The Avengers: Series 2, Episode 10 – Death on the Rocks

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The tone is light and bantery, a set of the features that would become permanent eventually, but in other respects this tenth episode of series two is one of the weaker entrants so far in the Avengers canon.

Nothing wrong with any individual bit of it – a plot about Steed and Mrs Gales setting up home together (I say!), the better to pose as husband and wife, so they can infiltrate some diamond gang that’s trying to muscle in and control the trade by swamping the market with gems. And before you can say “takeover”, Steed has become a partner in a near-moribund diamond trading company, from where he will outwit the interlopers and restore order, pausing only to size up the daughter (Toni Gilpin) of the business’s owner (Meier Tzelniker) for potential conquest.

The British empire was dead but The Avengers clearly missed that memo, and naked colonial ambition of all sorts is what Steed and Gale are involved in here. So much so that it’s hard to be entirely on their side, no matter how thuggish their opponents, or whipcrack Steel and Gale’s flirty exchanges.

Along with colonial assumptions, this episode is thick with class snobbery as again and again the higher status Steed and Gale tell those lower down the social ladder what is and isn’t in – the Beatles had yet to upend that particular table. An early scene in which Gale bamboozles a working class decorator with some needless chat about an art piece he’s simply too dumb to understand pretty much says it all.

And bringing up the rear, so to speak, is the blatant sexism of Steed, not just in his “ding dong” Leslie Phillips appraisals of anything in a skirt, but in his attempts to charm the couture pants off Mrs Gale. The Avengers scores a point here – she will have nothing to do with him (and full marks to Honor Blackman for really playing these scenes with an iron fist inside the velvet coquetry).

As if in sympathy, the sound and video capture are ropier than usual this time round, too. And though director Jonathan Alwyn does a polished job with the lumbering cameras and basic lighting rigs available to him – close-ups nicely used, actors moved cleverly from one set-up to the next – things get away from him in some of the action scenes. Mrs Gale does a bit of judo on heavy Doug Robinson and there’s a guns-blazing finale back at the Steeds’ home towards the end, both breaking through the suspension of disbelief with their awkwardness.

Nice enough, fascinating enough, if you’re interested in TV of the period, or The Avengers more widely, but things wrap up at the end before they feel like they have even got going. As if someone in the production team had issued the brief “Diamonds” to writer Eric Paice and then left it at that.

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© Steve Morrissey 2018

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