Because The Avengers were not broadcast in production order*, you do get the odd anomaly. The getting-to-know-you dialogue between Steed and Mrs Gale in Warlock, the 18th (broadcast order) episode of series 2, makes more sense when you know this episode was designed as the Series 2 opener, introducing Steed’s new sidekick.
There’s another incongruity in the follow-up, which sees Peter Arne again playing a baddie, as he had done the previous week (if you were watching in 1963). Then he was the eponymous warlock This time he’s Redfern, the toff at the peak of a criminal pyramid which has pulled off the feat of stealing a pair of golden eggs, which contain – unbeknown to most – a deadly virus.
“A bit of a late-Victorian tea-cosy,” is how Steed describes the wing-collared gentleman boffin whose eggs have been purloined – a nice bit of vivid writing by Martin Woodhouse, a multi-talented individual, a doctor who designed and built computers and had retired from TV by the mid-1960s to write scientific thrillers.
Contrast the fussy egghead with Steed and Gale, who seem to be living in a freewheeling, co-habiting 1960s way – she’s got the decorators in is the excuse – and we have the makings of a classic Avengers set-up, complete with rigid class structure: the villains go from oily rag (Gordon Whiting), to his managerial superior (Robert Bernal) to the distinctly la-di-dah Arne, who spends most of the episode fiddling with antique clockwork gewgaws much like a Bond villain.
The episode is heavily Maguffined, being essentially a search for the eggs, and heavily centres on Mrs Gale, who is the one who goes undercover as a journalist trying to tease from the scientist (Donald Eccles) what might have befallen them. Steed is brought in an explicator/debriefer capacity in what’s little more than an incidental role.
If it’s not entirely successful, that’s because with three different social classes of villainy there are too many characters flapping about not doing enough, but the dark, wintry looks conjured up by director Peter Hammond are attractive (if you can see past the foggy 1960s production values) and Mrs Gale looks fetching in her Spanish hat and tartan cape combo. Leather fans will also note that Honor Blackman pulls on the jump suit when the going gets tough – no wonder the James Bond people wanted her for Pussy Galore.
* The business of production order versus broadcast order is gone into at some length on the incredibly useful The Avengers Forever site.
© Steve Morrissey 2018