The Avengers: Series 2, Episode 16 – Immortal Clay

Steed is briefed by One-Ten in a steam room

  By a gigantic stroke of luck, it seems, while Mrs Gale is being given a guided tour of a ceramics atelier, she stumbles across a dead body in the room where the raw clay is kept. Doubly handily, it seems that the company is engaged on cutting edge research to produce an indestructible tile to be used in the nose cone of a British rocket – what days, what days – and the dead man in question is one of the researchers engaged in its development and production. Of course, Gale – in deliberately ass-backwards Avengers plotting – isn’t at the factory/studio/lab/atelier (Teddington Studios, in fact) by accident, and, by way of explanation, we … Read more

The Avengers: Series 2, Episode 15 – Intercrime

Mrs Gale and the Intercrime gang

  Twelve high level robberies in the last few weeks “and not one of them the work of an Englishman,” Steed says in the opening minutes of Intercrime, both the title of this episode and the name of a criminal outfit, a dark flipside of Interpol organising nefarious goings-on “all over Europe”. This case for Steed and Mrs Gale, the 15th to be broadcast in the second series – and the first to go out in 1963, the year of JFK’s assassination –  is a busy affair, with more than its fair share of ridiculousness. For example, to extract information from Hilda Stern (Julia Arnall), the German representative of Intercrime newly arrived in … Read more

The Avengers: Series 2, Episode 14 – Dead on Course

Dr King and John Steed

  The Avengers might just as easily have been called The Amateurs, since that was the original premise of the show – a bunch of freelance helpmeets called in to assist gangmaster John Steed in the solving of various cases too tricky to be handled by the usual agencies. No, it makes no real sense, but in Dead on Course, which was the 14th episode to be shown in series two, the concept remains vibrant and Jon Rollason’s Dr Martin King is the amateur called upon to help Steed work out why an experienced pilot would steer a plane into the sea off the coast of Ireland. Steed and King are there not because … Read more

The Avengers: Series 2, Episode 13 – Death Dispatch

Steed and One-Ten

  John Steed and Cathy Gale’s party trick, a duet working variations on the theme of the invincibility of the British upper class, really comes into its own in Death Dispatch, the 13th broadcast episode of series two. We’re off in the sort of colonial landscape described by Graham Greene – of swarthy thugs, Freudian dictators and minor functionaries of the Empire, a place where life is cheap and death is pitiless, as we see in the opening shots of this story where a low-level envoy newly in from Washington is quickly despatched in his hotel room in Jamaica. Cut to Steed, ogling women from his Caribbean sun lounger and meeting his control, … Read more

The Avengers: Series 2, Episode 12 – The Big Thinker

Tony Booth plays cards

    Things go technological in the 12th episode of series two – The Big Thinker – a tale of a big brain computer called Plato and the scientists who minister to it like Delphic virgins in white lab coats. Hanging on like grim death to the notion that Britain was still at the forefront of things cyber in the early 1960s, the plot turns on the demise of a scientist – frozen to death after getting caught inside the workings of an electronic beast that gives the UK a crucial lead in tech and spying – at which point Steed and Gale are sent in to investigate. I say Steed and Gale, but … Read more

The Avengers: Series 2, Episode 11 – Traitor in Zebra

Richard Leech and Honor Blackman

  In its heyday – Emma Peel era, shot on film, in colour, with the Laurie Johnson theme music – The Avengers became famous, notorious even, for its plots taking place in a nearly depopulated world. All very necessary, the better to maintain the suspension of disbelief – the outrageous storylines and arch characters simply wouldn’t stand up to exposure to the cold light of reality, so the theory goes. There’s nothing like that going on in the 11th broadcast episode of series two, Traitor in Zebra, which is thick with characters and stiff with “real life” situations. Patrick Macnee goes undercover as Commander Steed, a naval shrink investigating whether one of her majesty’s men … Read more

The Avengers: Series 2, Episode 10 – Death on the Rocks

Cathy Gale and John Steed

  The tone is light and bantery, a set of the features that would become permanent eventually, but in other respects this tenth episode of series two is one of the weaker entrants so far in the Avengers canon. Nothing wrong with any individual bit of it – a plot about Steed and Mrs Gales setting up home together (I say!), the better to pose as husband and wife, so they can infiltrate some diamond gang that’s trying to muscle in and control the trade by swamping the market with gems. And before you can say “takeover”, Steed has become a partner in a near-moribund diamond trading company, from where he will outwit the … Read more

The Avengers: Series 2, Episode 9 – The Sell-Out

Patrick Macnee and Frank Gatliff

  Just as the keel of the series had started to lift, floating at last in its own water, episode nine of series two plonks it back on the sea floor. The Sell-Out is a throwback to series one, which itself harks even further back – to the film noir genre which originally originally inspired the series. The trenchcoats, the respect for authority, the sense of white knights in a dark world. As The Avengers moved away from this founding idea, noticeably less and less actual avenging got done. In a plot set at the United Nations, Jon Rollason is back as Macnee’s sidekick, displacing Honor Blackman as the producers use up another … Read more

The Avengers: Series 2, Episode 8 – Death of a Great Dane

The butler and Steed discuss bowler hats

We’re now eight episodes into the second series of The Avengers and change is afoot. Even before Death of a Great Dane gets underway, something clearly sets this episode apart from the ones that came before. John Dankworth’s theme music has been perked up a bit – that 1950s-influenced jazz-inflected drone was sitting increasingly at odds with the increasing jauntiness of the series, largely thanks to Patrick Macnee’s playing of the dashing John Steed. And Honor Blackman gets a co-starring credit in the titles, where her face is featured prominently. Ever since Ian Hendry left at the end of series one, Patrick Macnee’s face alone had appeared. Blackman is also noticeably sleeker, more … Read more

The Avengers: Series 2, Episode 7 – The Mauritius Penny

John Steed in the dentist's chair

  An episode about a missing postage stamp? Thou shittest. Indeed not. That is exactly what The Avengers are up to in the seventh episode of series two, a bizarre story that starts off in the genteel world of philately and ends up at a meeting of neo-Nazis, by way of a gun-running operation. But if that is really what it was all about all along – Nazis and guns – why didn’t Steed tell Mrs Gale that right at the outset, instead of making out it’s all about a missing and very rare stamp? It’s all very baffling but also pretty charming, an episode steeped in class distinction right from the off, as … Read more