Ah the much maligned and underrated Tara King era of the Avengers, which suffered from the shadow of Emma Peel and a production nightmare at the outset, but in my view is by far the best season of all. There are a few duds, Homicide and Old Lace, Invasion of the Earthmen, Thingumajig and L❤ve All being the obvious examples but on the whole the season packs in its own identity and this is pretty much the first episode to capture the theatrical feeling of the season. It has a stellar guest cast with John Cleese, Bernard Cribbins, Jimmy Jewel, Talfryn Thomas and John Woodvine playing memorable roles. In itself the plot manages to vary between a serious plotline (assassination of board members of a defence council) and the wonderfully daft (retired vaudeville players under the instruction of Mr. Punch… no, really) and the wonderful it can only be the sixties imagery.
The episode is unashamedly played for laughs with more than a hint of the Adam West Batman series about it: characters are killed by quick hardening custard pies, having red carpets swiped from underneath them causing them to fall out a window (again, I’m not making this up) and our villians doing a sign off dance after each murder.
The script is written by Dennis Spooner who was a stalwart of 60s TV having created/co-created shows such as Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased), Man in a Suitcase, The Champions and Department S, script editing the second season of Doctor Who and writing several scripts for the show (The Reign of Terror, the Romans, The Time Meddler,Co writing Dalek Master Plan with Terry Nation and rewriting Patrick Troughton’s debut story Power of the Daleks) and having written two episodes for the first series of the Avengers which starred the late Ian Hendry one of which is missing believed lost forever. It shows Spooner knows how to equally balance the humour and tension, after a daft episode the finale takes on a more sinister tone with “firey Fredrick” relishing the thought of burning Linda Thorson in half. The biggest flaw is that the identity of the mastermind is sooo clear it begs the question as to why they bothered with the Mr Punch set up. On the other hand you don’t watch later Avengers for the plot, you watch it for fun escapism and a drinking game to see how many times Linda Thorson’s knickers end up in shot.
The Bottom Line:
Leave your brain at the door and enjoy 50 minutes of fun escapism and amaze yourself at how young John Cleese looks.