Spyder's Web: Life at a Price
This episode of Spyder's Web is in great contrast to the last one I blogged about, the Hafiz Affair, at least on the surface. To me it manages to feel much more claustrophobic, & uses that well-worn cliche of television drama, the private clinic run by a dodgy doctor. Perhaps that is why, to me at least, it feels much more like a relatively stodgy television play than the eccentric TV & sparkling dialogue that Spyder otherwise provides.
The plot is similarly imperialist to Hafiz, though, Lottie describes the point as defending the last remaining ten acres of the British Empire. This is one of the things that makes it clear to me that Lottie & Hawksworth are definitely servants of their masters - despite apparently independent personalities & doubts, they are definitely in the status of employees, & I can't think of an occasion in the series where they can turn down a job or criticise it. This is also similar to the ambivalence underlying The Avengers: ultimately the government, state & monarch are good & there to be served, even though the great & the good may go to the bad, or the state may be infiltrated by the other side. This is quite different - much more Establishment - from how I, at least, envision the zeitgeist of the end of the sixties & beginning of the seventies.
This episode is not without its more psychedelic elements, such as a delivery of nappies - to the documentary company's office - being used as a code! If this device were used in real life, it would probably be on the basis that it was so bizarre that nobody would believe their eyes. It is also not without post-sexual revolution elements as well, in Albert Mason's disastrous attempted seduction of Wallis Ackroyd.
I like the extensions of Lottie's & Hawksworth's personalities in this episode - Hawksworth nicely remains in his Bulldog Drummond role, which actually fits the plot of this episode perfectly, while I love Lottie's impersonation of a doting grandmother-to-be & the way she chats to all the other people in the clinic. She makes a sort of Nanny Ogg figure (from Terry Pratchett), putting people at their ease & getting them to open up, while Hawksworth is posing as a doctor, while his man of action role means he is the one who deals with the gunman.
Otherwise the only way I would criticise the characterisation is the Senora Delgardo comes across as a caricature of a - frankly - prima donna. That said, I do love the way her husband, being told he could not make his wife pregnant, had each of the doctors who said this shot! The stereotyping of Veronica Carlson as a northern woman is firmly in a continuing tradition of London-based & London-centric television. She's not too thick to wonder what's really going on in the documentary company, but goes against her earlier policy of saying nothing, which gets her fingers burned.
I like this episode for what it is, a relatively straightforward crime drama. I do like the device of South American revolutionaries further corrupting an already dodgy doctor, although I do like the ambivalence of the doctor's character, & the eventually upstanding character of the Matron (pictured smoking above, those were the days).
My criticism would be that the interest in this episode is added by things extra to the basic plot, such as Albert Mason & Wallis Ackroyd, which distracts from the personalities of Hawksworth & Lottie Dean, who surely should be central.