Something Nasty in the Nursery
I remember this as one of the first Avengers episodes that I watched. The whole concept was bizarre and unforgettable. The thought of regressing adults back to infancy to divulge secrets was one of The Avengers' most devious plots. Even before the teaser was over I knew that this plot was gripping; I even wondered if Steed and Emma could pull this one off, as the nannies were one step ahead of The Avengers all the way till the end. From the opening, where Dobson is running in total fear, we can only wonder what is causing the panic. Then we see what we expect to be a bomb or other device, but instead it's a small ball—the infamous "Baby Bouncer." Enemy agents running a school for nannies are using the Baby Bouncers, which are coated with a special hallucinogenic drug that causes infantile regression to steal secrets. The Baby Bouncer has to be the most ingenious device used in the series—who would think that a child's ball could cause such havoc? Another is the use of a British institution—nannies—to steal secrets and vital information.
The nursery scenes with the surreal nanny voice are sinister and twisted; the perspective was filmed like a giant funhouse. With the villainous nanny unseen until the end, it is an infantile General Wilmont who disposes of the big bad nanny with his own gun.
The tag line reads, "Emma shops for toys, Steed acquires a nanny" is off, as Emma never goes to Martin's Toy Shop, and Steed is the one that investigates GONN (The Guild of Noble Nannies).
The plot has some bloopers: first, when Steed tosses the bomb into the tuba and it falls out before it explodes; when Emma knows Wilmont's childhood nickname at the end; the baby bouncers were supposed to be a special design for GONN, but when Steed wants one, Martin tells him they were all purchased just before he got there; and Steed's motions of picking up the ball at General Wilmont's at the end. Other bloopers include Dave Rogers book, The Avengers, as he mentions that when the suspects pick up the ball, they are mesmerized by it. The spiral design of the ball does not have anything to do with the fore-mentioned infancy-inducing drug; the ball is just the delivery device.
Another item that is a bit hard to believe is that the same nanny was the same for all four men; a better plot would to have several nannies instead of one. Ms. Lister appears to be running the operation, but she doesn't even understand it, hence the episode stops dead while Goat explains it near the end.
My favorite scenes are of the machine-gun-toting wheel-chaired nanny gunning Steed, and when Steed sees the aged nanny and hears the "Bless her" from Ms. Lister, Steed's expression is priceless.
Constantly in the top ten in viewer polls, this rates up there as one of my favorites; another being "The Hidden Tiger"—well, Gabrielle Drake is one reason.
The motto of this episode should be: "Don't let children play with guns." As the villain, believing that Steed is drugged and infantile, gives a gun to Wilmont to play Cowboys and Indians, is himself shot.
Something Nasty in the Nursery
Of all the Avengers I watched as a child in the 60s, I remembered this one the best. I think it was the bright blue and yellow colors of the baby bouncers and the paintings on the nursery walls that stuck in my head. For that reason, I've always been fond of Something Nasty in the Nursery, even if I can't make a case that it is one of the best episodes. I especially like Martin's Toy Shop: "toys for the offspring of the nobility." The display of little crowns is great and I also enjoy the "Luger-in-the-box" that does in Mr. Martin. David is right—Martin's reaction to being shot is very funny, although I don't really know why.
In a series known for its style and icons, "Nursery" stands out as one of the most visual episodes. I can't think of any episode which is less dependent on dialogue and more dependent on visual images. This brings me to something that I have never been able to figure out. In the scene where Steed is left in charge of a room full of babies in carriages, Emma comes in, picks up a baby, and we see that it is a doll. Are we supposed to get from this that all the babies in the carriages are dolls and that Steed is too dim to figure this out, or are we supposed to think it is a real baby? Is this a warning to the audience not to take anything too seriously or just a gratuitous scene put in to vex me all these years?
All in all, "Nursery" is a lot like sprinkles on top of a cake—not much substance, but visually appealing and fun.
Something Nasty in the Nursery
Plot: Very Good. Making someone regress into childhood through the use of drugs and imagery is an interesting psychological premise. I like this all the more for I am interested in psychology.
Humour: Good. I loved Steed's acting like a dog. Seeing everyone behave like children was enjoyable. Steed with all the crying babies was a cute scene, especially when Emma hushed the babies. "Has he been at the bottle?" was a tricky little double entendre.
Direction: Very Good. The shots when people are affected by the baby bouncer were great. For some reason I really like the shot of Steed jumping out of the car. The fight of Emma versus Gordon had some surreal cinematography.
Acting: Excellent. It was nice to see Trevor Bannister from the wonderful sitcom Are You Being Served? It was nice to see Dudley Foster, Paul Eddington, and Patrick Newell again; all did a wonderful job. Nice performance from Clive Dunn.
Music: Good. Nice "nursery" rearrangement of the theme.
Tag: Good. Was there a subliminal message here to watch next week?
Miscellaneous: Mrs. Peel wasn't the least bit frightened when a spear was hured at her and barely missed! The scene with the bomb in the tuba was terrible. First the bomb falls out of the tuba before it explodes, this I can forgive. But then the tuba is all straightened out by the explosion—this I am not forgiving. Wonderfully surreal image of a nanny in a wheel chair with a machine gun.
Overall Rating: 7/10
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