November Five (Episode 03-06, November 1963).
Here’s another Season 3 episode that hits and misses with equal exactitude. November Five (which originally aired on November 2, 1963, so kudos on the planning) begins with the assassination of Michael Dyter (Gary Hope), a Parliamentary candidate who has won on the strength of promising to reveal a government scandal concerning the “loss” of a nuclear warhead as soon as he’s elected. Enter Steed and Cathy, the latter of whom winds up campaigning on the same platform as Dyter in the hopes of luring the villains out into the open and finding the warhead. In the process the pair come up again two politicians from both sides of the divide, and election agent St. John, who ran Dyter’s campaign. This is all wrapped up in a health club with tenuous connections to St. John, but which offers the opportunity for Cathy to beat up on another muscle-head.
The plot is the culprit in this particular episode. All of the actors remain above par: there are Major Swinburne (Avengers doppelganger David Langton) and Arthur Dove (David Davies), the two rival politicians with interest in breaking the warhead scandal; then there’s the very enjoyable Mrs. Dove (Ruth Dunning), whom Cathy befriends and who provides more sanity and right thinking in her few scenes than the politicians in all their glory. The villains, however, leave a little something to be desired, with no one standing out as particularly interesting or nasty; though when the real villain pops up in the third act, it’s a pleasure to watch him mug about. All in all, however, the secondary cast is fairly decent and the political setting a neat departure for the show.
The plot, however, has so many bumps and twists that it’s difficult to keep track. As with some of the business-themed episodes of The Avengers, there’s a bit too much technical talk. The politics are dwelt on at length, with actors shooting out their lines so quickly that it becomes confusing; one loses track of what’s at stake. If they had managed to focus on Cathy’s election campaign and the search for the missing warhead we might have been all right, but the addition of the health club, the murder of a politician, and the blackmail of another, made this viewer at least felt somewhat at sea. We also miss out on a final showdown between Cathy and her stunt-man, as more time is taken up with Steed catching up to the true baddie to stop him from creating a real bang in Parliament.
Steed and Cathy are on point, however, and their few scenes together keep things moving right along. There are also some lovely little asides about women in Parliament, as Cathy makes her first official appearance as a candidate clad entirely in leather. Finally, a word must be said about Steed’s informants, two little ladies wandering the hallowed halls of government, collecting information and passing it on to Steed. It’s one of those small elements that makes The Avengers of any era so very charming.