Requiem sounds like it should be the title for the last-ever episode of The Avengers, now only weeks away. That it’s not is a typical piece of perversity by showrunner Brian Clemens. Another is Clemens’s ongoing attempt to sideline Linda Thorson, which he’s still engaged in even this late in the day. Perhaps a further series was still a possibility. If it had come off, doubtless Tara King would have been noticeable by her absence.
Anyhow, the setup – a woman is killed in an underground car park by a pair of heavies. But it turns out it’s not a woman at all, but a man in drag – who has been acting as a decoy for the key witness in a trial against Murder International (an outfit we met earlier this series, in Noon-Doomsday).
Steed is despatched to babysit the actual intended target, Miranda (Angela Douglas), in a safe house, much to Tara’s annoyance. Though Tara is vaguely aware that the safe house is somewhere associated with Steed’s childhood, only he really knows where he and Miranda are going.
In short order Tara has been kidnapped by the same two thugs (Denis Shaw, Terence Sewards), drugged, escaped and got caught up in an explosion in Steed’s apartment which has left Mother obviously dead – his pinstriped legs are protruding from the rubble.
Tara’s legs are broken, kindly Doctor Wells (John Paul) tells her, and just to reinforce it, so does kindly army chap Major Firth (John Cairney), a man with exquisite Dirk Bogarde hair – aaah, Brylcreem.
Back in hiding, Steed has discovered that under her layers of disguise Miranda is a hot young woman, and so he immediately starts flirting with her. He’s also discovered that he and she share a love of military history, toy soldiers in other words, and to pass the time they are soon restaging some of the great battles of history – and she is trouncing him.
The action ducks back and forth and it gradually becomes clear that Tara is the focus of a gigantic deception –including the staging of Mother’s funeral – intended to fool her into divulging Steed’s whereabouts. Except she doesn’t know where he is. Or not exactly. She has clues, but they’re too sketchy to be of much use, though god knows everyone around her is keen to help her remember.
Though still in the episode, plotwise, Linda Thorson has effectively been removed from the action, leaving Angela Douglas to hold the fort (Fort Steed, in fact, his affectionate name for the room where he stages his toy battles) with Patrick Macnee.
Douglas is rather good as Miranda – the writing is in her favour too – who rises above casual sexism and ceaseless underestimation by Steed, who runs through most of the permutations of “don’t mind your pretty little head”.
As an episode it’s a bit of harmless fun, worth watching if you’ve time to kill. Highlights include the banter between Macnee and Douglas (“Groovy, baby,” she says at one point, the phrase dripping with unexpected irony). And the marvellous (and still silent) Rhonda even gets a fight scene. A fight move, actually, but it’s a decisive one. Her finest moment (and she’s had a few).
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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