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Julian Wadham as John Steed
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2015 8:20 am    Post subject: Julian Wadham as John Steed Reply with quote

I'm going to start off this thread by saying that Julian's interpretation of Steed does work for me; it's not the same performance as that of Patrick Macnee of course, but this is not a 'missing story' type of series where the plays are intended to fit within what was on television. Rather, this is more like a reboot in production terms. There is the added bonus that the use of original stories and scripts gives us an element of recreating the past, but it's also very much a new production by a new company in the same way that plays are staged many times yet never exactly the same. Julian has a grip, in my opinion, on the enigmatic nature of Steed as a member of the secret services even if some of the charisma is missing. His rapport with the other regulars certainly makes up for any shortcomings elsewhere for me.
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2015 11:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is It acceptable to talk about drawbacks or problems in this thread?
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2015 11:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lhbizness wrote:
Is It acceptable to talk about drawbacks or problems in this thread?

Yes, that was the reasoning behind creating separate threads for the character interpretations and the episodes. Feel free to debate away!
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 06, 2015 1:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OK, moving beyond the fact that Wadham is not Patrick Macnee (no one can be, of course), here's my problem: Wadham's Steed is not likable or, more importantly, believable. He veers between a rather one-dimensional foppishness and an attempt at being hard-boiled and harsh that never comes off. When he does Steed's "harshness" (as in Brought to Book, where he's supposedly posing as a villain), it does not come off. He sounds like he's playing a part, and would be unlikely to convince even the dumbest of stereotypical Cockney toughs. (Wadham has a very clipped, very posh accent that honestly grates on my ears - reminds me of the Yahs I went to school with). So I don't find his version of Steed convincing for the part that he has to play. He lends no soul to a character who was pretty scantily drawn to begin with.

I do disagree with the assertion that this isn't a "missing series" concept. It is exactly that: it's doing the episodes that no longer exist. There is a sense that this is as close as we're ever likely to come to "seeing" these episodes. As such, I simply wish (again, for my own personal feelings about the show) that the Steed here sounded more like the Steed I read in the scripts, or see in Macnee.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 06, 2015 11:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I quite like him and he's become more relaxed as the series has progressed. If you listen to the making of pieces (at the end of the episode on the first set of disks), he makes the point that he didn't want to try to impersonate Patrick - and I agree that would have been a mistake. We don't have much surviving Patrick to go on from season 1 so it would be a mistake to assume he's like the Patrick of later seasons (I'm not suggesting that anyone here is doing that).
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2015 6:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Admittedly I have not listened past the first volume, entirely because I didn't much like the first episodes and saw no reason to drop another twenty bucks on something I'm not in love with. However, I am tempted to give the second volume a shot just because it contains some of my favorite scripts (based on the info in Alan's books).

There's nothing wrong with Wadham not wanting to impersonate Patrick - though if he could have done it WELL, I would have been all for it. It's that his interpretation of Steed grates on me because it comes off as very one-note and unbelievable. Whether or not Patrick's performance was different can only be projected, with assumptions based on what we still have of the performance from Series 1 and then the later series. But even in The Frighteners, Patrick's Steed has a believable edge. I am willing to buy the hard-boiled attitude coupled with the charm and even the slight foppishness. Steed feels like a full-blown character and not a very shallow simulacrum. I don't much care why Wadham plays Steed the way he does - he's either misinterpreted the character or isn't a good enough actor to carry it off (in my view, of course).
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2015 9:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The 'one note' comment is an interesting one, and I'm not saying at this point that I agree or disagree with the validity of the observation; merely that it's an interesting angle in itself. Have any of us here actually listened to a television episode without the pictures? How would Patrick come across if you took away every visual aspect and element of his performance? Is it a direct comparison being made, when actually much of what makes the original performance unique and identifiable was down to a range of artistic skills that cannot be expressed in the audio medium? True, many of the skills are indeed the same. But if saying one performance is 'superior' to another, is it only those talents common to both film and radio arts that are being considered?
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2015 10:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, television is not radio, is it? You bring different skills to a visual performance than you do to an exclusively aural one. Patrick may not have been a good Steed on the radio, but then he didn't have to be. Wadham DOES have to be a good aural Steed. And, to me, he's not. He has no depth. (And this does come around to another one of my problems with this radio series: the attempt to translate one medium to another that does not come off well. But I won't derail the conversation on that one).

I do say that Patrick has greater warmth and laughter in his voice in general. He also made the character to a large degree, but I was trying to move away from comparing the two and simply remarking on what I think is seriously lacking in Wadham's performance.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2015 12:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I do say that Patrick has greater warmth and laughter in his voice in general

Would that have been the case with the s1 scripts that the current cast are working from? Having now listened to twelve of them, my impression is that the show was much more deeply rooted in the pure crime genre with limited opportunities for the levity that the cast exploited in later series. Where JW does have a chance to exchange humour with AH or LBO in an episode, in my opinion he does okay. But the 'humour in the face of danger' style of later series feels to me as lacking in the scripts as the performances. Having said that, there are one or two lighter episodes; but early on these seem like the exception rather than the rule.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2015 12:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Entirely based on 1) the scripts I've read from Alan's book and 2) the still existent episodes (including The Frighteners), yes, Steed has more humor. PATRICK has more humor, just as an actor.

Wadham's performance is very lacking in charisma. I am not interested in his Steed - he is not charming nor is he particularly a hard-boiled anti-hero. I'm not certain we can just chalk it up to "well, the episodes were different" or even that the character was different. That's not the issue. Characters still have to be interesting at some level.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2015 3:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spaceship Dispatcher wrote:
Have any of us here actually listened to a television episode without the pictures?


I did that - for the first time ever - when I was writing my chapter on "A Touch of Brimstone". I had noticed aspects of the soundscape while watching but found myself constantly distracted from it by the visuals (as ought to be the case). Listening to it proved how good the score and effects actually were.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2015 10:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
when I was writing my chapter on "A Touch of Brimstone" I... found myself constantly distracted from it by the visuals (as ought to be the case)

I wonder which visuals they might have been Wink
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2015 3:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lhbizness wrote:
Entirely based on 1) the scripts I've read from Alan's book and 2) the still existent episodes (including The Frighteners), yes, Steed has more humor. PATRICK has more humor, just as an actor.


Well, The Frighteners is the only extant episode fron series 1 with Steed in it - his scenes from Hot Snow are lost. And, The Frighteners is late in the series so there was room for much development, especially with the anecdotal evidence that Macnee was told his character wasn't working and he had to recharacterise him.
Now, early Steed is definitely harder, but he develops within series 1 (although sometimes regresses, as in his having no qualms about endangering Bunty in Toy Trap).
Having said that, Steed in The Frighteners often shows glimpses of outright comedy, but was that an aberration compared to the rest of the series or the establishing norm? He's certainly funny in the Martin & Venus episodes, so it would appear that the character is established as warmer by the end of series 1 but there is an undercurrent of the end justifies the means all the way through to the end of series 3, if not beyond.
Cathy leaves, after all, because of his callousness.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2015 4:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wait...so the episode in which we can see Steed's humor should be marked off as an aberration and therefore not pertinent to this conversation? Nor was I saying humor as in "making jokes." I mean humor as in warmth, likability, etc. etc. Patrick is a likable screen presence. Maybe he wasn't in the earlier episodes - there is literally no way of establishing that. Maybe what I dislike in Wadham I would dislike in Patrick. However, Wadham is the Steed that we have for those episode and he IS one-note, he is unlikable, and he is one-dimensional. He brings nothing to the part except a posh accent. You can't argue that that's all that Patrick brings because we don't have Patrick's performance except in the one episode in which he brings a lot more than that. That is my opinion. I think the scripts provide Steed with more humor and warmth than what Wadham places in the character.

I don't see that "the ends justify the means" as counteracting anything to do with humor, likability, or warmth. Steed's a complex character and he does things that are not always moral. That does not mean he's not likable. (I think the Toy Trap thing is actually an example of Keel's utter inflexibility and self-righteousness, not Steed's meanness. Keel, for me, is the far less interesting character across the board).

I was trying to get away from arguing the difference between Patrick and Wadham because of conversations like this. Wadham's Steed does not have charm - that likewise has nothing to do with the morality of his behavior. Even his supposed harshness is not believable. He's not hard-boiled, he's not an anti-hero. I don't BELIEVE in his Steed.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2015 4:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lhbizness wrote:
...he is unlikable...

This statement in relation to Julian's interpretation is one I find both harsh and inaccurate; to be unlikable means that, by accepted social normailty, it's not possible to like someone or something. Since three people in this conversation alone do like him, and enough people are placing repeat orders to prompt the new Emma audios, I would dispute the claim that it's not possible to like him at all and suggest qualifying the statement as some fans individually find it impossible to like him; which is a totally different thing to being unlikable per se.

Quote:
I was trying to get away from arguing the difference between Patrick and Wadham because of conversations like this.

Excluding the quoted paragraph, you mention Patrick by name 12 times in only 5 posts. Is that trying to get away from making comparisons?
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2015 4:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lhbizness wrote:
Wadham's Steed does not have charm - that likewise has nothing to do with the morality of his behavior. Even his supposed harshness is not believable. He's not hard-boiled, he's not an anti-hero. I don't BELIEVE in his Steed.

I can see your points, but if JW's interpretation of Steed is not a charming one then surely that's simply a new creative direction? Personally, I do find it easy to believe in Steed as an agent precisely because he is neither too hard or too much of a hero. He comes across to me as a game player.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2015 5:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spaceship Dispatcher wrote:
Lhbizness wrote:
...he is unlikable...

This statement in relation to Julian's interpretation is one I find both harsh and inaccurate; to be unlikable means that, by accepted social normailty, it's not possible to like someone or something. Since three people in this conversation alone do like him, and enough people are placing repeat orders to prompt the new Emma audios, I would dispute the claim that it's not possible to like him at all and suggest qualifying the statement as some fans individually find it impossible to like him; which is a totally different thing to being unlikable per se.


This seems to be an argument of semantics now. I find Wadham's Steed unlikable. I thought that was implied that it's my opinion, not an objective fact - I don't really want to have to qualify every statement I make as "this is my opinion." I don't find that the argument that other people like him to in any way negate my own opinion or my experience.

Quote:
Quote:
I was trying to get away from arguing the difference between Patrick and Wadham because of conversations like this.

Excluding the quoted paragraph, you mention Patrick by name 12 times in only 5 posts. Is that trying to get away from making comparisons?


In my first post I was attempting to move away from the argument of comparison and explain my issues with Wadham's performance in itself. The conversation has since veered in the direction of comparison - however, yes. It is true that we have no performances from Patrick from Season 1 except for The Frighteners. So as such we can't really draw a comparison between the two. I will say that from the reading of the scripts of themselves (again, those bits that have been made publicly available), I am more interested in the written Steed than in the Steed that Wadham interprets him as.

Again: Wadham's interpretation to me comes off as no interpretation at all. I will repeat: I find it hard to believe in his Steed. He doesn't convince me, not as a secret agent and not as a "man-about-town." He does not convince me that he's a character, but rather a superficial cut-out of a character. He has not elevated Steed to the level of being a human being, but rather kept him as something papery, thin, on a page. I hear no complexity, no intrinsic love of the character, no desire to make Steed into anything more than a superficial construct.

That is my opinion.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2015 5:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spaceship Dispatcher wrote:
Lhbizness wrote:
Wadham's Steed does not have charm - that likewise has nothing to do with the morality of his behavior. Even his supposed harshness is not believable. He's not hard-boiled, he's not an anti-hero. I don't BELIEVE in his Steed.

I can see your points, but if JW's interpretation of Steed is not a charming one then surely that's simply a new creative direction? Personally, I do find it easy to believe in Steed as an agent precisely because he is neither too hard or too much of a hero. He comes across to me as a game player.


Granted, but that does not make it a particularly attractive creative direction. I would prefer to actually enjoy listening to a character, even one that I don't love, rather than feeling my eyes roll into the back of my head every time he opens his mouth. I don't know what is served, narratively, by having half of a series occupied by a character with no charisma. I don't want to listen to him, I don't care what happens to him. I don't understand why anyone would want to help him. Keel's continued desire to assist him makes no narrative sense. In reading the scripts, I do care.

As I mentioned earlier, however, I am slightly tempted to try the second volume just to see if anything improves or my opinion of Wadham is tempered by later scripts. I love the scripts of Ashes to Roses and Toy Trap, so I wouldn't mind actually hearing those episodes.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2015 6:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lhbizness wrote:
Spaceship Dispatcher wrote:
Lhbizness wrote:
...he is unlikable...

This statement in relation to Julian's interpretation is one I find both harsh and inaccurate; to be unlikable means that, by accepted social normailty, it's not possible to like someone or something. Since three people in this conversation alone do like him, and enough people are placing repeat orders to prompt the new Emma audios, I would dispute the claim that it's not possible to like him at all and suggest qualifying the statement as some fans individually find it impossible to like him; which is a totally different thing to being unlikable per se.

This seems to be an argument of semantics now. I find Wadham's Steed unlikable. I thought that was implied that it's my opinion, not an objective fact - I don't really want to have to qualify every statement I make as "this is my opinion."

Semantics being the construction of sentences that convey the meaning intended by the writer, yes I do believe that saying what you mean is important on a forum where what you write and how you write it is the only means of people understanding what you wish to express.

I find Wadham's Steed unlikable and Wadham's Steed is unlikable are two completely different statements; one of opinion, one of fact.

Why make unkind statements about people or their work - ie someone is so bad that it's not possible to like them - and then say it's implied that you didn't mean it? It leads to other members being unclear about your intentions.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2015 6:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spaceship Dispatcher wrote:
Lhbizness wrote:
Spaceship Dispatcher wrote:
Lhbizness wrote:
...he is unlikable...

This statement in relation to Julian's interpretation is one I find both harsh and inaccurate; to be unlikable means that, by accepted social normailty, it's not possible to like someone or something. Since three people in this conversation alone do like him, and enough people are placing repeat orders to prompt the new Emma audios, I would dispute the claim that it's not possible to like him at all and suggest qualifying the statement as some fans individually find it impossible to like him; which is a totally different thing to being unlikable per se.

This seems to be an argument of semantics now. I find Wadham's Steed unlikable. I thought that was implied that it's my opinion, not an objective fact - I don't really want to have to qualify every statement I make as "this is my opinion."

Semantics being the construction of sentences that convey the meaning intended by the writer, yes I do believe that saying what you mean is important on a forum where what you write and how you write it is the only means of people understanding what you wish to express.

I find Wadham's Steed unlikable and Wadham's Steed is unlikable are two completely different statements; one of opinion, one of fact.

Why make unkind statements about people or their work - ie someone is so bad that it's not possible to like them - and then say it's implied that you didn't mean it? It leads to other members being unclear about your intentions.


I never said I didn't mean it. I said it's my opinion. No opinion is objective fact. Quite honestly, I don't see how anyone enjoys his performance, but that is of course filtered through my own experience (as it is with everyone). Obviously people do enjoy his performance. It's a subjective experience - one is not more right than the other.
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