The Avengers: Series 4, Episode 6 – The Master Minds

Emma Peel with bow and arrow

The Master Minds was episode six in series four in transmission terms, but only the second episode that Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee had made together. Hence the not-quite-thereness of their relationship – notice throughout how rarely Rigg actually looks at Steed. By series five the two of them were locked in almost permanent ocular combat. It’s relevant because this is a classic Rigg-era Avengers episode – it’s all about boffins and mind control – trailing clouds of the Cathy Gale era, when relations between Steed and his sidekick were much more workmanlike, for all Steed’s suggestive banter. The plot kicks into life when  government minister Sir Clive Todd (Laurence Hardy) is caught … Read more

The Avengers: Series 4, Episode 5 – Castle De’ath

John Steed with a sword. Assailant with a gun

  Three Bond movies had been released and a fourth was just around the corner, when Castle De’ath was broadcast on an autumnal Saturday night in 1965. It’s a mini-me version of Bond, with Scotland standing in for myriad exotic locations, a mini-sub standing in for all the 007 tech and Steed and Peel doing their best to quip for England as the plot takes them north of the border.   Things kick off with a pre-Steadycam handheld tour of the castle – every heartbeat of the cameraman registering – which winds up in a dungeon where a man is being tortured on the rack.   He’s an agent and soon dead, and … Read more

The Avengers: Series 4, Episode 4 – Death at Bargain Prices

Mrs Peel at gunpoint

  Charles Crichton directed one of the best Ealing comedies, 1951’s Lavender Hill Mob, and the highest grossing British comedy of the 1980s, 1988’s A Fish Called Wanda – both crime capers – so is just the man for an episode of The Avengers.   And the first shot of the first of five episodes he’d direct announces that “a director” is in the house – it’s a looming, upward-looking shot of a building at dusk, in near-silhouette, ominous as you like.   But Crichton wasn’t lauded for his visual style – though he had plenty. What got him the plaudits was his economy (famously praised by Wanda writer/star John Cleese), his ability … Read more

The Avengers: Series 4, Episode 3 – The Cybernauts

cybernaut with Steed and Peel

The sixth of the Diana Rigg episodes to be made, though the third to be shown, The Cybernauts looks vaguely back to the Honor Blackman era – Mrs Peel still in leather and a bit helmet-haired – but in other respects it’s the most forward-looking episode we’ve yet seen. Perhaps that’s what you’d expect with a sci-fi flavoured episode title with a ring of Doctor Who about it.   Or are we in the realm of the supernatural? In the traditional opening “death scene” we see a man in his house being attacked by some big creature impervious to bullets, strong enough to bend a rifle barrel with a swipe of the hand … Read more

The Avengers: Series 4, Episode 2 – The Gravediggers

Steed tries to release Mrs Peel who is tied to the railway track

  Like a classic album that warms us up with an opening track before hitting us with a doozy, episode two of series four of The Avengers, The Gravediggers, is vintage entertainment that gets just about everything right.   The plot is a mix of proper spy stuff and the eccentric, the macabre and the mad, and gets off onto its twin-track course with an opening shot of a newly filled grave out of which – after some ominous movement of the soil – an antenna pops.   Over on the North York Moors at Fylingdales early warning system (it’s not named as such, but those white golfball domes look very like it), a techie … Read more

The Avengers: Series 4, Episode 1 – The Town of No Return

Emma Peel in fencing gear

  And so, drum roll, The Town of No Return and the beginning of series 4. And with it the arrival of Diana Rigg as Mrs Emma Peel, the story going that the new partner for Steed would have to have “man appeal” or M-appeal for short. Hence the name.   She’s not the only new arrival – more money has clearly turned up, allowing the series to be shot on film and on location much more often. So no more studio-bound “as live” episodes rehearsed one day and shot the next. John Dankworth’s theme music has also been retired. Its jazzy plangency was fine for a 1950s style noirish detective series featuring … Read more