Love All (written by Jeremy Burnham) takes a basic idea, a security leak within the highest levels of Whitehall, that The Avengers had done over and over again but it takes that idea and adds some wonderful twists to it and develops it with an enormous amount of style and wit. The result is one of the best of the Tara King episodes.
This is an episode in which nobody wants to take Tara’s theory about the security leak seriously. She thinks it’s all about love, that love is the only explanation for the particular kinds of odd behaviour that senior civil servants are suddenly displaying. Steed and Mother both scoff at Tara’s theory but it turns out that she was right. But this is not just another story of powerful men being caught in a honey trap by a glamorous lady spy. In this case they’re trapped by the most unglamorous female you could possibly imagine, a frumpy cleaning lady.
How the scheme works is pretty clever. There are lots of other clever ideas as well - the automated romance novels are a lovely touch.
This is one of the Tara episodes that compares very favourably to the best episodes of the Emma Peel era.
My Wildest Dream
My Wildest Dream has everything you want in an Avengers episode. Philip Levene provides a witty clever script about men who commit murders in their dreams only they’re not dreaming. There’s a superb guest starring performance by Peter Vaughan as an evil psychiatrist, plus there’s the always wonderful Philip Madoc as one of the sleep killers. As a bonus there’s a delightful comic performance by Edward Fox as al elegant young man-about-town who is besotted with Tara.
There are some nice unexpected plot twists. And you have to love the idea of an aggresso-therapist. This is one of the best Tara episodes, and Linda Thorson was really starting to hit her stride and get a handle on her character.
On the whole as very fine episode.
In Pandora (scripted by Brian Clemens) Tara visits an antique shop and that’s the last thing she remembers until she wakes up in a strange house. She is wearing an Edwardian dress and her hair is done in Edwardian style. According to the morning paper it is the year 1915 and everybody is calling her Pandora.
Steed is rather concerned as Tara failed to show up for a luncheon engagement and there are some puzzling circumstances to her non-appearance. The key to finding her may be the Fierce Rabbit. The Fierce Rabbit agrees, but has his own agenda.
This was Linda Thorson’s favourite episode, which is not altogether surprising since she gets to play a woman on the edge of madness. There are some great supporting players. Julian Glover gives a nicely twisted performance while John Laurie (a truly wonderful character actor) has fun as the Fierce Rabbit.
Homicide and Old Lace
Homicide and Old Lace is almost universally regarded as the worst ever episode of The Avengers.
It opens with Mother’s aunts surprising him on his birthday. They persuade him to tell them a real-life story. So he proceeds to tell them a tall tale of an outrageous crime. John Bryce’s intention as producer had been to return The Avengers to something much closer to the gritty realism of the very first season, and so one assumes that The Great Great Britain Crime was intended to have that gritty realistic feel to it. But as recounted by Mother it’s pure outrageous melodrama and totally fanciful and in fact quite silly.
Patrick Newell’s telling of the story is quite amusing, and the hyper-critical running commentary on the tale by the aunts has its funny moments. It does have one major thing going for it - Gerald Harper’s delightful performance as the dedicated but bungling security chief Colonel Corf.
Written by Dave Freeman The Rotters starts with the murder of a government forestries expert and we then get one of the more bizarre scenes involving Mother. It became one of the major recurring jokes of this era of The Avengers that whenever Mother had to brief Steed and Tara it would always be in an outlandish setting. Sometimes these interludes were quite inspired. Sometimes (as in this case) they were just seriously weird, but they were usually at least mildly amusing.
A good episode of The Avengers requires some oddball guest characters. The Rotters has that. In fact it has an amazing number of eccentric characters. It requires a reasonably imaginative villain or villains. The Rotters has that as well. The central idea doesn’t have to be wildly original but it does have to be offbeat. In this case it’s offbeat and it’s fairly original. The Rotters gets bonus points there. Most of all it has to be executed with energy and style and this episode scores there as well. It gets extra bonus points for two killers with impeccable manners and good taste.
So there we have it. Five Tara King episodes chosen totally at random. Four of them either excellent or at the very least extremely good (My Wildest Dream, The Rotters, Love All, Pandora) and one stinker that still has some mildly amusing moments (Homicide and Old Lace).