The Champions – Autokill

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Throughout the series many have tried, but nobody has been able to beat the Champions. Who could? Possibly only another (reprogrammed) Champion ….

The pre-credits sequence opens with a Nemesis agent, George Brading (Richard Owens), returning to HQ. So far so normal, but this doesn’t last as once inside he pulls out a gun and shoots Colonel Coulston (Bruce Boa) multiple times. It’s an orgy of violence that teeters on the ridiculous – the Colonel wobbles but he won’t fall down as Brading continues to fill him full of lead.

Tremayne gets a slap from Brading as he tries to stop his rampage and then a whole phalanx of Nemesis agents get involved. This short scene helps to finally flesh out Nemesis quite agreeably (for once we see that Richard, Craig and Sharron aren’t the only people who work there).

Like the shooting, the fight scene is choregraphed in a hyper-real way and concludes a pulsating pre-credits teaser that promises the audience fifty minutes of high-octane comic strip action.

Post credits, we drop into a faintly swinging party, where Richard and Sharron are handing round the nibbles and alcohol. Richard eyes a pretty girl, but another chap clearly wants her all to himself, so he decides to trip Richard down the stairs (a tad unfriendly that). Thank goodness for Richard’s cat-like acrobatic skills.  Mind you, the way he manages to keep his tray of drinks intact even after a highly athletic somersault is pushing the bounds of credibility somewhat.

As ever, there’s plenty of familiar faces to spot in the episode. Paul Eddington has already turned up in the teaser whilst Harold Innocent appears shortly afterwards.  Innocent is Dr Amis, a Nemesis doctor who favours dark glasses even when inside (well it helps to make him stand out and also hides the nasty bruise on his eye). Since the bruise is never mentioned you have to assume it was a genuine shiner and not applied via make up.

Brian Clemens’ second script for the series has a different tone from most of the series. Along with The Interrogation, it’s an episode where the stakes feel higher than usual (possibly because the series’ regulars are placed under maximum stress).  The only Geneva based story, it’s also of interest for the way that Tremayne is brought more into the centre of the episode.

After the initial orgy of action, the episode settles down for a while as the Champions play detective, doggedly retracting Brading’s steps. But there’s also an ominous feel developing as Klein (Eddington) sets out to target another operative and this time he’s aiming high by selecting Tremayne.

Klein is masquerading as a policeman (Eddington’s accent is interesting). You have to say that Tremayne is a little foolish to go off with him (hasn’t he ever heard about the dangers of accepting lifts from strangers?). Although in his defence, the baddies’ operation is clearly well funded since they’ve been able to take over a building and transform it into a police station. Complete with a pretty young woman holding a vase of flowers (although what she’s doing bringing the flowers out of the charge room is anybody’s guess).

A rogue Tremayne, now that’s a wonderful concept. A pity that the moment when the three Champions are forced to exercise maximum restraint against their boss is so short, but it’s still highly entertaining as stuntmen fling themselves around the office with wild abandon.

It’s nice to see that Sharron is the most forceful of our three leads. Whilst the boys are sitting back and almost admitting defeat, she’s keen to examine each and every angle, secure in the knowledge that Tremayne – now confined to a hospital bed and sinking rapidly – would do everything in his power to help them if the position was reversed.

Eric Pohlmann is Barker, the man behind the scheme to bring Nemesis to its knees.  We never discover why though – as happens often with The Champions, villains operate in a villainous way because that’s what villains do ….

The stakes are raised even higher when Richard falls into enemy hands. Pohlmann is good value as Barker pumps Richard full of drugs and begins to program him. His target? Craig of course.  Goodness knows where Barker was able to get those high quality b&w stills of Richard and Craig though.

The climax of the episode – Richard and Craig go multiple rounds against each other – is considerably more bloody than we’re used to.  Sharron isn’t left out of the action either (although Alexandra Bastedo’s stunt double is painfully obvious at times). I do like the little smile Sharron gives when she holds Richard steady for Craig to administer the knock out blow. Was this as scripted or an acting choice by Bastedo I wonder?

There are a few little things I could quibble about, but since this is the final episode (in Network DVD viewing order anyway) I’ll finish off this 2020 Champions rewatch on the most positive note and award Autokill five out of five.

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