The Champions – The Invisible Man

An amoral medico called John Hallam (Peter Wyngarde) has devised an ingenious plan to make himself a very rich man – he’s created a small device (the “invisible man” of the title) which when placed in someone’s ear can be used to relay instructions (and cause extreme pain).  Hallam uses it to force Sir Frederick Howard (Basil Dingham) to steal ten million pounds worth of gold bullion from the Bank of England.

Nemesis are on the trail, but bringing Hallam to justice won’t be easy – especially once Craig finds himself under the control of his own “invisible man” ….

The Invisible Man has a tip top guest star – Peter Wyngarde – which is a definite plus point in its favour. He’s not the dandy of the later Jason King years though – to begin with he’s smartly togged out in a three piece suit (he gets more causal later on). Wyngarde’s icily calm line delivery and stillness is very effective.

Screenwriter Donald James penned eight episodes of The Champions as well as various other ITC series including The Saint, Department S, The Protectors and The Adventurer. His list of writing credits (he was active between 1963 and 1981) tended to lean quite heavily towards the adventure series market, but he also wrote for Emergency Ward 10 and General Hospital.

You have to say that Hallam likes to make things complicated – melting down such a large stash of gold is a big job (couldn’t he have got Hallam to steal some diamonds instead?). Ah well, best not to worry about plot logic too much.

Sir Frederick has the pre-credits sequence to himself, but it’s not long before we clap eyes on Craig and Richard. Both are working out in the gym, when a muscle man (played by the instantly recognisable Dave Prowse) pops in and begins to preen himself. In response, Craig can’t help but show off a little. This rather makes a mockery of the fact they’re supposed to be keeping their super powers secret.

This is a Craig-centric episode, although Sharron and Richard do appear from time to time. It does mean that I’m feeling a little Alexandra Bastedo deprived today – especially since it would be easy to imagine Sharron going undercover as a nurse at Hallam’s private clinic. A missed opportunity ….

Craig gets a chance to use his super powers when – after escaping from Hallam’s clutches – he dives into a lake and holds his breath underwater for several minutes (thereby managing to convince Hallam that he’s dead). A pity he didn’t think about doing that when Hallam gassed him earlier in the episode. These super powers, they tend to come and go.

Hallam remains a rather nebulous character. We never really learn too much about him – why he wants to steal a fortune in gold, for example. Presumably we’re just supposed to accept that he does so because he’s a baddy and that’s what baddies do.

He’s given a sidekick – Charles (James Culliford) – who mainly exists as a line feed. But there’s an interesting moment when an irate Hallam slaps Charles quite hard. Knowledge of some of Wyngarde’s other roles gives the scene a faint homoerotic subtext. Hallam later tells Charles to use the vibrator on Craig, but luckily this is all quite family friendly.

Wyngarde’s performance helps to make both the character of Hallam and the episode in general a little more compelling than it otherwise would have been. Adding on an extra 0.5 for Peter Wyngarde, I’ll give The Invisible Man an above average score of three and a half out of five.

 

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