This episode isn't a favourite among Randall & Hopkirk fans; needless to say I've chosen it to be the first to blog about because it is one of my personal favourites! For me it encapsulates much of what I like about sixties TV: it has elements of intrigue in the plot to take over the throne, the bizarre in having a dead person an active member of a private detective agency, & totally sixties elements, both in the visuals and in the fact of the beauty pageant being completely accepted!
Visually I think Randall & Hopkirk is always a winner: much thought has clearly been put into how it will look on the screen, for example in sixties street scenes, & this one starts on a visual high note with the experiment in the warehouse. The picture here is intended to show what I mean about the sixties visuals: get that already-migrainous sofa against that dead sixties wall art! Did nobody get through the sixties without wanting to crawl into a darkened room & die quietly?
I don't think it is a plot weakness myself but the complexity & ridiculousness of the plot to seize the throne both places this in a completely sixties detective genre, but frankly also gives it an aura of complete unreality. The sheer expense involved in putting together the experiment with which the episode begins would make it prohibitive for most people. Ronald Radd, who plays Pargiter, is of course one of those staple sixties TV actors: his beard in this one gives him a marvellously regal aspect. Who would have thoiught it? - to me he looks like Edward VII. If he was forty here, he was only just forty, but the beard makes him look much older. Also what is not to love in the characters of My Lord Dorking & Surrey? - especially as one is played by Nosher Powell.
I think this one is misunderstood: it would be a mistake to expect this lightweight confection to bear more weight as a piece of serious drama than it can. Understood as a relatively tongue-in-cheek almost-spoof of the detective genre it carries its weight much better.
Similarly the monumental distraction (for Randall) of the beauty contest is way overdone. I think that may be the point. Nowhere else in the series does Randall come across as quite as much a dirty old man as he does here - he's almost visibly gagging to get Miss Moscow back to his flat! I see this as a spoof of the whole James Bond thing.
Another element is that it allows Hopkirk (deceased) to take a much more prominent role in this one than he normally does. It's a classic plot device of one partner being distracted so the other has to run the show. Of course the distraction is also the point of the plot: Miss London is part of the plot, & it is sheer chance the Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) are involved at all, as a result of a lack of suitable escorts.
Don't get me wrong: this episode isn't completely invulnerable to criticism. Its strength - the campy way everything is overdone - is also its weakness. The element of Randall trying to seduce Miss Moscow is over-lengthy & becomes wearisome. The plot to become King is slightly too ridiculous, & would perhaps have benefited from slightly subtler handling: I feel this would have made a wonderful Spyder's Web episode, for example. All in all, though, a jolly romp which is best understood as such.