A stylishly shot episode. A feast awaits the eyes with some stunning shots of deserted, early-morning London from debutante director Graham Clifford, together with interesting costumes, tightly-directed action scenes and music which is for once unobtrusive. Yet the title of the episode betrays the fact that it falls flat on its face, for the one simple reason that it barely has sufficient plot to fill a commercial break.
Yet, as the title sequence rolls in over a freeze-frame of a villain looking like a disturbing cross between Elton John and John Inman, the episode promises much. We have already witnessed the replacement by Brady of Professor Marco, a weapon of much potential and some witty banter between the regulars (although the least said about Purdey's costume in the opening sequence, the better.)
The scenes in Gambit's flat are enjoyable enough, with an underlying mutual respect between the two men nicely portrayed in the wake of the disappearance and death of Steed's "oldest friend" (hang on—wasn't his oldest friend Mark Clifford from "Faces"?) and Gambit's cupboard full of pyjamas a nice touch in amongst the state-of-the-art decoration which fills the rest of his flat. The scene where the pair enjoy a free beer together is also a highlight, particularly in Steed's reaction to having to drink from the bottle as well as his insistence on leaving a tip.
After her initial incompetence in being locked out of her flat, Purdey is given a lot to do here, and Joanna Lumley clearly relishes her part in this episode, which ranges from fighting against her knife-wielding opponents outside the boutique to the rather charming scene in Gambit's flat with Charlie the sparrow. Posing as a mannequin in a shop window, only to be given away by her pyjamas falling down, is particularly memorable.
But none of this can make up for the fact
that the episode could have been wrapped up within twenty minutes, and the
endless running around London playing hide-and-seek, however pretty the
locations, cannot sustain a non-existent plot.
There's some nice little location runaround bits here, some nice humourous little scenes, and a very eerie atmosphere from the deserted streets. However, the plot really does have to be padded out in places to make it work. While taking into account David's view that the scenes in Gambit's flat are awkwardly played, I think that this was more deliberate than not. Gambit is pleased to have Steed there, but doesn't know why he's there, although he can sense something's wrong. All he can do is to try and pad around the issue for as long as he can, not wanting to be intrusive until he has to force the situation. I feel that it's one of the finer things that Gareth gets to do in the series—showing respect and friendship without being too close (although this is the only time in the show that he calls Steed "John" to his face). In terms of the two of them, Steed treats Gambit like an errant son; he trusts him, but has to give permission and maintain a watchful eye over his doings!
Jo particularly has a great time here, playing her scenes with great vigour. She smiles in the car chase scenes, plays the "dummy" with great aplomb, and has some great fight sequences. The early scenes in the street are handled well by her, too. She is once again given the fighting, independent spirit that Jo provides her, taking on all comers and seeing them off easily. There's a real camaraderie between the three at the restaurant that's warming to see, the kind of relationship and bond between them that Emma always hinted at with Steed, and is marvellous to see.
The freeze-frame of the villain at the start is quite eerie, and serves to pose a question in the viewer's mind as to what he is intending to do with the weapon. However, despite the eerie presence, the whole thing moves at a crawl. Steed's "old friend of the week dying" is getting as much on my nerves as girlfriend of the week by this time. I agree with David to an extent that this could have been easily done in a lot of seventies crime fares—the blaggers look as though they've come straight out of The Sweeney, even though using nerve gas would have been beyond many of them!
Oh, and Gavin Campbell as a bank robber? I've seen him so many times on That's Life that I keep expecting him to give a sardonic comment from a bank manager, or introduce a singing parrot to the rest of the group! As he's hardly changed—it doesn't quite work for me, but no one is clairvoyant!
5/10 (loses two marks for pace and padding).
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