Avengers, The

1 9 6 1 - 1 9 6 9 (UK)
161 x 50 minute episodes

When The Avengers began in March 1961 it bore little resemblance to the flippant show we came to know and love - The quintessential British spy series set in a picture postcard Britain of castles, stately homes, village pubs and cricket greens.

avengers22It starred a sophisticated spy who even out-Bonded James Bond.  Immaculately turned out in a three-piece suit, he drove a vintage Bentley, played polo, archery and fenced and fought baddies while wearing a bowler hat and carrying a furled brolly!

Jonathon Steed was a character who first appeared in the series Police Surgeon starring Ian Hendry.

Old Etonian Patrick Macnee virtually stole the show and in 1962 he replaced Hendry's character (Dr David Keel) as the lead character.

The early Avengers episodes, were largely cops-and-robbers fare, and regular characters included Keel's secretary, Carol Wilson, and Steed's bosses, One-Ten and One-Twelve.

Steed was briefly paired with Dr Martin King and nightclub singer Venus Smith before he was provided with a permanent female colleague, Mrs Catherine Gale (played by Honor Blackman who also played Pussy Galore in the 1964 Bond film, Goldfinger).

She was to be the first in a line of elegant, sexy and lethal partners. Catherine Gale was a widow, a Doctor of Anthropology, judo expert and the original girl on a motorcycle. She wore a leather combat suit, tthigh-high'kinky' boots and a sexy hairstyle that never lost its composure and was cucumber-cool.

She was a perfect match for Steed in his Savile Row suits, embroidered waistcoats and Chelsea Boots.

Honor even succeeded, albeit inadvertently, in knocking out wrestler Jackie Pallo during rehearsals for a graveyard battle.

avengers_001As they fought with a shovel, Pallo toppled into the empty grave, banged his head and was rendered unconscious for ten minutes.

In 1964, Blackman left the show and Steed found a new partner, Emma Peel, played by the delectable Diana Rigg (pictured at right).

Once again, Mrs Peel was a sleek, sexy, action-widow (her deceased husband, Peter Peel, had been a test pilot) with a wicked karate chop and a nice line in sixties Mod fashion; stretch jerseys, cat suits, hipster pants and exotic dresses with flesh-revealing keyholes or suspenders.

Diana was mystified to find that she received a lot of fan mail from schoolboys!

For the final series of 33 episodes, Steed lost his second companion in 1968 (after Diana Rigg left after a row over wages).

She was replaced by twenty year old Tara King (Linda Thorson - a single farm girl with no martial arts skills but a solid punch, and very handy with her brick-laden handbag!

avengerstaraUnfortunately Steed and Tara (pictured at left) lacked the chemistry of the previous couplings and 'Mother' was introduced.

Played by twenty-stone Patrick Newell, Mother was Steed's chubby "controller".

The show was cancelled in 1969. Tara King accidentally pressed the lift-off button on a rocket and she, Steed and Mother soared off into space theoretically never to be seen again.

It's loss was mourned all over the world. The show they called Chapeau Melon et Bottes de Cuir ("Bowler hat and high leather boots") in France and Mit Schirm, Charm und Melone ("With umbrella, charm and bowler hat") in Germany was so missed that six years later The New Avengers came to be.

As Macnee was now 54 and far from lithe, the main role went to Gareth Hunt as Mike Gambit (Ex SAS) and Joanna Lumley as the gorgeous and super-leggy Purdy.

The original series boasted some terrific tongue-in-cheek humour such as cover agencies with names like PURRR (The Philanthropic Union for Rescue, Relief and Recuperation of Cats) or GONN (The Guild of Noble Nannies).

The escapist fantasised espionage series was truly unique, and the illusion was perfect - This England had no factories, no poverty and (unfortunately) no sex.

In fact, the following rules were specified by the producer, Brian Clemens:

"No woman should be killed, no extras should populate the streets. We admitted to only one class and that was the upper. As a fantasy we would not show a uniformed policeman or a coloured man. And you would not see anything as common as blood in The Avengers".

You will note there is no reference here to the remade Avengers movie (1998) starring Uma Thurman. That is because there were only two good things about the film: 1) Uma Thurman, and 2) At least they kept the old theme music.

AUDIO

John Steed
Patrick Macnee
Catherine Gale

Honor Blackman
Emma Peel

Diana Rigg
Tara King

Linda Thorson
One-Ten

Douglas Muir
One-Twelve

Arthur Hewlett
Mother

Patrick Newell
Charles

Paul Whitsun-Jones
Quilpie

Ronald Radd
Carol Wilson

Ingrid Hafner
Dr Martin King
Jon Rollason
Venus Smith
Julie Stevens