Are you strong enough to be my man?
Are you strong enough to be my man?
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.
When Avengers first aired, it was a show starring Ian Hendry as Dr David Keel, and John Steed (played by Patrick Macnee) was a secondary character. When Hendry quit after one season, the producers decided to make Steed the main character, and to give him a female partner. They hired Honor Blackman for the role, as Catherine Gale. Because they had a bunch of Hendry scripts left over, and because they didn’t have a budget to commission more, they ended up adapting scripts originally written for the male character of Dr David Keel to the female character of Catherine Gale.
The Gale era of Avengers was a watershed in television history. Catherine Gale was the first female character on television to be treated as not only the complete equal of her male partner, but as better than he was at some things. And not only that, it was done with utter seriousness: Steed was in no way threatened by Mrs Gale’s skills and strengths (in fact, he is regularly bowled over by her), and her character was not written either with lampoon of gender roles in mind or as any kind of misandrist.
Catherine Gale was a PhD in anthropology; a supremely intelligent woman who could think her way out of almost any problem; a judoka who could pummel the tar out of pretty much any opponent (Blackman actually learned judo for real for the role and did her own stunts); a crack shot and big game hunter; a freelance contractor who could do anything from help manage a charity to write essays about medieval couture to catalogue a museum. She helped Steed collar the bad guys on a regular basis, working side by side with him as his equal, not as his subordinate or sidekick. She never played the damsel in distress, and although Steed had to rescue her occasionally, she had her own chances to repay the favor when the baddies captured him.
Catherine Gale would become the inspiration for the character of Emma Peel, who maintained the relationship of equals and high level of badassery of her predecessor. Both characters have been a source of inspiration for generations of women audience members.
But it was Catherine Gale, PhD, a woman who took no shit and gave no fucks, who broke that barrier first.
So here’s to Honor Blackman and Catherine Gale, original badasses both.
A double agent named Pieter Borowski is now in custody in Britain. He had been imprisoned by enemy agents who tortured him into assuming multiple personalities. Steed’s supervisor, Charles, calls Steed in to try to get Borowski to talk sense, but the only piece of useful information he imparts is that the bad guys now are engaged in a program of creating doppelgängers of various important people, then killing off the originals and having the doubles take over their roles. (I discussed Steed’s encounter with Borowski in detail here.) For the remainder of the episode, Steed and Cathy struggle to find out who the doubles are, and to prevent Steed’s double from staging his own successful takeover.
“Man With Two Shadows” is aptly titled, since Steed does indeed have a doppelgänger who is intended to kill him and take his place. However, in addition to the real-Steed/fake-Steed pairing, the concept of “shadow” also plays out in many other ways across this episode. In this post, I’m going to talk about these different types of shadows and how they function, not only in reference to Steed and his double, but also to Charles, Steed’s supervisor; to Cathy Gale; and to the villains, fake-Gordon and fake-Cummings.
“The Man With Two Shadows” hinges on an enemy plot to create doubles of various important people and have the doubles kill and then take over the lives and roles of their originals. Steed and Cathy find out that Steed is one of the people who is going to be replaced, and Steed admits that at one time he had been captured by the bad guys who are making the doubles but that he escaped after four days. They also discover that a man named Gordon who is at the holiday camp where most of the action takes place isn’t really Gordon, but is in fact his double.
After Cathy returns to London to see what Charles, Steed’s supervisor, has come up with, Steed is attacked by his double in an attempted murder that Steed manages to foil; the double is killed instead. But the possibility of Steed being a doppelgänger weighs heavily on Cathy, and by the end of Act II she has become uncertain that Steed is, in fact, real-Steed. She gets orders from Charles to kill Steed if she thinks that he could be the doppelgänger. But Cathy also is unconvinced that Steed is fake-Steed. So she engages in a tour-de-force of logic by which she convinces herself that Steed is who he says he is, and also outs one of the other doubles involved in the plot, a man posing as a member of Parliament named Cummings.
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.
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.