NIGHTMARE SANTA FROM THE AVENGERS
"Patrick Macnee in fantasy land; John Steed having his mind got at by extra-sensory influence or telepathy, or something, so that his nightmares turned into reality. Christmas twistened into sinister shapes, dressed up in Dickensian costumes, one of which made Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) a fetching Oliver Twist - and incidentally fitted her out with tight trousers appropriate to the most vigorous fight scene I have yet seen her play.
Steed was cast as Carton, headed, presumably for the guillotine. All these panto-like Christmas festivities and gambollings were counterpointed by the sinister machinations of the gang resident in the stately home to which Steed and Emma came as guests. Four of the villains, seated about a table with a likeness of Steed in front of each, kept putting him to sleep, trying to get at his mind and force him to reveal some unspecified secret. With Emma's help, he kept them at bay. The whole phantasmagoria reached its peak in a room where Emma's fight with the gang - Steed lying unconscious most of the time - - was reflected in a myriad of distorting mirrors.
The whole show - - "Too Many Christmas Trees" - - was a visual feast for which director Roy Baker is to be thanked. Tony Williamson's script achieved a nice blend of comic and sinister. Patrick Macnee moved through it all with his traditional aplomb. Diana Rigg is beginning to show her stuff as Emma, still recognisable as having been created in Cathy Gale's image, but with pleasant and amusing idiosyncrasies all her own.
The three "baddies" - - Jeannette Sterk, Alex Scott, and Robert James - - had evil written all over them. Edwin Richfield, psychiatrist, had all the marks of the sinister character he wasn't, while Mervyn Johns was all affable and hospitable host until he was revealed as the king-pin of the gang, Steed's nightmare Santa Claus. Barry Warren was the worried young man who had got Emma and Steed into the house, and met a nasty end in the Great Expectations room when he took fright and tried to help them.
From: The Stage and Television Today, England, 30th December 1965.
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