2.02 - Dead on Course

Rate 'Dead on Course'

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Total votes: 16

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darren
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2.02 - Dead on Course

Post by darren »

Written by Eric Paice
Directed by Richmond Harding
Production completed: 26 May 1962

Starring Patrick Macnee and Jon Rollason
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Post by Frankymole »

My review:

http://www.theavengers.tv/forever/gale1-14vr.htm#2

Up, up and away: Shooting on the second season of the Avengers gets off to an uncertain start after the enforced 7-month break (due to a strike). Keel is gone, Carol is gone, so is Keel's "cosy" surgery base. Once again the Avengers are branching out abroad, this time only across the Irish Sea. Plenty of stereotypes: spirits in the breakfast coffee, "Shamrock Airport", lots of blarney about nuns. Sounds like a recipe for disaster but somehow this story provides enough intrigue to keep one awake.

The Avenged?: The crime is a variation on the old wreckers who used to lure ships onto rocks with false beacon fires. This time, passengers on jet liners have received the treatment, all for the sake of a case full of banknotes. Oddly, despite using petrol to ensure a post-crash fire, some of the survivors are kept prisoner. Why?

Diabolical Masterminds?: The machinegun-wielding Mother Superior who has hijacked the nunnery presages "The Eagle's Nest". Vincent had me convinced that he was a fleeing innocent, cleverly realising the gig was up when Steed arrived and so putting on an act as the only helpful informer — which even fooled Steed. Vincent's suspicious boss (Doyle) was the red herring in the mix. The twist worked well, though I began to suspect Vincent when he'd already packed a bag for Canada despite being told to rush to steed without delay. It was a good idea to have him run out on his companions in crime, taking the loot.

The Avengers?: Dr Martin King is an adequate replacement for Dr Keel. He has a certain cheerfulness that Keel didn't, less cynical but nevertheless wary of Steed's old tricks. His weary digs at Steed's early-morning perkiness speak of an old acquaintance, and they seem to trust and admire each other's skills.

Umbrella, Charm and a Bowler Hat?: Steed gets some kind of rustic walking-stick (not a shillelagh) and a rather affected cigarette holder which he insist on sporting every time he makes a 'phone call. He is turned out impeccably despite trotting around dusty cellars, an eerie nunnery-morgue and possibly a crash site. King looks a bit rumpled after having to sleep "swimmingly" in damp lodgings. Both are rather terse, although Steed perks up when around the air hostesses. He also talks on equal terms with the co-pilot's likely widow, the balance of professional urgency and respect is just right. Good acting.

Bizarre?: Possibly the only story where an act ends with Steed loudly proclaiming what a "jolly good idea" it would be to feign a visit to "the gents" (toilet)! This facility also forms a plot point later on as an alibi for wandering the cellars. Most odd. And one of the nuns has five o'clock shadow. The blinking corpse has already been remarked upon, but as it happens during the zoom in to his face just before the commercials, it's a very unfortunate glitch (but unintentionally hilarious).

Dr King is a cheerful fellow (wonder if he and Tara are related?). Reasonable use is made of the cramped sets. Some fun is to be had with the elderly crash analyst whom Steed disgruntles at the airport; peevishly he remarks that Steed will eventually take over the running of the airport — which he does, to the man's grim amusement!

On Target? (Score): Three bowlers out of four (7/10).
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Post by Rhonda »

I give it 8/10. As to why the air-crash survivors might be being kept as prisoners I think that the criminals are hoping that their crimes are never discovered and they don't want to bump any more people off. As I remember it the best scenes are the cover-ups going on in the darkness of the 'convent'. I didn't see the twist with Vincent coming myself at all! It's a very good episode that I would love to introduce people to. I can't remember if this is the 'airplane one' with a well know actor as the pilot (or not).
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Post by darren »

The final episode that Robert Fuest designed the sets for - until a long gap and returning as directors. His pub set and airport sets are wonderful but the convent is rather naff.

Richmond Harding (died in 2010 aged 87) only directed for season 2 of the Avengers and sometimes he did great work (White Dwarf) and other times it's really poor. This is a middling effort. He's not as bad as Kim Mills but I can't get excited by his work. The plane crash is really funny whereas it should be dramatic - it's the inappropriateness of the model shot that causes me to crack up. I still don't get the decision to cast a male extra as a nun and then him not be revealed as a man in disguise.

It's very gloomy subject matter with the plane crash and that doesn't sit well with me in The Avengers as it's too large scale, a single plane crash with one or two victims is fine but when it's a commercial flight it feels wrong. But there's still enough intrigue going on to make up for that.

I really like Donal Donnelly (great in The Knack - also died in 2010 aged 79) and it was a surprise when he was discovered as the villain.

This was my first Dr. Keel episode and he has a very likeable, natural, gentle manner contrasting well against Steed's early brusque charms. He probably doesn't have the legs more a more long term partnership but he's fine for the three episodes.

It has a good pace and I like the setting despite the plane crash idea.

7/10
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Post by Charlie Parker »

A strong crime thriller. Dr. King is a good character and certainly more useful then Venus Smith. I imagine they keep the passengers alive for blackmailing purposes as what they do with the Stewardess.
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Post by Frankymole »

Ironically, we have slightly more left of Dr King than of Dr Keel!
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Post by Rhonda »

Rhonda wrote:I can't remember if this is the 'airplane one' with a well know actor as the pilot (or not).
It's the episode 'Propellant 23' I was thinking of, with Nicholas Courtney. (Which reminds me that my game 'The Chain' is at this episode, and if anybody feels like moving it on I'd be very grateful :wink: )
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Post by Operation E.N.G.L.A.N.D. »

1. Got to love the copilot smoking a pipe during flight. That’s something you wouldn’t see anymore.
2. The painted backdrops used for the airport and the convent are really cheesy, particularly the latter.
3. I knew that Vincent was playing dumb from the beginning, but I didn’t think that he was actually the ringleader of the whole thing.:shock:
4. Yeah, the whole male nun thing is just deeply weird, particularly since they don’t actually explain it.
5. The first of many blinking corpses. One wonders how they manage to do it more realistically today.
6. Surprised King didn’t set the whole convent on fire when he took out the woman with the machine gun (probably another first for this show, by the way) with the giant Molotov cocktail.
Overall, a middling episode; interesting concept, but developed a little too slowly; much of the plot gets revealed in a rush at the end. Also, too many characters that you just know right away are involved somehow (with the exception of the bar owner who turns out to be a red herring.)
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Post by Lee »

The second in my Dr King watch-along.

I've always enjoyed this story since I first saw it on VHS back in the 90s. I remember the cover had a strangely painted piece of artwork on the front and was released with three other episodes - can't remember what they were now, though.

As someone who has a bit of a fear of flying (OK, quite a fear) this episode does nothing to help that. However, the idea, setting and execution are quite pleasing.

Another season 2 story not set in England - so far Dr King is an international companion to Steed. Perhaps there is some stereotyping going on with some of the Irish characters, but it is good to know some of it from the main ringleader was a out in to throw others off the trail. He had me fooled first time I saw it.

The mother superior gives a good calm performance and again hides well her intentions. The setting of the nunnery is a typical unusual Avengers setting, and wielding a machine gun at the end is again another of those Avengers touches which would become so much more familiar later in its run. I love seeing the genesis of ideas growing in the early years - there was the bizzare all the way back here, only it was a little more grounded.

Steed and King (not Tara!) seem to get on well. There is good chemistry between the actors / characters and it's a pity their run was limited to just the 3 stories. It seems in the early years Steed was in need of a doctor to accompany him on his adventures.

There is a good plot and enough to keep you guessing. I've given this 9.
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Post by Frankymole »

I see "Male Nun" is actually listed as a character on the front of the script, so it's not a production error or quirk of direction.

It seems like they were queasy about having a female nun strangle the surviving stewardess, and by implication the pilot as well. But there's an error when Bruce Boa's character says the male nun never left the bell tower except that once. He opens the door to Steed when the latter first visits and asks for Dr King. Amusingly, Steed makes great emphasis of King being "he's... a... a man" as if he sees through the disguise, but in fact he doesn't suspect.

Boa also says they kept ringing the bell every time there were visitors, so he couldn't make himself heard but that's not actually the case - the bell is often silent.
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