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 abouthow 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.
This was originally posted on my tumblr in response to celluloidbroomcloset.tumblr.com’sexcellent 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.
One of the hallmarks of Season 6 is the occasional use of color schemes and interior set designs that have the feel of a dreamscape or even hallucination. Although The Avengers overall deservedly has the reputation of being a “quirky” series that frequently bends reality to its own purposes, this move to a more stylized approach to color, set design, and set dressing is taken to its furthest point in the Tara King era. This use of what I am calling “dreamscape sets” usually focuses on public or commercial spaces that Steed and/or Tara must visit in the course of their work. Another locus for dreamscape sets are Mother’s hideouts, which can be literally anywhere from atop a double-decker bus to an underwater tank to a cow pasture, and which often are furnished and decorated in truly bizarre ways. I also see Tara’s flat as a kind of dreamscape set all its own.