Showing posts from December, 2013

Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child

(If this post were to have an Avengers-style subtitle, it would be, In which we discover what the team who created Adam Adamant Lives did before they created Adam Adamant Lives.) Blogging is a funny thing: once you start a blog it seems to take on a life & direction of its own, dragging its author behind it. It can also be very therapeutic, because the blog can show the blogger what he's actually thinking: if you keep it with any regularity there is no real hiding! The point of this is that when I started this blog I said to myself that I would not blog about The Prisoner (way over-analysed on the internet already), or about Doctor Who (far too much competition). I've already found myself breaking one of these decisions: this post marks my breaking the other one. Don't get me wrong, the tags list at the top of the page will show that I'm hardly the sort of person who would *not* watch Doctor Who, & indeed I do, in fits & starts. My favourite Doctor is Chr

The Prisoner: Dance of the Dead

I am in danger of being completely side-tracked from my aim in this run-through of The Prisoner, namely to examine the series in the light of the theory that Number 6 is John Drake, by this multi-faceted episode. So to start off with I will resolutely stick to that plan & allow myself to be deflected later in this post. The biggest issue, it seems to me, with this episode, is one of placement in the series. It was made & broadcast eighth, but many viewing orders recommend watching it second: placing it so early in the series is based on the fact that this is one of the episodes where Drake says, 'I'm new here'. I feel this issue is inescapable in explaining Drake's role & the progress of his investigation in this episode, so I will fearlessly weigh in & express the opinion that this episode should *not* be placed early, that Drake is *not* new in The Village when he says these words, & that at least one of the things he says in the sequence wher

Adam Adamant Lives!: Village of Evil

'The BBC's answer to The Avengers,' that's the received wisdom on Adam Adamant Lives!, to the extent that even the BBC themselves say so: 'Adam Adamant Lives! tells the story of an Edwardian adventurer who wakes up in the swinging Sixties, having been frozen in a block of ice by his nemesis, "The Face". The show is about how the dashing adventurer (Gerald Harper) thwarts evil, overcomes temptation, and buys a Mini. 'It's very much "What Doctor Who did next", as the timelord's creator Sydney Newman and his first producer Verity Lambert joined forces again to come up with a BBC version of The Avengers. Adam is a Reithian version of Steed - all the suits and gentility, but with all rakishness removed. Adam is a very proper hero, who belongs to all the right clubs, and even has a butler. 'The clash between Adam's terribly strict morals and the permissive society of the Sixties was the main source of humour in the se

The Avengers: Killer Whale

Oh dear, this series 2 Avengers episode doesn't half get a bashing, for example: 'A  very strange brew, combining the theme of the week�in this case, boxing�with a lesson in the evils of smuggling substances derived from endangered species. While it is reasonably well produced, the clash of topics is just plain odd. There is a lot of attention and screen time devoted to boxing fights, which might be interesting if you're into this sort of thing. Otherwise, there is little to recommend this episode, sorry to say. Sad way to close the season, considering the gem that just preceded this dud.' ( I *almost* completely disagree with this assessment of this episode. The Young Avenger's review on the same site ( comments that the sheer strangeness of this episode's plot makes it one that the next season should be in envy of. Personally I would expand this to say that the st

The Prisoner: Many Happy Returns

How I love this episode! It is strange, because I love The Prisoner & this episode is one of my favourites, despite it being definitely the odd one out. For me what marks it out is the apparent absence of institutional behaviour on the part of Drake: by this I mean that most episodes are marked by at least some manoeuvring with the authorities in The Village, & while present here it is not apparent that that is what is happening until the end. In fact institutional neurosis is present in this episode: a major aspect of institutional behaviour is the fear of reprisals if you do something wrong, twisted in this case to mean that the authorities create an environment where there is something wrong, presumably calculated to create discomfort. The natural question would be to ask yourself what has happened & where everyone has gone: the obvious answer is that something has happened that you don't know about! A further institutional element in this story is that by makin

Danger Man: I Can Only Offer You Sherry

Watching through The Prisoner, focussing on the hypothetical identification of John Drake with Number 6, has made me reflect that I haven't really seen McGoohan in anything other than The Prisoner & Danger Man. I thought I had better make an effort to to see what he is like in different roles, to get a feel as to the breadth of the characters he is capable of & the relative closeness of Drake & Number 6. Some actors play a relatively homogenous array of roles (Ross Kemp springs to mind, in fact it's odd to see him coming across as an affable chap in documentaries), while some actors can seemingly take on different personas at the drop of a hat (my vote is on Tom Hardy for this). In an attempt to become better-acquainted with McGoohan's acting ability I bought some Columbo DVDs today. Unfortunately I managed to miss the episodes in which he appears as the villain (derp!), but am looking forward to seeing Honor Blackman as a no-doubt seductive killer. All of th

The Prisoner: The General

The general has of course been referred to before in The Prisoner. I have to confess at the outset that this is not one of my personal favourite episodes, largely because I don't take to the Speedlearn idea. However Drake, true to form, remains only interested in his professed task of getting away: of course in these posts I am taking the view that that is not his actual or only  aim, rather he wants to investigate his idea gone bad & getting away to report or publicise what is happening. In reality the education pretense is another ploy by The Village authorities: those already broken go along with it enthusiastically, but it is another way to put pressure on Drake. It is as if The Village is a behavioural experiment: they've placed Drake in a pseudo-democratic environment to see how he responds, & now in a pseudo-academic environment. The wonder is that they bother: even seeing this series through for the first time in the sixties, by now you would have got Dra

The Professionals: Hunter Hunted

'Guard it, Doyle, guard it with you life. In the wrong hands this could create an instant disaster area,' says Cowley, handing Doyle an experimental rifle to take home to experiment with. And that is where things start to go wrong. A strong contender, this, for the first episode of the second season of The Professionals. It is strong visually, especially, which almost covers the basic flaw in the plot I shall outline below. What is really good about this plot is the way it shows up a weakness in Cowley's character: he is still his normal brusque self, but in fact every death & disaster in this episode is his fault alone. Cowley is often content to carry total responsibility for CI5, but here he blames Bodie & Doyle for his own ill-advised loan of the rifle to Doyle, telling them they'll be out of CI5 if they don't find it when it gets stolen. Frankly, we all know there are public organisations where the personnel are authorised to carry firearms. I

Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased): That's How Murder Snowballs

I realise I'm finding it difficult to write about Randall & Hopkirk, because I've just realised I watch them for all the wrong reasons, for the sixties atmosphere rather than the actual story. It is therefore strange that I like this one a lot, since its milieu is theatrical rather than swinging sixties. On the other hand this one's got to be good, it was written by Ray Austin! And apart from the quibble that it's slightly obvious from the beginning, that it is. It's interesting in terms of Randall's character, especially as I'm coming straight to this one from Just for the Record: in both of these Randall comes across as a rather sleazy character, or possibly just at his financial wits' end. The ethics of selling his story to the papers are rightly slightly underdeveloped, since it is clear in the context of the series that Randall's business & private coffers are chronically underfinanced. He is painted as - almost - a rogue here, but

Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased): Just for the Record

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 qui

The Avengers: Dial A Deadly Number

This has got to be one of the most popular Avengers episodes of all time, & with good reason. Personally some of the Series 4 episodes are my favourites: I like Steed greatly in this series, he comes across as rather louche, having not completely lost his original dodginess before becoming the Grand Old Man of Series 6. This episode has quite seriously been chewed over almost to death. Highlights of the commentary, I feel, include its difference in feel from some of the Avengers: the London street scenes are definitely real, & Steed carries & uses a gun, a very rare occurrence for him. Other than that there is a full house of variously eccentric & sinister characters, a coffin maker, & the show down is in a wine cellar. How more Avengers could you get? It also strikes me that this is a very classic Avengers in terms of placing the baddies, mainly Establishment respectable figures gone wrong here, but also someone embittered by Second World War experiences

The Prisoner: The Schizoid Man

One thing has become blatantly clear from Drake's investigation of The Village - their attempt to get the reason for his resignation from Drake has seriously derailed. The technique used in this episode seems almost designed to persuade him to identify as Number 6, which plainly is not going to happen with genuine feeling anytime soon, & is anyway not what they really want. Nonethless it is an interesting conceit, to make someone else be him & thus force him into the character they want. The whole question of identity & self here covers up the simple fact of the institutionalisation of The Village's authority leading them down this blind alley. Because they are conditioned to behave in a particular way, they focus on bringing Number 2 into line: in fact they are so lackadaisical Drake is able to sneak out of his cottage at night & go missing. In this, this episode references the very behavioural psychology fashionable in the sixties. Another sixties fas

The Prisoner: Free for All

Drake's investigation of what has become of his brainchild, a home for security personnel holding secrets, is increasingly becoming a game of cat & mouse, only with the roles of cat & mouse alternating. Perhaps the recurring chess game motif in the series reflects this better, though. I think perhaps this episode is the one so far where the powers that run The Village are treating Drake most like a cat treats a captive mouse. He is of course right to be very suspicious of the purported democracy in The Village. I love this exchange: Number 2: 'Are you going to run?' Drake: 'Like blazes, the first chance I get.' Of course we know that Drake knows that the democracy is a sham. The power behind The Village would be very naïve if they didn't know that Drake knew that. Drake would also be very naïve if he allowed himself to forget even for a moment that The Village knows this.  They actually - apparently - give him an opportunity to subvert the sta

The Avengers: Girl on a Trapeze

I was astonished, on coming to watch this episode recently, to find I had no recollection of it at all, even though I am sure I have watched all the way through the Studio Canal box set of the remaining episodes of Series 1 & the whole of Series 2. I suspect this may be because it shares a disc with the other remaining complete episode, The Frighteners, which is an excellent episode & may have distracted me from this when playing the disc. Of course the reason The Frighteners was treated as the 'only' series 1 episode in existence is that it was, until Girl on the Trapeze was rediscovered in 2001, being seen for the first time at the Missing Believed Wiped event in 2002. Of course I put it on in anticipation of Big Finish's release of the missing first series episodes as audio recordings, staring January. Girl on a Trapeze suffers in two other ways in comparison to The Frighteners. Up until recently there has been a received wisdom among Avengers-philes that Th

The Prisoner: A, B, and C

I ended my post on The Chimes of Big Ben by saying that Drake came across as naïve to think he could walk into The Village, investigate, & leave. Here The Village turns the attention on him, & ups its play in finding out what it wants from him, the creation - or rather brainchild - turning its attention on its creator. There is however also a sense of desperation in using an untried 'treatment', & Number 2 (Colin Gordon, one of my favourites) comments on the phone on the importance of getting the information from Drake. Despite an effective Number 2, I don't really like this episode. Couldn't they find a better name for the hostess than Madam Engadine? - she sounds like a fortune - teller. I also don't really take to the plot - no real criticism, it just doesn't do anything for me. In terms of reading The Prisoner through the eyes of George Markstein's conceptualisation of the reason for The Village & Drake's role in this, even t

The Prisoner: The Chimes of Big Ben

I'm watching the episodes through in the order they come in on my boxed set - I'm sure I shall return to The Prisoner & consider other possible orders in the future, but for the moment I'm purely considering the series in the light of George Markstein's envisioning of the reason for Drake's resignation & the existence of the village. I have only just wondered whether the lengthy title sequence repeated ineach episode is like that deliberately to disorientate the viewer: up to over 3 minutes into the programme you actually don't know which episode you are seeing. The new Number 2's comment that Drake can make even putting on a dressing gown seem like an act of defiance, points attention to Drake's actions rather than their effect on his captors, which is surely to see what they will do, his continued investigation of how his creation has worked out. If this is so it inverts the whole way the plot is portrayed: Drake is trying to get informa

The Avengers: Brief for Murder

It turns out, reading round on the internet about this episode, that not only is it one of my favourite Avengers episodes, it also seems to be everyone else's, to the extent that I'm going to find it difficult to say anything that hasn't already been said repeatedly! I had already spotted the bloopers, & my favourite line is everyone ese's favourite line as well. Brian Clemens wrote the script, & it shows, because actually this episode - to me at least - does feel like a later episode rather than a standard Series 2 episode. It has the characteristic Avengers theme of corruption & greed among the great & the good, in this case the Lakin brothers. I have read criticisms that the act is slightly overdone - I agree that they are fabulously over the top considering they are supposed to be solicitors, but that is exactly the later Avengers feel I mean. I even love the way that after Steed & Mrs Gale double cross them, they still look for legal preced