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Julian Wadham as John Steed
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Spaceship Dispatcher
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2015 6:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lhbizness wrote:
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.

It's a shame you feel that way of course, but is this not a question that faces all show-runners in all dramatic mediums? Those of us who do enjoy listening to him, do like his charisma, do care what happens, and do feel the empathy portrayed between the characters are those who are actually buying the range and paying for the show to go on. They can keep their existing customers happy, or change things in the hope of tempting people who dislike the product back again. If you were the current series producer, which direction would you choose?
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Lhbizness
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2015 7:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think that the direction they've taken this series is to remove at least one-half of what makes The Avengers enjoyable to begin with. I'm not arguing for some meta-narrational "well, if I was running the show..." I'm simply speaking to my own experience. Big Finish will carry on exactly as it has been and there's not a damn thing I can do to change that, nor do I particularly want to. But my problems with Wadham still stand and they are not negated by an appeal to the broader audience.

I was trying to discuss my problems with Wadham and his re-interpretation of Steed, as it stands. And the criticism exists. There are those - like myself - who won't listen to this series because of that reinterpretation. Is that criticism not valid, are we simply to keep silent? Tell me what you find so excellent in Wadham's performance, how he reinterprets Steed, and how the series handles that.
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Spaceship Dispatcher
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2015 7:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lhbizness wrote:
I was trying to discuss my problems with Wadham and his re-interpretation of Steed, as it stands. And the criticism exists. There are those - like myself - who won't listen to this series because of that reinterpretation. Is that criticism not valid, are we simply to keep silent?

Not at all, but your opinion appeared to be that Big Finish are wrong to have cast this actor or taken the creative direction they have. That's a view expressed about the producer and creative team, since they cast the actor. Hence the discussion turning that way.

Quote:
Tell me what you find so excellent in Wadham's performance, how he reinterprets Steed, and how the series handles that.

Well, he strikes me as a very effective secret services game player more like George Smiley (in the novels by John Le Carre) who uses and abuses those at his disposal. Sometimes he betrays trust that's placed in him, but always because of a wider picture. JW's portrayal comes across as a man who is confident in his job, but knows that forming close emotional ties can endanger himself and those who draw too close to him. Though he seems to like Dr Keel, he seems uncomfortable with him being a true partner due to their opposing ideals and so keeps a distance between them. Though not a master of disguise, he does seem able to gain the confidence of his quarry in some cases and remains cool under pressure even when these infiltrations go wrong. Basically he's a smooth operator, if somewhat manipulative, who plays the game and usually wins both professionally (by completing whatever mission he is on) and socially by managing to keep his friends on his side even when his more questionable motives and actions are revealed. I would say that Steed can be a charmer, but that it's rarely sincere; JW portrays this 'two faced' aspect very well imo.
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Lhbizness
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2015 7:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spaceship Dispatcher wrote:
Lhbizness wrote:
I was trying to discuss my problems with Wadham and his re-interpretation of Steed, as it stands. And the criticism exists. There are those - like myself - who won't listen to this series because of that reinterpretation. Is that criticism not valid, are we simply to keep silent?

Not at all, but your opinion appeared to be that Big Finish are wrong to have cast this actor or taken the creative direction they have. That's a view expressed about the producer and creative team, since they cast the actor. Hence the discussion turning that way.

Quote:
Tell me what you find so excellent in Wadham's performance, how he reinterprets Steed, and how the series handles that.

Well, he strikes me as a very effective secret services game player more like George Smiley (in the novels by John Le Carre) who uses and abuses those at his disposal. Sometimes he betrays trust that's placed in him, but always because of a wider picture. JW's portrayal comes across as a man who is confident in his job, but knows that forming close emotional ties can endanger himself and those who draw too close to him. Though he seems to like Dr Keel, he seems uncomfortable with him being a true partner due to their opposing ideals and so keeps a distance between them. Though not a master of disguise, he does seem able to gain the confidence of his quarry in some cases and remains cool under pressure even when these infiltrations go wrong. Basically he's a smooth operator, if somewhat manipulative, who plays the game and usually wins both professionally (by completing whatever mission he is on) and socially by managing to keep his friends on his side even when his more questionable motives and actions are revealed. I would say that Steed can be a charmer, but that it's rarely sincere; JW portrays this 'two faced' aspect very well imo.



Yes, I think that Big Finish massively miscast one of their leading men and has effectively destroyed my experience of the show.

All of what you makes perfect sense - unfortunately, I simply don't hear the nuance in Wadham's performance that you appear to, nor do I find it a particularly interesting direction to take the character. Steed, as far as I can tell based on the scripts, is not two-faced. He is genuinely decent man, even if he does not always do decent things. His motives aren't questionable - they are for the greater the good, often to save more people. The means he uses to get there are questionable. The Steed we see in this series appears shallow, and that is not down to the script (IMO) but down to the performance. Wadham doesn't have the depth in his performance to make his character more than just a manipulator. That's not the Steed I know, the Steed that I've read, or the Steed that I've watched.
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DerekD
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 09, 2015 12:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spaceship Dispatcher wrote:
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.


Season 1 is VERY dark at times and much more 'pure crime' as you say. It's difficult to say how Patrick played them. What I would say is that the Howell's Keel is probably lighter in tone than Hendy's so a slightly darker Steed helps maintain balance. In any event the Season 2 Steed is a much more dubious character than in later seasons and I don't think JWs interpretation is that wide of the mark. It's a mistake to judge him purely on the first 4 stories though as he does lighten-up as the season progresses (as I imagine, MacNee did too).
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Lhbizness
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 09, 2015 3:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's not an issues of darkness. I am not comparing Wadham to Season 4 Steed - although, that's going to change given that they've set him to play Steed opposite Emma Peel. I don't find him BELIEVABLE as that supposedly hard-boiled Steed. I don't think he sells it. Dark characters are fine, but they have to have an underlying complexity to be more than just caricatures. There has to be something interesting about them. Wadham plays Steed like a caricature, one that I don't care to cheer for because he gives him no other depth. Maybe that's what Patrick did too, but we don't know because we don't have those episodes and it's probably not fair to his portrayal of Steed to speculate.

Of course, as I said: I haven't listened beyond the first volume because it failed to convince me that I would enjoy any more of it. Could be that he improves, but I'm not certain I want to give Big Finish any more money to find out.

(Now I would say that Steed in Season 2 is dark, morally dubious, a hero, AND likable. You cheer for him even when you don't like his behavior, which is what I think we want with a character like that. He has complexity).
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dissolute
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 2:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Seeing how manipulative Steed is with Venus and Dr King reveals that he was much darker in the early years, it's the reason that Cathy is constantly furious with him in series 2 as well.

Definitely hard baked.

He didn't consistently lighten up until series 3.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 2:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think Steed, Cathy, and their relationship is a bit more complicated than that, but I don't think it's worth arguing about any more.
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 27, 2015 8:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just spotted Julian Wadham in an episode of Father Brown entitled The Flying Stars, where he also played a warm but unreadable aristocratic type of character involved in a murder investigation. Instantly recognisable, and with echoes too of the role he played in his Foyle's War episode. This one also starred Amy Morgan, best known as Grace in Mr Selfridge to anyone who follows that series.
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