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.
The first in an occasional series on representations of disability in The Avengers
⊗ Content note for discussion of ableism and disabled-as-villain tropes
Odd and possibly criminal things might happening in connection with an intended corneal transplant involving a live donor and an exclusive eye clinic in the Swiss Alps, so Steed asks Mrs Gale to hop over to the Continent to check things out. Marten Halvarssen, a wealthy, blind recluse who is the owner of the clinic (although he himself lives in London), seems to be one of the possible players in the apparent nefariousness, along with Dr Eve Hawn, who is Halvarssen’s fiancee, and Neil Anstice, who at first appears to be one of the clinic’s surgeons but in fact is a sort of mercenary criminal hired to do the legwork of the scheme.
As the title of the episode and the above brief synopsis indicate, disability—in particular, blindness—plays a very important role in both characterization and plot. Although the blind man is worked up as a suspect and potential villain, his actual role in the criminal doings that drive the plot of the episode is rather less black-and-white, making him something of an outlier in Avengers and New Avengers episodes that feature disabled characters, who nearly universally are unequivocally bad guys. Even so, Halvarssen is no Boy Scout: the elaborate diamond-smuggling plot that leads to the murders of Hilda Brauer and Dr Spender was set in motion by him, although the deaths were not part of his plan and he is furious that Anstice killed those people. In the end, however, Halvarssen shows himself to be on the side of the good guys, at least for the moment, actively helping Steed and Mrs Gale take down the others.
Any Avengers fan will tell you the sad tale of The Avengers Series 1 episodes. The very first season of the show is almost entirely lost, thanks to the habit of British television studios of not preserving the video stock used to record their shows. There were even a few episodes that were never recorded, just broadcast live. So all that remains of the first series/season of The Avengers are two and a third episodes, one of which (“Girl on a Trapeze”) that doesn’t even feature John Steed. But now we make that three and a third episodes, with the happy discovery of “Tunnel of Fear,” now released on DVD from Studio Canal.
“Tunnel of Fear” was the twentieth broadcast episode, nearing the end of the first season, and as such already has some of the hallmarks that would carry over…
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.
One of the threads that runs through the Season 4 episode “The Danger Makers” is a set of references to Classical mythology. The Danger Makers all take code names based in Greco-Roman myth, and they refer to their dangerous stunts as “the Labors of Hercules.” The names that are taken by each Danger Maker and the references to Hercules’ Twelve Labors are not made at random. Each of them reveal something about character and about the ethos of the Danger Makers as a whole. Although only one Classical figure is named directly in relation to these characters, they actually exhibit characteristics of others as well. This also applies to Steed and especially to Mrs Peel.
The first extended blog series that I attempted when I started writing about The Avengers had to do with my perceptions of the arc of Steed and Mrs Peel’s relationship over the course of the entirety of Season 4. I’m republishing it here, since bits of it connect with new stuff I’m doing, and other bits of it might do so in future. As with the Medieval Maunderings series, I’m reposting here with some light edits that will remain unacknowledged.
There originally were nine parts to this (all of which have titles and subtitles taken from fencing terminology, in honor of the way Mrs Peel is introduced to the audience), to which I tacked on some addenda, and you can get to all of those by following the links below, by scrolling through the posts on my homepage, or by clicking on “Exclusivity Arc” under “Themed Blog Series” in the “Categories” menu.
» The command sequence that begins a fencing match: on guard, ready, go!
Steed and Mrs Peel face off with foil and umbrella
When we first meet Mrs Emma Peel (“Town of No Return”), she is in her apartment, practicing her fencing moves. She invites Steed in, and they begin a conversation that is a mixture of an invitation to take coffee, a challenge to a duel, and double entendre. We learn a lot about Mrs. Peel as an individual in her opening scene with Steed. She’s athletic and a skilled fencer who can give Steed a run for his money; she’s intelligent, has scientific training, and is sufficiently active and respected in her field to have publications in journals; she stands up for herself when challenged; and she has a sharp, wry sense of humor.