High Noon, the 1952 movie starring Gary Cooper, is the inspiration behind this Terry Nation-scripted episode of The Avengers. Nation had done something similarly pastiche-y the previous week with Legacy of Death, an episode that leaned on 1940s noir.
Quick thumbnail of High Noon – Gary Cooper is the good guy finding everyone in the town has a pressing previous engagement, leaving him to fend alone when a bad guy comes calling. An injured Steed takes his place here, his broken leg forcing him to convalesce in a very exclusive sanatorium (Brian Clemens’s farm, in fact) and finding himself increasingly isolated and vulnerable as a sworn enemy comes ever closer.
The episode has a blocky structure – Steed is one block, whiling away his time as the other operatives from Department S gradually abandon him. A physically busy Tara is another, charging hither and yon in full action girl mode. Mother is the third, hanging out at Steed’s apartment and drinking his way through Steed’s high-end booze. Fourth block is TP McKenna and Ray Brooks, as a pair of baddies who have been introduced on horseback before settling down at a railway station where the hands of the station clock make explicit the High Noon connection.
The episodes cycles through these four blocks – Mother drinking, Brooks and McKenna indulging in dick-measuring banter and demonstrations of knife and gun skills as they await the appointed hour, Tara, Steed, and, in the wings waiting to deliver the coup de grace, a man called Kafka, onetime head of Murder International and an old foe of Steed out for payback.
The High Noon comparisons are easily overdone – Steed and King don’t fit that neatly into the Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly template, though Brooks and McKenna are a much closer analogue of the two gunmen in High Noon waiting for the fateful arrival of the train carrying murderous cargo.
So, a gunfight finale? Yes, indeedy, to the sound of a mariachi band, no less, which is all a bit absurd in the setting of an English farmyard but the set-up does kind of demand it.
Kafka? The name adds a layer of doom, or that’s the intention at least. Department S? There was a new TV show in the works with that title and Terry Nation was one of its main writers, so that probably explains that.
“Lose some weight,” had been one of the orders barked at Thorson when she got the role. She’s still noticeably bulky here, about halfway through the production run, though got svelter as the series progressed. I point it out not to be sexist, but because relatively green director Peter Sykes seems not to have noticed and isn’t helping things by repeatedly drawing the eye to Tara’s rear end as she engages in energetic derring-do.
Overall, a fun enough episode, but lacking that Avengers sparkle.
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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