The penultimate Avengers episode actually goes right back to the early days of this series’ production run. There was over a year between the completion of Get-A-Way! in February 1968 and its transmission in May 1969.
It’s one of the ones produced (or started, at any rate) by John Bryce, whose short-lived attempt to take The Avengers back to some version of realism never really had enough time to gain traction before the old team of Clemens and Fennell were reinstated.
Invisibility (realism?) is what Get-A-Way! is all about. Invisibility at a high-security prison for enemy agents, run as if it were a monastery – the warders wear habits (again, realism?) – where high-status spy Rostov (Vincent Harding) simply vanishes from his cell. Only to re-appear suddenly, only to bash a bemused warder over the head, leg it down a corridor and vanish again.
Post-credits and we’re chez Steed, where he is entertaining two old spying pals, their lascivious eyes all over Tara, who is discussed entirely in terms of her physical attributes rather than spying credentials.
But the gods of feminism are smiling and scant moments later, one of the spy buddies is dead, murdered by the unseen hand of escaped spy Rostov.
In familiar Avengers style Steed and King split up. He heads to the monastery/prison, she to the ministry to interview a man who keeps chameleons as pets, animals so well camouflaged they’re impossible to spot in their tank (sound the klaxon for a clue).
At the prison Steed interviews Ezdorf (Peter Bowles), a charming foreign spy in a red tracksuit only too happy to spill most of the beans. One of their number has already escaped, says Ezdorf, the remaining two will soon be gone also, and each has been tasked with assassinating a British operative. Guess who is in Ezdorf’s sights?
And soon, Lubin (Robert Russell) has flown the coop, in similar “pfft… and he was gone” style, leaving behind no clues as to how he did it, though in his cell there is a well-thumbed natural history magazine containing a feature on camouflage. Again, sound that klaxon.
We have more or less guessed the what if not the how of this episode. All that remains is for Steed, in another very Tara-lite episode, to join up a few dots. And a trip to the company that makes the vodka enjoyed by these pampered detainees allows him to do just that… eventually.
Realism? Well it is raining when Steed heads off to investigate the mysterious vodka, which I think is a first for the series – for all its aliens, mind-swaps and killer robots, it’s been the driving of open-topped cars in the British climate that’s always been one of the series’ most fantastical elements.
You wouldn’t class a prison run on monastic lines as realistic either. More than that, even given the miraculous power of the prisoners’ vodka, the whole establishment does seem to be run with extreme laxity.
The person disappearing/reappearing trick would be the USP of the series Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) – aka My Partner the Ghost in the US – which would debut later in 1969, and which would partially help with the cravings of “spy-fi” junkies high and dry after The Avengers departed for ever the following week. It’s used well here and is an effective bit of simple in-camera magic.
Bowles is the reason to watch, an actor whose oily charm would make him one of British TV’s go-to loveable rogues is in his element jousting verbally with Patrick Macnee. He even brings a certain dignity to hackneyed speeches of the “we’re alike, you and I” variety.
The cliches don’t stop there. Look out for the classic empty-cardboard-box fight towards the end.
As for the finale – a fight between two invisible people – what the hell was everyone thinking?
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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