The Bird Who Knew Too Much
What? An Avengers episode that actually involves spying? No aliens, greatest fears, time machines, or invisible men? Yep, that's right, and this one seems real yet strange at the same time. It's a solidly good episode with fine scripting, direction, and guest performances.
The plot is pretty bare-bones simple, although the beginning is a bit too cluttered (let's see, here... how many agents died?). The villains are using pigeons with cameras to acquire photos of secret bases—a realistic premise, and things happen rather logically. In fact, this episode manages to avoid a lot of plot holes, except a few.
In one scene, Steed is knocked out by a villain retrieving a pigeon. Why doesn't the villain just kill Steed? Why do they bother rigging up the gun trick to kill Mrs. Peel? "We need an alibi." Excuse me? Did they need an alibi when they killed Pearson or Danvers or Eldrick? For that matter, it seems like the deaths of Danvers and Eldrick were done to look "cool." Why are they out in the middle of nowhere in the beginning? Where is counter-counter-counter-espionage agent Eldrick when he is turned into cement?
Oh, well. These are minor quibbles, and nothing nearly as bad as the last episode. The performances are all very good—Ron Moody, especially, as Professor Jordan (whose name is a nod to the film The 39 Steps). The villains are extremely colorless, but they're supposed to be, I think. The music is once again a wonderful collection of favorite themes—the beginning music played when Danvers is killed, and the end fight theme.
What else do I like? The funny modeling shoots—which have nothing to do with the plot, if you look at it. The way the episode paints bird exhibitors as ruthless. The too-brief yet well-done fight scene at the end, which shows Steed kicking tail with his umbrella—twice.
Aside from the writing quibbles mentioned above (and the fact I can't stand Samantha Slade), this episode is well done in every respect. Another strong outing that stands as one of the best of the early episodes.
The Bird Who Knew Too Much
This episode can be summed up in a single four letter word: Foul! A complete and utter disaster from start to finish. The opening scene is way too laid back and looks like we're back in early Cathy Gale territory with a potentially dramatic scene been so underplayed it is almost laughably bad—almost. This episode also has a lack of imagination, with any potentially interesting plot elements cut away. Tara at her worst ("Love All") at least manages to gain viewer interest with some remarkably good performances.
This was probably a Brian Clemens wheeze of "oh, let's offer a reason why were not doing old-fashioned style episodes" and as a result he misses the point of the era he's trying to de-bunk. Never has a monochrome or Tara episode sunk so low so quickly. There is very little good about this episode; the seemingly deadly traps are painfully unexciting. Ron Moody and Kenneth Cope's presence could almost beat life into this episode but they simply act as if they couldn't be bothered. The characters are one-dimensional, if that, and the sub-plot is pathetic. When an episode goes west as fast as this one can only hope for the actors to make it fun for themselves, but everyone seems to have taken serious pills. At least "Trap" stimulates a compulsive urge to keep watching to see how bad it can get; this one doesn't even benefit from this quality. If this was a Cathy Gale episode, no doubt the dreadful Kim Mills would have directed and that would have been a major improvement.
This is painful viewing which shakes the faith, possibly the worst episode ever.
Half a Bowler.
The Bird Who Knew Too Much
The first thing to be said for this episode is that the opening sequence was one of the most visually effective of the entries in the series, and with effective music as well. Along with the James Bond gun barrel opening sequence, these two heroes have the best trademarks of all time.
Steed of course was always much smarter than Jimmy with the birds. This episode has lots of them, but of the feathered kind. Again, our eccentric villains are often better than our heroes. Villains can be much more fun than the heroes, especially if they are parrots. The story is concerned with top secret photos of a missile base and what a parrot has to do with this is anyone's guess. Eventually we find out. Two brokers are smuggling the information east and our parrot is the man behind the scheme. The parrot goes missing and our two heroes have to find the parrot.
We see our two heroes gallivanting around the set, and Steed is busy looking into some bird seed to find some clues. Mrs. Peel goes hunting for some fellow called Captain Caruso who turns out to be a parrot. She meets a local teacher who is busy helping a class of birds to speak. One of Steed's agents turns up stone dead in a cement block and it only gets better. Being the gentleman, Steed always is comes in the window to rescue Mrs. Peel, who finds herself all tied up. Well, it could only happen in The Avengers. The action is very tongue in cheek; one bright spot here is the grenade in Steeds umbrella, which blows half a street up and his poor bowler is completely destroyed.
I have mixed feelings about this one: some minor characters are really not doing anything—in fact, there are too many of them in this one I think. But seriously, The Avengers did have a very complex way of telling a story, and maybe that is why the movie lost its way. The Avengers did use a lot of visual effects (limited as they were by budgetary constraints) as well as the creative elements to make a very unique story and series, unbeatable to this very day. All writers can learn from this series.
The Bird Who Knew Too Much
a.k.a. "The Swiss Cheese Affair"
I used to like this one. It does have some good bits, but I watched it again recently and decided the gloss has gone off it considerably. Ironic I should mention gloss, as Ilona Rogers (Sam Slade) later moved to New Zealand, where she became something of a local star in a very 1990's soap/drama series about a fashion magazine called... Gloss!
The alternative title of this episode refers to its place as probably the most flawed episode of The Avengers I can presently recall. Now, before I get into bagging the show mercilessly, I want it on record that I love this show with a passion. I do not expect 100% cast iron anything as long as there is plenty of style, and I try not to go in for over-rumination of all the sociological/psychological undercurrents. It's just bloody good fun, and so should it be. But if you can't be bothered trying to make your episode stand up to even cursory scrutiny, I say don't bother starting.
There are some good bits of quick-fire dialogue between all of the characters. If not for this, one might find this episode rating as low as "The See-Through Man." The frequent "bird-isms" are well thought out. Poly-gone, oooo!, etc.
There are also some very good bits of filming. Of special note is the lunch with Sam and Steed on the punt. Very cool, I thought. The teaser is quite good (filming wise), as are many of the outdoor sequences. I also liked the jungle-gym construction yard chase where Elrick bought it.
There is a suitable number of quirky characters. Obviously Ron Moody's Jordan is tops, but Twitter is very bird-like and twitchy. I like Tom Savage for some reason. Don't ask me why.
But that is where I'm afraid I have to leave it. It's fairly weak glue, I know. The cracks show up pretty much immediately.
To start with, if that Percy Danvers bloke is as unsteady on his feet as to trip over a tricky bit of thin air and conveniently lose his gun in that slimy looking water, he deserved to die. At least they didn't try and pass him off as another "one of our best agents." I wonder if he was related to Bobby Danvers in "Dead Man's Treasure."
The bird exhibition... Do you reckon they charged admission? I'd be a bit miffed if I went to an exhibition of "ornithological opulence" only to find half of the birds were stuffed.
Captain Crusoe being able to mimic? I half expected Cunliffe to come out squawking "pieces of eight, pieces of eight." How on Earth were our heroes able to tell that it was Cunliffe's voice? It sounded a lot like the one that kept squawking, "God Save the Queen" to me. And why go to the effort of translating the photos into speech so that you could feed it into a parrot? Why not just send the photos east?
And as for the two assassins, they couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery, as the saying goes. When they weren't assassinating anyone, they were quite sinister and serious. But their impact grenade was faulty. Steed had time to watch it hit the ground, run to the door, open the door, step inside the door, look back at the footpath from the door, close the door, and have a cup of tea before it went pop. And while Robin said he'd make Jordan and Emma's demise "nice," he didn't even come close. Firstly, the size of the scope on that rifle of his made me think he was going to shoot them from about half a mile away. Then you see over Jordan's shoulder and he's about 30 yards away at the top of the diving board. The image in the scope must have looked like and electron microscope picture! And he still missed! Then, from that distance, he failed to notice Emma run around the front to climb up the diving board and make him jump backwards into the pool. Another one who deserved to die, I'd say.
By far, the best bit of this entire episode is when the stuffed canary on top of Jordan's mortar board gets blown to bits and feathers go everywhere. I laughed and laughed.
In summation, some very good bits, but too few to keep this one much higher than just above a stinker.
The Bird Who Knew Too Much
Plot: OK. Having a bird fly over a military installation is plausible, and having the parrot to give secrets on cue is also plausible, but the plot confused me a bit at the end. So, since Jordan said that Captain Crusoe picks up the voice of who ever teaches him what he says, and when Captain Crusoe speaks at the end and Emma remarks that it sounds like Jordan, I guess that makes Jordan the mastermind, but we never see him beyond this conclusion, leaving an untidy ending.
Humour: Good. There were a few corny jokes in this one. I don't mind the occasional corny joke, if it is intended to be corny, but this episode had one too many. There were some good lines, though, my favorite being: "Twitter." "Hmmm?" "Twitter." "I'm afraid bird impersonations are hardly my line." Also, there is the wonderful scene of Steed at the photographer's.
Direction: Good. Nice shot of the birds when Emma disturbed them.
Acting: Very Good. Nice performances from Ron Moody and John Wood.
Music: Very Good. There is some strange music playing when Steed and Emma arrive at the photographer's.
Tag: Poor. Ummm... What the? It was fine until they got in the car.
Miscellaneous: This episode had some stupid action sequences. Why didn't they just shoot the guy on the scaffolding? He couldn't have been that hard to hit. Why didn't they just kill Steed when they knocked him unconscious? In the end fight, why didn't Verret shoot Steed and Emma when Steed hit Cunliffe with his hat? It was several seconds before Emma got over there. On a side note, it would be painful to individually break each one of those seeds!
Overall Rating: 5/10
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