The New Science Fiction of the New Avengers

This is really a postscript to my survey of science fiction in The Avengers a couple of months back. Since then I’ve watched The New Avengers and I felt I ought to remark on the science fiction therein. There are far fewer episodes, so consequently there are fewer scifi episodes, but in the interests of completeness, here we go.

Suspended Animation

This is a field that features quite heavily in The New Avengers. The very first episode, Eagle’s Nest, concerns the revival of an infamous historical figure, whilst K is for Kill Part One The Tiger Awakens and K is for Kill Part Two Tiger by the Tail involve suspended armies revived by satellite signals received via cranial implants. It’s none too consistent – in the first case, it’s necessary to kidnap Peter Cushing to facilitate the revival; in the second, it’s entirely remote control with no indication of how the sleepers are kept hidden, let alone hydrated…

Engineering Fiction

Screen capture from Gnaws
I’ve never seen one as big as that before…

Also on the advanced biological side, The Midas Touch goes one step further than You’ll Catch Your Death in which the common cold was weaponised. This time victims are infected with multiple diseases (“yes, Mr Gambit, they died of everything”) via a carrier who is dosed up on drugs. Ummm…

Slightly more carefully thought through is the sleeping agent that can be deployed over a wide area in Sleeper. Delivered by an aircraft, it renders all subjects unconscious for a few hours.

Augmentation

Screen capture from Last of the Cybernauts...?
Dressed to impress

This was one of the staples of the original series features in the only direct sequel Last of the Cybernauts…?? (unfortunately, that title break Betteridge’s law). It’s more basic physical augmentation than the fancy neurological stuff we’ve seen before, but it’s still advanced engineering.

I’m not sure it quite counts as augmentation, because the birds are unmodified, but in Cat Among the Pigeons it is assumed they have a level of intelligence that enables communication and manipulation of them as a flock. Umm…

Then there’s plastic surgery. Not really sci-fi, except for how they effectively perfect doppelgängers in Faces. That would be impressive – if the recruits weren’t played by the same actors in the first place…

Screen capture from Gnaws
Is it an elephant? Is it a truck?

Almost as a counterpart to  Mission… Highly Improbable we have things getting bignified by a special formula in Gnaws. It’s never quite clear how this works, or how quickly, or why it embiggens and entire spider or rat, but only the fruit of the tomato…

And then there’s the return Who’s Who??? style mind-transfer in Three Handed Game, albeit a slightly less powerful version.

Hypnosis

Recollection of dehydration and exhaustion in Angels of Death effectively scare people to death. I’m not sure if I should count this as sci-fi, though, as I didn’t include Death’s Door from the original series.

Artificial Intelligence

Complex. An intelligent building.

Is It Any Good?

Actually, some of the sci-fi seems to suit The New Avengers. Though some of it is terrible. And with so few episodes, it’s hard to spot a pattern.

However, most of the sci-fi episodes are in the first series of the show, so it does seem that where the original show veered towards sci-fi later in its run, The New Avengers toyed with it (and not without success, as episodes like Sleeper show) but then went the other way.

Episodes like Gnaws and Complex that put sci-fi at the heart of the plot are unrewarding. As before, sci-fi has to be a peripheral element.

191 – Doctor Who – Last Christmas

In this episode, the Doctor gets Clara infected with crabs…  that’s a sentence I never thought I’d say about Doctor Who.

Simon and Eugene discuss Steven Moffat’s latest Doctor Who Christmas special – The Last Christmas.  Who’s last Christmas will it be?

190 – Story Arcs – Success Stories or Disasters Waiting to Happen?

Story Arcs, can they make or break a TV series?  What is the modern fascination with them?  Is it really new?  Has it ever been done right?

Simon and Eugene discuss story arcs.

189 – Blakes 7 – Deliverance

Is Avon the original Star Lord?  Can Blake overcome one dying man?  What is Orac?  Find out as Ben and Eugene discuss Deliverance.

Note:  There are some minor technical difficulties in this episode.

In Search of… Martians

The Martians are coming, the Martians are coming!

Maybe not.

Hard to believe, but when this episode of In Search of… was produced, it was hot on the heels of our first landers on Mars, Vikings 1 and 2.  The question of “is/was there life on Mars” was in the forefront of many people’s minds.  In Search of… was quick to exploit that.

A brief, not very accurate explanation of the formation of the solar system involved the sun being a collection of stuff (rather than gasses, primary hydrogen) and the planets being the “burnt cinders” flung out from the “igniting” sun that then formed the planets.

There’s some lovely footage of lava to represent the surface of the sun.  Well, what are you going to do?  There were no CGI effects in those days.

Nimoy, in a surprisingly authoritative setting – in front of a model Viking lander at JPL, tells about man’s desire to understand Mars, our sister planet.  Of how Percival Lowell first discovered the canals on Mars (remember them?)  He tells of how Mars once had water and that, perhaps, life on Mars left there to come to Earth, possibly forming life here.

If we return to Mars and terraform it, will we be returning the favor?

Not much to this episode, but there’s a great line from one of the scientists – “With all that water at the poles, we might as well melt it.”

I miss the good old days!

In Search of… Martians first aired on May 21, 1977.  Only 135 episodes to go.

188 – UFO – Timelash

If a UFO could approach Earth and hyper-light speed, would delusions of self-importance make you run around a film studio and taunt your boss?

Us neither.

Ben and discuss the next episode of UFO, Timelash!

In Search of… the Mummy’s Curse

Finally, we’re back to good, old-fashioned, hard-hitting investigative reporting of lunacy!  It’s the mummy’s curse! (Cue maniacal laughter and the sound of thunder.)

I don’t need to tell you about the curse of Tutankhamen (or is it the curse of Akhenaten?).  Howard Carter, along with his friend and financier, the Fifth Earl of Carnarvon, broke into King Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922.  Soon thereafter, Lord Carnarvon was dead under mysterious circumstances as, one by one, the people in the expedition died — apparent victims of the mummy’s curse.  Carter himself died just a short 17 years after opening the tomb.

Putting a slightly skeptical eye towards that, like the Bermuda Triangle, once you do the math, the deaths of the people involved occurred at statistically perfectly normal times for a group of people of that size.  In short, no one’s life was shortened by the opening of the tomb.

One amusing thing about this episode is that, being shot in 1976 or 1977, the Sixth Earl of Carnarvon, his son, was still alive and recalled the events surrounding his father’s death.  Interviewed for the In Search of… cameras, he was an obvious relic from another age.  Sitting for his TV interview in his stately home with a cigar in one hand and a drink in the other.

Finally, the story shifts from the curse of Tutankhamen to the curse of Akhenaten.

Akhenaten, father of Tutankhamen, introduced a massive shift in the religion of Egypt, taking considerable power away from the priests.  Upon his death, it’s said that his named was cursed.  Cursed to be forgotten.

Finally, that manifests itself in the form an anecdote about a play, which named Akhenaten, in which there was hailstorm during rehearsal, and two of the actresses took ill.  A quick google search on this produced…  no mention at all.  Was this made up whole-cloth by In Search of…?

Nimoy does his standups in a cemetery, which looks suspiciously like the same place the “re-enactments” of the doomed play were staged.

In Search of… the Mummy’s Curse first aired May 14th, 1977.  Only 136 episodes to go…