Having been brought up watching Doctor Who, I am quite used to actors appearing in more than one role, but this takes things to extremes, with Peter Arne back for the second week in a row, playing a completely different character. This of course came about because Warlock was originally intended as the introductory episode for Cathy and was moved to later in the season, with some episodes reshot to hide the fact that it was her first appearance. If the original plan had been followed, there would have been thirteen episodes between Warlock and The Golden Eggs, but instead they ended up being consecutive.
As far as Peter Arne is concerned, this doesn’t really matter, because he is playing such a different character to last time, and is also made up to look very different, so the casual viewer, not paying attention to the cast lists, might not even notice. Unfortunately it is a much weaker performance, although Redfern’s obsession with music boxes makes him a distinctive and quirky villain. Where the rejigged episode order becomes more problematical is in the relationship between Steed and Cathy. Last week there were edits made to make it appear that they had known each other for a while, but it still gave the impression of an early adventure for them both. This is completely different, tying in with the redecoration of Cathy’s flat we saw a few weeks ago. Cathy is staying in Steed’s flat while he lives in a hotel, but he is making sure that he pops back to the flat as often as possible so he can enjoy the meals Cathy is making for him as part of that deal. That includes breakfast, although I’m sure Steed could manage to sort himself out a bowl of cereal in his hotel, but he’s obviously using any excuse to be in her company. It’s rather a lovely relationship, and the two of them come across almost like an old married couple, which is a huge clash with their relationship as we saw it last week, where Steed was hitting on Cathy as if they had just met (which they had, as originally scripted, in the Natural History Museum) and he fancied his chances. But their relationship is different in more ways than one, because this is clearly a late-season offering, with Steed completely trusting in Cathy’s abilities. Last week he was trying to keep her out of the action, despite her being much better qualified than Steed to go undercover in the world of the occult. This week he just takes a step back and lets her get on with things. In fact, Steed features very little in this episode at all. This is Cathy’s fight.
She does brilliantly of course, and the physical stuff is certainly no problem for her. The first Cathy fight of the week is over almost before it has begun, and the second is a hilarious affair, with tough guy Hillier ending up running away from her. She is also great when she is found out by Ashe, immediately turning the tables on him and confronting him about his own dishonesty, without missing a beat.
The plot is a thin one, and relies on something dangerous being bizarrely housed in something attractive to criminals. So we have a deadly virus contained inside two golden eggs. When they are stolen the scientist covers it up, which is of course exactly what would happen if a man-made virus got out by accident. Sorry if that sounds cynical, but certain elements of this episode probably put me in a bit of a bad mood because it does hit a bit close to home, considering the events of the last couple of years. If the topic seems remarkably ahead of its time then it isn’t really. After I watched this episode I read a review which was written a couple of decades ago, and was claiming the episode was prescient, making a comparison with anthrax (which was topical in 2001). Nowadays we will watch this and make comparisons with covid, what with Leon DeLeon (great name!) burning up with a high temperature, and mention of the similarity of the virus to influenza. But really the writer was simply taking inspiration from current events, even referencing myxomatosis in the dialogue, “only us instead of rabbits”. If anything, the writing now looks naïve rather than prescient, with the virus failing to spread once it has got out. Diana has been in close contact with Leon, and heads off to start a new life elsewhere. Nowadays, we would probably call that a “super spreader”, but everyone who has been in contact with Leon, and in contact with people who have been in contact with him, are able to walk away without consequences. If only novel viruses were so considerate in reality… RP
The view from across the pond:
“Are you in the market for a handful of death?”
As I sit watching The Golden Eggs, I realize how unpleasant a threat it is that we deal with in this week’s story. The Golden Eggs contain a virus; a lethal one bringing about respiratory failure. I sit here with a gift from my niece that keeps on giving: she gave me and my wife a cold and, while respiratory failure does not seem to be in the cards, thankfully, nasal failure does and I’m reminded just how horrifying biological warfare can be. Along with the dangers of Covid-19, this episode is far more relevant than many of the other episodes.
For a change, I actually understand the entirety of the threat here, probably since I’ve had to blow my nose some 200 times today. I’ve found that often the attempt at pulling off a deeper plot ends up impacting the meaning of the threat and it gets lost in translation. Not so this time. It’s a clear cut case of a biological weapon being worth a fortune.
We once again have Cathy Gale upstaging John Steed in every step of the story. This really has been her series! I don’t know how or why she’s had to stay with him at his place and I’m stunned that he gets paid enough to have a flat and she doesn’t! Steed wanders off to a deli at a critical point in the episode and does nothing to help Cathy. On the other hand, Cathy poses as a journalist, beats a villain, finds the hidden stash and threatens the main baddie, even throwing fake eggs at him to give him a heart attack. (Well, perhaps he just passed out from the terror, but it sure was nice to witness!) As Cathy says, Steed has “about as much tact as a rhinoceros.”
Most of the time, the villains are pretty cookie-cutter but this guy had a personality, playing with his dozens of music boxes. It always enhances the series when we have a strong baddie! The virologist, Dr. Ash (apt for a person who could destroy life) reminded me of Peter Cushing so I found myself liking him but he did make me laugh a few times, like when he’s talking about the dangerous virus he made and rubbing his nose with his bare fingers. Clearly this was made between pandemics! Also, when Cathy asks why he doesn’t turn his work over to the government, his laughing tells us everything we need to know: he has no trust that they would be safer with it. (I could almost hear Leslie Neilson’s “surely you can’t be serious!?”)
Possibly my favorite moment was when Ash says to Cathy, “…your magazine doesn’t exist.” Cathy replies without hesitation, “no.” I think this signifies a level of respect between the hero and the doctor. She doesn’t try to pull the wool over his eyes and as a result, she earns his trust. I think it’s a significant difference between this show and many others like it. And its one of the things that makes this series so enjoyable. We have a different class of hero; they are not always boy scouts (or girl scouts) but they are a class above many others. Now if only Cathy could get a flat of her own, I might earn some respect for the agency she works with! ML
Read next in the Junkyard… The Avengers: School for Traitors
Reflecting on vintage TV episodes or films that can now hit very close to home, certainly regarding TV shows of the most delicately censored 1960s, can indeed feel all the more challenging today. As for adventure shows particularly like The Avengers, their specific parallels to our overwhelmingly persistent issues may put us all to the test. But understanding how ahead of its time it would have been when the episode first aired, obviously regarding the most lethally spreading diseases like in Dr. Who: The Silurians and Star Trek: Miri, might help to soften the blow and so it makes a worthy discussion for the Junkyard. Thank you both for your reviews.
LikeLiked by 2 people
Peter Arne was a very distinctive actor who died much too young, tragically murdered under mysterious circumstances at age 58 in 1983. Watching a great deal of British television from the 1960s and 70s, it’s always a joy for me when Arne shows up in a guest role. One of my favorite appearances by him was as the icy villain in the very creepy Danger Man episode “Colony Three” which is something of a precursor to Patrick McGoohan’s follow-up series The Prisoner.
LikeLiked by 2 people