Business executives are being murdered at a rather alarming rate, so Steed and Mrs Peel are called in to investigate. They discover that the perpetrators are a group of women who are chafing under the bonds of a patriarchal system that keeps them subservient. These women have been trained first to create filing and accounting systems so baroque that only they understand them, and then to murder their bosses and take over the businesses themselves, since at that point the women are the only ones competent to do so.
The ringleader of the group of women turns out to be not another woman disaffected by patriarchy, but rather a man named Henry. Henry is a ventriloquist, and he gives orders to the women by means of a ventriloquist’s doll. The doll is dressed and speaks as a female, and is named Henrietta, after Henry’s late wife. Although the women see the doll when they have their meetings, they do not realize that Henry is the one supplying her voice: they think there is another woman somewhere that they have not yet seen who is speaking through the doll, and who is the actual leader of their group.
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.