Season 5

Disability, Humanity, and Assistive Technology in the “Cybernauts” Cycle


Content note for discussion of ableism and tropes of disabled/disfigured-as-villain


One unfortunate facet of both The Avengers and The New Avengers is their often problematic portrayal of disability. The writers and producers of these shows bought into the age-old trope of the disabled/disfigured villain, portraying these kinds of characters with greater or lesser emphasis on how the disability or disfigurement itself is somehow either the root cause of the villainy, or else an outward expression or reflection thereof. (You can read some of my other thoughts on this sort of thing here and here.)

The three episodes that comprise what I am calling the “Cybernauts cycle” are “The Cybernauts” (Season 4) and “Return of the Cybernauts” (Season 5), both by Philip Levene; and “Last of the Cybernauts” (The New Avengers), by Brian Clemens. Each of these episodes rings various changes on both the trope of disabled/disfigured villain and also the perceived conflicts between technology and humanity. However, it is not only tech writ large that is at issue, but also the more specific question of the relationship between humanity and assistive technology. The ways in which the disability/humanity/tech nexus is painted creates arcs within each individual episode, and also an arc that works its way across the cycle as a whole.

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Nurturing Steed, Part the Second

In my previous post, I discussed some of the ways that Steed nurtures people, with a particular focus on his relationship with Mrs Gale. That Steed would be kind and caring with a woman he loves might seem unsurprising, but what about how he nurtures other people and, in particular, men with whom he interacts, and what does that say about his character?

Scattered throughout the series are several instances of Steed acting in a nurturing way towards men. Steed helps them when they’re injured, and comforts them when they’ve been traumatized, and he does all these things with tenderness and compassion. Many of these examples are things that I’ve briefly noted both here and on my tumblr, but I want to draw them together both to create a more coherent picture of this aspect of Steed’s behavior and personality, and to examine it in more depth.

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Fan Art Scribbles

I made my first foray into watercolors today. I used pencil and Arteza brush pens on Strathmore 117-lb mixed-media paper.

watercolor.steed.test.01
watercolor.steed.test.02

I had been working on this portrait of Steed in his uniform from “Superlative Seven” in digital format, but I decided to see whether I could paint it with actual paints. It really wants to be in oils (or, failing that, acrylic), but watercolor brush pens are what I have at the moment.

I probably won’t do more with this, since it was more a test case for how the brushes handle, but there are a couple of other caps I have that I think would work well as watercolors, so stay tuned for further developments.

A Little Thing About Steed, Emma, Neurodivergence, and Trusting the Process

Recently my fellow tumblr celluloidbroomcloset made some postings about Steed making models to figure out what’s happening in Winged Avenger, and Emma’s responses to that activity. I followed up with one about him making diagrams in Murder Market, and then the following ideas kinda happened:

Sometimes Steed really needs that hands-on, tactile, kinetic way of solving problems. If we accept my headcanon that Steed is ADHD, he probably has so many different ideas blossoming in his head at once that he can’t corral them without creating something concrete that he can latch his ideas onto. Making the model of the building or graphing the murders is a way for him to streamline his thoughts and get them into some semblance of order. Therefore those methods are necessary for him, even if ultimately they don’t provide the key to solving the case.

I think Emma understands this. Yes, she thinks it’s cute that he builds models and makes graphs, but she’s not mocking him for needing to do that just because she doesn’t. She understands that his brain works differently from hers, and that whereas she can just puzzle stuff out logically in her head, Steed sometimes needs to draw pictures or use tools or make models before he can get to the place that Emma already starts from.

Steed doesn’t feel ashamed of having to make graphs or models as part of settling in to a case, and he’s not wasting time by doing those things. Yes, those activities do take time, and they don’t directly lead to the solution to the case, but if he refused to do them at all because he was worried about it seeming weird or stupid or tangential he’d only make himself miserable and the process would take even longer and be even less productive.

Steed probably doesn’t know that he’s ADHD, because that diagnosis didn’t exist back then. But he does know what he needs to do to solve a problem, so that’s what he does. Emma understands that, and accommodates it. She helps him when she can, but mostly she just sits back and waits for him to be ready to go on to the next step, which she does without impatience and with the presumption of Steed’s competence to know what works best for him. In the meantime, Emma pursues her own leads, knowing that Steed will make his own important contributions to the case in his own way.


originally posted on sparklywaistcoat

Sartorial Synchrony. Or Not.


This post was originally published at sparklywaistcoat.tumblr.com.

A while back, fellow tumblr celluloidbroomcloset started a really good conversation about wardrobe coordination between Steed and Emma. In the exchange that followed, Cell asked about changes in Emma’s own wardrobe across “Return of the Cybernauts,” in reply to my post about how sartorial details were linked to the plot and the characters of Steed and Beresford.

I did a quick examination of the three episodes that precede “Return of the Cybernauts” (leaving out “Who’s Who” because of the body-switching thing) and found something very interesting.

When Emma is in sync with Steed, their wardrobes complement one another across the episode, as celluloidbroomcloset has noted. I found that when Emma is in sync with herself, her wardrobe complements itself across the episode. When she is out of sync with herself, synchrony in her wardrobe diminishes or vanishes entirely.

This lack of synchrony is at its height in “Return of the Cybernauts,” because she is out of sync both with Steed and with herself. Her interest in Beresford puts her at a distance from Steed and she herself is not sure how she feels about that relationship and undecided over what she wants from it.

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Lady Secret Agent Badassery

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.

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Noon in the Garden of Good and Evil

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 my tumblr blog.


First let’s make a list of characteristics Steed and Beresford have in common. They are:

  • urbane
  • well spoken
  • educated
  • well dressed
  • charismatic
  • masculine
  • financially well off
  • attractive to women
  • intelligent
  • creative
  • masterful
  • calculating
  • loyal
  • 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?

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