Yep. Whichever way you look at it, this is "Killer" re-done badly. Cornell, Topping and Day cite this as the best of the forays into Canada, but I must disagree. This is one of the two better ones, but not by much. A computer going amock in a building was actually done better by the X-Files episode "Ghost in the Machine" sixteen years later, and only highlights how bad this is.
There are too many plot inconsistencies—the main one being that Baker really does seem beyond doubt to be in on Scapina. It is never explained why he has to die. Would the Russians really have been so stupid as to not protect Scapina against it's own sprinkler system? As for the Canadian actors, well, only the Police Chief stands out for mention, a quite well-judged comic performance; but as for the rest of them, they're either just bad or don't seem to care.
The chase sequences are obvious padding, and lend to Pat's veiw that they were trying to make the programme too much like Starsky and Hutch. The only pieces of humour seem to be in the continual arresting of Gambit. Not much, I'm sure you'll agree, but the line about Steed, "Now, him I can believe to be an agent! What else could he be with that crazy hat and umbrella?" is quite amusing I suppose. The line from Gambit about Steed unfurling the Umbrella at the end ("I knew it would come in useful one day!") is also worthy of a mention. Scapina saying help is so cheesy it's more than bad.
The end is quite suspenseful in a way, with nasty voyeuristic episodes such as "Don't Look Behind You" and "The House That Jack Built" springing to mind. But really, compared to the rest of the dull pace, plot and so in, this really doesn't save it. Also, Purdey throwing her arms out as Scapina explodes—she should be careful she doesn't electrocute herself!
This episode, in my opinion, is the best of the Canadian lot as it has something resembling a thought-out plot, even if it is a hybrid of "Killer." At least it's been written for the this season's team and not got a cold, hurried-in replacement with a funny nose! (No, Jenny's not that bad, just out of place.)
The episode's main problem is it's production style, or rather its lack of one. It feels like it's been made by a media studies class, and this just doesn't stand up to repeated viewing. What else troubles this episode is that it slips down the slippery slope toward 1998 filmdom.
But it's done something right, as this is the first Avengers episode I ever saw, and it persuaded me to tune in the following weeks. For a long time this was also my favourite episode (having only seen it once) and the knowledge of fandom's opinion would have destroyed my faith in the series.
The plot isn't actually that bad; it is not paper-thin like "Emily" or standstill stagnating like "Forward Base," and is not as dull as the "The Gladiators." The viewers are kept on their toes (or least 12-year-old viewers, as I was when I first watched it) trying to identify the identity of X42, while there are amusing distractions such as Gambit's constant run-ins with the police. As with "Forward Base" and "Tale of the Big Why," this episode demonstrates that the Ministry is not a very secret secret service, as at one point Gambit is asked to dress more like Steed because "with that crazy umbrella, what else can he be but an agent?"
Richard Gilbert is not as bad a director as is made out, but I can't help but feel that Kim Mills was his directorial idol. Acting-wise it ranges from mediocre to poor, with Cec Linder giving the best performance.
Not classic Avengers, but workman like. Three out of five (half of one bowler is honorary as it was my first episode).
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