Welcome to Feather Dusters at 400 Yards, my blog about the British television series The Avengers. There’s a lot of cool stuff to explore in this groundbreaking series that spanned the entire decade of the 1960s: the characters, the performances, scene and episode analysis, technical aspects of the production, and more. Plus there are Avengers music videos and fanfiction and now evenfan art! So click on a tag or a category or something in the navigation menu, or just keep scrolling, and explore along with me.
In the Season 2 episode “Warlock,” Steed has to track down the person who murdered Peter Neville, an important British scientist who was working on a top-secret formula, and who also later murders Mrs Dunning, Neville’s housekeeper. With the help of Cathy Gale, Steed discovers that Neville was involved with a black magic circle, and that the members of this circle are implicated in his murder, having been hired by an enemy agent to use occult means to coerce Neville into handing over the formula to the opposition.
This episode was first broadcast in the second half of Season 2 (it’s the eighteenth episode, out of 26, and the twelfth to feature Mrs Gale), although it was originally intended to be the first of the Cathy Gale stories.* Even though it was reworked to function as a later case and appears later in the lineup, it still makes more sense if “Warlock” is construed as Steed and Cathy’s first case rather than one that comes later in their partnership, especially much later. In “Warlock,” they’re clearly still getting to know one another: Steed really has absolutely no idea what to do with Mrs Gale, who is unlike any other woman he’s ever met, and she is herself still trying to decide whether she likes working with Steed or not.
As I have noted elsewhere, there are many points of contact between The Avengers and The Champions, two British television series from the 1960s, and between The Champions and The New Avengers, which aired in the mid 1970s. In those previous blogs, I wrote about how elements of Avengers episodes are echoed in some of those from Champions, and then later how a New Avengers story echoed a Champions one.
Plots and villains and action aren’t the only places where these three series intersect, however. One important point of contact is in the character of the female secret agent. In Champions, this is Sharron Macready (Alexandra Bastedo), a medical doctor, biochemist, and agent of a private security service called Nemesis. Across the entirety of Avengers (including TNA), there were five female partners who worked with John Steed, but the one I’d like to concentrate on here is Emma Peel (Diana Rigg), since in many ways she has the most in common with Sharron.
A meditation on good vs evil in Avengers, focused on a comparison of Steed and Beresford from “Return of the Cybernauts.” This originally appeared on mytumblr blog.
First let’s make a list of characteristics Steed and Beresford have in common. They are:
financially well off
attractive to women
willing to kill to protect the people they love (yes, I know Beresford’s brother is already dead, but if Beresford had been there in “Cybernauts” he doubtless would have cheerfully killed both Emma and Steed to protect Anderson.)
So we have these two men who have an awful lot of basically positive characteristics in common, to the point where Emma feels attracted to Beresford even as she is already in a relationship with Steed. But Beresford is evil, and Steed is not. How come?
This was originally posted on my tumblr in response to celluloidbroomcloset.tumblr.com’sexcellent work on the use of color in this episode.I haven’t had much time or energy for non-fictional Avenging lately, so I figured I’d resurrect some of my old stuff for a new audience here on WordPress.
The clothing and ties worn by Steed and Beresford (Peter Cushing!), and the ties worn by a few other characters, seem to work as sartorial commentary on the plot in the Season 5 episode, “Return of the Cybernauts”.
When Beresford is interacting with Emma, he always wears the same suit with the same black late-19th-century-style black tie, but Steed’s ties and suits change throughout the episode, and with one exception (grey suit, gold tie), Steed doesn’t wear the same suit twice with Emma.
Steed’s ties change color throughout, but the last one he wears is black. The colors of Steed’s suits also change throughout the episode, ending with the black suit and light-colored shirt at the end.
The use of black and white for the men’s clothing in these situations has symbolic significance with respect to their relationship to one another and the trajectory of the plot, and also harkens back to the original “Cybernauts” episode, which was shot in black and white.
⊕ Content warning for discussion of intimate partner abuse
“A Beautiful Woman Belongs to the World”
One of the themes of the episode is whether anyone has the right to possess Purdey, and therefore her status as a woman vis-à-vis Steed, Gambit, and Larry as men. The way each of these men interact with Purdey is different. Larry is Purdey’s former lover and fiancé, but he’s also her former abuser and still thinks she belongs to him. Gambit is Purdey’s colleague and friend. He doesn’t have a romantic relationship with her, but from time to time he hints that he would like one. Steed is Purdey’s friend, supervisor, and mentor. She looks to him for guidance, and in other episodes we see that she would also like a romantic relationship with him, but that this is something that Steed himself does not want and cannot give her.
There are also overlapping needs that drive the interactions among these characters. Larry needs to get Purdey back, and he also needs to make sure his rocket gets launched. Gambit needs to protect Purdey from Larry, and he also needs to catch the bad guys, which in this episode includes a man that he knows Purdey still loves despite her past history with him. Steed needs to help Purdey face her fears so that she can stay on track with her job, he needs to cultivate Larry as a witness and suspect in the case, and he has to stop Larry from carrying out his plan. Purdey needs to navigate her complex and conflicting feelings about Larry while both protecting herself from him and also dealing with him as a suspect and, as it turns out, the villain of the case. All of these needs, personal and professional alike, hinge on Purdey in one way or another.