A strange episode in many respects, All Done with Mirrors leaves John Steed almost entirely out of the picture, instead focusing on Tara King’s attempts to find out who is leaking secrets from a communications facility when Steed is arrested as a suspect mole.
It’s all a ruse, of course, Steed will in fact be spending his time with Mother, Rhonda and some bikini-clad lovelies at HQ of the week, a swimming pool equipped with an excellent bar.
King, instead, is given a right hand man, Watney (the excellent Dinsdale Landen) to help her investigate the security breaches.
Invisible forces are at work in this one, literally, with an opening sequence which sees agent Roger (John Bown) tailing and then killing a leaky fellow agent (Peter Elliott) who appears to be literally talking to himself, before Roger himself is killed by an unseen hand.
It’s all done with mirrors, the spoilerish title has told us that. But just in case we haven’t got the idea, writer Leigh Vance (a newbie) takes us to Beachy Head, where another agent, jabbering away to nobody, is soon heading over the cliff edge to his doom.
Tara, dressed for action in practical lime green denim (or is it corduroy?), heads to a secret military establishment where the government is conducting research into solar power – if only the British government had been doing that for real etc etc – with Watney in tow as a kind of Plod to her resourceful secret agent. He asks the questions; she does the real work.
After yet another man has died, croaking “It’s all done with mirrors” on his way out, Tara winds up at a lighthouse where she meets eccentric army chap Colonel Withers (Michael Trubshawe, in real life David Niven’s army pal) and his right hand man, Barlow (Edwin Richfield). In The Avengers Richfield is as good a sign as any that we’ve finally arrived at the locus of evil, his face more generally a kind of 1960s shorthand for badness incarnate, or human folly unleashed.
From here it’s a downhill glide to the finale.
So, we’ve got a distinct lack of Steed, Linda Thorson in her own hair rather than the series of wigs and bad dye jobs she’s been wearing in previous episodes, a writer new to the series, directorial duties well handled by another newbie to the role (Ray Austin, stunt supervisor in the Emma Peel era), and a number of non-core characters – Dinsdale Landen for one, Joanna Vogel (as a newspaper reporter) for another – breaking one of the unwritten rules of The Avengers (actually, I suspect Brian Clemens did write them down somewhere) about real-life not being allowed to intrude.
A new broom? Or a sign that, without Macnee, the producers were signalling that they had so little faith in the episode that they could load it up with try-outs? Or perhaps Mission: Impossible’s huge success in the US is having an influence, and Clemens et al are trying to build out a team. A thought.
Whichever it is, it’s a very good episode for Thorson watchers – she gets plenty to do, both at the level of acting and in terms of action.
Further down the cast there is some woefully bad acting and there needs to be an alert about the scene in which a man falls down all 365 of the lighthouse stairs to the sound of a comedy tuba. This is that alert.
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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