The opening of this episode is AAL! at its most Avengerish (not really surprising of course since Brian Clemens wrote the script). Sir John Marston (John Scott) bids his friends and colleagues a cheerful goodbye before stepping into a comfortable coffin – immediately afterwards he is pronounced dead by Wilson (Jeremy Young).
The coffin is delivered to an undertakers run by Mr Percy (Arthur Brough – glass of water for Mr Grainger please) and is opened to reveal a happy Marston, declaring that it’s good to be alive again. Unfortunately Mr Percy then shoots him dead ….
Now that’s how you write a teaser!
Clemens’ script sparkles throughout. Mind you, it doesn’t hurt that it boasts fine performances from some experienced players. Such as Deryck Guyler as Grantham, the snuff-taking Man from the Ministry who calls in Adamant to solve the mystery of why a number of financiers (including Marston) died immediately before they were due to face charges of tax evasion.
The common link is a psychiatrist called Velmer (John Le Mesurier). His profession serves as a cue for Adam and Georgina to discuss the merits of psychiatry in another comic scene. Georgina’s abuse of Adam’s priceless tea service also raises a smile.
The presence of John Le Mesurier is another major plus point in the episode’s favour. Although for a bright man, Velmer seems to be a little dense (even after learning about Adam’s past life, he doesn’t twig that his subject is actually the celebrated Adam Adamant). This is even odder when it’s later revealed that Velmer knows all about Adam.
Hamilton Dyce, as Mr Percy’s second in command, and Ilona Rogers (Susan) help to fill out the cast. I have to admit that she looks rather fine in her nurses uniform (which seems to have been designed to maximise her cleavage).
Velmer has sent Adam to a very strange nursing home where Susan is on hand to attend to his every need – although the buttoned up Adam draws the line at being undressed by her! The early dialogue exchanges between Harper and Rogers are a gift for both for them.
It’s nice to see Harper given some good material to get his teeth into – unlike some of the previous episodes Adam isn’t just portrayed as an uptight innocent, he seems to be a more rounded character today (quick witted and easy able to feign madness – Velmer is convinced that Adam’s Edwardian remembrances are simply delusions and Adam is happy to string him along).
Georgina has been sidelined for most of this episode – stuck in the flat with Simms who’s been entertaining her by reciting several of his hair-raising limericks – but eventually she pushes herself into the story by skulking around the offices of the health club. She encounters a strange-looking man rising from a coffin in a shock moment that seems designed to lead into an ad break (before you remember this was a BBC show).
Georgina and Susan later have a brief catfight which is the cue for Georgina to steal her clothes and for Susan to emerge a moment later in a state of undress. The conclusion – with the undertakers perishing in a barrage of friendly fire and Adam and Wilson fencing to the death – is a bit of a cracker.
The Very Happy Embalmers has a rather thin story but since it’s assembled and performed so well I’m not complaining. After a few false starts, this episode pointed a possible way ahead for the series, albeit as an Avengers clone. If AAL! was going to have a long term future then it would need to find its own voice, but for now this episode is simply content to be nothing less than first rate entertainment.