The second story continues the gradual transformation of David Keel from the friendly GP who’s willing to go the extra mile for his patients into the crimefighter who will bend the law as necessary – and even be willing to break it – in the service of what’s right.
Anthony Howell and Julian Wadham share the honours more equally in this story, as we start to find out something about John Steed – quick-witted, something of a ladies’ man, and sometimes a little too willing to jump into the deep end. While it’s not the debonair Steed of later stories, there are clear signs that that could be the true character currently hiding beneath the surface. Howell’s Keel knows how to push his buttons to an extent, and there’s a nice moment (repeated in the extras) when he teases Steed.
Once again, John Dorney has created a strong audio tale from Brian Clemens’ original script – there’s a good use of scene shifts, and Ken Bentley never allows the villains to descend into caricature. If this were being written today, you might think that Pretty Boy and his brother were a dig at the Krays – if Clemens intended that in 1961, near the height of the Twins’ reign, then he was sailing very close to the wind. There’s only one line that feels really out of place, when a character talks about Spicer’s inability to shoot straight and hoping that he’s better at it when he’s being paid – particularly when you bear in mind that Spicer’s shooting straight when he’s being paid was the catalyst for the whole damn series!
There are plenty of twists and turns in this story, and opportunities for both Keel and Steed to shine; there’s not so much for the supporting characters for do – Colin Baker’s Dick Tredding and Lucy Briggs-Owen as new receptionist Carol Wilson are there to support Keel, and provide a degree of normality but I won’t be surprised if the characters are gradually phased out.
Verdict: A solid story that completes the set-up for the show. 8/10