The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 27 – Thingumajig

John Steed in a pair of welder's goggles

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

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

Gerald Harper with the Crown Jewels

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

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

Steed, King and a stack of champagne glasses

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

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 24 – Fog

Nigel Green

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

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 talks, … 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 run around the block 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 again some time later, also with a ridiculous amount of baggage setting off from his apartment to go on holiday for a second time, 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 … 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 told … 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 high-class … 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 – Steed … Read more