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Posts Tagged ‘Immortal Clay’

We spend our last few minutes in the company of Jon Rollason as Dr King in Eric Paice’s Dead on Course (four of the last seven episodes have had Dead or Death in their titles, which perhaps speaks to a certain lack of imagination in the script department). A passenger jet flying from Canada to Ireland crashes after having navigational problems, which would ordinarily be just a tragedy – but given this is the second flight in a short period to meet the same fate, going down in the same small area, Steed has been packed off to oversee the crash investigation and see if foul play was involved. He has brought Dr King along to have a look at the bodies of the passangers and see if there are any signs this wasn’t just an ordinary crash. 

Well, of course it wasn’t, and the fact that both planes were carrying large sums of cash tips Steed off to what may have been going on. The revelation of what’s been going on involves corruption at the airline, the local pub in the village of Ballyknock, a fake navigational beacon and some very bad habits from the nuns at the local convent. There’s a wonderful moment when the mother superior suddenly whips out a sten gun to take Dr King prisoner, an unintentionally hilarious one when a corpse King has solemnly declared to have been strangled starts blinking at the camera in close-up, some technical problems with the cameras, and Steed revealing an unexpected talent when he starts flying a passenger jet. The best of the Dr King episodes, but still sub-par compared to the average Mrs Gale or even Venus Smith story.

Another episode from Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke comes along next, in the form of Intercrime. This isn’t quite up to the standard of their previous offering, but it’s pacy stuff and hangs together well – it will probably also give the viewer that ‘I know what’s coming next!’ sense, which I actually think is a sign of a story that’s working, or at least meeting expectations.

A couple of safebreakers turn up shot, one fatally, but their loot was left untouched. Steed concludes that they were members of a new international criminal organisation, Intercrime, which has recently set up in London, who have been made an example of for indulging in a little unauthorised private enterprise. However, the survivor knows the name of a woman from the German branch of Intercrime who is due to be arriving in town very soon, which gives Steed the opportunity to infiltrate the gang – if only he can find someone to impersonate a female German assassin…

Jerome Willis’ sister was a supply teacher at my mum’s school. Not a lot of people know that, and even fewer care.


This is the kind of episode that puts one in mind of Brian Clemens’ description of the Steed-Gale relationship (or was he talking about Steed and Peel? Hmmm) – they are Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in the Road series of films, and he keeps talking her into wrestling the alligator. Steed really must be a silver-tongued devil – Cathy seems like someone with her head screwed on, and yet here Steed persuades her into letting herself be put on remand in Holloway prison, and then – an incredibly dicey prospect! – go undercover in an organisation of killers, with no guarantee she won’t be rumbled and shot on the spot.

As you might expect, the person who Cathy is pretending to be escapes, thus setting up an energetic climax with a lot of running around from everyone (including the odd cameraman, who wanders past in the background of one shot). Lots of plot here, perhaps a bit lacking in that vital Avengers quirkiness, but robustly put together and entertaining.

My first exposure to videotape-era Avengers came in 1992 when The Gilded Cage was shown as part of a strand called TV Heaven; the following January the station followed up with a whole run of Keel and Gale repeats (well, mostly Gale, considering that only one Keel episode was known to exist at the time). For some reason I am certain that (along with November Five) Immortal Clay, written by James Mitchell, was one of the episodes I watched then (most of them I just had taped and then forgot about – sorry, mum) – I’m not sure where this certainty comes from, for other than the fact it has Paul Eddington in it I had no memory of the plot prior to this latest re-watch.

An industrial spy turns up dead in the slip tank of a small ceramics company while Mrs Gale happens to be visiting (she is planning to write a book about pottery, when not doing anthropology, helping out at the Natural History Museum, birdwatching, or studying modern European languages). By a stupendous coincidence, Steed has been ordered to investigate the same company by One-Ten – their chief researcher is reputedly on the verge of discovering how to make indestructible ceramic tiles, which will obviously be of significant value to all sorts of industries. Who killed the spy? And can Steed and Mrs Gale keep the Other Side from getting their hands on the miraculous tile?

The setting gives this a certain distinctiveness, and there are very… vigorous… perfomances from Steve Plytas and Frank Olegario as the representatives of the Other Side, but rather too much of it is duff, mundane stuff, concerned with the convoluted personal lives of the various people working at the pottery: the chief designer has developed an unrequited love for the factory’s blonde bombshell, who wants to be an actress, and resents the fact she’s sweet on the chief researcher. The researcher’s brother, on the other hand, is letting the grind of business embitter him and is in danger of having his marriage fall apart. Steed in particular wanders through all this like an emissary from a different world entirely. It passes the time, but a chief plot point is that the one and only indestructible tile is turned into a tea cup for reasons of concealment, and (given the whole point of the thing is that it’s indestructible) I couldn’t figure out how they would have done this. Very nearly a thorough dud.

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