What can be said about "Castle De'ath" which hasn't been send already? Pure genius. It was a shame that this is (the late) John Lucrotti's final script for The Avengers because it is surely a masterpiece.
Things which are great about it:
This is amongst my Top Ten Emma Peel episodes. Okay, so the plot is virtually non-existent, but who cares when we're having so much fun?
Gordon Jackson in his pre-Cowley days is excellent, reminding us of the time when big parts were played by people who could act. Ian De'ath is an almost Shakespearean character with real (well, "Avenger-real") feelings; I for one sympathise with his reluctance to allow the public in.
There are a few loopholes which don't make sense: Why does Angus want the public in when they may uncover his operations base? Why does Mrs. Peel's hair change colour? (joke) Overall, a fantastic gem, no change of the gillies ruining this. Four Bowlers.
It's kind of painful to watch Steed waste his good looks in a kilt. Even Mrs. Peel gets stuck in tartan catsuits (OK, we get that it's Scotland already!)
A note for history buffs: Steed gets put in the "Lord Darnley rooms" where the bed is rigged to do him in. Lord Darnley was a famous murder victim: the second husband of Mary Queen of Scots and father of James VI of Scotland (I of England), he was killed by an explosion under very suspicious circumstances. The Avengers' UK audience was probably expected to get the reference.
Here's my favourite line: Mrs. Peel, proposing ways to make the castle a tourist attraction, says: "and one can do so much with dungeons." Steed: "In the middle ages, they were full of jolly ideas!"
There's a great scene where Steed confronts oatmeal for breakfast (bleacch!)
All in all, this episode is worth watching for the beautiful castle and great atmosphere. It loses points, though, for another incoherent plot and those stupid kilts, for heaven's sake.
Great atmosphere, Steed being witty, great atmosphere, Emma in some very sexy clothes, great atmosphere, a fine if somewhat convoluted plot, and yes, great atmosphere. Many fine things add to a fine Avengers episode.
I'll take them in order...
Steed being witty: Undercover as Jaques McSteed, Steed seems to be totally enjoying himself, and it's enjoyable to watch him.
Emma in some very sexy clothes: An all but see-through night gown and a very risqué pant suit for the time (her belly button was showing) make Emma as enjoyable to watch as Steed. Although my on complaint is that, other than those two aforementioned outfits, it seemed Emma only had one outfit to wear for several days. Not very high class.
A fine if somewhat convoluted plot: The idea of destroying England's economy by ruining the fishing industry is certainly original, and using this aging Scottish castle as a cover is another nice touch, but somewhere in between Black Jamie's ghost, frog men and submarines traveling through underwater tunnels, it all gets a bit messy.
GREAT ATMOSPHERE: The real star of this episode. The beautiful Scottish music, the aging Castle De'ath, the eerie external shots of the castle and the loch... all of these things add up to an episode that's definitely worth watching.
3 out of 5 bowlers.
I fear that I cannot be as generous to this episode as most others are. But first the positives: the atmosphere is superlative. The castle has all the necessary amenities any ancient castle should have: a moat; many funky caverns, nooks, and crannies; lances and suits of armor decorating the corridors; and, of course, a dungeon. The characters are interesting. Ian is intriguingly uptight. Angus' devil-may-care attitude is a good contrast. McNab is downright hostile (even before his fight with Emma in the end). And Steed and Emma are at their best. Two highlights include the opening scene where Steed mutters to Emma about the frogman who grew four inches before dying, and the Scottish crossed-sword dance scene. The Castle brims over its goblet with intrigue and mystery. Something has to be going on.
Unfortunately, therein lies the problem. Something is going on, but we're only partly let in on what that might be. To say that this has the most muddled of plots would be an understatement. Even the worst of them will reveal their secrets after, say, the fifth viewing. But I have come to the conclusion that De'Ath truly has no secrets to betray, the curse of a underdeveloped plot.
We never find out why Ian is so uptight. Did he really live for the glory days of yore, or is it something else, as Angus hinted towards? We never fully understand why they are driving the fish away. Was it solely to screw up the British fishing industry? I used to believe that driving the fish away was a byproduct of a much more sinister plot, but that doesn't seem likely.
At least with an episode like "Silent Dust," another story centered around economic sabotage, the villains explained why they did what they did. One might call their reasoning thin, but at least it was developed and explained. At the end of this story, after an admittedly great fight scene, we have a bunch of corpses and no answers. I can't help but wonder if there are bits of this episode lying on the cutting room floor, bits that tied it all together better. After its over, you're left asking, "what's it all about?"
And that's the real pity, because the premise and set-up had a lot of potential. We're treated to great sets, great atmosphere, and good characters, but they are given nothing to do. It's a watchable story, but not as great as it could have been. Two bowlers.
One of the more atmospheric of the Emma episodes, this one has a good plot line and direction on several levels. Firstly we have The Avengers hi-tech plot (all to do with the price of fish) in an old fashioned setting (although here the scenario is changed to olde worlde Scotland, complete with addresses and traditional dress), the kinkiness factor going overboard in places, some great interaction between our heroes, and a nice twist at the end. The hopscotch scene is welcome and funny piece of light relief, as are some of the lines: "They tried to press my best shirt—while I was still wearing it!" The night shots around the castle with the wind whipping up, and the pipe music, are really quite eerie, and the daytime exterior shots (although obviously shot in England) have a nice country rural feel. You get the impression that our heroes are quite alone out there.
For Emma fans—well, fans of kinkiness and Diana in general—are in for a treat here. Wandering round the castle in her night dress, the wonderful evening gown, and that infamous shot of her in the leather catsuit waiting for the villains to turn up (what is she doing with the end of that cannon?). Add to that a virtually naked, tied-up Steed (one for the ladies!) and a torture chamber—if they'd put someone on that rack, we'd have been competing with "A Touch of Brimstone" for the Kinkiest Episode.
Gordon Jackson puts in an exemplary performance as Ian De'ath, an almost romantic figure in the way he clings on to the past and still sees himself as holding back the Sassenach invaders. The method of plundering may have changed for him, but the people doing it remain the same. He is desperate to stop his heritage being canibalised, and ends up dying as a result of it. There's a genuine sadness behind Gordon's eyes which separates this gruff Scotsman from George Cowley (see The Professionals). You can sense the genuinely nice man behind this character, and the fact that he was an authentic Scot makes him stand out all the more among the imposters!
Robert Urquhart is simply Robert Urquhart, which works slightly better than it would in other places (he's more convincing here than in "Wish You Were Here"), although he is a little too convincing; the main weakness is that the villain is totally unexpected. Does Ian know or not? Hmmm.
All in all a lot of fun! 8.5/10.
Steed goes fishing — and Emma goes to the dungeon!
"Castle De'ath" is a great episode. Steed's undercover name is McSTEED. Steed plays hopscotch while Emma plays the bagpipes ("An unexpected talent," Emma says). Black Jamie (the 13th lair to clan De'ath) led clan De'ath into a trap at the Battle Of Glen-De'ath, so his portrait will remain in the dungeon forever (and his body in the tower forever). The bagpipe music goes great with the episode (at least I think so). In the tag scene, Steed and Emma go fishing in a lake on their way home.
I give "Castle De'ath" four and a half bowlers.
Plot: Poor. What the heck was going on? I know they were using a submarine to get rid of the fish, but why?
Humour: Very good. "Good early morning coffee, gives me that glad to be alive feeling!" Steed's dance was interesting.
Direction: Good. Nice shots of the empty castle in the introduction.
Acting: Very good. Wonderful performances from Gordon Jackson, Robert Urquhart, and James Copeland. By the way, did you know James Copeland made a guest appearance on Are You Being Served?
Music: Good. I love bagpipe music, but during the introduction it played a wee bit too much.
Tag: Very good. Reminded me of James Bond's car in The Spy Who Loved Me.
Miscellaneous: I enjoyed Steed and Angus' swordfight. It was very interesting seeing Steed in a kilt instead of his normal bowler and 'brolly outfit. It was strange having Steed tied up instead of Emma, but a nice change.
Overall Rating: 7/10
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