Undoubtedly a fancy episode when it first aired in late November 1965, A Surfeit of H2O manages to be whimsical, sinister, ridiculous and ingenious all in one go, with a good belt of fine character actors to help things along.
Water is what it’s about, as the title suggests, and before the title has even come up a poacher has died while out setting traps, drowned in an open field by a massive thunderstorm which appeared out of nowhere.
Decent special effects being a bit more than the show can afford, when Steed (dressed in absurd Edwardian hunting gear) and Peel arrive in a Mini Moke, there’s not a drop of water to be seen, which is odd considering how much you’d need to actually drown a man.
Quibbles aside, the eccentrics are soon arriving in droves – the dead man’s brother (Talfryn Thomas), who is convinced a mighty inundation is on the way, and a local by the name of Jonah Barnard (played by Noel Purcell, the go-to man when biblical hirsuteness and prophetic bellowing are required) so convinced this is true that he’s building an ark, and who informs Steed that he sees the same cloud in the same part of the sky every day.
There are even more oddballs, of a more sinister sort, over at the local “wine factory” – Grannie Gregson’s Glorious Grogs Ltd, makers of vegetable beverages – where Mrs Peel is soon exploring, dressed, appropriately in wet-look PVC.
Eccentricity is what this episode is most about, rather than credible plotting, and Steed has soon joined the party. Posing as Steed of Steed, Steed, Steed, Steed, Steed and Jacques, wine merchants, he visits Grannie Gregson’s (whose amusing logo is an old lady in a rocking chair proudly showing off a rather phallic cucumber), where he tries to charm information out of a company employee (Sue Lloyd of The Ipcress File and, later, TV soap Crossroads fame), while in the background hovers a lab-coated Geoffrey Palmer, marking time until his extraordinary run of TV success arrived.
Are they manufacturing bad weather at Grannie Gregson’s? Well let’s just say that the guy in charge there is called Dr Sturm (Albert Lieven), and Emma Peel gets to utter the line “You diabolical mastermind, you!” before the episode is done.
A lot of the good work is undone by a chaotic closing fight scene, which features a lot of indistinguishable men in white lab coats fighting against Steed, Peel and the bellowing Jonah (biblical name obviously deliberate), who has proved to be one of the many little joys of this episode.
It’s a very 1960s affair – the ancient (Steed’s get-up) hard up against the modern (the Mini Moke, the same one used in the Dave Clark Five film Catch Us If You Can, apparently) – with a very liberated Emma Peel making more strides for women in clothes that must have been murder to wear and also gladdened the sex-starved of the era.
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© Steve Morrissey 2019