manipulated. Such a morally gray story with its Mission: Impossible-like ending never appeared in the other series.

The Emma Peel era's "Two's a Crowd" deals with the theme in a much lighter fashion but still manages some credibility. There is a training period and it is implied that Gordon Webster has some acting experience. Since the purpose of using a double in this case is for a single mission, it is a plausible thing to do in so short a time. The duping of Mrs. Peel also makes sense to help fool PSEV and flush out his true identity. The only really dubious point is how they could know where Brodny would be at the fashion show and be able to set up the con on the runway so quickly.

"They Keep Killing Steed" is the weakest of the four. While Steed gets to do lots of clever and resourceful maneuvers and there is a fair amount of well paced action and humor, the central gimmick is faulty. While the idea of a drug that quickly alters your appearance has potential, it is not applied in a practical manner. The agents who take the drug have no experience or training being Steed. They have no knowledge of his personal history. None of them even mimic his voice. How could they fool anyone who knows the real Steed? This very fact kills any suspense when Tara confronts him and isn't sure of his identity. This is a far cry from the same situation with Mrs. Gale.

The New Avengers' "Faces" gets the premise rooted back into reality. Like the Cathy Gale story, we get a great deal of insight into the mechanics of the process, with the plastic surgeon searching amongst the homeless and destitute for look-a-likes. The rapid crosscutting of the real person and doppleganger adds a nice dramatic touch. We again get an effective sense of uncertainty during the last block about who's to be trusted. Also, it's interesting to note that Steed chooses Gambit over Purdey to go undercover to infiltrate. There is even an allusion to the fact that he believes there's a better chance that this is the real Gambit. There are certain flaws in the story, though. How were the villains able to pull off the original switch and fool everyone? While it's a given that, once the scheme is underway, it would be child's play to establish the files on the other targets, how did they get the info on the first one? Also, why didn't Purdey confide in Steed during her investigations? There were plenty of opportunities prior to her infiltration.

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Page last modified: 5 May 2017.

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