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

John Steed and Tara King blowing wind instruments

  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 … Read more

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 22 – Stay Tuned

Steed meets Father

  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 … Read more

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 21 – Love All

Sir Rodney and Martha

  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 … Read more

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

Tara looks through the hole in a T shirt

  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 … Read more

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

Anthony Bate

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

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

Peter Barkworth, Brian Blessed and Patrick Macnee

  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 – … Read more

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 17 – Killer

Tara King and John Steed examine a clue

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

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

Tara surrounded by people all dressed the same

  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 … Read more

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 15 – The Rotters

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

  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 … Read more

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 14 – The Interrogators

Christopher Lee, Linda Thorson and Cecil Cheng

  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 … Read more