Untitled

Untitled

Get printed T-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies featuring your favorite classic candy brands at PopFanatics

Untitled

Untitled

Entertainment Earth

Untitled

Entertainment Earth

Untitled

Official Shop of Warner Bros

Untitled

Buy Star Wars Comics and Graphic Novels at TFAW.com

Untitled

SuperHeroStuff - New Socks!

Batman DC Comics Premium Format(TM) Figure

Untitled

"Mrs Peel, we're needed."

- W.J. Flywheel, Webporium Curator

THE AVENGERS

The Avengers is a spy-fi British television series created in the 1960s. The Avengers initially focused on Dr. David Keel (Ian Hendry) and his assistant John Steed (Patrick Macnee). Hendry left after the first series and Steed became the main character, partnered with a succession of assistants. Steed's most famous assistants were intelligent, stylish and assertive women: Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman), Emma Peel (Diana Rigg), and later Tara King (Linda Thorson).

Later episodes increasingly incorporated elements of science fiction and fantasy, parody and British eccentricity. The Avengers ran from 1961 until 1969, screening as one hour episodes its entire run.

Six series (seasons) of The Avengers were made between 1961 and 1969. There was an enforced break in filming and transmission towards the end of series five due to financial problems. Television researcher Andrew Pixley and authors Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping in their book The Avengers Dossier: The Unauthorised and Unofficial Guide consider the last eight episodes produced after the break as constituting a short series six, and therefore count seven series in total. Within the internal production of The Avengers the last eight episodes were considered to be a continuation of series five. All original videotapes from series one, two and three, which were shot on video, were wiped. Only two complete episodes from the show's first series are known to exist, as 16mm film telerecordings. These are "The Frighteners", an extract of which is playing on a television in the film Quadrophenia, and "Girl on the Trapeze", which was found in the UCLA Film and Television Archive via an internet search of their on-line database. Part of the show's first episode was found in the United States. The footage is of the episode's first 21 minutes, up to the first commercial break. All series two and three episodes survive as 16mm telerecordings. These have been released to DVD, as have all of the Emma Peel and Tara King episodes, which were shot on film. The two surviving complete Keel episodes, plus the remnant of the first episode, have also been released in the UK and US, but are not currently available in the US.

The Avengers was produced by ABC Television, a contractor within the ITV network. After a merger in July 1968 ABC Television became Thames Television, which continued production of the series although it was still broadcast under the ABC name. By 1969 The Avengers was shown in more than 90 countries. ITV produced a sequel series The New Avengers (1976–1977) with Patrick Macnee returning as John Steed, and two new partners. In 2007 The Avengers was ranked #20 on TV Guide's Top Cult Shows Ever.

1961: With Dr David Keel (Ian Hendry)

The Avengers began in the episode Hot Snow, with medical doctor, Dr David Keel (Ian Hendry), investigating the murder by a drug ring of his fiancée and office receptionist Peggy. A stranger named John Steed, who was investigating the ring, appeared and together they set out to avenge her death in the first two episodes. Afterwards, Steed asked Keel to partner him as needed to solve crimes.

The Avengers followed Hendry's Police Surgeon, in which he played police surgeon Geoffrey Brent. While Police Surgeon did not last long, viewers praised Hendry. Hendry was considered the star of the new series, receiving top billing over Macnee, and Steed did not appear in two episodes.

As the series progressed, Steed's importance increased, and he carried the final episode solo. While Steed and Keel used wit while discussing crimes and dangers, the series also depicted the interplay—and often tension—between Keel's idealism and Steed's professionalism. As seen in one of the two surviving episodes from the first series, "The Frighteners", Steed also had helpers among the population who provided information, similar to the "Baker Street Irregulars" of Sherlock Holmes.

The other regular in the first series was Carol Wilson (Ingrid Hafner), the nurse and receptionist who replaced the slain Peggy. Carol assisted Keel and Steed in cases, without being part of Steed's inner circle. Hafner had played opposite Hendry as a nurse in Police Surgeon.

The series was shot on 405-line videotape using a multicamera setup. There was little provision for editing and virtually no location footage (although the very first shot of the first episode consisted of location footage). As was standard practice at the time, videotapes of early episodes of The Avengers were reused. Of the first series, two complete episodes still exist, as 16 mm film telerecordings. One of the episodes remaining does not feature Steed. The first 15 minutes of the first episode also exists as a telerecording; the extant footage ends at the conclusion of the first act, prior to the introduction of John Steed.

1962–64: With Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman),

Production of the first series was cut short by a strike. By the time production could begin on the second series, Hendry had quit to pursue a film career. Macnee was promoted to star and Steed became the focus of the series, initially working with a rotation of three different partners. Dr Martin King (Jon Rollason), a thinly disguised rewriting of Keel, saw action in only three episodes produced from scripts written for the first series. King was intended to be a transitional character between Keel and Steed's two new female partners, but while the Dr. King episodes were shot first, they were shown out of production order in the middle of the season. The character was thereafter quickly and quietly dropped.

 Venus Smith played by Julie StevensNightclub singer Venus Smith (played by Julie Stevens pictured right) appeared in six episodes. She was a complete "amateur", meaning that she did not have any professional crime-fighting skills as did the two doctors. She was excited to be participating in a "spy" adventure alongside secret agent Steed (although at least one episode—"The Removal Men"—indicates she is not always enthusiastic). Nonetheless, she appears to be attracted to him and their relationship appears similar to that later displayed between Steed and Tara King. Her episodes featured musical interludes showcasing her singing performances. The character of Venus underwent some revision during her run, adopting more youthful demeanour and dress.

The first episode broadcast in the second series had introduced the partner who would change the show into the format for which it is most remembered. Honor Blackman played Dr Cathy Gale, a self-assured, quick-witted anthropologist who was skilled in judo and had a passion for wearing leather clothes. Widowed during the Mau Mau years in Kenya, she was the "talented amateur" who saw her aid to Steed's cases as a service to her nation. Gale was said to have been born 5 October 1930 at midnight, and was raised in Africa. Gale was early-to-mid 30s during her tenure, in contrast to female characters in similar series who tended to be younger.

Gale was unlike any female character seen before on British TV and became a household name. Reportedly, part of her charm came from the fact that her earliest appearances were episodes in which dialogue written for Keel was simply transferred to her. Said series script writer Dennis Spooner "there's the famous story of how Honor Blackman played Ian Hendry's part, which is why they stuck her in leather and such—it was so much cheaper than changing the lines!"

Venus Smith did not return for the third series and Cathy Gale became Steed's only regular partner. The series established a level of sexual tension between Steed and Gale, but the writers were not allowed to go beyond flirting and innuendo. Despite this the relationship between Steed and Gale was progressive for 1962–63. In "The Golden Eggs" it is revealed that Gale lived in Steed's flat; her rent according to Steed was to keep the refrigerator well-stocked and to cook for him (she appears to do neither). However, this was said to be a temporary arrangement while Gale looked for a new home, and Steed was sleeping at a hotel.

During the first series there were hints Steed worked for a branch of British Intelligence, and this was expanded in the second series. Steed initially received orders from different superiors, including someone referred to as "Charles", and "One-Ten" (Douglas Muir). By the third series the delivery of Steed's orders was not depicted on screen or explained. In "The Nutshell" the secret organisation to which Steed belongs is shown, and it is Gale's first visit to their HQ.

Small references to Steed's background were occasionally made. In series three's "Death of a Batman" it was said that Steed was with I Corps in World War II, and in Munich in 1945. In series four episode "The Hour That Never Was" Steed goes to a reunion of his RAF regiment.

A film version of the series was in its initial planning stages by late 1963 after series three was completed. An early story proposal paired Steed and Gale with a male and female duo of American agents, to make the movie appeal to the American market. Before the project could gain momentum Blackman was cast opposite Sean Connery in Goldfinger, requiring her to leave the series.

During the Gale era, Steed was transformed from a rugged trenchcoat-wearing agent into the stereotypical English gentleman, complete with Savile Row suit, bowler hat and umbrella with clothes later designed by Pierre Cardin. (The bowler and umbrella were full of tricks, including a sword hidden within the umbrella handle and a steel plate concealed in the hat.) These items were referred to in the French, German and Polish titles of the series, Chapeau melon et bottes de cuir ("Bowler hat and leather boots"), Mit Schirm, Charme und Melone ("With Umbrella, Charm and Bowler Hat") and Rewolwer i melonik ("A Revolver and a Bowler Hat"), respectively. With his impeccable manners, old world sophistication, and vintage automobiles, Steed came to represent the traditional Englishman of an earlier era.

By contrast his partners were youthful, forward-looking, and always dressed in the latest mod fashions. Gale's innovative leather outfits suited her many athletic fight scenes. Honor Blackman became a star in Britain with her black leather outfits and boots (nicknamed "kinky boots") and her judo-based fighting style. Macnee and Blackman even released a novelty song called "Kinky Boots". Some of the clothes seen in The Avengers were designed at the studio of John Sutcliffe who published the AtomAge fetish magazine. 

Series script writer Dennis Spooner said that the series would frequently feature Steed visiting busy public places such as the main airport in London, without anyone else present in the scene. "'Can't you afford extras?' they'd ask. Well it wasn't like that; it's just that Steed had to be alone to be accepted. Put him in a crowd and he sticks out like a sore thumb! Let's face it, with normal people he's weird. The trick to making him acceptable is never to show him in a normal world, just fighting villains who are odder than he is!"

In a 1965 episode of The Avengers, titled "Too Many Christmas Trees", John Steed received his Christmas cards, one of which was from Cathy. "A card from Mrs Gale!", Steed exclaims in delight. Then, reading the inscription, he says in a puzzled voice, "Whatever can she be doing at Fort Knox...?". It was an inside joke, as Blackman was filming Goldfinger at the time playing Pussy Galore.

Bond film producer Albert R. Broccoli admitted that Blackman had been cast on the back of her success in The Avengers, despite the fact that the American audience had never even seen the programme. Broccoli said, "The Brits would love her because they knew her as Mrs. Gale, the Yanks would like her because she was so good, it was a perfect combination". Blackman was the first of two "Bond girls" older than the actor playing James Bond, and she was the oldest actress ever to play a Bond girl.

Untitled

British Espionage/Fantasy/Spy-fi TV Series Created by
Sydney Newman

Starring
Patrick Macnee
Ian Hendry
Honor Blackman
Diana Rigg
Linda Thorson

6 Series, 161 Episodes
ITV/ABC/Thames 1961 – 1969

Sequel: The New Avengers
26 Episodes 1976 – 1977

1965–68: With Emma Peel (Diana Rigg)

In 1965 the show was sold to United States network, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). The Avengers became one of the first British series to be aired on prime time U.S. television. The ABC network paid the then-unheard of sum of $2 million for the first 26 episodes. The average budget for each episode was reportedly £56,000, high for the British industry. The fourth series aired in the U.S. from March to December 1966.

Previously The Avengers had been shot on 405-line videotape using a multicamera setup, with very little provision for editing and virtually no location footage. The U.S. deal meant that the producers could afford to start shooting the series on 35mm film. The use of film rather than videotape was essential, as British 405-line video was technically incompatible with the U.S. NTSC videotape format. Filmed productions were standard on U.S. prime time television at that time. The Avengers continued to be produced in black and white.

The transfer to film meant that episodes would be shot using the single camera setup, giving the production greater flexibility. The videotaped episodes had looked cheap and studio bound. The use of film production and the single camera production style allowed more sophisticated visuals and camera angles and more outdoor location shots, all of which greatly improved the look of the series. As was standard on British television filmed production through the 1960s, all location work on series four was shot mute with the soundtrack created in post production. Dialogue scenes were filmed in the studio, leading to some jumps between location and studio footage.

New female partner Mrs Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) debuted in this series, in October 1965. The name of the character derived from a comment by writers, during development, that they wanted a character with "man appeal". In an early attempt to incorporate this concept into the character's name, she was called "Samantha Peel", shortened to the awkward "Mantha Peel". Eventually the writers began referring to the idea by the verbal shorthand, "M. Appeal" which gave rise to the character's ultimate name. Emma Peel, whose husband went missing while flying over the Amazon, retained the self-assuredness of Gale, combined with superior fighting skills, intelligence, and a contemporary fashion sense.

After more than 60 actresses had been auditioned, the first choice to play the role was Elizabeth Shepherd. However, after filming one and a half episodes, Shepherd was released. Her on-screen personality was deemed less interesting than that of Blackman's Gale and it was decided she was not right for the role. Another 20 actresses were auditioned before the show's casting director suggested that producers Brian Clemens and Albert Fennell check out a televised drama featuring the relatively unknown Rigg. Her screen test with Macnee showed that the two immediately worked well together, and a new era in Avengers history began.

A prologue was added to the beginning of all the fourth series episodes for the American transmissions. This was to clarify some initial confusion audiences had regarding the characters and their mission. In the opener, a waiter holding a champagne bottle falls dead onto a human-sized chessboard; a dagger protruding from a target on his back. Steed and Mrs. Peel (dressed in her trademark leather catsuit) walk up to the body as the voice over explains: "Extraordinary crimes against the people, and the state, have to be avenged by agents extraordinary. Two such people are John Steed, top professional, and his partner Emma Peel, talented amateur. Otherwise known as The Avengers." During this voice over, Steed pours two drinks from the wine bottle and Mrs Peel replaces her gun in her boot. They clink glasses and depart together. Fade to black and then the opening titles proper begin.

In contrast to the Gale episodes, there was a lighter, comic touch in Steed and Peel's interactions with each other and their reactions to other characters and situations. Earlier series had a harder tone, with the Gale era including some quite serious espionage dramas. This almost completely disappeared as Steed and Peel visibly enjoyed topping each other's witticisms. The layer of conflict with Gale – who on occasion openly resented being used by Steed, often without her permission – was absent from Steed's interaction with Peel. Also the sexual tension between Steed and Gale was not present with Peel. In both cases, the exact relationship between the partners was left ambiguous, although they seemed to have carte blanche to visit each other's homes whenever they pleased and it was not uncommon for scenes to suggest Steed had spent the night at Gale's or Peel's home, or vice-versa. Although nothing "improper" was displayed, the obviously much closer chemistry between Steed and Peel constantly suggests intimacy between the two. Science fiction fantasy elements (a style later known as Spy-fi) emerged in stories. The duo encountered killer robots ("The Cybernauts") and giant alien carnivorous plants ("The Man-Eater of Surrey Green").

In her fourth episode, "Death at Bargain Prices", Mrs Peel takes an undercover job at a department store. Her uniform for promoting space-age toys is an elaborate leather catsuit plus silver boots, sash, and welder's gloves. The suit minus the silver accessories became her signature outfit, which she wore primarily for fight scenes, in early episodes, and in the titles. There was a fetishistic undercurrent in some episodes. In "A Touch of Brimstone" Mrs Peel dressed in a dominatrix outfit of corset, laced boots and spiked collar to become the "Queen of Sin".

Peel's avant-garde fashions, featuring bold accents and high-contrast geometric patterns, emphasized her youthful, contemporary personality. She represented the modern England of the Sixties – just as Steed, with his vintage style and mannerisms, personified Edwardian era nostalgia. According to Macnee in his book The Avengers and Me, Rigg disliked wearing leather and insisted on a new line of fabric athletic wear for the fifth series.

Alun Hughes, who had designed clothing for Diana Rigg's personal wardrobe, was suggested by the actress to design Emma Peel's "softer" new wardrobe. Pierre Cardin was brought in to design a new wardrobe for Macnee. In America, TV Guide ran a four-page photospread on Rigg's new "Emmapeeler" outfits (10–16 June 1967). Eight tight-fitting jumpsuits in a variety of bright colors were created using the stretch fabric crimplene.

Another memorable feature of the show from this point onwards was its automobiles. Steed's signature cars were vintage 1926–1928 Bentley racing or town cars, including Blower Bentleys and Bentley Speed Sixes (although, uniquely, in "The Thirteenth Hole" he drives a Vauxhall 30/98), while Peel drove a sporty Lotus Elan convertible which, like her clothes, emphasized her independence and vitality. During the first Peel series, each episode ended with a short, comedic scene of the duo leaving the scene of their most recent adventure in some unusual vehicle.

After one filmed series (of 26 episodes) in black and white, The Avengers began filming in colour for the fifth series in 1966. It was three years before Britain's ITV network began full colour broadcasting.

This series was broadcast in the U.S. from January to May 1967. The American prologue of the previous series was rejigged for the colour episodes. It opened with the caption The Avengers In Color (required by ABC for colour series at that time). This was followed by Steed unwrapping the foil from a champagne bottle and Peel shooting the cork away. (Unlike the "chessboard" opening of the previous series, this new prologue was also included in UK broadcasts of the series.)

The first 16 episodes of the fifth series begin with Peel receiving a call-to-duty message from Steed: "Mrs Peel, we're needed." Peel was conducting her normal activities when she unexpectedly received a message on a calling card or within a delivered gift, at which point Steed suddenly appeared (usually in her apartment). The messages were delivered by Steed in increasingly bizarre ways as the series progressed: in a newspaper Peel had just bought, or on traffic lights while she was out driving. On one occasion Steed appeared on her television set, interrupting an old science-fiction movie (actually clips from their Year Four episode "The Cybernauts") to call her to work. Another way Steed contacted her was in the beginning of episode 13, "A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Station" when she enters her flat and sees a Meccano Percy the Small Engine going around a circular track with a note on one of the train cars that says "Mrs. Peel" in bold letters, she then walks over to Steed who says "you're needed". At the start of "The Hidden Tiger" Peel is redecorating her apartment (wearing a jumpsuit and drinking champagne); she peels off a strip of wallpaper, revealing the words "Mrs Peel" painted on the wall beneath. She turns to see Steed in the apartment removing another strip of wallpaper, revealing "We're needed" painted underneath on another wall. In another instance Emma enters Steed's flat to find he has just fallen down the stairs, and he painfully gasps, "Mrs Peel, you're needed." Often the episode's tag scene returned to the situation of the "Mrs Peel, we're needed" scene. "The Hidden Tiger" returns to the partially redecorated apartment where Steed begins painting a love heart and arrow and the initials of two people on the wall, but paints over the initials when Peel sees his graffiti. In "The Superlative Seven" the call to duty and the tag both involve a duck shooting situation where unexpected items fall from the sky after shots are fired.

 The series also introduced a comic tag line caption to the episode title, using the format of "Steed [does this], Emma [does that]." For example "The Joker" had the opening caption: "Steed trumps an ace, Emma plays a lone hand".

The "Mrs Peel, we're needed" scenes and the alternate tag lines were dropped after the first 16 episodes, after a break in production, for financial reasons. They were deemed by the U.K. networks as disposable if The Avengers was to return to ITV screens. (Dave Rogers' book The Avengers Anew lists a set for every Steed/Peel episode except "The Forget-Me-Knot".)

Stories were increasingly characterised by a futuristic, science fiction bent, with mad scientists and their creations leaving havoc. The duo dealt with being shrunk to doll size ("Mission... Highly Improbable"), pet cats being electrically altered into ferocious and lethal "miniature tigers" ("The Hidden Tiger"), killer automata ("Return of The Cybernauts"), mind-transferring machines ("Who's Who???"), and invisible foes ("The See-Through Man").

The series parodied its American contemporaries with episodes such as "The Girl From AUNTIE", "Mission... Highly Improbable" and "The Winged Avenger" (spoofing The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Mission: Impossible and Batman, respectively). The show still carried the basic format – Steed and his associate were charged with solving the problem in the space of a 50-minute episode, thus preserving the safety of 1960s Britain.

Comedy was evident in the names and acronyms of the organizations. For example, in "The Living Dead", two rival groups examine reported ghost sightings: FOG (Friends Of Ghosts) and SMOG (Scientific Measurement Of Ghosts). "The Hidden Tiger" features the Philanthropic Union for Rescue, Relief and Recuperation of Cats—PURRR—led by characters named Cheshire, Manx, and Angora.

The series also occasionally adopted a metafictional tone, coming close to breaking the fourth wall. In the series 5 episode "Something Nasty in the Nursery" Peel directly references the series' storytelling convention of having potentially helpful sources of information killed off just before she or Steed arrive. This then occurs a few minutes later. In the tag scene for the same episode, Steed and Peel tell viewers – indirectly – to tune in next week.

Rigg was initially unhappy with the way she was treated by the show's producers. During her first series she learned she was being paid less than the camera man. She demanded a raise, to put her more on a par with her co-star, or she would leave the show. The producers gave in, thanks to the show's great popularity in the US.

At the end of the fifth series in 1967, Rigg left to pursue other projects. This included following Honor Blackman to play a leading role in a James Bond film, in this case On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Rigg and Macnee have remained lifelong friends.

Untitled

Patrick Macnee hosts a look back at The Avengers.

BUY AVENGERS DVD'S

SHOP MORE AVENGERS STUFF

1968–69: With Tara King (Linda Thorson)

When Diana Rigg left the series in October 1967, the British network executives decided that the current series formula, despite resulting in popular success, could not be pursued further. Thus they decided that a "return to realism" was appropriate for the sixth series (1968–69). Brian Clemens and Albert Fennel were replaced by John Bryce, producer of most of the Cathy Gale-era episodes.

Bryce had a difficult situation in hand. He had to find a replacement for Diana Rigg and shoot the first seven episodes of the new series, which were supposed to be shipped to America together with the last eight Emma Peel colour episodes.

Bryce signed his then-girlfriend, 20-year-old newcomer Linda Thorson, as the new female costar and chose the name "Tara King" for her character. Thorson played the role with more innocence in mind and at heart; and unlike the previous partnerships with Cathy and Emma, the writers allowed subtle hints of romance to blossom between Steed and King. King also differed from Steed's previous partners in that she was a fully fledged (albeit initially inexperienced) agent working for Steed's organisation; his previous partners had all been (in the words of the prologue used for American broadcasts of the first Rigg series) talented amateurs. Bryce wanted Tara to be blonde, so Thorson's brown hair was bleached. However the process badly damaged Thorson's hair, so she had to wear wigs for the first third of her episodes, until her own hair grew back. Her natural brown hair was not seen until the episode "All Done with Mirrors".

Production of the first seven episodes of the sixth series began. However financial problems and internal difficulties undermined Bryce's effort. He only managed to complete three episodes: "Invitation to a Killing" (a 90-minute episode introducing Tara King), "The Great, Great Britain Crime" (some of its original footage was reused in the 1969 episode "Homicide and Old Lace") and "Invasion of the Earthmen" (which survived relatively intact except for the scenes in which Tara wears a brown wig.)

After a rough cut screening of these episodes to studio executives, Bryce was fired and Clemens and Fennel were summoned back. At their return, a fourth episode called "The Murderous Connection" was in its second day of production. After revising the script, it was renamed as "The Curious Case of the Countless Clues" and production was resumed. Production of the episode "Split!", a leftover script from the Emma Peel colour series, proceeded. Two completely new episodes were also shot: "Get-A-Way", and "Look (Stop Me If You've Heard This One) But There Were These Two Fellers".

Dennis Spooner said of the event that "Brian left The Avengers for about three episodes, someone took over, and when Brian came back, it was in a terrible state. He was faced with doing a rewrite on a film they'd already shot." The episode had a story error where Steed leaves for a destination. The villains then realise this and pursue him – yet arrive there before Steed does. It was fixed by having a character ask Steed 'What took you so long?', to which he replies 'I came the pretty way'. "You can only do that on The Avengers you see. It was just my favourite show to work on."

Clemens and Fennel decided to film a new episode to introduce Tara King. This, the third episode filmed for the sixth series, was titled "The Forget-Me-Knot" and bade farewell to Emma Peel and introduced her successor, a trained but inexperienced agent named Tara King. It would be broadcast as the first episode of the sixth series. Tara debuts in dynamic style: when Steed is called to Headquarters, he is attacked and knocked down by trainee agent King who mistakes him for her training partner.

No farewell scenes for Emma Peel had been shot when Diana Rigg left the series. Rigg was recalled for "The Forget-Me-Knot", through which Emma acts as Steed's partner as usual. Rigg also filmed a farewell scene for Emma which appeared as the tag scene of the episode. It was explained that Emma's husband, Peter Peel, was found alive and rescued, and she left the British secret service to be with him. Emma visits Steed to say goodbye, and while leaving she passes Tara on the stairway giving the advice that "He likes his tea stirred anti-clockwise." Steed looks out the window as a departing Emma enters the Bentley driven by Peter – who from a distance seems to resemble Steed (and was played by Patrick Macnee, wearing a bowler hat and umbrella).

Bryce's original episode introducing Tara, "Invitation to a Killing", was revised as a regular 60-minute episode named "Have Guns Will Haggle". These episodes, together with "Invasion of the Earthmen" and the last eight Peel colour episodes, were shipped to America in February 1968.

For this series the government official who gave Steed his orders was depicted on screen. Mother, introduced in "The Forget-Me-Knot", is a man in a wheelchair. The role was taken by Patrick Newell (pictured left) who had played different roles in two earlier episodes, most recently in series five. Mother's headquarters would shift from place to place, including one episode where his complete office was on the top level of a double-decker bus. (Several James Bond films of the 1970s would make use of a similar gimmick for Bond's briefings.)

Added later as a regular was Mother's mute Amazonian assistant, Rhonda (Rhonda Parker). There was one appearance by an agency official code-named "Father", a blind older woman played by Iris Russell. (Russell had appeared in the series several times previously in other roles.) In one episode, "Killer", Steed is paired with Lady Diana Forbes Blakeney (Jennifer Croxton) while King is on holiday.

Scriptwriter Dennis Spooner later reflected on this series. "When I wrote "Look (Stop Me If You've Heard This One) But There Were These Two Fellers", that was definitely the last series. They were going to make no more, so in that series we went right over the top; we went really weird, because they knew there weren't going to be any more."

Spooner said the series "worked because it became a parody on itself, almost. You can only do that so long." Overall he attributes the success of the show to its light approach. "We spoofed everything, we took Mission: Impossible, Bad Day at Black Rock, High Noon, The Dirty Dozen, The Birds... we took them all. The film buffs used to love it. There were always lines in it that people knew what we were talking about."

Vehicle wise, Steed continued to drive vintage green Bentleys in the first seven episodes in production. His regular transport for the remainder of the series were two yellow Rolls-Royce cars. Mother also occasionally appeared in silver Rolls-Royces. Tara King drove an AC 428 and a Lotus Europa. Lady Diana Forbes Blakeney drove an MGC Roadster.

The revised series continued to be broadcast in America. The episodes with Linda Thorson as King proved to be highly rated in Europe and the UK. In the United States however, the ABC network that carried the series chose to air it opposite the number one show in the country at the time, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. Steed and King could not compete, and the show was cancelled in the US. Without this vital commercial backing, production could not continue in Britain either, and the series ended in May 1969. The final scene of the final episode ("Bizarre") has Steed and King, champagne glasses in hand, accidentally launching themselves into orbit aboard a rocket, as Mother breaks the fourth wall and says to the audience, "They'll be back!" before adding in shock, "They're unchaperoned up there!"

The New Avengers

The New Avengers is a British secret agent fantasy adventure television series produced during 1976 and 1977. It is a sequel to the 1960s series, The Avengers (created by Sydney Newman) and was developed by original series producers Albert Fennell and Brian Clemens.

The series was produced by The Avengers (Film and TV) Enterprises Ltd for the ITV network, cost £125,000 per episode to produce at Pinewood Studios in England and was seen in 120 countries.

A UK-France-Canada co-production, the series picks up the adventures of John Steed (again played by Patrick Macnee) as he and his team of "Avengers" fight evil plots and world domination. Whereas in the original series Steed had almost always been partnered with a woman, in the new series he had two partners: Mike Gambit (Gareth Hunt), a top agent, crack marksman and trained martial artist, and Purdey (Joanna Lumley), a former trainee with The Royal Ballet (to which she ascribed the high-kicking skills she frequently used in the series) who was an amalgam of many of the best talents from Steed's female partners in The Avengers. As he did for most of the original series, Steed is once again acting without a direct superior – in many ways his character takes on the duties of 'Mother' from the Tara King era of the 1960s series. Steed is seen as the mentor to Gambit and Purdey, taking on a paternal role towards them (especially in the episode "Hostage"). Gambit is the athletic action hero, while Purdey incorporates the wit and fighting skills of her predecessors. The verbal interplay between Gambit and Purdey, with her humorously keeping his romantic advances at bay, harks back to the Steed/Gale era of the original Avengers.

One reason for the addition of Gambit was the question of whether Macnee, at age 53 when the series began production, could handle the potential stuntwork and action scenes. Macnee was able to increase his role's visibility as the series progressed, losing weight to improve his athleticism and 'keep up' with his new partners.

The first series featured several episodes using science fiction themes similar to those of the classic "Emma Peel" Avengers era. The new trio had to deal with suspended animation ("The Eagle's Nest"), biological warfare ("The Midas Touch"), robotics ("The Last of The Cybernauts?"), mind transfer ("Three-Handed Game") and even a giant rat ("Gnaws", a title patterned after the hit movie Jaws). Second series episodes featured science fiction elements, such as the artificially-intelligent super-computer of "Complex", the Russian soldiers revived from suspended animation in "K is for Kill", the submersible Russian community in "Forward Base" and the super humans of "The Gladiators". Other episodes of that season dealt with more realistic plots.

The Avengers and The New Avengers scriptwriter Dennis Spooner said that at the end of its run The Avengers had gone as far as it could in terms of parody. For this reason Brian Clemens intentionally aimed for real stories and straight, Len Deighton-type spy stories in The New Avengers. Spooner said "It's no good saying 'I don't like The New Avengers so much, because it wasn't like the old show', because it never could have been. We did everything – we did the kitchen sink! – and there was no way of going back on it." When reminded of his The New Avengers script "Gnaws" Spooner admitted that "Well, yes, towards the end we relaxed a bit!" Some of the storylines used in the series were recycled from earlier scripts penned by Clemens or Spooner from other series. Medium Rare was based on the (British) Thriller episode Murder in Mind and Gnaws was based on the Thunderbirds story "Attack of the Alligators!"

An attempt to get Diana Rigg to appear as Emma Peel in the new series was unsuccessful, although old footage of her on the phone from two 1960s episodes of The Avengers ("The Winged Avenger" and "The Hidden Tiger") were used to allow the character to make a cameo appearance in the episode "K Is For Kill Part One: The Tiger Awakes": actress Sue Lloyd provided the voice of Mrs Peel for these sequences. Ian Hendry, who played Steed's original partner, David Keel, also guest-starred in one episode, "To Catch A Rat", playing a different role. "Obsession" features two of the stars of the Brian Clemens/Albert Fennell British crime-fighting action series The Professionals: Martin Shaw and Lewis Collins.

Two series totalling 26 episodes were produced, which were aired on CBS in the United States, CTV in Canada, ITV in Britain, RTÉ in Ireland, TF1 in France and in syndication elsewhere. Laurie Johnson, who had composed the theme for the original Avengers series (starting with the Emma Peel era in 1965, at least), returned to compose a new, updated theme for the revival, although it begins with the same fanfare as the original.

In order to complete the planned 26 episodes, finance was sought from other sources. Production company Nielsen Ferns came on board but was understandably keen to promote its home country, so the final four stories, titled The New Avengers in Canada on the caption card preceding each episode, saw the action move to Toronto, Ontario (with scenes for the episode "Forward Base" shot at Ward's Island). By this time Brian Clemens was heavily committed to another project, The Professionals for LWT and control of the series passed to a largely local crew. The results attracted heavy criticism, from fans and from Clemens himself.

The financial problems continued and plans for a third series were abandoned. Subsequently, however, strong sales to many countries – notably CBS in the United States – saw two attempts to revive the show (in 1979 and 1980), though co-financing arrangements proved impossible to agree upon.

Brian Clemens was invited to write a pilot for Quinn Martin Productions. Entitled Escapade, the pilot episode was broadcast on CBS in 1978 and starred Granville Van Dusen and Morgan Fairchild as Joshua and Suzy – Gambit and Purdey equivalents. It was not picked up as a series.

In 1994 Joanna Lumley and Gareth Hunt publicised the launch of the series on domestic videocassette. Sales were stronger than expected, prompting Brian Clemens to consider reuniting the two actors in a "spin-off" series. Although both were keen to participate and a script was written, plans stalled at an early stage for undisclosed reasons.

Joanna Lumley would later star as Sapphire in the science-fiction fantasy series Sapphire & Steel with former Man From U.N.C.L.E. David McCallum as Steel. Conceived as ITV's answer to Doctor Who, Lumley and McCallum played mysterious elemental beings dealing with breaches in the fabric of time. Over a decade later Lumley would play her most famous character, the louche, solipsistic and frequently drunken fashion director Patsy Stone, companion to Jennifer Saunders' Edina Monsoon in the classic BBC comedy television series Absolutely Fabulous.

Other Media

A number of original novels based on the series were published in the 1960s. The first by Douglas Enefer, was the only 60s novel to feature Cathy Gale. Four novels written by John Garforth featuring Emma Peel in 1967. Later one featuring Emma Peel and four featuring Tara King were published for the US market only. Re-prints of all nine novels with new covers featured photos of both Rigg and Thorson, regardless of which Avengers girl appeared in the novel. The two novels published in 1965/66 were co-written by Patrick Macnee, (Deadline and Dead Duck) making him one of the first actors to write licensed spin-off fiction of their own shows.

The Avengers appeared in various UK comic strips starting in 1963 with Steed and Cathy Gale. Other comic stories with Mrs Peel and Tara King would appear in various publications up until 1972. An Avengers prequel of sorts ran in the 'June and Schoolfriend' comic from issue 52, January 1966, titled, 'The Growing Up of Emma Peel' featuring the adventures of 14 a year old Emma Knight. A few The Avengers-related comic books have been published in the USA. They are not named The Avengers because the rights to the names "Avengers" and "New Avengers" are held by Marvel Comics for use with their Avengers comics depicting a team of superheroes called The Avengers. Gold Key Comics published one issue of John Steed Emma Peel in 1968 (subtitled The Avengers), which included two newly-coloured and reformatted The Avengers strips from UK papers. A three-issue miniseries entitled Steed and Mrs Peel appeared from 1990–1992 under the Eclipse Comics imprint. Boom! Studios reprinted this series in six issues in early 2012, and later published a new series written by Mark Waid.

In 1971 a stage version of The Avengers was produced in Britain, written by TV series veterans Brian Clemens and Terence Feely, and directed by Leslie Philips. It starred Simon Oates as Steed, Sue Lloyd as new partner Hannah Wild, and Kate O'Mara as villainess Madame Gerda. All three actors had played guest roles in the original series. A character named Hana Wilde (played by Charlotte Rampling) had essentially acted as Steed's partner in series five's "The Superlative Seven", an episode in which Emma Peel appears only briefly. According to John Peel in his overview of "The Superlative Seven", "Charlotte Rampling was rumoured to be grooming up to replace Diana Rigg in this story, but nothing ever came of that."

Also in 1971, The Avengers Radio series was transmitted on Springbok Radio, the English language service of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), it was recorded at Sonovision Studios in Johannesberg, produced by Dave Gooden, the original TV scripts were adapted and directed by Tony Jay, for the 1st six months and Dennis Folbigge for the remainder. South Africa did not have national television until 1976. The episodes were adapted from both Emma Peel and Tara King episodes, (with the Tara King character changed to Emma Peel throughout.) The Avengers were played by two British expatriate actors, Donald Monat as Steed and Diane Appleby as Mrs Peel, with Hugh Rouse as the tongue-in-cheek narrator. The stories were adapted into five-episode serials under Tony Jay and six and seven episode serials under Dennis Folbigge, of approximately 15 minutes each (including adverts) and stripped across the week, Monday-Friday, on Springbok Radio. The radio series ran until 1973 and only 19 complete serials are known to survive. These episodes were also transmitted in New York on station WBAI on 99.5 FM, from 1977 to the early 1990s.

Plans for a motion picture based upon the series circulated during the 1960s, 1980s and 1990s, with Mel Gibson at one point being considered a front-runner for the role of Steed. In 1998 The Avengers made it to the big screen starring Uma Thurman as Emma Peel and Ralph Fiennes as John Steed. It received poor reviews from critics and fans alike. The Avengers movie was nominated for that year's Razzie Award for Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, Worst Supporting Actor (Sean Connery), Worst Actress (Uma Thurman), Worst Actor (Ralph Fiennes), Worst Screen Couple (Fiennes and Thurman), and Worst Original Song ("Storm"), winning only one trophy for Worst Remake or Sequel. Several critics, especially in the UK, noted that the American production team fatally misunderstood the symbols of 'Britishness' central to The Avengers series, such as the inclusion of an inexplicable gadget on the dashboard of Steed's Bentley which appeared to dispense tea, with milk already added. Fans of the original classic TV series still hope for a do-over someday.

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled
Share

HOME - SEARCH - ABOUT US - TERMS - SITE MAP - NEWS - LINKS - CONTESTS - HALL OF FAME - AV CLUB - TRIVIAOGRAPHY - THE BIG STORE
Original material © Copyright 2017myneatstuff.ca - All other material © Copyright their respective owners.

When wasting time on the interweb why not visit our Kasey and Company Cartoon site?