Season 2

Steed and Iris in “Man in the Mirror”

Since the extended post I’m currently working on is giving me fits and conniptions, I’m gonna recycle this to give y’all something to ponder while I untangle the other one. You’re welcome.

 

(Steed stops to speak to a woman named Iris before going in to his meeting)
Steed: Hello, Iris! How’s business?
Iris: Not bad. A bit cold.
Steed: Oh, it’s early yet. It’ll warm up later.
Iris: How about you starting it off then? Buy me a drink!
Steed: You know me. Pleasure before business!
(Steed goes into the club after promising to come back)

This scene says something very important about Steed’s relationships with women and, I think about Patrick Macnee as well. Steed has stopped on his way to a meeting to talk to Iris. We can tell from context that she’s probably a prostitute: she works for the strip club that acts as a front for the Ministry’s secret meeting place, where she tries to get men to go in with her and “have a drink.” (nudge nudge wink wink)

Steed sees her as a friend, and never treats her with anything other than respect. He knows how she makes her living, but he never sexualizes her, and he never judges her for what she needs to do to put food on the table for her family.

When she teasingly invites him to buy her a drink inside, he declines, but suggests that maybe later he will buy her one. The original line in the script for Steed’s refusal is “Business before pleasure,” but Macnee changed that to “Pleasure before business.”

This is an important ad-lib. The former, with the emphasis on “pleasure” at the end carries overtones of Steed possibly intending to, um, sample Iris’ wares. But that’s not the kind of man Steed is, and not the kind of man Macnee wanted him to be. Yes, Steed will gladly take Iris out for a drink, but he’s not going to be her customer, and he’s not going to treat her like merchandise. He’s her friend.

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“Warlock” as Steed and Cathy Gale’s First Case

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.

*Thanks to celluloidbroomcloset.tumblr.com for bringing this to my attention.

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Great Detectives Think Alike: II

In an earlier post, I discussed the apparent confluences between the The Avengers Season 2 episode “Mr Teddy Bear” and a handful of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Well, it turns out that “Teddy Bear” isn’t the only episode that does that, and it turns out that The New Avengers also has a few of these. So for your delectation, below are some more additions to that collection. As with the previous post, the Holmes images are from the Granada television series starring Jeremy Brett.


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Bold Deserving Rogues

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One-Ten: How did you get on with Dragna?
Steed: We got on well. I rather like him.
One-Ten: You would.


In this scene from The Removal Men, Steed and his boss lounge on a beach in the south of France and discuss how to deal with the villian, a character named Dragna whose primary business is arranging assassinations for money.

We learn something important about Steed here. He has met Dragna, been a guest in his home, made a business arrangement with him while posing as a criminal for hire. He knows full well what it is Dragna does for a living. Steed has set himself against Dragna, and will do everything he needs to do in order to bring him to justice, including shoot him, which he ends up doing in Act III.

And yet Steed says he likes the man.

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Great Detectives Think Alike

“Mr Teddy Bear,” the first episode to air in Season 2, and the first to feature Honor Blackman as Cathy Gale, is full of references to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. I’ve published several of these on my tumblr page already, but by request I’m aggregating them here and adding some I’ve found since.

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An Eagle, a Dog, and a Fox All Walk Into a Bar: Animal Symbolism in “Build a Better Mousetrap”

In a career spanning over thirty years of television directing, Peter Hammond frequently made creative — and even groundbreaking — uses of camera angle and props. Among the signatures of his style are shots requiring sometimes complicated alignment of the actors, innovative camera placement, and the incorporation of props and set furnishings into shots and scenes in ways that often have significance to plot or characterization or both.

According to imdb.com, Hammond directed a total of nineteen episodes of The Avengers, nine of which were from the first season and thus have unfortunately been lost, with the exception of “The Frighteners.” The other ten were from Seasons 2 and 3, all of which are extant, and elsewhere I have discussed how Hammond uses props and the alignment and placement of the actors’ bodies to help tell the story in the Season 3 episode “The Golden Fleece.” Here, though, I’d like to discuss a different element of Hammond’s directorial style: the use of animal symbolism as commentary on plot and character in another Season 3 story: “Build a Better Mousetrap.”

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Cunning Old Foxes II: Vamping Steed

She’ll mix you a potion, lace the brew with drugs, but she’ll be powerless to bewitch you, even so.
– Homer, The Odyssey, trans. Robert Fagles

Another in an occasional series about Steed as trickster.


John Steed is a master trickster who well knows the efficacy of flirtation and sex appeal in dealing with the women he encounters when working a case. Sometimes he’s frank and friendly with them, at other times ridiculously gallant, inhabiting a character drawn with broad strokes.  Whichever persona he decides to employ, his behavior is always calibrated to the particular situation and the person with whom he is interacting. Because of his skill as an actor, and because he is usually able to correctly read his audience, he is often successful in getting the information he wants.

But what happens when Steed is the one being vamped? What happens when the master trickster is the intended victim of flirtation combined with deception and assumed identity?

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