Two episodes—”The Hour That Never Was” from Season 4 and “Get-Away” from Season 6—feature Steed reminiscing about his past in the presence of his partner, and introducing her (or attempting to do so) to very old and dear friends of his. Beyond this superficial resemblance, the way this works is very different in each episode, and each says a great deal about Steed’s partner (Emma Peel in “Hour” and Tara King in “Get-Away”), her relationship to him, and her relationship to his past.
A note: Some of the ideas about Steed, Mrs Peel, and time presented here—especially the idea of Mrs Peel as Steed’s anchor in time and connection to the present, and the function of Steed’s past in “Hour”—are from blogs by a fellow tumblr (celluloidbroomcloset), which you can read here and here. I also discuss Mrs Peel’s function as anchor to reality for Steed here.
Sing to me, O Muse, of the man of twists and turns….
— Homer, The Odyssey, after the translation by Robert Fagles
The first in an occasional series about Steed as trickster.
The trickster of myth and legend is first and foremost a liminal figure. He does not inhabit the real social world, although he frequently visits it in order to employ his cunning and manipulate a situation to his own ends. (NB: I am using the masculine pronoun because tricksters most often present as male.) This requires a great deal of social flexibility, a flexibility that is born not only of an ability to playact and shapeshift, but also of a deep knowledge of the intricacies of social conventions, mores, gender roles, and other important frameworks within human cultures and societies. By using this cunning and flexibility, the trickster is able to cross a threshold – in Latin, the limen, the word from which “liminal” is derived– into the social world and to navigate other boundaries within the social spaces he chooses to visit (and disrupt).