Boring but prescient is how you’d describe You’ll Catch Your Death, fourth episode of the final series of The Avengers.
Prescient because it’s all about biological warfare, people dying due to exposure to some deadly toxin, Steed and King investigating the demises of the dead men (naturally) who all happened to be ear, nose and throat specialists.
We see one of them (Hamilton Dyce) keeling over as this episode opens, having just opened a letter with nothing inside.
A clue! Yes, the envelope is the clue, the only one, in fact. And once the envelope has been traced back to the shop it was brought from – handily (and an Avengers standby/weakness) a bespoke establishment not some pile-em-high warehouse – we’re only a few seconds away from learning that a nursing academy recently ordered 10,000 of these envelopes… but no writing paper!
So there’s your bad guys, right there. The end!
And, yes, that is about it. The riddle of who, though not why, has been solved almost instantly. Filling up the time until the final credits roll is what Jeremy Burnham (new to the series as a writer, though as an actor he’d already been in the show three times) and director Paul Dickson (on his only stint behind the camera) now set out to do, though Burnham’s banter between Steed and King fails to sparkle. Dickson’s decision to do everything in stately fashion – gliding cameras, cars swishing into shot – doesn’t help get the blood coursing either.
Seeking the positives, we have Linda Thorson looking pretty damn good in a rakishly tilted fedora, a nicely eccentric scene with Mother (Patrick Newell), in this episode’s “office of the week” – a concrete swimming pool in a vast outdoor wasteland, attended by the mute Rhonda (Rhonda Fletcher, who unjustly never gets a screen credit even though she’s one of the mini-joys of this last series).
Tara also gets some fight scenes and is more convincing this time out than in the previous week’s episode, even though this was made only about three weeks later (some intensive training, maybe?).
And there’s a worrying development when Tara is chloroformed and temporarily disabled. It’s not much on its own but taken with the later attempts to neutralise Linda Thorson for one bogus reason or another, it looks like the sinister start to a chronic bout of bad faith by showrunner Brian Clemens et al.
Fruity character turns by Henry Magee (the envelope man), Dudley Sutton and Peter (later better known as drag star Bette) Bourne, and “boffins” Fulton Mackay and Roland Culver (who can do old empire chaps like Colonel Timothy in his sleep) add some sparkle, but only some.
Why the dead ENT guys? They’re the only people capable of finding an anti-serum to the deadly biological weapon, and were working on one.
Like I say, er…
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The imdb refers to this as season seven. I’m saying six, along with most of the fan sites and Wikipedia, and in line with the pretty much definitive Studio Canal box set. The reason why the imdb and others say seven is because they’re taking the final block of eight Emma Peel episodes as a separate season. But since there were only eight episodes in that production block, lumping them together with the 16 episodes of what everyone agrees is season five brings the total up to 24, much closer to the usual Avengers run of about 26 episodes.
© Steve Morrissey 2020