Scene Analysis

02

“In for an Interesting Challenge”: Steed vs Dr Campbell in “The Master Minds”

Sir Clive Todd, an important British politician, has been found shot in the head in a safe containing secret documents, which he apparently was helping to steal. Steed and Mrs Peel go to Sir Clive’s house, where he is recuperating from his injuries. Mrs Peel is placed under cover as Sir Clive’s nurse. When Sir Clive finally regains consciousness, Steed and Mrs Peel question him, but he has no memory of the robbery, and his memories of other important things seem to be fuzzy as well.

Steed decides that it would be a good idea to have a psychiatrist examine Sir Clive, to see whether the amnesia is real or a clever cover for illegal activities. The Ministry sends Dr Fergus Campbell to help with the case, and his first interaction with Steed is a testy dick-smacking contest, which is worth reproducing in full:

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… And Another Thing

In the Season 6 episode, “Have Guns Will Haggle,” Tara King gets caught by the baddies and handcuffed to an ammunition crate.

But first please let us notice that she has a kilt pin on her skirt. (A kilt pin is basically a big honking safety pin, for those who don’t know.)

When Tara gets caught and handcuffed, she does … nothing.

She sits there and waits for Steed to rescue her. She doesn’t even try to remove the kilt pin, never mind use it to pick the lock herself.

Then when Steed arrives, the first thing he does is remove the pin and use it to pick the lock. Damsel rescued!

I’m not even gonna bitch about Tara being passive here, because this is just sloppy, sloppy writing. It’s also an excuse to get that shot of Tara’s legs, with Steed plucking at her skirt, which is kinda gross. It’s a crying shame that the writers and producers of Season 6 had so little respect for their own characters and their own show that they allowed this kind of stuff to go forward.


a version of this post originally appeared on my tumblr

Emma’s Date With George Miles as Critique of Rape Culture in “What the Butler Saw”

 ⊕ Content notice for discussion of sexual assault and mentions of rape

“Emma, Darling, You Look Ravishing”

Secrets have been mysteriously leaking to the opposition, and the primary suspects are all highly placed military officers—a vice admiral in the Royal Navy, a major general in the Royal Army, and a group commander in the Royal Air Force—each with his own potentially exploitable personal weakness. Group Commander George Miles is known as something of a Lothario, so Steed asks Mrs Peel to use her feminine wiles to see whether she can’t worm some information out of him. Mrs Peel obliges, managing to wangle a date with Miles at his home. Steed, meanwhile, goes under cover as Miles’ butler, to see whether he can find any info himself and also to be on hand to protect Mrs Peel in case the date gets ugly.

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What Price Steed?

A shadowy enemy agent named PSEV has been giving the Ministry fits and conniptions, so Steed comes up with a cunning plan to figure out who PSEV really is and put a stop to their machinations. To do this, Steed pretends to be his own evil twin, a man called “Webster.” The idea is to get PSEV to accept Webster as someone who could impersonate Steed and, once he is in their confidence as Webster, Steed will be able to unmask them.

Steed’s plan involves creating Webster as a fashion model, and then sending tickets to the show to PSEV. Of course PSEV themselves don’t go, because in actuality PSEV is a collection of four enemy agents who have created the fiction of PSEV as a way to divert attention from their own activities. So the four agents who speak for the fictional PSEV decide to send Ambassador Brodny and an aide named Ivenko, to see whether there are any fashions at the show that the mythical PSEV might like to wear.

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Ableism, Sexism, and Toxic Masculinity: The Intersectional Violence at the Heart of “Noon Doomsday” and Season 6

Another in an occasional series on disability in the Avengers


Recently on social media, I saw a link to a story about comic book author Farida Bedwei, the creator of Karmzah, a superhero with cerebral palsy who derives her powers from her crutches. Ms Bedwei, who herself has cerebral palsy, created Karmzah because she wants to see heroes who are like herself, and to share them with other disabled people. She also wants to use Karmzah as a way to end the stigma over the need for assistive devices such as crutches, which are so vital for disabled people, but the use of which all too often comes with additional costs and frustrations because the world has not been constructed to be accessible to the disabled.

This terrific story about Bedwei’s comic and her crutch-wielding superhero set me thinking about the third act of the Season 6 episode “Noon Doomsday,” in which Tara’s ableist attitude ends up endangering both herself and a crutch-wielding Steed, and how Steed’s adaptability, foresight, and approach towards his temporary disability allow him to defeat the villain and rescue Tara. Further, the ableism of this episode exists in intersection with sexism and toxic masculinity, and the presence of all three of these issues is a direct result of the way Tara’s character and her relationship with Steed was handled by the Season 6 producers in general and by “Noon Doomsday” screenwriter Terry Nation in particular.

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Flashback to Nee-San

In “Room Without a View,” Steed and Emma go to visit Dr Wadkin, who has mysteriously reappeared after going missing several years earlier. Varnals, a Ministry official, describes what he thinks happened to Wadkin: he was brainwashed and kept prisoner in Manchuria, probably in a place called Nee-San.

flashbacktoneesan.01We learn towards the end of this scene that Steed likely was a prisoner there. He seems to have an intimate knowledge of what the conditions were like, which he describes during a brief period of what appears to be some kind of dissociation. During that moment, Steed is detached from what’s going on in the room, from the other people there–including Mrs Peel–and is obviously in some emotional or psychological distress.

But Steed’s distress doesn’t begin with the mention of Nee-San, specifically. It starts much earlier, when Varnals says that Wadkin seems to have been brainwashed. There’s something about Wadkin’s physical condition, and maybe the fact that he’s playing with an abacus, plus the mention of brainwashing, that gives Steed pause.

He shrugs it off, though, and puts on a bluff facade, teasing Varnals for relying on official reports for his information. But the facade doesn’t last. Varnals explains a bit more about what he thought happened to Wadkin, and Steed begins to withdraw again. This time it’s not so easy for him to shake it off. His affect flattens, and he has a thousand-yard stare.

Steed steps away from Varnals, and begins recounting what it was like to be in Nee-San: the bad food, the sounds from the outside world, a clock that only strikes three. He’s clearly reliving time that he must have spent there himself.

It’s not until Wadkin starts stating “Three o’clock!” over and over again that Steed comes back out of himself. He can’t indulge his own pain about his imprisonment: he has a job to do, which is to find the people who tortured Dr Wadkin and stop them from hurting anyone else.

flashbacktoneesan.07

One of the cool things about this scene is that although Steed briefly shows a great deal of vulnerability—he dissociates, he explains in detail something unpleasant about his past, which he rarely does—he’s not ashamed by it. He takes it in stride as something he will need to deal with, something that will haunt him for the rest of his life. And while it’s not something he goes around shouting from the rooftops, it’s not something he feels compelled to hide at all costs.

Steed was at Nee-San. He was badly treated there, very likely tortured. He knows what that is like and it makes him angry that Dr Wadkin and probably the other scientists who disappeared had to go through that as well.

Steed is very in touch with his emotions. He doesn’t see them as weakness, and his empathy is one of the reasons he does this job, and does it so well.


This post originally appeared at sparklywaistcoat.tumblr.com

 

“Don’t Tell the General I Played Mendelssohn”: Music and Torture in “Man With Two Shadows”

Content Notice: This entry contains references to torture, anti-semitism, and Nazism.

Music has many functions within human cultures: entertainment, artistic expression, worship. Most of these functions, and the associations connected with both the music and the function, are positive. But in some cases, music has much less pleasant associations and uses, especially when it is employed either directly or indirectly as a tool in a program of torture. Two early scenes in the Season 3 episode “The Man With Two Shadows” incorporate the interconnection of music and torture, first for double agent Pieter Borowski, and then later for Steed.

Pieter Borowski and Mendelssohn

In Steed’s first scene in this episode, Steed’s supervisor, Charles, asks him to help interrogate Pieter Borowski, a double agent who is now in British custody but who was subjected to heavy torture and brainwashing by the enemy agents who had captured him some time ago. The result of this brainwashing is that Borowski now assumes a set of shifting personalities that were forced upon him by his captors. These personalities include a Gestapo Kommandant, a Russian nobleman who died in 1860, and an American thriller writer. Borowski shifts in and out of these personalities, often in response to some trigger in the conversation.

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