The Avengers: Man in the Mirror

The Avengers DVD release

I’m starting with the man in the mirror.
I’m asking him to change his ways.

…although in the case of Victor Trevelyan, the “man in the mirror” in this Avengers episode, he’s not going to change his ways for anyone. He’s a traitor, and as is so often the case, it’s all about money. Maybe instead it is Steed who needs to change his ways, because he is making use of Venus again. She is sent into the lion’s den (metaphorically – this isn’t a circus), without being told what is going on, with only Sheba for protection, and she walks straight into the criminal behind it all. It’s only by luck that she lives to tell the tale, and then she is endangered again because of the photographs she took. Just by luck (or lack thereof) the photos that get stolen by the crims are only the ones of Steed’s gorgeous dog Sheba, and the destruction of those photos might just be the worst crime of the episode.

We have had an episode centering around a ghost tunnel before, and it seems a bit soon to be recycling ideas, but it’s such a fun setting that it doesn’t seem to matter, and it is used in a way that is much more integral and essential to the plot. It also leads to some unintentionally funny moments, firstly when Venus is so scared of the ghost tunnel that she bumps into the camera (while Steed quite naturally walks straight through a door that says “NO ENTRY” – one of those signs to Steed is like offering a child sweets), and secondly when Steed is trying to defend himself against a man who is shooting at him and for some reason thinks a pop gun from a stall will be useful, before giving up on that idea. Odd, but amusing.

The story is a very good one indeed. I liked the image of a man who is supposed to be dead, caught in a photo, reflected in a mirror. That’s actually quite creepy. The episode is a visual treat from the start, with an initial shot of skeletons and ghouls in the ghost tunnel giving way to a shot of a real body. The bomb that is timed with a gramophone record, with the needle completing the circuit when it reaches the centre, was absolutely ingenious in its simplicity. What a clever idea. The “couple of traitors in one family” twist shouldn’t have been surprising, but the writing is clever enough that we have forgotten all about the surprise traitor at that point, with so much going on at that moment, so the revelation works well. We get to see Steed’s organisation meeting for the first time, which might have been quite dull but for the fact that he is shown to be a maverick even among his own people, as illustrated perfectly by the following magnificent bit of dialogue:

“There are no lone wolves on my team.”
“Just old foxes.”

But I really want to focus on Venus here, in her penultimate performance. I was once again impressed by the singing talents of Julie Stevens (although her fourth wall breaks, singing to the camera, are starting to get a bit odd, as if I just switched over to Top of the Pops by mistake for a couple of minutes), so I was curious to know if she ever had a singing career. I went looking for that information on Wikipedia, and couldn’t find any mention of any records apart from an album of Songs from Play School, for which she was a presenter. A web search turned up a couple of singles from the 70s, but I can’t find any information about those apart from the titles, nor anywhere to listen to them, so I have no idea what those are. But anyway, something struck me when I was looking through her wiki page for info. This nasty little comment:

“Stevens is not usually included in the list of Avengers girls.”

What does that even mean? Whose damn lists? Surely if there’s a list of “Avengers girls”, and she isn’t on it, then the list is wrong! So why would a list like that even be worthy of a second glance, let alone a mention on her wiki page? That kind of thing gets on my nerves, because I hate to see somebody denied the recognition she deserves. If people don’t like Venus then they are entitled to their opinions, but that doesn’t rewrite history. She was an “Avengers girl”, if you want to call them that, and in my view a very watchable one. She might be a bit of a damsel in distress at times, although Steed hardly succeeds in rescuing her in this episode, but she’s such a positive presence that she always brightens up the screen. My favourite moment this week was probably her very straight answer to a question:

“Are you accusing me of stealing.”

Fair enough. It’s a bit early to write a tribute to Venus, with one of her episodes still to go, so I’ll just say this for now: if you’ve got a list of “Avengers girls”, and Venus isn’t on it, then shame on you. Credit where credit’s due. She doesn’t deserve to be forgotten.  RP

The view from across the pond:

Here we go again: a crazy villainous plot for a payoff I can’t really get my head around.  Ok, so in The Man in the Mirror, they fake the death of a government employee responsible for all sorts of secret codes… change the codes, dolts!   I mean, surely British Intelligence would do that anyway!  I don’t work for a governmental agency and when a system administrator leaves, we change codes!  It’s not rocket science.  We terminate access to the account and we change critical codes that might still be accessible.  Problem solved.

Speaking of the bleedin’ obvious, when Venus goes to an abandoned amusement park and takes photos of mirrors, who was the bigger fool: the dead guy who stood in plain sight or the girl taking pictures of a mirror and missing the man behind her?  I’m going for the man, because from the wrong angle, it’s possible to miss someone, (even though the camera picked up on it, so he clearly was in her line of sight).  I mean, if you’re in hiding, do you pull a curtain fully open just because you hear a voice?  I don’t even do that when playing hide-and-seek with my nieces!  Besides, while I’m consistently disappointed with her singing, I do like Venus and, hell, she enjoys candied apples so she can’t be all bad!

Sadly, even Venus fails a bit in this episode.  How long was she locked up with the “dead man” before she looked at him and realized who he was??  That still beats Steed who really fails to impress me with this story.  To start with, he’s late for a meeting with his superiors, which I wouldn’t mind except for the arrogance of the man!  “You know me; pleasure before business!”  He then gives his superior a piece of his mind saying that he’s usually a step ahead, but he actually isn’t, especially during this episode.  If not for the unlikely return of Betty, Steed and Venus would be dead.  And Venus does not appear to work for Steed’s organization.  We learn in this episode that she’s 20 years old; an unlikely spy!  Steed just seems to be ok with putting a young woman’s life in danger becuase he can.  And this is the first time during a gunfight that it actually looks like the baddie, Strong, takes a proper shot which, based on everything I saw, sure looked like a bullseye.  Steed is only alive because the baddies don’t know a thing about guns or gun safety.  Or how not to get shot in the wrist – I had no idea the wrist was such an easy target!!  Seems to be the most hit body part in the 1960’s.  And speaking of the 1960’s, boy howdy were people weaker back then.  One shot to the belly and the bad guy was out!!    I just watched that famous Christmas movie, Die Hard, and by the 80’s people could really take a pounding!

None of this would have happened had Cathy Gale been with Steed for this story.  She would have taken down her attacker with ease. That’s what happens when you put an actual professional in the ring!  Oh, I love Venus because she’s so sweet yet direct; asking Betty to return her things and all will be forgiven is such a refreshing approach but it’s not the approach that’s going to win the day for the good guys, unfortunately.

With only four episodes to go to Season Two, I’m still not enamored of the show but consistently find something entertaining. On the downside, it’s usually mixed with an equal number of complaints, but I’m really hoping that improves in Season Three.  For this story, the strongest thing was the opening sequence.  My conclusion as of right now is that the series needs Cathy Gale to really win me over!  ML

Read next in the Junkyard… The Avengers: Conspiracy of Silence

About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on Author of Editor of
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