This was originally posted on my tumblr in response to celluloidbroomcloset.tumblr.com’s excellent 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.
Beresford, in contrast to Steed, wears black, cream, or grey ties with black or grey suits for most of the episode, and is monochrome black and white at the beginning. Beresford lives in the past, stewing with hatred for the death of his brother, and the “past” of the episode was as a black-and-white production. However, Beresford’s clothing becomes more colorful as he attacks Steed and Emma and seems to be gaining the upper hand, and as he moves more into the present as his plan begins to bear fruit. Once his attacks begin, the colors of his clothing are a combination of what he has worn in previous scenes and the colors of Steed’s clothing. Beresford is most colorful in the final battle, where he is wearing a burgundy cardigan, navy tie, white shirt, and dark trousers.
Beresford’s scientific advisor is also dressed in shades of black, white, and grey throughout the episode. He also is stuck living in the past, where he was the scientist in charge of Anderson’s company, and where he helped develop the Cybernauts.
The ties worn by Steed and two of the victims of the Cybernauts are similar in color and pattern. Beresford also wears a tie like this later in the episode, and his clothing in the final battle is composed of the colors used in these ties. A tie of this type functions as the “tie of death” throughout the episode.
Progression of Color Changes: Steed vs Beresford
The opening scene has Beresford in black and white, with a more antique cut to his suit and tie; the tie is of a style worn by gentlemen in the late 19th century. Steed is in navy blue, and is wearing a more modern style of suit, tie, and shirt.
Beresford is living in the past, obsessed with his brother’s death. Beresford has also captured Emma’s attention. Steed lives in the present, and Emma’s attention is no longer completely on him. Beresford controls the Cybernaut, which is always dressed in black but has a silver head. Steed doesn’t yet know that the Cybernauts are even involved.
The next day, Beresford is wearing a grey morning suit, with a grey-and-white striped tie. It is important to note that morning suits are traditionally associated with weddings. I think the wedding element might be significant here, but I haven’t figured out exactly how.
Steed also wears grey the next morning, but with a gold tie and pocket square. Again, Beresford is dressed in a more old-fashioned manner, while Steed wears more modern dress. Beresford sits in his brother’s old wheelchair: he’s still stuck in the past.
When Steed learns about an impending attack on another victim, he rushes over to try to stop it. He is now wearing a blue suit, and his tie has a dark blue background with russet spots on it. Steed becomes the next person attacked by the Cybernaut, while he is crouched over the dead man’s body. Steed’s clothing very closely matches that of the victim in color and pattern, although it is not identical.
Note that the clothing on both men in this scene also matches but is not identical to that of the first scientist kidnapped, and then later killed, by the Cybernaut (below): dark suit, tie with navy background and russet pattern.
In the morning, Beresford listens to the captive scientists present their idea for how to torture and kill Emma and Steed. Beresford’s ensemble picks up the blue of Steed’s suit from the night before and combines it with the grey of his morning suit. The blue of Beresford’s suit symbolizes his temporary victory over Steed, while he wears the cold grey of his plan next to his heart. The cut of his clothing is now more modern: he is living in the present, carrying out his current plan to get revenge.
Steed, on the other hand, puts back on the suit and tie he wore when he was attacked by the Cybernaut (cap in section above). He’s still caught in Beresford’s web.
Beresford’s apparent control of the situation (and of Steed, after a fashion) is symbolized in his next wardrobe change: the blue and gold of his tie pick up and combine the blue of the tie Steed wears today with the gold of the tie he wore the first day after the case began. Both men are dressed in grey here, as they were in the earlier scene where Steed wore the gold tie.
As celluloidbroomcloset pointed out, the scene where Steed wears the gold tie and Emma is dressed in a tan coat is the only place in the episode where their clothes are coordinated (cap in second section, above). On the day that Steed wears the blue tie and grey suit, his clothing clashes with Emma’s green-and-white fighting suit.
Beresford has affected Steed’s past and he continues to affect Steed’s present, both in terms of his diabolical plot and his attentions to Emma. Blue and gold also make green, the color of Emma’s fighting suit.
The tables start to turn in the scene where Beresford does the test run with the watch mechanism. He is combining the blue of Steed’s suit and the grey waistcoat he wore with his own morning suit, but now he is wearing the tie of death, one that has a blue background and russet geometrical patterns on it. The addition of color both symbolizes Beresford’s growing control of the situation and also foreshadows his demise at the hands of the Cybernaut.
In the final scene, it is Steed who now wears the monochrome black and white, while Beresford is in color. This time, Beresford wears a wine-colored cardigan and a solid navy blue tie. His clothing replicates and separates the colors of the tie of death, and he will meet his demise in those colors.
Steed, on the other hand, takes over the role that Beresford had in the beginning: Steed is now taking control of the situation; it is his plan that is being put into action; and Emma’s attention has been fully returned to him.
When the Cybernaut is defeated, Steed says it’s his turn to knock it over. (Emma had had that honor in the original Season 4 “Cybernauts” episode.) Steed and the Cybernaut are both dressed in greyscale colors, the tints of the original episode. The black and white that represented the past at the beginning now represent the present. And whereas Beresford had the power at the beginning of the episode, in terms of his control of the Cybernauts and Steed’s inability to stop him, at the end of the episode Steed has the power, and causes the final fall of his enemies.