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  • title card: white all caps text reading 'A SENSE OF HISTORY' outline din black and superimposed on Groom, slumped in the passenger seat with an arrow in his back
  • Mrs Peel smirks when she finds a lingerie photo pasted to the inside of one of the student's desks
  • Students wearing animal masks surround Steed who is forceful with the unmasked Duboys, standing before him
  • Carlyon and Steed take cover under the wagon as the flaming arrows rain in; Steed is trying to extinguish the arrow that has skewered his bowler hat
  • Carlyon puts a colander on his head to act as a helmet as he get ready in case of another attack. Steed sits with his back against Carlyon's
  • Mrs Peel leans against a pillar, resplendent in her Robin Hood outfit and critical of Duboys for wearing the same costume; three students in mediaeval costume are huddled behind her on the left
  • Mrs Peel and Steed burst into the lecture room and she prepares to fire an arrow to disarm Grindley
  • Mrs Peel declares Steed a fraud as he closes the sidecar while she kicks the starter of the motorcycle

Series 4 - Episode 24
A Sense of History

8½ stars

by Martin Woodhouse
Directed by Peter Graham Scott

Episode Rating

Subject 0-5
Direction 4 stars
Music
3½ stars
Humour
3½ stars
Intros/tags 4 stars
Villains 5 stars
Plot 5 stars
Emma 5 stars
Sets/Props 4 stars
Overall
(0-10)
8½ stars

Funny, sexy, furious - and that's the whole episode, not just Rigg. All the characters are drawn from the Robin Hood saga that the story becomes at the fancy dress rag, a clever twist on the set-up.

The Fashions

Emma's Fashions Steed's Fashions
  1. Double-breasted white woolen jacket with six large black buttons, thin piping on collar and pocket flaps (on hips, slightly slanted down towards hips), worn with herringbone hipster pants with a large black leather belt, rollneck blouse with large loose cuffs and a honeycomb patterned black and white head scarf, plus Edward Rayne's b/w boots
  2. (1) without the head scarf, with an academic gown on top
  3. Robin Hood costume
  4. Rollneck blouse with turned back cuffs and leather motorcycle pants, Edward Rayne's b/w boots
  1. single-breasted overcoat with slit breast pocket, 2 covered hip pockets (probably brown) over a navy chalk stripe three-piece suit, single button on cuff, dark bowler and umbrella with a white double-cuffed shirt and dark tie, chelsea boots
  2. (1) with an academic gown instead of overcoat
  3. (1)
  4. (1) without overcoat
  5. (1)
  6. (4)
  7. Sheriff of Nottingham costume
  8. mid-brown overcoat and three-piece suit with dark bowler and tie, white shirt

The Cars

Marque/Model/Type Number Plate
Rolls Royce Silver Wraith LWB, with 'Teviot' Touring Saloon coachwork by Hooper & Co Ltd KXQ 777
Lotus Elan S2 HNK 999C
Gypsy Caravan -
BSA motorcycle and enclosed sidecar FYK 76C

Who's Killing Whom?

Victim Killer Method
James Broom CBE Duboys V* arrow
Grindley V* FAKED} Millerson V* arrow
John Petit V* Grindley V* crushed by bookshelf
Click a name to see the face

Continuity and trivia

  1. 1:18/1:00 - Broom approaches the fairly large college down an almost unused one-lane dirt road which appears to be the main thoroughfare as the villains are lying in wait there. Talk about backwoods education! Strangely, we later see a much grander entrance (4:16 - actually The American College at Raddlett, seen again in Death's Door).
  2. 1:30 et passim. - Throughout the episode, all the characters refer to St Bode's Academy, but it was obviously a late change - the original name of the university in the script was St. Bede's (as in The Venerable Bede, the Anglo-Saxon chronicler).Only the introductory scene where Carlyon gets out of the boot of Broom's car do they say St Bode's without it being redubbed.
    They must have been corncerned about legal action from a real St Bede's. Such as this one. At 14:10/14:40 there's an incredibly obvious over-dub when Grindley says the name. The props are all emblazoned with St Bede's as well.
  3. 3:07/2:49 - Steed and Emma discover Carlyon in the boot of Broom's car, although the tarpaulin over the car would have made it very difficult for him to have got there.
  4. 8:00-8:10 - Staircase 3 is the haunt of the protagonists: Room 16 is M. Millerson, J.W. Pettit & C.D.N. Allen are in Room 17; Eric C.N. Duboys gets Room 18 to himself.
  5. 8:07 - Poor Rocky Taylor: in his first episode as a regular stuntman, he immediately gets hurled over Mrs Peel's shoulder and get hit in the nose by Steed's umbrella (11:33).
  6. 8:54 - Steed says "pretty strong stuff", referring to the fascistic thesis, then adds, "Yuck, so is this" and hands Carlyon his coffee. Carlyon replies, "What do you mean? It's continental roasted!". However, some time later (28:02/28:58), Steed says that he's very partial to Carlyon's "continental blended".
  7. 11:20 - Despite the fact that Carlyon's a marked man, Steed leaves him alone in a brightly-lit wagon in the deserted woods for most of the episode; even more incredibly, the woods-savvy students don't manage to kill him, only making the one attack which is foiled by Steed.
  8. 12:22 - Getting around censorship: Mrs Peel says she likes her students to be wide-eyed and innocent as she opens a desk. She discovers a pin-up of a girl in black garter belt, stocking and see-through underwear inside and hurriedly closes it.
  9. 12:47 - She also finds a 15th May 1965 edition of Lion comic and quickly flips through it.
  10. 13:31 - Steed cheekily quips, "an awful lot of theses" (i.e. faeces) when Henge is carrying on at length about how many dissertations had been written at the university over the years.
  11. 14:00 - Grindley is wearing prop spectacles with a hole in the middle of the lenses to help him see properly.
  12. 21:52 - The caravan is parked in the exact same part of the woods where Broom was killed - the trees are quite distinctive and the students attack from the same direction as they did Broom.
  13. 23:50/24:30 - Richard Carlyon puts out a flaming arrow with a bottle of brandy - looks like someone had been watering it down!
  14. 30:02, 31:48 & 33:23 - Lightning strikes twice! In fact, three times - it's the same thunderbolt footage used in all the lightning strikes.
  15. 33:19/34:25 - The shelves that fall on Petit look too flimsy to kill anyone they might land on.
  16. 34:28 - Emma puts the books carefully in order, while Steed piles them onto the shelf all over the place.
  17. 48:22 - The picture quality is suddenly worse with the change of camera angle just before the commercial break.
  18. 48:50 - The Avengers depart down the same stretch of road as most of the rest of the season.
  19. The late, great writer of the episode, Martin Woodhouse, confirmed in 2009 that the "sense of history" runs deep in the script - there's the university named after The Honourable Bede and the character names are derived from the Robin Hood chronicles, thus the rag week scene with Robin Hood fancy dress.
    Robin Duboys is a name sometimes given to Robin Hood (Norman for "Robin of the woods"), and Millerson is Much the Miller's son; John Petit is Little John; Marianne Grey is Maid Marion; Richard Carlyon is Richard Coeur de Lion, (i.e. King Richard I, the Lionheart) and the almost completely superfluous Allen is Alan à Dale.
    Woodhouse did a similar thing with his script for A Chorus of Frogs, the inspiration coming from an Ancient Greek play.
  20. Running time: 49'43"
A note on the timecodes
Where I have listed two sets of timecodes, the first is from the 2009-11 Optimum Releasing/Studio Canal DVD sets, any other timecodes are from the A&E and Contender DVD sets from a decade beforehand.
The new releases have been remastered and their frame rate has been changed, resulting in a shorter running time. However, the picture quality has increased markedly. I assume this is because they used a simple 2:2 pulldown (24 @ 25) when converting from the original film masters (film runs at 24 frames per second, while PAL runs at 25fps, the new DVDs are in PAL format).
This pulldown was also the cause of audio errors on many episodes, especially for Series 5, as the audio sped up to match the new rate (4% faster), rather than being properly pitch-shifted. Checking the dialogue sheets, which list the feet and frames of the reels, it looks like the speed change is around 5.04%, so there may be some cuts as well - probably from around the commercial breaks and ends of reels, as they amount to about 25 seconds. All my assumptions are based on the episodes having been filmed on standard 35mm film, which has 16 frames per foot and runs at 24 frames per second, so a minute of footage uses 90 feet of film (1,440 frames).
These audio errors have been corrected in the currently available DVDs, but the 2:2 pulldown remains. There is also the addition of a Studio Canal lead-in, converted to black and white to match the episode for Series Four, but colour for Series Five, adding an extra 18 or 19 seconds to the runnning time and making it harder to match timecodes with previous releases. It's annoying that it has been slapped on every single episode, Series 1-3 didn't suffer this indignity.
The previous Contender and A&E DVD releases didn't seem to suffer from these problems, so I assume they either used soft telecine and preserved the original 24fps rate of the film (my preferred option in DVDs) or they used 24 @ 25 pulldown (2:2:2:2:2:2:2:2:2:2:2:3 Euro pull-down). Let's hope the much-rumoured bluray release will revert to native 24fps with soft telecine so we won't have these problems again.

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