Sunday, July 5, 2009

the avengers: return of the cybernaut

We've been watching The Avengers sporadically-- and by sporadically, I mean, like, one episode ever two or three months, usually on a whim when we remember that A&L have a computer hooked up to the TV and we can watch Netflix on demand there-- and I've been forgetting to post on it because of all the other things we've been doing. This show, however, should not be forgotten.

Return of the Cybernauts is a sequil of sorts to an episode we haven't watched yet, but is self-contained enough that it doesn't really matter. Grand Moff Tarkin is the brother of a scientist from the previous ep who recreates his brother's metal thug to kidnap scientists to make machines to get revenge on Steed and Mrs Peel-- the sort of revenge that will torture them without killing them. They crete mind-control watches. Posing as their friend this whole time, it's not too hard to flatter Emma with a gift of hers and to sneak a replacement of Steed's own watch into his office. Emma's been courted by Tarkin enough that she willingly puts her's on and gets mind-controlled when the baddies jump the gun a little and activate the device-- but Steed hadn't put his own yet, and, worried about Emma's weird behavior, rushes out without his watch and is therefore unaffected.

The save the day, of course, but it's a technological fluke that allows them to do it: the watch, suposed to be forced onto Steed, goes onto the Cybernaut by accident, and conflicts with it's own programming, making it go berzerk and kill Tarkin an a steel-banded death-hug that looks kind of... homoerotic.

This is all in the last quarter of the episode. Most of the rest is Tarkin and his lab assistant kidnapping and pushing around the scientists, offering them alot of money and threatening them with death. One gets out, but is immediately captured and thrown back into his pink cell (all the cells are single-colors), like this was the third act of a John Pertwee adventure.

Speaking of, it's impossible for me to watch something so strikingly Brittish without comparing it to Doctor Who of the same time period-- and The Avengers comes out WAY on top. It's an adult show vs the Doctor's still pretty child-oriented show, so we'll say that's why DW comes off so much more silly even though the scripts are about as tight and similarly-plotted. But it's the quality of the show that gets me: the film stock is clear, sharp even on our moderately modern TV with a NetFlix feed, with extremely saturated colors and no blurring or ghosting, and though the Cybernaut is not the best effect in the world, it's better than the Cybermen or the Autons, both of which it resembles (mod Autons with really snappy shoes and a peacoat). And it's perpetually amazing to me how Steed can be constantly leaning into Mrs Peel, flirting so close to her face that he has to turn his head to drink so he doesn't hit her in the nose with the cup-- and yet he comes across as charming and kind, whereas people I've known in real life that do exactly the same thing to me come off as skeezy and invasive of personal space. Maybe it's the Brittishness; maybe it's that she's flirting back. And the best part is that at the end, after Steed's mistrust of Grand Moff Tarkin is justified, he doesn't even try to be all 'told you so'. Doean't even mention that he could be. He just takes Emma home and they have a nice moment where he fixes her toaster not at all.

A fun, good episode. One of my favorites so far.

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