I've heard all the tales about this one and I can only agree, but I'm coming up with (presumably) unheard comments about this episode. I like it! It's really good—mind you, that's good as in "Timelash" is good Doctor Who.
The plot of "Trap," despite all the faults of the episode, is actually rather good. The only problem is it's a first draft and would have made a great opening ten minutes of a sensibly plotted episode, but it isn't.
But this episode like the the Doctor Who story "The Web Planet" has an addictive enjoyable rubbish atmosphere (both this and "The Web Planet" were overhauled by Dennis Spooner, which may suggest why they're both great time wasters). There is a good witty line in it, a sort of Chinese getting back: "All these western faces look a like to me." Terry Wood gives a rather good villain performance but is a terrible Chinaman. There is some fun in the Steed/Gambit/Purdey relationship, although not much. However, this has more in common with Clemens' series The Professionals with some horrible events taking place, notably the American agent's death and Purdey's reaction to it.
The acting is terrible, the pacing is terrible, the guest cast is terrible or mis-cast, and as for the closing line...
Despite all these faults, it's not "Man in the Mirror," "Love All" or "The Gladiators" style rubbish—this is "So Bad It's Good" style rubbish. So I'm probably giving it the highest marks it's ever got—for all the wrong reasons.
The only thing that made me laugh more at this appalling episode, apart from the things I am about to mention here, is the fact that when I showed it to a friend who was getting into the show, introducing it as one of the worst episodes in the series, he seriously thought that was one of the better ones! It's not just one of the worst New Avengers episodes, but also one of he worst Avengers episodes full stop. (Even "Thingumajig" had more going for it than this!) Where to start?
Firstly, the plot (what there is of one) could have been conceived by five intelligent ten-year-olds playing in their local woods for the afternoon! There's elements of "The Superlative Seven" here—the kidnap on the plane and our heroes being hunted in a remote part of England—but what made everything about that episode good is sadly lacking here. Then there's the drugs bust in Windsor. The Avengers always works well with a lack of realism, but this idea of catching a drug switch in the act is done with such a lack of knowledge and savvy that it's embarrassing! Marty Bryne is a just plain awful character. The badness goes even further than the accent—he's so overly stereotypical it really gets on my nerves.
Next is the lack of heart our characters suddenly have. For Steed and Gambit to tell their partners that they'll see them soon in what appears to be impending nuclear war in the middle of London is a bit harsh and, well, out of character. The plane interior shots look cheap, and you can't expect me to believe that when the plane crashes with debris everywhere, the only injury any of them sustain is Steed's broken arm! Gambit and Steed's arguments aren't quite in keeping, either.
Why was Terry Wood given the role of Soo Choy? If they could find so many oriental actors (which, given the content of the plot, is surprising) to play the other parts, surely they could have found one for the main villain. Wood is lost here; he looks about as Chinese as Arnold Schwarzenegger, and to make matters worse puts on a voice that makes him sound like Baron Greenback from Dangermouse! Why would he believe Steed's impersonation of the head guard when he sounds nothing like him, not to mention that they had been conversing in Chinese until that point?
The lack of dialogue in a lot of places gives Laurie the license to go overboard with the dodgy funk. You can imagine him having a great time conducting it; it's just a shame the listener can't enjoy it as much! The script is almost racist—the end joke is awful, and Gambit's "bow and arrow" are unintentionally hilarious. There's so much more I could say but won't. Clemens must have been desperately short of scripts to let this through! Appalling!
After dozens of episodes wherein Brian Clemens stood out flawlessly, and a few others in which his inspiration positively faded away, a story like this is hard to acknowledge as being authored by the Wonder Boy. Not that "Trap" presents a deplorable script—to be more precise, such a script is nonexistent. Or if it exists, who could associate it with The [New] Avengers? Everything seems to indicate that Clemens, at that time, was too concentrated on The Professionals as to remember that The Avengers, was always noted for approaching common subjects with a very different slant, far away from such topics dealing with the drug empire and its tycoons, this being the storyline of "Trap."
Such a storyline appears unconvincing not only for the weakness of a script typical of any low-budget show, but also for the ridiculous characterizations and the irrational handling of most of the characters. Terry Wood is an average actor we had seen in an earlier episode, "The Three-Handed Game." Can anyone imagine this Caucasian, plump performer playing a Chinese named Soo Choy? And to make matters worse, why does he speak so hoarsely, in a voice that after the first ten minutes becomes unbearable? If Soo Choy is Chinese, then we should consider Steed as a perfect Tibetan!
To tell the truth, our Avengers don't escape either from the incoherence perpetrated in their name. They're very vilely deceived by a traitor and dragged away to an airfield in the middle of a lousy rainy night—although neither Steed nor Gambit were surrendered to the arms of Morpheus, as chaste Purdey was—after receiving a false red alert. But here is where the most amazing thing occurs: during their trip to the rendezvous, the three enjoy a bottle of champagne in the "plane" as if nothing happened. Also, upon becoming aware of Soo Choy's trap, and knowing the plane will crash irremediably, they look so calm that the viewer gets nervous!
Well, in the end, the impact wasn't that tragic after all... excluding the plane itself, Steed—who wounds up with his left arm broken—is the only casualty. And there's a detail at this point, that seems to prove director Austin was more interested in photographing his wife in real life—the Japanese girl playing Soo Choy's secretary—than in paying attention to the plane crash minutiae. At first, Steed appears to be in severe pain due to his broken arm. But towards the end of the episode, he not only moves it with total freedom, but also he even jokes about his left hand ("Peek-a-boo!") when everyone—except for the audience—thought his hand had fallen to the floor, complete with glove, after the quick thrust of a crazed Soo Choy's sword... Wow! What a miraculous healing power Steed has! As if he had been watching Mysteries, Magic and Miracles, hosted by someone named Patrick Macnee...
One assumes that in an episode where the first 20 minutes are dedicated to foil Soo Choy's plot and the other 30 minutes are set in the middle of a remote forest, in a sort of Cat-and-Mouse Game with the three Avengers being chased by Soo-Choy's army, there's nothing interesting nor worthy of mention. And no, there isn't. Unfortunately, very little can be said about Purdey and Gambit's performances, apart from one fight or two. A much more imaginative script would have worked wonders, instead of using those clichéd lines such as "Me, Tarzan... no... me, Jane... no... me, Purdey," which, by the way, Clemens adapted from his colleague Philip Levene's in "Small Game for Big Hunters."
Anyhow, compensations always turn up, sooner or later, for certain fans. And many of us could sit back and talk a little about Steed, already deprived of his bowler and umbrella, running wounded across the forest, dressed in what has left of his fine velvet suit he wore when said goodbye to his friend Miranda. Hmmm... But that's another story, isn't it...
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