The AVENGERS


The AVENGERS
   UK tv series (1961-9). ABC TV (which became part of Thames TV in 1968). Created Sydney Newman. Prods Leonard White (seasons 1 and 2), John Bryce (seasons 2 and 3), Julian Wintle (season 4), Albert Fennell and Brian Clemens (seasons 5-7). Writers included Clemens, Terence Feely, Dennis Spooner, Malcolm Hulke and Terrance Dicks, Eric Paice, Philip Levene, Roger Marshall, Terry NATION. Dirs included Don Leaver, Peter Hammond, Roy Baker, Sidney Hayers, Gordon Flemyng, John Moxey, Robert Day, Robert Fuest, Charles Crichton, Don Chaffey, Don Sharp, John Hough. 7 seasons, 161 50min episodes. B/w 1961-6, colour 1967-9. This series' indirect precursor, Police Surgeon, began in 1960; prod and written by Julian Bond, it starred Ian Hendry as a compassionate police surgeon who spent his time helping people and solving cases. In 1961 Newman, later to be the BBC's head of drama, changed the format (making it less realistic), title (to The Avengers), running time (from 25 to 50 mins) and slightly changed Hendry's character (though he was still a compassionate doctor); most importantly, he introduced Patrick Macnee as the new protagonist, secret agent John Steed, a cool, well dressed, absurdly posh gentleman. 1962 saw the departure of Hendry and the arrival of Honor Blackman as leather-clad Cathy Gale, judo expert; at first she alternated with Julie Stevens as Venus Smith, nightclub singer, who appeared in only 6 episodes. The series, now far removed from its original format, became ever more popular as Steed and Mrs Gale battled increasingly bizarre enemies of the Crown. TA peaked in 1965, becoming more lavish, coincident with its sale to US tv and Blackman's replacement as sidekick by Diana Rigg (strong-minded, intelligent, cynical and beautiful) as Emma Peel. The scripts became ever more baroque, not to say rococo. There had been occasional sf episodes from early on (nuclear blackmail, terrorism using bubonic plague); now sf plots became the norm, involving everything from invisible men and carnivorous plants to Cybernauts (killer ROBOTS), ANDROIDS, mind-control rays and TIME MACHINES, mostly connected with plots to take over the UK or the world. TA had become perhaps the archetypal 1960s tv series, in its snobbery about the upper class, its stylish decadence, its high-camp and its sometimes surreal visual ambience. Robert Fuest, who later made The FINAL PROGRAMME (1974; vt The Last Days of Man on Earth), directed many of the later episodes; so did other mildly distinguished film-makers such as Roy Baker, John Hough and Don Sharp. The writer most associated with the series, and responsible for much of its new look and lunatic plotting, was Brian Clemens, who became coproducer of the last 3 series. The last season (1968-9) had Linda Thorson (playing Tara King) replacing Diana Rigg as female sidekick, and also introduced Steed's grossly fat boss, Mother, played by Patrick Newell. At least 9 original novels were based on or around TA, 5, 6 and 7 being by Keith LAUMER: The Afrit Affair (1968), The Drowned Queen (1968) and The Gold Bomb (1968). The Complete Avengers (1988) by Dave Rogers is a book about the series. Although TA belonged spiritually to the 1960s, Albert Fenell and Brian Clemens revived the series in 1976, with French financial backing, as The New Avengers, again starring Patrick Macnee, with Joanna Lumley as female sidekick Purdey and Gareth Hunt as kung-fu expert Mike Gambit. The series was made by Avengers (Film and TV) Enterprises/IDTV TV Productions, Paris, with Canadian episodes co-credited to Nielsen-Ferns Inc.; 2 seasons, 1976-7, 26 50min episodes, colour. The stories lacked the ease and panache of the 1960s version, and the sf ingredients became fewer and less inventive; the Cybernauts returned in one episode. John Steed's visible ageing must have acted as a kind of memento mori to nostalgic but dissatisfied viewers. In 1977 the entire production company moved to Canada, where the final episodes were set.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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