[“Mission … Highly Improbable”]
So, as regular readers may have noticed (irregular readers are encouraged to get more fiber in their diets), there is some disagreement between myself and celluloidbroomcloset about this episode. I like it. She hates it.
I will say this: I’ve probably watched this episode, oh, fifteen times over the course of my years at sea, and each time, Chivers (Francis Matthews) gets a little less tolerable. He’s abrasive and boring at the same time - quite a trick. If you also didn’t like Shaffer (Ronald Radd), I could see why there would be slim pickings indeed in this episode for you.
However, I do like Shaffer - he makes me smile in every scene he’s in. I think the difference for me between Shaffer and Brodny is that the latter is everyone’s fool and doesn’t realize it, whereas Shaffer is aware that his life is a pathetic circus and he’s not happy about it. He’s grumpy, sardonic, hung over, disgusted with everything, and it’s very entertaining to watch. Obviously, mileage varies. (“Another medal! … For bravery! … Conspicuous bravery!”)
As for Steed and Peel going through the motions tiredly, I don’t see it - but then, I may just be blind in that direction. I complained about a decline in the scripts toward the end, but I never noticed any particular decline in the quality of their performances. Maybe others can tell that Rigg was exhausted and disgusted. I can’t.
I love the situations where a very small person has to somehow provide assistance to a full-sized one. I love Steed doing a lance charge with a nib pen. I love the cheesy giant-sized props. I don’t put this on my list of great episodes, you understand, but I don’t consider it an unmitigated disaster by any means.
I’ve made my feelings about this episode known, so I won’t repeat (too many of) them here. I don’t think that Rigg seems exhausted by any means, but this suffers from many of the same problems that would plague the Tara King era and end the show: namely, an unbelievable script that not even the leads can believe in or pretend to care about. I think the plot’s ridiculous, and not in the good Avenger-ish way, but in the “what the fuck were they thinking?” way. The villains in particular are uninteresting and non-threatening - and why would they be, with a goddamn shrink ray?
However, I don’t hate this as violently as 3/4s of the Tara King episodes, of which the only redeeming factor is Macnee (with sideburn accompaniment). So there’s that.
Hmph. This is one of the two Peel episodes I actively dislike. The only saving factor is that it’s not Tara and her blank stare and slow, breathy delivery of EVERY SINGLE LINE that we have to suffer through.