6.17: They Keep Killing Steed
Great title. If only Brian Clemens’ teleplay was up to the same standard. Which isn’t to say the episode is terrible, just that it’s another doppelganger Avengers. Only this time, instead of one Steed there’s a selection. Ray McAnally (5.23: The Positive Negative Man) returns, overplaying again with a silly accent. He’s better value here, but still far from one of the series’ most iconic guest stars.
Baron Von Curt: It was a privilege being married to you.
Indeed, young Ian Ogilvy nearly takes such honours, rocking a shock of blonde hair as Baron Von Curt, a rich entitled dilettante – he owns both the hotel Steed and Tara check into and the focal conference house – with swarms of admirers. He takes a fancy to Tara, and is also very capable with a rapier (perhaps the two are connected). One could easily have imagined him taking over from Steed for a New Avengers. That, or returning as The Saint.
Arcos: We intend to infiltrate the peace conference.
Steed: With a forged passport?
Arcos: No, with a forged face.
McAnally’s Arcos plans to use his “instant plastic surgery” technique to get into and disrupt a peace conference (we later discover, by having a Steed put a bomb in the Chairman’s gavel). This entails kidnapping Steed and keeping him imprisoned in a lab under a quarry, although Steed overpowers co-conspirator Zerson (Norman Jones, The Abominable Snowmen, The Silurians, The Masque of Mandragora) and attempts to confuse plans by putting four kits in the case to be delivered, rather than one. One of these, Nadine (Hal Gailili), who was Arcos’ actual choice for the mission, expires during the process, ending up with half Steed’s face, while Perova (Michael Corcoran, 4.10: A Surfeit of H₂O) knocks out the others, Mintoff (George Ghent) and Georgio (Anthony Sheppard, 4.11: Two’s a Crowd), at the conference.
Arcos: A nice touch of irony. I am now you.
Little is required of Macnee for all this, since his voice is dubbed by the actors concerned; later, when Arcos takes Steed’s face, the same method is employed, with Macnee frantically over-gesticulating to approximate McAnally’s over-enthused posturing.
Zerson: He hit me.
Arcos: He shows wisdom.
None of this is massively diverting; Tara pretending to be Von Curt’s wife provides more amusement. Arcos learned his technique “in the operating theatres of Europe” and prides himself on being a match for Steed, but the latter beats him at chess (“You seem to rely heavily on your pawns”), insults his wine and then makes a successful escape via an air duct. He must subsequently dodge attempts by the good guys to kill him, notably Captain Smythe (Bernard Horsfall, 4.7: The Cybernauts, 5.1: The Fear Merchants), who comes across as a bit of an idiot; at least he doesn’t turn out to be a bad guy, which would have been an obvious move.
Steed: Straight down stream and turn left at the salmon nets.
I like the conceit of the lab based under a clapped-out car wreck, and even more the patently absurd base for Mother beneath a river; Tara leaps off a bridge to meet with him at one point. The face masks used for the transformations are quite cool/odd, echoing the astronaut outfit in Invasion of the Earthmen.
Steed: Remember that time in Tibet? We rescued that little lama, friend of the Dalai’s. Delivered a little lama safe and sound.
Tara guessing the real Steed (“Strawberry shortcake”) isn’t as much fun as in previous Steed double stories, particularly since her pairing with Ogilvy for most of the episode has given her a stint with an age-appropriate partner. The coda has Steed and Tara on a beach that’s obviously her flat before it’s revealed as such, but I suppose that’s better than the beach that’s obviously a cramped set in 2.9: The Removal Men.