The Avengers: Season 2, Episode 21

The White Dwarf (25 Feb. 1991)

TV Episode  |   |  Action, Comedy, Crime
7.8
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 37 users  
Reviews: 2 user | 1 critic

A famous astronomer predicts that the entry into the solar system of a small star will result in the destruction of the Earth. Steed and Cathy try to discover the connection, if any, ... See full summary »

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Title: The White Dwarf (25 Feb 1991)

The White Dwarf (25 Feb 1991) on IMDb 7.8/10

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Cast

Episode complete credited cast:
...
...
George A. Cooper ...
Maxwell Barker
Philip Latham ...
Professor Cartright
...
Henry Barker
Bill Nagy ...
Johnson
Vivienne Drummond ...
Elizabeth Fuller
Daniel Thorndike ...
Minister
Constance Chapman ...
Miss Tregarth
George Roubicek ...
Luke
Keith Pyott ...
Professor Richter
Paul Anil ...
Rahim
John Falconer ...
Butler
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Storyline

A famous astronomer predicts that the entry into the solar system of a small star will result in the destruction of the Earth. Steed and Cathy try to discover the connection, if any, between the astronomer's dire prediction and the threats on his life. Written by Anonymous

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25 February 1991 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The name Voytek can be seen on the observatory timetable, though no such character appears. This is a clear in-joke to then-ABCtv staff designer Voytek Roman. See more »

Goofs

As Steed fetches Cathy's bag to her in his flat the boom is clearly visible between them. See more »

Quotes

Maxwell Barker: If we are going to be dragged into the sun, it'll be summer all the way, for all of us. Until we melt...
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User Reviews

 
Great Writing for a Sci-Fi Turn
3 February 2015 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This is a very heavy information packed thriller piece that could easily be re-made today with little re-write. Professor Richter, an astronomer, has made some troubling theories about a white dwarf. He's been studying this for the past six months, but before he can finish testing his theory, he is killed.

Enter the Avengers: John Steed and Cathy Gale. In a phone call, Steed calms his superior with the news that Cathy Gale & he are going to be investigating this. It seems the government wants quick action. And how the call is conducted, whoever is on the other end seems more reassured once Gale's name is mentioned.

At the end of the phone call, Gale arrives at Steed's flat, and is told that the Professor has been murdered. She has heard of Richter and his work before, but is puzzled why someone would kill an old guy studying the stars. When Steed asks what Richter was studying, Gale informs Steed that Richter believed that a white dwarf could enter our solar system, and such an event would destroy the earth & our sun.

Cathy Gale dominates much of the episode, but never uses her judo. Her doctorate and her understanding of science are more needed in this story. In fact, her physical presence isn't as demanded. Dr. Gale has less screen time than Dr. Luke Richter, the grieving son of the late Professor. Dr. Gale's understanding of science is used as a storytelling technique to inform the audience of what is transpiring before their eyes. And kudos to Malcolm Hulke (the teleplay writer), Richard Bates (the story editor), and I believe John Bryce (the Producer). It was a great ploy to use Honor Blackman's popular portrayal of Dr. Gale to get the audience to swallow a lot more of the science than many other shows at the time could. It's obvious the creative staff really knew their audience, and how to appeal to them.

Hulke structures his teleplay in a flow of information format. Just as Professor Richter is tracking the white dwarf in the opening scenes, the audience is led to track the information about the white dwarf until it explodes at the end of the show. This leads to some pretty ingenious transitions.

Right after Dr. Gale informs Steed about the dangers of a white dwarf, we are introduced to the bankers Maxwell Barker and Mervin Johnson. They are investors looking to cash in, which would seem to be of another show, but they bring up more information about the white dwarf, and how it would effect markets. With only a few minutes of screen time, the audience suddenly knows more than our hero and heroine, and is informed that the government is being hood-winked for cash.

I just finished watching this show for the first time on Cozi TV five years after the Great Recession, and – to say the least – this is a story still topical. It was also amazing that six years before the non-fiction novel, In Cold Blood, the Avengerrs would spend such screen time on the grieving the community did in the wake of Professor Richter's murder. That grieving and the pressure the astronomical community is under provides the emotional center of this story. (I would have said "unfair pressure", but I agree with the unseen character of the British Government on this. When pitted against a worldwide panic and an impending doom, the emotional hardship of these scientists seems slight).

It is obvious that Hulke was trying to create a great Science Fiction piece. (Malcolm Hulke was churning out scripts for Doctor Who up until his death.) He avoids many of the formulaic pitfalls that go with episodic TV. He creates an unusual structure. And he adds his own touches to the characters. (To think that Steed is a denier….) This piece could definitely stand on its own, without there ever being an Avengers' show.

The way that Bryce and Richmond Harding (director) kept a thriller audience involved with all the heady science stuff going on was brilliant. The method that the storytellers used to structure Dr. Gale's interplay with the audience should also be used in many stories today.


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