a sin that Ace Of Wands has been gathering dust on the TV archive
shelves since its demise in 1974 whilst other less interesting
series have gathered a cult following through repeats and commercial
releases. Thankfully, Ace Of Wands this will now hopefully be
corrected with Network's release of the surviving episodes of
season three as a four-disc set given an impressive selection
of supporting materials.
The third season introduced two new sidekicks for the central
character Tarot, a crime-busting magician / illusionist with
telepathic powers and owl familiar, so serves as a good place
to start for this charmingly strange series. However, the by
all accounts the best stories had featured in the previous two
seasons, sadly junked, but what is left is still fabulous groovy
stuff. Enjoyment of the series is greatly enhanced by the quality
of acting on show - the regulars and guest stars treat the most
wild storyline with conviction and avoid putting their collective
tongues in their cheeks that blighted later programmes such
as The Tomorrow People.
The Meddlers kicks things off with a script by P J Hammond (creator
of Sapphire and Steel) that details not only Tarot's meeting
with new companions Chas and Mikki but also mysterious events
at a London street market. The next adventure is the ambitious
The Power of Atep written by Victor Pemberton that introduces
the supporting character of Mr Sweet (an entomologist and antiquarian)
and sees Tarot travel to Egypt to stop the evil influence of
the ancient Egyptian.
Story three, Peacock Pie, guest stars a chilling Brian (Last
of the Summer Wine) Wilde as the mesmerist mastermind behind
a daring bank robbery that Tarot investigates. Mama Doc sees
strange happenings at a doll's hospital run by an eccentric
woman. Story five, Sisters Deadly, features a plot disrupt at
NATO training exercise by old age pensioners. The final story,
The Beautiful People, sees Tarot combat aliens at a country
fete. Absolute bonkers!
The whole series has much debt to The Avengers with its offbeat
villains, characters and set ups and this only adds to the charm
of the production. With an excellent title sequence, a theme
tune you will be humming for weeks (and the lyrics are not Tarot
banana man - check out the extras) and stoned storylines this
more than lives up to its reputation. Episodes are presented
complete and uncut with ad breaks and bumpers all present.
Charming, eerie, weird and hugely entertaining slice of psychedelic
70s archive TV with an array of extras to shame a major film
release that will enthral both original and new viewers.
A thorough eighty-eight-page collector's booklet penned by Andrew
Pixley that details not only the genesis and making of the entire
series, but also the two Mr Stabs spin-offs included in the
release. The spin-offs included are an episode of Shadows (Dutch
Schitz's Shoes) and Dramarama (Mr. Stabs) that featured the
Ace of Wands villain Mr Stabs in bids for solo series. These
are excellent additions that help tell the full story of the
series as the episodes featuring Stabs are missing.
The main extra is the retrospective featurette A Story With
No End that sees all the main cast and crew looking back on
the series. This documentary demonstrates the great fondness
bestowed on the series by those involved and is as good as anything
similar featured on the Doctor Who DVD releases. There is a
commentary on all three episodes of the story Sisters Deadly
featuring Tarot himself, Michael Mackenzie, Petra (Mikki) Markham
and director Darrol Blake that repeats a few of the details
on the documentary, but again has a great fondness for the series.
Also included is a treasure chest of pdf materials viewable
on computers that contain the original scripts for all of season
three as well some episodes from seasons one and two, scripts
for both the Stabs spin-offs, the original series outlines,
original theme lyrics, TV Times / Look In listings and articles
and much more.