The Avengers Series 6

Patrick Macnee and Lind Thorson

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 1 – The Forget-Me-Knot

Exit Diana Rigg, enter Linda Thorson. Out with the old, in with the new in The Forget-Me-Knot, a handover episode that saw Diana Rigg leave The Avengers and Linda Thorson join it. Much has been said about Thorson – a good overview can be found here at Avengers Forever – and I’m not going to add to it here, except to say that I reckon she makes the best of what looks like a very bad situation. Departing/returning showrunner (all also detailed at Avengers Forever) Brian Clemens is clearly angling to ditch her as soon as he gets his feet back under the table and throughout this series again and again brings in … Read more

Steed caught in a giant game

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 2 – Game

After new opening titles – a mix of the medieval (Steed’s swordplay with his brolly) and the modern (Tara King in sophisticated black evening dress and then action-girl attire) – we’re off into Game, the first proper Tara King era episode of The Avengers. The excellent Robert Fuest (director of The Abominable Dr Phibes) is at the helm, directing a screenplay by Richard Harris which re-uses elements of his Winged Avenger episode in series 5. That was a revenge plot built around a character getting payback for something that happened long ago. This is the same idea, though the way in which payback is given is more elaborate – here the men involved … Read more

Window cleaners in white bowler hats and overalls

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 3 – Super Secret Cypher Snatch

As mentioned briefly in the previous post (and explained much more fully on the Avengers Forever website), there was a brief interregnum in the final series of The Avengers, when John Bryce took over as producer, only for Brian Clemens and Albert Fennell to return to save the day after Bryce got hopelessly bogged down. So in this series we’ve got a bunch of Bryce episodes and a whole lot more with Clemens as showrunner. Easiest way to distinguish is Tara King’s hair – if it’s blond, it’s Bryce. Super Secret Cypher Snatch is not one of those blond episodes. In fact Clemens and Fennell made quite sure that it was “their” Tara … Read more

Steed and King in fetching hats

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 4 – You’ll Catch Your Death

Boring but prescient is how you’d describe You’ll Catch Your Death, fourth episode of the final series of The Avengers. Prescient because it’s all about biological warfare, people dying due to exposure to some deadly toxin, Steed and King investigating the demises of the dead men (naturally) who all happened to be ear, nose and throat specialists. We see one of them (Hamilton Dyce) keeling over as this episode opens, having just opened a letter with nothing inside. A clue! Yes, the envelope is the clue, the only one, in fact. And once the envelope has been traced back to the shop it was brought from – handily (and an Avengers standby/weakness) a … Read more

Tara King about to undergo a mind-blend procedure

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 5 – Split!

Split! is the title, as in personality, a mind-control episode co-written by Brian Clemens and the similarly fecund Dennis Spooner. After John Bryce’s trio of episodes, The Invasion of the Earthmen, The Curious Case of the Countless Clues and The Forget-Me-Knot (only the last of which had been seen when this first aired), Split! marks the sudden return of Clemens et al, brought in when the Bryce regime got very behind on production targets. Reaching for an unused Emma Peel episode and reworking it pronto, Clemens and co also tweaked the opening credits, which are more serious (ironically, since Bryce’s remit was to return the series to the sort of realism it had … Read more

Steed with the computer, George

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 6 – Whoever Shot Poor George Oblique Stroke XR40?

Whoever Shot Poor George Oblique Stroke XR40? isn’t just a great title, it’s an announcement that the classic Avengers team – Fennell and Clemens – are back in the driving seat. This was the second episode they turned out after taking back control of the series from John Bryce and it’s clear there’s an obvious determination to demonstrate that everything is back as it should be. Most noticeably, this means Tara King is snappier, posher, archer and tougher – it’s Emma Peel in all but name – and Patrick Macnee responds accordingly with line readings that are zippier than we’ve got used to in this final series. What Whoever Shot Poor George Oblique … Read more

A meeting on the top deck of a bus

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 7 – False Witness

An episode of The Avengers with the name of director Charles Crichton on it is usually a good sign. A claim borne out by False Witness, a permutation on a favourite of showrunner Brian Clemens – mind control – scripted by Jeremy Burnham in such a way as to keep us guessing what’s going on for a quite a while. But back to Crichton, whose Ealing films like The Lavender Hill Mob show a fondness for getting out of the studio when possible. He satisfies his urge here, adding a layer of fascination for anyone keen to have a look at London’s streets in the 1960s. So much of The Avengers was shot … Read more

Tara King near a cliff edge

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 8 – All Done with Mirrors

A strange episode in many respects, All Done with Mirrors leaves John Steed almost entirely out of the picture, instead focusing on Tara King’s attempts to find out who is leaking secrets from a communications facility when Steed is arrested as a suspect mole. It’s all a ruse, of course, Steed will in fact be spending his time with Mother, Rhonda and some bikini-clad lovelies at HQ of the week, a swimming pool equipped with an excellent bar. King, instead, is given a right hand man, Watney (the excellent Dinsdale Landen) to help her investigate the security breaches. Invisible forces are at work in this one, literally, with an opening sequence which sees … Read more

Ronald Lacey and Stratford Johns

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 9 – Legacy of Death

“A bit crap,” is what I wrote in my notes towards the end of watching The Avengers episode Legacy of Death. Perhaps I was being too harsh. My memory of it now is of being a pleasingly entertaining episode, and that’s largely down to the work of Stratford Johns and Ronald Lacey, who do a knock-up and knockabout job of pastiching Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre, Casablanca/Maltese Falcon era. Pastiche is pretty much the watchword throughout, this being one of the banes of this farewell series (at what point did everyone realise that’s what it was?). But on to the plot – written by Dr Who’s Daleks creator Terry Nation and opening with … Read more

Ray Brooks and TP McKenna play cowboys

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 10 – Noon-Doomsday

High Noon, the 1952 movie starring Gary Cooper, is the inspiration behind this Terry Nation-scripted episode of The Avengers. Nation had done something similarly pastiche-y the previous week with Legacy of Death, an episode that leaned on 1940s noir. Quick thumbnail of High Noon – Gary Cooper is the good guy finding everyone in the town has a pressing previous engagement, leaving him to fend alone when a bad guy comes calling. An injured Steed takes his place here, his broken leg forcing him to convalesce in a very exclusive sanatorium (Brian Clemens’s farm, in fact) and finding himself increasingly isolated and vulnerable as a sworn enemy comes ever closer. The episode has … Read more

Linda Thorson and John Cleese

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 11 – Look – (Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One)…

Look – (Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One) but There Were These Two Fellers… that’s the full title to an episode determined that, since the day of The Avengers are numbered, things might as well go out with a bang. It’s written by the insanely prolific Dennis Spooner, whose name came to dominate British TV as the 1960s gave way to the 1970s and was dead at the ridiculously young age of 53 in 1986. Perhaps it was overwork. Musings on mortality to one side, this is a great episode for all sorts of reasons. Top of those is the cast, which is full of British comedians from all sorts of different … Read more

John Steed with automatic weapon

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 12 – Have Guns – Will Haggle

Intended as a 90-minute episode designed to introduce Tara King and originally called Invitation to a Killing, what became the 12th episode of the final series of The Avengers instead ran the usual 50-ish minutes, wound up being called Have Guns – Will Haggle and features not one but two iterations of King. The first is the ingenue blonde we are introduced to, producer John Bryce’s conception of King (Linda Thorson was his girlfriend at the time). The second, dropped in later by reshoot directors Robert Asher and Harry Booth, is slimmer, sleeker and has dark hair and a much more familiar Mrs Peel relationship with John Steed. Linda Thorson is fine as … Read more

Norman Jones and Ray McAnally

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 13 – They Keep Killing Steed

Improbable and fluffy, They Keep Killing Steed is a prime screenplay by showrunner and writer Brian Clemens, and a clear sign that the series is entirely back on track with a plot pivoting on the ideas of doubles – a classic Clemens trope. The fluidly cinematic Robert Fuest does directorial duty in a plot that leans heavily on Patrick Macnee – he plays at least four, possibly five Steeds, created to undo a peace conference by substituting the real thing with one of the obviously dodgy fakes. Tara King, meanwhile, gets a “double” plot of her own, when she’s co-opted by himbo babe-magnet billionaire Baron Von Curt (Ian Ogilvy) to act as his … Read more

Christopher Lee, Linda Thorson and Cecil Cheng

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 14 – The Interrogators

Charles Crichton directs and Christopher Lee guest-stars in The Interrogators, so we’re expecting good things of this episode of The Avengers, right? The plot is a good one – writer Richard Harris fleshing out an idea by Brian Clemens – and hinges on army chaps being tested to destruction by an interrogation outfit run by army chap Colonel Mannering (Christopher Lee). But if Mannering is absolutely on the level and on our side, why are there sadistic Chinese soldiers also on the scene, one of them holding the dreaded fly whisk? Of course he’s not on the level. Why hire Christopher Lee otherwise? Rewind a bit and we get a quick run-through of … Read more

Tara King holds a lock but the door's disappeared!

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 15 – The Rotters

What do you get if you draft in a comedy writer to pen an episode of The Avengers? The answer is The Rotters, by Dave Freeman, a prolific writer for TV comedy from the likes of Benny Hill, Terry Scott, Roy Hudd and Tommy Cooper. The shape of the episode however – opening shocker, call Steed and sidekick, say hello to various eccentrics as a particularly obvious clue is followed, meet mad mastermind before the big fight finale – that’s pure Brian Clemens. Things get off to a by-the-book start. A man is being chased somewhere in the Department of Forestry Research. Seeking refuge, he locks the door of his office, only for the door … Read more

Tara surrounded by people all dressed the same

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 16 – Invasion of the Earthmen

Here we are, Invasion of the Earthmen, the first Tara King episode shot by returning showrunner John Bryce, one of three he managed to get in the can before Brian Clemens and Albert Fennell again resumed control of The Avengers. This is not Bryce’s vision of the episode. Clemens has had a hack at it, and who knows what the Bryce version was originally like, but there’s a reason why this was slipped out 16 episodes into the final season, let’s just say. Star Trek is the obvious inspiration – from the clothes to the polystyrene boulders – and writer Terry Nation (the Dr Who writer no stranger to sci-fi) sets up an … Read more

Tara King and John Steed examine a clue

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 17 – Killer

Were showrunner Brian Clemens, fellow producer Albert Fennell and the rest of the production team trying to get rid of Linda Thorson? She had been introduced during his brief interregnum by producer John Bryce and when Clemens and Fennell returned, they were stuck with her. Killer is an episode bursting with agents – who die one after the other and wind up gift-wrapped in plastic – but Thorson’s character Tara King is notably absent, having told Steed in dialogue that protests a bit too much that she is off on holiday and there is nothing he can do about it… so there. Instead Steed is paired with Lady Diana Forbes-Blakeney – referred to … Read more

Peter Barkworth, Brian Blessed and Patrick Macnee

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 18 – The Morning After

Peter Barkworth, Joss Ackland and Brian Blessed fortify The Morning After, a decent “abandoned town” caper with an egregious USP – Tara King isn’t in it. It’s insult added to injury, given that the previous week Linda Thorson had been substituted by obvious try-out replacement Jennifer Croxton. This week Clemens has two stand-ins, Peter Barkworth and Jennifer Horner (attractive, blonde, posh), taking the place of King, who spends the entire episode “asleep”, thanks to some knockout gas administered by shifty quadruple agent Merlin (Barkworth) and which he unintentionally also falls victim to, along with Steed and King. If we’re being kind, it’s Clemens returning to an earlier idea of The Avengers – Steed … Read more

Anthony Bate

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 19 – The Curious Case of the Countless Clues

If you had been watching The Avengers every week in 1969, you’d have seen Tara King effectively neutralised – warming the bench – in the two previous episodes, Killer and The Morning After. And at first The Curious Case of the Countless Clues looks like third time unlucky for Linda Thorson. Tara has a broken tibia, it turns out, and is laid up at her apartment, forcing Steed to go it alone when a government minister is implicated in the murder of a man we’ve already seen dispatched in bizarre fashion, by a pair of “detectives” who appeared to have “found” the evidence of the man’s death before any crime has even been … Read more

Tara looks through the hole in a T shirt

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 20 – Wish You Were Here

After a couple of Tara-lite outings, a Steed-lite one for fans of Linda Thorson, who rises to the occasion in a fairly jokey episode, Wish You Were Here, which sees The Avengers doffing its hat to The Prisoner, whose 13 episodes had blazed across 1967 and 1968 (and continue to be talked about all these decades later). The premise behind Tony Williamson’s screenplay is laid out neatly in the opening sequence – two men, Brevitt and Merrydale (played by David Garth and Liam Redmond) discussing what appears to be a jailbreak. But when the camera pulls back… ta daaa… it turns out they are in fact guests at what looks like a high-class … Read more

Sir Rodney and Martha

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 21 – Love All

The phrase “pale, stale and male” was still waiting to be coined when this episode was first broadcast on a dark February night in 1969. And you didn’t hear the term “misogyny” on TV much either, particularly not on a Saturday evening entertainment show. But that’s where we are in The Avengers‘ episode Love All – no, no tennis is involved. It’s a classically formatted 50 minutes – the setup, the briefing, the visits to various eccentrics and the dénouement, with a couple of bizarre murders thrown in along the way just to keep things moving. The setup plonks us down in a briefing room full of white, ageing gents, all being told … Read more

Steed meets Father

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 22 – Stay Tuned

Mind control as a plot driver became The Avengers go-to narrative, and it gets another outing in Stay Tuned, a fine example of the show’s ongoing attempts to recapture old glory. It takes flight quickly – Steed with a ridiculous amount of baggage heading off on holiday. And then Steed some time later, also with a ridiculous amount of baggage setting off from his apartment to go on holiday again, only to be met by a bemused Tara, who tells him he’s been away for the past three weeks, and she’s got a postcard to prove it. We know something is going on because a) that’s the way these things tend to work … Read more

John Steed and Tara King blowing wind instruments

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 23 – Take Me to Your Leader

Coined as a film-making term by Alfred Hitchcock collaborator Angus McPhail, the Macguffin (spell it anyway you like) is a simple plot device which doesn’t do much on its own, but acts as a string on which a number of scenes can be strung, lending an illusion of wholeness to something which, without it, would just be a jumble. Take Me to Your Leader is the Macguffin idea at its purest, the driver of an effectively brisk and noticeably slick episode of The Avengers, written by Terry Nation and directed by Robert Fuest – pretty much the A team by this stage in the proceedings. The device? A red briefcase, one that talks, … Read more

Nigel Green

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 24 – Fog

London was still notorious for its fog in 1969 when The Avengers episode Fog aired, even though the Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968 had largely consigned all-enveloping, life-shortening meteorological damp blankets to history. No matter, fog is what’s called for and so fog is what we get, a thick pea-souper so dense that it seems to have transported the world back to the late Victorian era – an organ grinder, a blind man tap-tap-tapping his way through the street and a knife sharpener all turn up in the opening moments of an episode that’s actually about members of a disarmament delegation arriving in London, only to start turning up dead, one by … Read more

Steed, King and a stack of champagne glasses

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 25 – Who Was That Man I Saw You With?

There’s something a bit dead in the water about Who Was That Man I Saw You With?, a late-era Avengers episode with a lot going for it – but no spark. Jeremy Burnham wrote it, and atones for the messiness of Fog (the previous week’s episode) with a tightly constructed and well plotted story. There’s a bit of futurology in here too. Britain, it seems, has got itself a Star Wars defence system long before Ronald Reagan mooted the idea of a defensive umbrella that could blast incoming enemy missiles out of the sky. The system itself – codename Field Marshal – is magnificent, of course, but there are fears that a lone-wolf … Read more

Gerald Harper with the Crown Jewels

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 26 – Homicide and Old Lace

An episode written by Malcolm Hulke and Terrance Dicks, and then rewritten by Brian Clemens when he returned to the series. It was Clemens who inserted the framework narrative device – Mother visiting a pair of aged aunts and spinning them yarns about legendary feats of Avengers derring-do. The Great Great Britain Crime was the original title, under producer John Bryce. Clemens renamed it Homicide and Old Lace. And the old dears are rather good fun, a pair of bloodthirsty old broads who love nothing better than a wallow in gory tales of yore, keen on Cagney-era slang (“gats”, “rods” etc) and handy with a gun – they’re ready to shoot Mother the second … Read more

John Steed in a pair of welder's goggles

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 27 – Thingumajig

Thingumajig, a can’t-be-bothered title for an average episode that starts well – a woman carrying a skull into a small church is horrified when the organ starts playing on its own and the lights start to strobe. Meanwhile, underground, her fellow archaeologist is so wrapped up in excavating something that he doesn’t hear her shouts. Seconds later he’s dead, having been menaced by something slithering towards him. All he leaves behind is a picture of his attacker drawn in the sand – a square outline, more or less – and a curiously molten/fused torch. If it all sounds like a Doctor Who plot, that’s because it’s written by Terry Nation – creator of … Read more

Philip Madoc and Peter Vaughan

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 28 – My Wildest Dream

Though broadcast towards the end of the Tara King era, My Wildest Dream was made towards the beginning. It marks the point where Brian Clemens and Albert Fennell had fully taken back control of the series from John Bryce and were able to start banging out episodes that were theirs through and through, rather than rehashes/cut-and-shuts of stuff Bryce had finished or half-finished. This was the first of that bunch. It looks, perhaps no surprise, like an Emma Peel-era episode. Defiantly so, in fact – big bold colours, wide, empty sets, a pop-art influence. The dialogue is more Peel-era too – rat-a-tat-tat, knowing and smart. The story is by Philip Levene and has … Read more

Angela Douglas as Miranda

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 29 – Requiem

Requiem sounds like it should be the title for the last-ever episode of The Avengers, now only weeks away. That it’s not is a typical piece of perversity by showrunner Brian Clemens. Another is Clemens’s ongoing attempt to sideline Linda Thorson, which he’s still engaged in even this late in the day. Perhaps a further series was still a possibility. If it had come off, doubtless Tara King would have been noticeable by her absence. Anyhow, the setup – a woman is killed in an underground car park by a pair of heavies. But it turns out it’s not a woman at all, but a man in drag – who has been acting … Read more

Steed arrives laden with gifts

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 30 – Take-Over

Take-Over it was called in 1969 when it first aired. In the intervening decades the word takeover has lost its hyphen but this episode of The Avengers remains fresh and watchable precisely because of its antique quality. But first a bit of a prelim – man being escorted to prison makes a run for it when the car he’s in breaks down. Instead of chasing after him, his guards just hang back and watch. They even pull out cigars. Then one of them flicks a lighter, and the running man immediately falters, then falls to the floor choking. Dead. With the opening credits out of the way, the plot proper gets underway. Tara … Read more

Tara King in front of a portrait of Pandora

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 31 – Pandora

The benign king deceived by his courtiers – a wicked grand vizier, a scheming cardinal, a treacherous brother – is a comforting story told and retold down the ages. The Avengers episode Pandora is Brian Clemens’s version of it: a man grieving for a lost love being fooled by his family into believing she is alive, the better to loosen his grip on the family fortune… Pandora is that woman, dead 50 years but still mourned by maddened recluse Gregory (Peter Madden), around whom a massive deceit is daily confected that out in the wider world the First World War is still raging and Pandora is still alive. All that bad guys Rupert … Read more

Steed pours vodka on his bowler

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 32 – Get-A-Way!

The penultimate Avengers episode actually goes right back to the early days of this series’ production run. There was over a year between the completion of Get-A-Way! in February 1968 and its transmission in May 1969. It’s one of the ones produced (or started, at any rate) by John Bryce, whose short-lived attempt to take The Avengers back to some version of realism never really had enough time to gain traction before the old team of Clemens and Fennell were reinstated. Invisibility (realism?) is what Get-A-Way! is all about. Invisibility at a high-security prison for enemy agents, run as if it were a monastery – the warders wear habits (again, realism?) – where … Read more

Steed and Tara in a Saturn V rocket

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 33 – Bizarre

So we come to the end of The Avengers journey with Bizarre, 33rd episode of the final season. The show started in January 1961 and was literally about an Avenger, Ian Hendry playing David Keel, a doctor going on a restorative-justice rampage after his wife was killed by drug smugglers. And it ends here in May 1969, having morphed from a crime-based show shot as live in black and white on big TV cameras into something a lot more spytastic, shot on film with all the gloss you could muster on a TV budget. The early (surviving) episodes are almost unwatchable now, the terrible telecine transfers making them even lower in visual quality … Read more