The Removal Men (2-06, November 1962)
Introducing: Venus Smith!
OK, not quite. Venus Smith first shows up in The Decapod, which I’ll probably cover at some point. But this is my blog and I do what I want!
The Removal Men marks the second episode to feature Venus Smith (Julie Stevens), a nightclub singer and Steed’s other female partner. She appears a handful of times in the second series, before Honor Blackman’s Cathy Gale was a solidified second-in-command. Stevens is a likable enough actress, but the Venus episodes usually give her little to do beyond a few musical numbers and a few damsel-in-distress routines. It’s hard to believe that the same people capable of creating the tough-as-nails Cathy Gale could also create Venus Smith.
The Removal Men follows Steed on vacation of sorts, as he attempts to infiltrate a Murder Inc.-style ring that assassinates high-profile people for money. This is a chance for Steed to do his ‘bad Steed’ impression, first breaking into Jack Dragna’s (Reed de Rouen) flat and locking his wife in the bathroom. Steed is finally hired to murder a French film star (Edina Ronay), but it all goes wrong when Venus happens to recognize him. As is usual with the second series, the plot plays second fiddle to the characters, but the plot here is stronger than many others.
That being said, I’ve warmed far more to the Venus Smith episodes than I did on first viewing. Although Venus can be grating at times, she really is just an innocent who gets caught in the middle of Steed’s machinations. Unlike Tara King, who bears a strong resemblance to her in the final Avengers series, Venus really isn’t a spy and never wanted to be. She’s given more to do in her later episodes, but in this one she’s mostly window-dressing.
Without a strong female counterpart to buoy him, Patrick Macnee bears much of the burden of moving the story along. For those who enjoy Steed at his roughest (and I do), that’s just fine. He’s a fast-talking antihero here; he’s remarkably cool at the climax. This is one of those eps that highlights the hard-boiled nature of the early series – shadowy nightclubs, smoky rooms and grinning villains aplenty.
While not recommended for a first-time viewer, The Removal Men has some really excellent points.