The GLG Reports
Page 22 of 67

A Touch of Brimstone
By Grant L. Goggans

"Have you ever committed an ultimate sin, Mr. Steed?" Well, where do you start with this one? It should probably be addressed that this is the legendary episode that sees Mrs. Peel adorned as the Hellfire Club's Queen of Sin, a bondage fetishist's greatest dream, with stacked hair, pierced eyelids, a tight black corset, knee-high boots and a spiked collar. Despite what you may have read, it's likely the American censors didn't even get that far into the episode before turning this one down. The whole hour is kinky beyond reckoning, and the rather overt sexual themes get started very early on, when Mrs. Peel and Cartney begin a rather eye-opening flirtation, full of innuendo and hints. "I've come to appeal to you," Emma says at one point. Later, Cartney and Sara (Monty Python's Carol Cleveland, proving that as an actress, she's a good comedian) are interrupted from one devil of a bout of open-mouthed kissing by the telephone, which is likely the point the ABC executives said no thanks. It's wonderfully apparent that if Brian Clemens had heard the line about what will play in Peoria, he couldn't care less. By the time we reach the Hellfire Club's meeting, restraint has gone out the window. The Club is devoted to the pursuit of unrestrained pleasure, a subversive notion by prudish 1966 standards, and its members demonstrate it with noise, drink and sex...the "meeting" little more than an orgy of what TV will let you show, and it's hardly tame by even today's standards. In 1995, ABC wouldn't even let Lois and Clark use the word "virgin," so there's no way this would have aired. In short, this episode is all about sex and debauchery, personal freedom, and doing what thou wilt being the whole of the law, and recommended for viewers with open minds. Incidentally, some of the minds who noticed this episode are Chris Claremont and John Byrne, who introduced the Hellfire Club to Marvel Comics' continuity during their stint on The Uncanny X-Men in 1981. Their Club contains villains modeled facially on actors in this episode (among them, "Jason Wyngarde," who was based on Peter Wyngarde's TV character Jason King) who dress in 1760s costumes and include a Black Queen whose lingerie costume is a lot like the Queen of Sin's with a cape! Structurally, the hour is very well-paced, contains a fabulous fight scene, introduces us to Steed's very fancy portable TV in his car (that still needs its antenna jiggled for a better picture) and, aside from Carol Cleveland, features a number of excellent performances. Brian Clemens reused the name Boris Kartovski in season seven's "Split!," but that is apparently a different character. This Boris is a diplomat active in 1966, the other an agent shot by Steed in 1963.

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