The Avengers: Series 3, Episode 26 – Lobster Quadrille

Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman publicity shot

Episodes of The Avengers were often not shown in production order. But Lobster Quadrille was both the last one broadcast and the last one made in series three, going out on 21 March 1964, a day after it had been finished. It’s also Honor Blackman’s farewell episode, before she headed off to be Pussy Galore to Sean Connery’s 007 in Goldfinger. And so you’d be tempted to think the production team might give her a good send-off. But in fact it’s a very John Steed-focused adventure, all about lobster fisherman, a dastardly plot to flood the country with heroin and a mystery Chinaman who connects the first with the second. No, Chinaman is … Read more

The Avengers: Series 3, Episode 25 – Esprit De Corp

Honor Blackman, Duncan Macrae and John Thaw in Esprit de Corps

Esprit De Corps is a mad and twisty Avengers episode, one of many dealing with the subject of indoctrination, the focus here being an army unit that’s going to launch a coup d’etat and put the “rightful” heir back on the throne. Mad enough, but there’s a fruitloop turn to come which I won’t spoil. Instead let me tell you that a 22-year-old John Thaw plays a key role, as an army captain (Thaw generally did play older than he was – at 33 he was seen-it-all cop Jack Regan in The Sweeney; he was only 45 when he played the retirement-dodging star of Inspector Morse). Thaw’s Captain Trench is being hoodwinked by … Read more

The Avengers: Series 3, Episode 24 – Concerto

Nigel Stock and Patrick Macnee

Shot in April 1963 but not actually broadcast until April 1964, Concerto is a spytastic episode with a Cold War setting, espionage chicanery and so on, with a plot about a concert pianist being accused of rape and murder. Or more to the point, a plot about Steed and his Russian opposite number Zalenko (Nigel Stock) trying to prevent pianist Stefan Veliko (Sandor Elès) being fingered as a criminal in order to keep trade talks between the two countries on the road. It’s a Steed-heavy episode, with Mrs Gale relegated to babysitting the accused man within minutes of the episode kicking off, right after a journalist has cried blue murder after a supposed … Read more

The Avengers: Series 3, Episode 23 – The Charmers

Fenella Fielding publicity shot for The Charmers

Charm, rather than grit or narrative or psychological coherence, are really what The Avengers are about, and in the appropriately titled The Charmers we get tons of it, thanks to a fine script by Brian Clemens and light, deft playing by the guest actors. It’s also, more or less, the first of the properly jokey, larky Avengers, though it kicks off in familiar style – a death before the opening credits, by the sword. 1960s TV loved a “touché” and we learn that this killing of an enemy agent is the latest in a spate of them. While the enemy being murdered in quantity might ordinarily be a good thing, matters have got … Read more

The Avengers: Series 3, Episode 22 – The Outside-In Man

Steed and Gale

Whether The Avengers is or isn’t a spy series depends very much on the episode you watch. In The Outside-In Man we’re very much in spy mode, right from the opening scene, in which Steed is seen walking into a butcher’s shop. Then, Man from Uncle style (which was in development when this episode aired in February 1964), he walks from the front of the shop and into the walk-in fridge with the butcher, who immediately drops his Cockney accent to brief him on his job. Butcher/control Quilpie (Ronald Radd) is an M-like figure and has a secretary (Virginia Stride) called Alice but in demeanour and function her name might as well be … Read more

The Avengers: Series 3, Episode 21 – Build a Better Mousetrap

Steed charms his way into the gang

Build a Better Mousetrap is a great episode of The Avengers – it’s Brian Clemens at his best, from its very Clemens-y joshing title, to his use of British eccentrics, and his mix of the venerable with the modern, the tech with the antique and the old with the young, not forgetting Clemens’s usual dabble in the sociology of class. And it gets off to a flying start, making sensible use of Mrs Gale’s penchant for leather by inserting her into a motorcycle gang, somewhat improbably. As the episode gets going, one of this gang’s number is frightening two harmless old ladies (Athene Seyler, Nora Nicholson), who retaliate by threatening to put a … Read more

The Avengers: Series 3, Episode 20 – Trojan Horse

Mrs Gale and Tony Heuston

At one point almost every episode of The Avengers started with a death before the opening credits. Trojan Horse plays with that idea, showing us a punter who won’t pay his betting debts being killed by some heavies. After his killers have left the scene, the dead man gets up and walks away. It’s a ruse, a scam initiated by master bookmaker Tony Heuston (TP McKenna) who wants rich toff Lucien ffordsham (Geoffrey Whitehead) to believe he’s implicated in a murder, and to use that leverage against him. Steed and Gale are in the neighbourhood because they’re protecting Sebastian, a valuable racehorse belonging to a Middle Eastern potentate, who is in the UK … Read more

The Avengers: Series 3, Episode 19 – The Secrets Broker

Patricia English and Ronald Allen

The Beatles were number one in America for the first time, with I Want to Hold Your Hand, when this latest episode of The Avengers, The Secrets Broker, aired in the UK on 1 February 1964. But though The Avengers went on to become one of the key harmonics of the Swinging London vibe, there’s scant evidence of it in this episode, the latest in the haphazard, piecemeal “one step forward, two steps back” way that the show almost blindly stumbled its way to glory. It’s a bit old school, this episode, in other words, even though it starts out with a scene at a clairvoyant’s – very 1960s (the doors of perception, and … Read more

The Avengers: Series 3, Episode 18 – Mandrake

Honor Blackman and John Le Mesurier

The United States launched the Echo 2 satellite on 25 January 1964, the day that the Mandrake episode of The Avengers aired. And though the week before’s outing, The Wringer, had been a very up-to-date affair, set in the world of international espionage and modern brainwashing techniques, Mandrake harks back to earlier episodes of the series in its dourness and its down-to-earth setting. Under-the-earth setting, in fact, because the plot concerns itself with a mystery about a string of dead businessmen, all of whom have been buried in the same remote Cornish town, Tinby, for no good reason. They don’t come from there and have no connection to the place. Battle is joined … Read more

The Avengers: Series 3, Episode 17 – The Wringer

Patrick Macnee and Peter Sallis

Peter Sallis hasn’t yet developed the voice that would make him the ideal Wallace (of Wallace and Gromit fame) in his outing as an amnesiac spook on the run in The Wringer, an episode in which a string of spies have been killed and Steed has been brought in to find out why, which prompts Sallis to then dob Steed in as the one doing the killing. It’s one of the best stories in this series, perhaps because The Avengers had long ago given up all pretence that Mrs Gale is an amateur helping Steed out – she’s now as clued in as he is – or that Steed is essentially the Man Friday … Read more