Friday, 26 March 2021

Tomorrow People: Secret Weapon

 I have so far fought shy of writing about this series, purely because it is so huge, involves so many story arcs and is so variable. In various places it is definitely stonking good television, but in others represents the worst of 1970s TV. I intend, now that I have broken into it, to do a master post to try to get the show into some order in my head, but this post is about the Secret Weapon story, broadcast in February to March 1975 as the first four episodes of series 3.

The series was well underway by now and the essential elements are in place: the next stage of human evolution 'breaking out' as Homo Superior, jaunting using the jaunting belts, etc. In many ways I would see this as the natural progression of the scientific interests frequently mentioned in the TV of the preceding decade, just with the added idea that humanity would progress enough to evolve to the next stage. In the seventies this probably wouldn't have been seen as wildly unrealistic. I do think there is an Avengers-type heritage here. Nor does it ignore the racial interests of the time: one of the characters is black and Tyso is said to be a gypsy and has the traditional gypsy name of Boswell. No indication is given of whether he is ethnically Roma but some attempt is made to reference the culture he comes from.

However this adventure has made me notice some gaping holes in the plot. I actually feel bad saying these because I do like this show.

1. It is said that Tyso will die as he breaks out unless other Tomorrow People get to him. Seriously? That is a real limit on Tomorrow People's powers!

2. Another one is the preference for jaunting with a belt. Honestly do you really need it?

3. The Tomorrow People can have their thoughts read by any telepath (very fashionable area of parapsychic research in the seventies) and apparently have no awareness of this or means of blocking it, except for one occasion where Elizabeth does block her thoughts. This is an inconsistency, but perhaps I'm being picky.

4. Trevor Bannister is ludicrously cast as Colonel Masters. While an excellent actor he is rather typed as the fool type he played in Are You Being Served and The Dustbin Men. He would have been far too gobby in his usual type to get promoted to Colonel and I can't help expecting him to say something funny!

You have to suspend belief for the wonderful touch of temporarily abducting the prime minister. I do love that touch.

There is also a moral undertone which I hadn't noticed before - the Tomorrow People are superior and part of their automatic superiority is not being able to kill. They do take the opportunity to reflect on how hopeless homo sapiens are because of their urge to violence.

The absolute best bit of the DVD box set is the commentary by the cast. It is worth buying purely for the entertainment value of their rude remarks and reminiscences.

Friday, 19 March 2021

The Avengers: The Living Dead

I love this episode, however have fought shy of writing about it because it manages to pack so much in, viz.

1. The Hammer style beginning. I actually think it is one of the nicest Avengers imitations of other genres.

2. Actually perhaps it's more in the style of Amicus because it is set in the present day and includes dialogue about the reality or otherwise of ghosts. I love the Avengeresque acronyms of the two ghost investigating groups, FOG and SMOG!

3. The episode is set against the noblesse oblige background of the Benedict estate. Very classic Avengers setting of the great and the good gone wrong.

4. The caricatured British setting is influenced by a very stereotypical foreigner.

5. It isn't explicitly mentioned but the noblesse oblige setting is not totally beneficent to the workers. The Benedict family not only formerly operated a mine, never a very safe or pleasant place to work, but the operation was brought to a close by an accident. However the dukes of Benedict are definitely not nouveau riche ennobled by Queen Victoria because they have got up to the sixteenth Duke.

6. It segues into (needless to say) a tale of megalomania and the aristocracy gone off the rails.

I honestly don't know why the reviews are mixed on the internet - what's not to love? I can see that the sheer volume of stuff included can be a criticism in itself and there are lists of problems with continuity. However as I keep saying, these showd were not expected to have the sort of scrutiny they now get. In fact the rather fake quality of the sets and props is surely part of the Avengers thing of deliberately not being realistic. The virtue then is in the frankly incredible nature of these shows.

Steed and Mrs Peel are very flirty, and she saves him from a firing squad. Again I am firmly of the opinion that any suggestion of attraction or sex between them isn't real. Despite a reproduction range of Avengers fashions being sold, surely it was only in the sixties that you could dress like an Avenger. Unreal in fashions as in everything else!