Classic ass-backwards Avengers plotting is the hallmark of November Five, the sixth episode of the third series, which was first broadcast on Saturday 2 November 1963, three days before the Fifth of November (as it’s always called in the UK, in the same way that the Fourth of July is never July Four in the US). This is the day when Brits celebrate the thwarting of a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605 by Guy Fawkes and his cabal (or, depending on your political outlook, a celebration of the plot itself) by burning effigies of a “guy” on a fire.
This fact has plot relevance because, as we see before the opening credits have even rolled, someone has only gone and assassinated a newly elected member of parliament, right at the declaration of his victory. In short order we cut to Parliament, where Steed is quizzing his local MP (David Langton) about the dead man. And in a bit of swift plotting, Mrs Gale is persuaded by Steed to stand in the election to find the man’s successor, and is despatched to a local keep-fit studio, which for some reason uses the services of the same PR company as the dead man.
Back in Parliament, again, and Steed’s MP is getting mildly irritated at the fact that this bowler-hatted outsider keeps buttonholing him, all hail fellow well met and prying questions, not least about this shadowy PR company which, wouldn’t you know it, Steed’s MP is also involved with somehow. Oh, and a five megaton warhead has also gone missing. It turns out the dead MP knew something about the warhead, was about to go public with it, and died for his efforts. Mrs Gale, in an act of bravado, is shooting her mouth off to anyone who’ll listen that she also knows the same thing, and will also go public… Will this flush the killers out?
Why is an MP concerning himself with a missing warhead, when this is the concern of the secret services? Like the fact that Steed and Gale know instantly that the PR company is the important lead to follow, much in this episode makes little sense. And the more you know about the workings of the British parliament – or any electoral system – the less sense it makes.
Clearly written in an era when TV viewers had no idea how any of this politics stuff worked, this episode is also in thrall to the new notion of the fitness gym, where Iris Russell, as Fiona, is particularly effective as the darkly neurotic manager of this bright, cheerful and very modern place.
It’s also nice to see Joe Robinson as Max, a heavy from the gym. He was Honor Blackman’s judo teacher in real life, gets a few lines of dialogue even, and if I can go off-piste for a second, you can find a nice story of him aged about 70 fighting off a gang of muggers in Cape Town if you look him up on the imdb. Don’t mess with Joe.
Blackman gets into a lot of leather for her big finish – the more leather, the more lethal seems to be the idea – perhaps under the influence of Frederick Starke, who did Blackman’s wardrobe this time out. Leather apart, the clothes generally are a bit more Dior, more upmarket, and another sign that The Avengers is taking off.
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© Steve Morrissey 2019