This was obviously designated as the last of the series to end on a high note, as theatricals put it. It's just a pity it was the last of the only series! It suits its placement perfectly since it is a riot of wild eccentricity gone off the rails in a big way.
The very premise - a terrorist group pressurising for the independence of the Isle of Wight - blasts us straight into Avengers territory. The opening scenes of the plotters make them look distinctly odd, but they fade into mere normality when we first see Hawksworth polishing his skis wearing a fur coat, yachting cap & monocle. Lottie intrudes on this in a rare use of the magical omniscience technique - normally in Spyder's Web the reason for & explanation of a case clearly come from above by means which are shown - but here she just appears with the story off pat. The technique is used also by Lottie & Hawksworth just turning up without explanation at a meeting of the respectable group campaigning for independence. This is all straight out of The Avengers, even to the visual similarity of Hawksworth's vintage Lagonda drawing up outside the hall.
Hawksworth steps more easily than previously into a Steed role, talking about his family's name tradition, & ultimately using his knowledge of bomb making. Patricia Cutts once again shows her versatility as an actress: apart from the addition of a wig she seems like a different person in the character of a red hot revolutionary! This cleverly allows her to infiltrate the group, leading the assassination squad she herself suggested!
Perhaps what's most new here is the greater role that Wallis & Ackroyd play - after the events of this episode they could have had no doubt that the documentary unit was a cover, & it provides an interesting insight into how a second series might have developed.
My favourite line from this episode is when the vicar says:
'Take special care of the spoon. Do please ensure it is returned to its special drawer next to the sub machine gun.'
Afterthoughts on Spyder's Web:
With this episode I've actually blogged about the whole existing series of Spyder in a block. When I began this blog I didn't anticipate that I would blog like this - I do watch things in fads but I expected to blog about a couple of episodes of pragrammes here & there.
In a sense the way DVDs encourage us to watch these old TV programmes in a way they were never intended to be seen. If we want to experience them as people did on first viewing we should watch one a week at the same time, & disallow ourselves from pausing. A notebook would be allowed, of course, so that we'd have to look any queries up afterwards. In the case of Spyder watching through the whole series a couple at a time & in order has allowed an overview of the series I didn't have before. It has caused me to rethink what I said about Red Admiral: I think I may have been over critical of it in comparison to other episodes. My point with this is that the differences in writing between episodes would perhaps not be so obvious when seen on a weekly basis, but would probably provide variety, so that you could tune in each week for an unpredictable feast.
I like Spyder's Web, I like it a lot. I maintain as I said at the beginning that it is a worthy inheritor of The Avengers's mantle, just with some different emphases in story & technique. I believe contemporary reviews were quite negative, & don't doubt for a moment that that was because it's the sort of TV programme I like, & would not appeal to everyone. Storylines, characters & visuals are all superlative & lose nothing from only surviving in mainly black & white. It is especially sad to think that Patricia Cutts killed herself by an overdose not long after this, since she comes across as full of life here & an excellent actress.
This experience of blogging about a whole series has made me project a possible run through The Prisoner. I told myself when I started this that I would avoid The Prisoner as too multi-layered & already analysed within an inch of its life, & also Dr Who as discussed at length elsewhere, but I'm in the mood for a go through again. I like to watch the episodes in a different order each time, & also to take a particular approach to them, so we shall see.