Sadly Diana Rigg has been added to the list of my TV heroes who have left us. The internet is naturally full of tributes, however I am watching this show at the moment and thought I would post about it. Robert Conrad has also died this year.
For anyone who likes the kind of bizarre TV I do, The Wild Wild West is a gift. It is... Well, wild, I suppose. It is described as a western, espionage and science fiction show, which aimed to take the James Bond concept back to the nineteenth century. The kind of conceits we find in the wilder Avengers episodes are therefore common here, for example this episode has both magic and time travel. What's not to love?
Topically, the subtext here is that the baddie is a former colonel in the confederate army who wants to use his ability to change time to go back and change the outcome of the civil war. Obviously ImI a foreigner and history isn't my strong point but I understand that to mean that he would like the US to be built on slavery and the inferiority of Black people, which therefore means our heroes are fighting against this. Even the Avengers couldn't have come up with such a weird plot but the megalomaniac plan is exactly the kind of evil nonsense the Avengers fight against. We mustn't underestimate Vautrain because he does actually have the power to make Gordon disappear between dimensions.
There is what could be a shortcoming in this episode because it takes unreality to levels rarely seen in TV. In fact if you get into it, this whole episode is very much like a nightmare, and is calculated to cause dis-ease. The nightmarish quality is increased by the fact that even though Colonel Vautrain is obviously a monster, he is a monster who has lost both legs, with the emotional distress this would cause. Normally this should be a feature of a sympathetic character, so brilliantly we are torn between feeling sorry for him and being repulsed.
There is something wrong though with the way the James Bond thing is translated to this show, which is that while there is no apparent sex going on, Conrad himself is the only apparent sex object. In a Bond film he will definitely have sex at some point and there will be loads of 'Bond girls'. Bizarrely here, West goes around with his male partner and there are no Bond girls. I don't feel like it is gay coded, but West is the only sex object, to the extent that in one episode he tears his trousers and the scene of him fighting basically in his underpants is left in. What is going on? Well there is no obvious explanation that springs to mind and I wonder whether this strange treatment of the character is a major flaw.
For this episode though, I don't think there are any flaws at all - the only reason you wouldn't like it is if you don't like this sort of thing.