It’s 1967. The Cold War is chugging along nicely. Steed is driving a fellow agent and old school chum, Mark Crayford, to the border between East and West Germany. Uncharacteristically, Steed is wearing a flat cap instead of his usual bowler. Little does he know that his friend is about to turn traitor. Little does he know that his friend is about to try to kill him.
They get to the drop point. Steed goes towards the fence with Mark, who turns to announce his plans to defect. Then he takes a shot at Steed. Steed’s hat falls off as he flings himself the ground trying to escape Marks’ bullets. Steed shoots back, hitting Mark in the chest.
In an earlier blog, I discussed the ways in which Steed’s masculinity is sometimes treated dismissively by critics and writers, despite massive evidence to the contrary, in part because of the way the gender binary is constructed in Western society. There’s a corollary to this, deeply entwined with issues of gender and gender performance, and that is the minimization or denial of Steed’s physicality. I’m not sure exactly how or when this started, but at least since the mid-1980s there seems to have been a tendency to relegate Steed to the sidelines when discussing the physical, embodied aspects of the Avengers, with particular reference to combat with the villains.
(I’m hoping to do a more thorough workup of the history of this in the future, but for now I’ll go with what I’ve got. Also, there are other ways Steed expresses his physicality besides combat, but I’m sticking with that one for now, too.)
In “The Thirteenth Hole,” the bad guys are out on the links, pretending that they’re interested in their golf game. When they get to the thirteenth hole, they find an agent snooping around. Reed tells his caddy that he wants his “303” golf club. This turns out to be a rifle, with which Reed shoots and kills the agent.
Later, when Steed and Mrs Peel are heading out for their final showdown with the villains, Mrs Peel pulls a walking stick out of Steed’s golf bag. Steed says that it’s actually a sword stick, but later when they’re fighting in the villains’ hideout Steed discovers that he brought the wrong stick from home: this one is a plain walking stick, no shiny sharp objects included.