6.8: My Wildest Dream
Philip Levene’s teleplay is translated effectively to screen by former production designer Robert Fuest, in his, er first, for the show, but the director can’t rescue the back half of the story, which entirely fizzles. Written for the John Bryce regime, My Wildest Dream’s serious tone and corresponding lack of eccentric insulation shows unflatteringly. At least it can boast a formidable guest star in Peter Vaughan, clearly enjoying himself.
The element of living one’s murderous fantasies vicariously – and then not so much – was touched upon in a broader and more satisfying fashion with Quite, Quite Fantastic Incorporated in 4.26: Honey for the Prince. Fuest takes the idea and ups the horror angle of patients committing murder in a fantasy (on a dummy with the face of a business colleague, complete with Psycho-esque frenzied stabbing) only to discover they have done it for real.
As with last season’s The Hidden Tigger, but in more straight-faced fashion, the most obvious suspect is only indirectly responsible, his technique used to adverse ends by an underling (Susan Travers’ Nurse Owen). Although, she’s actually acting at the behest of Tobias (Derek Godfrey), sitting on the Board of Acme Precision Combine and bumping off his co-directors (at one point, he succeeds at the old misdirection routine, killing Philip Madoc’s Slater “in self-defence” after it appears the latter has come to kill him).
Jaeger: If you’re trying to say that I’m an unqualified quack, then technically, legally, I would have to agree with you. But to suggest that I “dabble”. That is quite untrue.
Jaeger (Vaughan, perhaps surprisingly his only appearance in the series, but you name it, he was in it, most recently Game of Thrones) is the biggest boon of the early part of the episode, brandishing an eccentric Germanic accent as an “aggresso-therapist”, all the better to add to his psychiatric credentials. Albeit, he admits, in an effective sequence where Steed arrives to investigate, to pretty much everything he had been accused of, turning the tables without even realising it; yes, he isn’t a real doctor (except of law), and yes, both murderers were patients with whom he was working to exact a catharsis (“Killing in fantasy. That is my technique”); the patient “lives out his wildest dream”.
Steed: We’re being called as unimpeachable witnesses.
Tara: Are you unimpeachable?
Steed: Well, that’s beside the point.
Unfortunately, much of the rest has little hook. Tobias isn’t very interesting, and the method of making Steed witness to the murders is about as inept as villains get (“When we picked him as an ideal witness, I didn’t think. I never thought he’d get this close”). Edward Fox is the Hon Teddy Chilcott, who at least has a more age-appropriate thing for Tara, but is consequently put out by sugar-daddy Steed, for whom she only has eyes.
This leads to several laboured comedy routines in which Steed arrives to take her to the ballet (really away from Teddy’s attentions) or slides down her pole to punt Teddy away from her (after he refuses to believe she overpowered him fairly, so uses unfair means to try to secure a date with her). We’re expected to believe this is sufficient cause for him to fantasise about killing Steed, and from there to be used as his potential assassin. It’s all a bit thin, and given how Teddy has been established as entirely useless, not remotely sustained dramatically.
Gibbons: It’s a dream! It’s all a dream! It’s a… It’s a dream.
It’s curious seeing Fox here, though, reminding us that even at this point, he was just a jobbing actor (younger brother James was doing better in the movies; Edward wouldn’t hit a home run lead until Day of the Jackal five years later).
Madoc essays his sixth and final Avengers appearance (2.7: The Decapod, 2.25: Six Hands Across a Table, 2.10: Death of a Batman, 5.9: The Correct Way to Kill), not a large one, but both he and Murray Hayne (Gibbons) effectively convey the horrified realisation that they have committed murder for real (the latter, rather unfortunately, toppling from a balcony when Steed and Tara arrive just too late). John Savident (Egrorian in Orbit, The Squire in The Visitation – what a waste of an actor that one was – the auctioneer in Hudson Hawk and Lord Chiswick in Jeeves and Wooster, to name less than a handful) is another board member and victim.
Steed: I keep thinking I’m a horse. Well, it distresses my friends terribly. I’m given to cantering across the quiet room of my club.
Steed gets to explain he’s a horse in order to gain an appointment with Jaeger (“Well, I don’t want to be cured. But do you know anyone who’d like to buy a bale or two of hay?”), much to the latter’s delight (“Highly amusing. Oh yes, highly amusing… And this looks like an interesting case. So, you think you’re a horse, eh?”: “Not often, but around derby day, I do get a slight twinge in my fetlocks”).
The coda finds Steed on Tara’s couch, in confessional mode, explaining how he’d sneak a large glass of soda water from his father’s study every night (he felt deprived because he preferred lemonade). Quite in contrast to his craving for champagne, of which “Because. I happen to like it”. Problem solved. Not the funniest of finishes, although one might infer it’s representative of the producers’ (or just Clemens’) suspicion of psychology when taken in combination with Jaeger’s methods.