Six Hands Across A Table
Sadly, this episode just doesn't work for me, which is a darn shame considering the gem which preceded it. The plot is uninspiring, the characters forgettable, and the episode generally feels like it's season padding.
The opening of the episode is quite good, with the focus on the boardroom table and the hands meeting and settling on an agreement. This is quite effective as it gives you a who-are-they? scenario. Plus, the very proper English voices really seem pretty anonymous; this is all good. If the episode focused on using the six across the table as a continuing motif, it would at least have a lock-on point for the audience. But a few scenes later the characters are clearly identified and the sense of mystery is lost.
As I mentioned earlier, the characters are fairly bland and forgettable, and the actors playing the characters simply don't seem to be interested in the dull goings-on. Even the usually fine Philip Madoc seems to be going through the motions, and plays Seabrook as if it's a job he's taken for the hell of it. However, the worst offender has got to be Edward de Souza as Brian Collier; for a man who has just lost his father, he seems remarkably laid-back and uninterested. Not only that, his character suffers from a disease usually found in Venus Smith stories or episodes directed by Kim Mills, this being terminal boringness. In not one of his scenes does the character really raise any interest. That lamp fitting should have finished him off.
It would be silly not to mention Mrs Gale's relationship with Oliver. This is by far the most worthwhile aspect of the episode, yet it is played down rather heavily. Not that I'm supporting the notion that there should be wild displays of passion and fumbling amongst the bed sheets, but surely they could have at least given the relationship some sparkle. As it is, it seems like Cathy might as well be his sister—although the closing scene is a little touching.
Richmond Harding has evidently been to the Kim Mills school of direction and subsequently films everything flatly and cueing in the music far too early.
This episode is not only dull, but annoyingly predictable, as we know exactly who'll be the villain.
A really yawn-inducer. One bowler.
Six Hands Across A Table
"I say, can we turn the heat up?"
This is a Cathy solo episode really, with Steed supplying tidbits of clues and bringing the cavalry at the end. I like the moment where Cathy plays back Steed's covert tape-recording and for a while it seems, to her consternation, like a normal board meeting—but her patience pays off. It was a clever idea to employ the very distinctively-voiced actor Guy Doleman.
The shipyard takeover plot is baffling, but that doesn't spoil the episode because everything is about the human tensions, action-reactions and double-crosses, and a clutch of the best '60s British TV actors breathe life into it all. It's really peculiar to see The Prisoner's future father in law (called Sir Charles in that series), playing another character Sir Charles!
The Avenged?: Poor old Collier junior (Edward de Souza) gets pole axed twice—no wonder he's upset. On both occasions it looks like he has been killed but he's suddenly hale and hearty again each time; Cathy must bring him luck. All the characters are sharply defined and the casting is spot on: ruthless Doleman, vacillating John Wentworth, unfortunate and uncertain Edward de Souza, Campbell Singer full of bonhomie ("I can't sit, stand, walk, or keep still—I'm in an 'ell of a fix!"), and calculating, insinuating Philip Madoc ("hide like a rhinoceros").
Diabolical Masterminds?: Waldner—he has to be classified as a real cad for betraying Cathy's trust, despite professing to be in love! Philip Madoc is an oily management consultant but changes sides at just the right time. His maneuvrings are quite fun to watch and it's good he ends on the side of the Steeds and angels. He's also rude to Cathy: "we can't all bow down and worship the idol, Mrs Gale". Oh yes we can!
The Avengers?: Steed finally gets into Cathy's bedroom, and wastes no time in rubbishing her boyfriend; she bristles wonderfully in response. Cathy is really elegant and sophisticated in her fantastic evening gown, hair up in a style that could only work in 1963. It's quite a shock to see her feminine side, especially as she has at least two clinches (as the camera cuts away!). After a huge fight in the draughtsmen's room, Cathy finds Collier/de Souza unconscious: as she patches him up, Honor Blackman has a cheeky smile on her face when Collier surmises of his assailant, "you probably frightened him off." Yes, he got frightened after being thrown through the furniture for the third time! The fight was quite unexpected as Cathy was wearing her raincoat! (When she has her leather on earlier, it was only because she's been out riding.)
Umbrella, Charm and a Bowler Hat?: Oliver Waldner (Guy Doleman) presses Cathy's buttons, it seems. He seems to have given a nickname to Cathy: "I need you, Rose... on your terms, if you like"—there's a palpable romantic tension between them, which works. I couldn't help but exclaim "Woof!" when Waldner puts down her glass and sweeps her off with late-era Steed-style charm and "I arrange my own contracts"... maybe that's what happens when someone promises to fly you from the Clyde to the Savoy. Cathy hasn't had a scene like this before, and Honor acts it exceptionally well, of course. She is not playing "second fiddle" to anyone. Full marks to Honor for making the end-of-Act One "scream" into a realistic "startled gasp/yell". Can't have our Cathy screaming.
Bizarre?: Good country-house sets. Cathy is rather annoyed with Steed gate crashing her bedroom to pontificate to her; she shushes him: "You've got a voice like a saw!" This bedroom scene is a gem, not to be missed. The "cellar room" leads out to the stables, apparently—there's a wooden (carousel?) horse on the wall. Telefantasy spotters will enjoy the actors from Sapphire and Steel, Doctor Who, The Prisoner, The Saint, The Persuaders!, etc.
It's a puzzle why this works—this episode doesn't do boardroom intrigue with the panache of "Bullseye" (which mixed in gunrunners and more murder), but by this stage of the series Cathy (and to some extent, Steed) have become familiar and important to me, and mixed with a bunch of actors who are interacting well and reacting as if it's all fresh and not over-rehearsed, so, oddly it becomes quite gripping. The plot becomes almost irrelevant.
"And you should have seen Cathy, taking those fences." Enjoyable—just don't try to follow the consortium politics. Three bowlers.
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