This episode is just a whole lot of fun, worth its place in the top ten.
The opening sequence uses the same music as the funeral scene of the Murder Market.
There's a good early fight scene in the hospital where Steed proves that charm is the ultimate weapon. (How does the Young Avenger only find one fight scene?)
The homage to silent movies at the end is beautifully done. It starts earlier than you might think, with the keyhole-framed views through the telescope of the villains tying Mrs. Peel to the train. Then when Steed runs through the woods to get to the railway station, the film is sped up and jerky like an early silent film. From that point on, there's no dialogue; the villains communicate with each other by pointing and gestures. By the time the classic silent film music begins, it feels completely appropriate, because you're already well into the style of a silent film.
There are too many great lines in this episode to try to list, but I would like to mention Sir Horace Winslip's "I do so abhor violence, dear chap!" Don't we all?
This is a very interesting episode and it has great atmosphere. The the black and whites were especially like this from the Macnee/Rigg times. The episode opens in a graveyard and the feeling is, even to this day, electric—mainly because I am a serious horror film fan, especially from the Hammer era.
The graveyard scene is one of the best and it has a touch of The Night of the Living Dead about it in many ways. Just before the credits, a shot of one of the graves shows a piece of earth braking and a telescope comes up from the ground, and this was really effective in getting the episode of to a good start. The plot concerns a group of people or agents—I don't know which—trying to block the radar defense systems of the country.
This episode has more location changes than most of the episodes that I have seen, including a train—in a parlor of all places, a hospital, and a graveyard. The group's headquarters is the hospital, specifically the operating theater. The incidental music that is heard from time to time is very sinister and eerie, which is great, and mixed with The Avengers theme, and is used nicely throughout the episode.
Gravediggers also has about every plot device that one can have in a series. The damsel in distress all tied up on the railroad track, fights on a train, and Steed throwing away his bowler and brolly to rescue Mrs. Peel, who is looking very well in her leather suit as always. Mrs. Peel demonstrates a gun that shoots around corners, and Steed has to take on a old gentleman wielding a sledgehammer.
One of the most effective things about this episode is the use of the many different characters, all of whom were used to their maximum. All the minor characters are lovable—the eccentric stationmaster, the old servant, even the graveyard caretaker—who has a touch of life about him (ahem). Watch out for an appearance of the Miller character. Do anybody recognize him? Well, you were right, it's Bryan Mosley from Coronation Street.
Not one of the better Emma episodes, but by no means bad either. Frankly, other than the pace being a little slow, it was just fine.
A powerful blocking device, not believed to exist, is damaging the nation's early warning radar system; a hospital, cemeteries and an aging railway man are used to cover up the elaborate plot (only in The Avengers).
Mrs. Peel's always impressive mind is very present, but there's not much banter by the leads and The Avengers' humor isn't very strongly represented. However, points go to Ronald Fraser for his charming performance of Sir Horace and to the Dudley-Do-Right finale with Mrs. Peel tied to the railroad track awaiting death at the wheels of a miniature train.
2 1/2 bowlers out of 5.
Plot: Very Good. A radar jamming system is quite plausible compared to a lot of other Avengers plots. Nice twist having it in a coffin. Although if the device is started by exposure to sunlight, how will it get sunlight six feet under?
Humour: Excellent. I love the exchange "What is this hole for?" "To breathe through." "In a coffin?" Of course everything involving Sir Winthrop Horace is hilarious especially his line "What is that woman doing tied to the tracks? She'll ruin the engine!"
Direction: Good. The opening sequence is wonderfully creepy. The shot of the antenna coming out of the coffin reminds me of hands coming out of graves in horror films.
Tag: Very good. Steed and Emma riding the train is wonderful. I would give it an Excellent rating but for some reason they are going backwards which bothers me!
Music: OK. There is a lot of good music in this episode, but one song keeps playing over and over.
Overall Rating: 9/10
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