The Avengers: The Murder Market

Season 4, Episode 7.

Let's see how my soon-to-be-retired Avengers episode template holds up.


It does certainly do that. 

A man ("Stone") marked with a carnation awaits his date's arrival. When she shows up, she shoots him dead.


Close. It is Mrs. Peel who visits Steed, where he tells her about eleven recent murders they've been tasked to solve. As per usual, the only clues are receipts and scraps from Stone's pockets.

This is actually the first episode to feature Diana Rigg as Mrs. Peel, though it was not the first episode to air. (That would be "The Town of No Return.") As our friends at The Avengers Forever note:

"Diana appears to be feeling her way along, and Emma is not quite "herself" yet. Instead of her usual bright, razor-sharp wit, she is low-key, almost sultry.

"Other anomalies include her uncharacteristic, rather Cathy Gale-ish * lashing-out at Steed and her awkward fight with the female baddie, which resembles more of a girlie catfight."

* Emma's predecessor, for those who are unfamiliar.

We'll get to the catfight later. Patrick Macnee caught the last train out since the last time I covered The Avengers in these pages. 

He was a familiar and well-loved figure of the small screen and large from his debut in the 1940s until his retirement in 2003. I knew him first as the disembodied celestial voice on the original Battlestar and then as James Bond's sidekick in A View to a Kill. When my parents started getting those Avengers episodes A&E put out on VHS in the 80s, I'd throw them in occasionally out of curiosity, and it was Macnee's taped introductions to the episodes that opened the series up to me. He imbued the character - as he did for any role he played, even when showing up on The Love Boat - with class, charm, and confidence. 

Not to mention a good deal of humor.


Emma meets with Stone's family, while Steed heads to the photographer whose name is printed on the receipt found in his pocket What follows is historically interesting:

As we all know from Austin Powers, the "Yes! Yes, baby!" photographer is an enduring trope of "Swinging London." Previously I'd assumed this was only an account of the movie Blow-Up, which came out in 1966. That's the year this episode premiered in the US, but it premiered in the UK in '65 and was actually filmed in '64. And here's the same character!

Was this trope already well-established even in '64? Or is it just a coincidence? Or even the first appearance of said trope? I'm re-reading Peter Brown's The Love You Make as we speak, and the Swinging London anecdotes are fast and furious therein. I'll keep an eye out for any corroboration of this. Given London's importance to the fashion and fashion photography scene, it would make sense.

Either way it's a fun scene. And Steed learns that a matchmaking business named Togetherness, Inc. routinely sends work the photographer's way, so that's where Steed goes to next.


Here my template fails me a bit, as while the audience does eavesdrop on the criminal side of things, so does Steed. 

Which is to say, the audience gains no information before Mrs. Peel or Steed do. With one exception - when Steed learns of the gang's next target as a result of his snooping, he calls Mrs. Peel and she goes to the man's home to investigate. Before discovering his corpse in the bathtub, she sees this lady running off:

Whom we of course recognize as the lady from the prologue.


Steed effortlessly passes himself as off as a ne'er-do-well fop at Togetherness, Inc., with a cover story guaranteed to catch the attention of the higher-ups. Not mention Barbara Roscoe:

The social sniffing that goes on between Steed and Lovejoy (Patrick Cargill aka that guy from Help!) is great fun. Lots of fun dialogue in this scene, whether it's Steed's rattling off a detailed list of wifely attributes that easily establishes himself as a member of the landed and wellborn (later, Mrs. Peel tells him his real ideal woman would be "a cross between Lucretia Borgia and Joan of Arc" - I'll just leave that there) or telling Lovejoy he "tried working once. Didn't work out. Too much like work."

"Public school?"
"Expelled from three." 

Public school in the UK is what we'd think of as private school in the US. Oddly enough.

Lovejoy can barely contain his excitement at landing a potentially very lucrative new client to knock off and wastes no time setting him up with:
That girl again! Upon meeting, though, she doesn't shoot him outright.

There's a lot of suggestive and cheeky stuff going on in this scene, (the horse-riding accoutrements provide plenty of innuendo) all while Steed strings her along with talk of a rich cousin whose death will clear the way for his inheriting a fortune. 


None to be found! And ditto for our next category:


She does, however, drink too much champagne and then climb into a coffin. So there's that.


As Steed strings the gang along, Peel works with Stone's soon behind-the-scenes, trying to uncover their murder-for-inheritances scheme.

This leads them to uncover the real head of operations:
Played by Suzanne Lloyd.

We just had a look at Ms. Lloyd's memorable Twilight Zone appearance in these page. It's too bad I don't have any episodes of The Saint in the ol' TV Tomb of Mystery, as she appeared on that show quite a bit and I could go three-for-three with a look at one of those episodes. Ah well.

The fight scene between her and Mrs. Peel is indeed a little stilted, but a) I for one didn't get a "catfight" vibe from it, and b) I don't know if anyone's coming to The Avengers for well-coordinated Jackie-Chan slam-bang action. Emma has the situation well-in hand -

and I like this "lights out" gag with the lamp cutting out when Emma flips her over the couch:

but she only passes out for good once Mrs. Peel throws her into Steed's arms, where she falls unconscious.

Speaking of Steed, he escapes his own peril by utilizing the ol' pose-as-the-mannequin trick.

Foreshadowed in several earlier shots:


Indeed - this one with Emma as a chauffer with Steed in the back, speaking without sound until he realizes the partition is up.

The episode is filled with these sorts of wry remarks on the institution of marriage - nothing too serious or groundbreaking, but I like how they always tie up the story's thematic concerns with this little sequence at the end.



The Avengers will return in: "How To Succeed... at Murder."


The Twilight Zone: Perchance to Dream

How is it possible I've yet to allocate any TV Tomb space to the original Twilight Zone? 152 episodes of some of my favorite TV, and I've screencapped the opening credits to Knight Rider and Quantum Leap before even getting to a one of them. Let's take immediate steps in a better direction and have a look at: 

Season 1, Episode 9.

"Twelve O'Clock noon. An ordinary scene, an ordinary city. Lunch time for thousands of ordinary people. To most of them, this hour will be a rest, a pleasant break in the day's routine. To most, but not all. To Edward Hall time is an enemy, and the hour to come is a matter of life and death." 

Rod Serling did not appear on-camera to deliver his intros and outros in Season 1. He doesn't here, either - this is a picture from Season 2's "King Nine Will Not Return". But hey! Rod Serling, ladies and gentlemen.

As Mr. Serling narrates the above, the camera settles on the rotating door entryway through which a steady stream of people enter and exit. Our beleaguered man Edward staggers before it. He tells a concerned passerby that he is the most tired man in the world, but he mustn't go to sleep - if he goes to sleep, he'll never wake up. 

He's at the building for a talking cure with a shrink, Dr. Rathmann, that his regular doctor has recommended.
He mutters ominously to himself while looking out the window.

Finally Rathmann draws him out, and Edward lies down to tell the doctor his tale. Edward suffers from a congenital heart condition and is one doctor's orders to avoid thinking about any unpleasantries. He finds this difficult as he has such an active imagination. One particular thing he imagines is the possibility that he'll be driving along one day and someone will be in the backseat of his car, hiding there to kill him. 

He begins to obsess on the idea, until...

He loses control of the wheel and crashes. His doctor tells him he should have died from the shock. He vows to take it even easier, but then the dreams begin. 

In them, he's at an amusement park, "the kind you see out of nightmares, everything warped and twisted out of shape."
He overhears a barker promoting the "most sensational and electrifying exhibition since Little Egypt" and wanders over.
And it is there he first espies...
Maya. (Suzanne Lloyd)
She laser-focuses on Edward and begins to taunt him with hard-to-believe-this-was-1959 grinding and gyrating.
When he flees in panic, she's almost orgasmically delighted.

He doesn't get very far before she appears, now in a glimmering white dress, and chides him for running from her. She knows things about him that she couldn't possibly know. She tells him she knows he's dreaming and that she wants him to take her into a nearby ride, where it's soft and cool and dark. (Like a grave.)

"How can I argue with a dream?"
Into the underworld...

"You can kiss me now."
"What if I don't want to?"
"Oh you want to."
"Whose dream is this?"

It's then that he wakes up screaming. Edward tells the doctor that as a child he dreamed in chapters, like a movie serial, and he knows as soon as he lets his guard down and falls back asleep, she'll be waiting there.

Sure enough, the next night...

Back at the amusement park, Maya re-appears. He begs her to leave him alone, but, powerless before her despite his own narration, she maneuvers him onto the roller coaster.

The ride begins, and she takes sadistic delight in driving him to the precipice of fatal excitement, then pulling back to watch him writhe in agony. What follows is only slightly less suggestive than the Kahn-ut-tu healing ritual from "A Private Little War." 

When he finally can't take it anymore, her demeanor suddenly changes and she tells him repeatedly and urgently to jump. JUMP, EDWARD! He wakes, again in a cold panic, convinced if he dares sleep again, he'll be right back on the roller coaster. But, he tells the psychiatrist, if he stays awake much longer, the strain will be too much for his heart. "Heads, you win; tails, I lose."

He leaves the office, convinced no one can help him, when he is stopped dead in his tracks by the site of the secretary:

Whereupon he races back into the office -

There's a storytelling proverb that if you have a gun on the mantle in the first act, it's got to be fired in the third. The same might not go for windows, but I very much appreciate the defenestration payoff from the scene screencapped earlier.

The Twilight Zone, like EC before it, is synonymous with ironic twist endings. Here we get a double-zing: first Maya as the secretary and then this:

"When he came in, I told him to sit down and he did. In less than two seconds, he was asleep."
"A heart attack? Well, I suppose there are worse ways to go."

"They say a dream takes only a second or so and yet in that second a man can live a lifetime. He can suffer and die and who's to say which is the greater reality, the one we know or the one in dreams, between heaven, the sky, the earth, in the Twilight Zone." 

"Perchance to Dream" shares some conceptual and visual design with the classic German Expressionist film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, particularly with its shadowy, skewed sets and its twist ending and concerns with somnambulist homicide.

Interesting names, too. The psychiatrist is "Rathmann," which is a short walk to "Rational Man" while the word "Maya" comes from ancient Hindu texts and means "illusion." According to Wendy Doniger's Dreams, Illusion, and Other Realities, "to say that the universe is an illusion (māyā) is not to say that it is unreal; it is to say, instead, that it is not what it seems to be, that it is something constantly being made. Māyā not only deceives people about the things they think they know; more basically, it limits their knowledge."

Our main character's surname is named "Hall," too - as in the hallway between the rational and the illusory/ unreal? Am I overthinking this? Sure. Roll another number for the road.

Suzanne Lloyd's performance is a standout. I can't claim to be all that familiar with her body of work, but here she combines sensual with sinister quite effectively. 

Most of the subtext is actually more how-did-they-get-away-with-this-text.


(no stranger to horror with a staggering amount of credits to his name) and
Adapting his own short story published in Playboy, November 1958.
"The Twilight Zone brought to you by Oasis Cigarettes. Soothed with the softest taste of all, and the menthol misting makes it so. Cool. Refreshing. Just as the mist of morning dew refreshes a flower. That's Oasis, the only filtered cigarette that's Oasis cool, Oasis mild, Oasis fresh."