The Avengers: Series 4, Episode 26 – Honey for the Prince

Diana Rigg and Ron Moody smoke a hookah

Mystical, mad and rather weird, Honey for the Prince was the last episode in series four of The Avengers, in terms of both production and transmission, and puts an exclamation mark on what has been an increasingly unreal and self-referential show. The script is by Brian Clemens, and in very Clemens style he layers eccentric characters over a plot that is ahead of its time. The story opens with a couple of unfortunates breaking in to a house decorated in an Arabian style. Finding a “magic lamp”, one of them gives it a jokey rub and – alakazam – a genie appears, a genie with a machine gun to be precise, and shoots … Read more

The Avengers: Series 4, Episode 25 – How to Succeed… at Murder

John Steed and Emma Peel

Feminist or not feminist? That’s the question that hovers over the whole of How to Succeed… at Murder, a Brian Clemens script for The Avengers that first aired in March 1966. Secretaries are what it’s all about, trusted right-hand women of busy gammon-faced male business titans, who are all dying in quick succession. Leaving the running of their companies in the hands of women formerly trusted with little more than jotting down and transcribing shorthand… because these Girl Fridays are the only people who understand the fiendishly complicated systems these men have devised. Is this a good thing (see how capable a woman can be!)? Or the opposite (things are so desperate that a … Read more

The Avengers: Series 4, Episode 24 – A Sense of History

Patrick Mower and Patrick Macnee

Fifty years before a referendum determined that the UK wanted to leave the EU, the subject was tackled in this Avengers episode called A Sense of History. But Martin Woodhouse’s screenplay doesn’t call on Winston Churchill or the Second World War to help invoke British exceptionalism. He goes further back… to Robin Hood and Merry England. Things kick off when an academic heading for a conference about Europia (a Utopian vision of a future Europe) is killed en route, by an arrow in his back, launched, possibly, from the bow of a student from the local St Bode’s college (the actors are mouthing “Bede” but in the post-dub it comes out as “Bode” … Read more

The Avengers: Series 4, Episode 23 – The House That Jack Built

Mrs Peel with an illuinated mask

John Lennon’s declaration that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus” had gone public just the day before The House That Jack Built aired in the UK on 5 March 1966. Not that this episode of The Avengers has anything to do with religion or popular music, or anything like that, but it swims in the same backward-looking yet progressive waters as the Beatles, and with a plot heavy on the paranoia, with suggestions of psychoactive substance use on the part of the writer, Brian Clemens, it couldn’t be more 1960s. Patrick Macnee more or less gets a day off this time out, and once he’s set the plot in motion – with … Read more

The Avengers: Series 4, Episode 22 – What the Butler Saw

Steed at the school for butlers

What the Butler Saw is an episode about what the butler did rather than saw, though it does kick off with John Le Mesurier – tongue doing at least half of his acting as usual – handing his employer a gun and looking on as a minion asking for too large a cut of an ill-gotten gain is murdered. What the butler actually saw, in the soft-porn flickerbook images of the Victorian Mutoscope machines, was his mistress disrobing. Appropriately, the reference points in this episode are Victorian – the 1949 Ealing comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets (set in Victorian times) in particular. Which is why Steed, aiming to find out which of a … Read more

The Avengers: Series 4, Episode 21 – A Touch of Brimstone

Emma Peel as the Queen of Sin

And so we come to A Touch of Brimstone, an episode that didn’t make it onto US TV screens in 1966, thanks to the bondage gear that Mrs Peel eventually gets into in the final scene. How we get there is pretty interesting too. The whole thing opens very cinematically with a lovely shot of the back of an armchair advancing towards the camera. It’s being pushed by Peter Wyngarde, no sign of the luxuriant moustache that made him a household name in Department S and its Wyngarde-focused spin-off Jason King, though he is sporting fancy shirt cuffs and links, a foreshadowing of King’s sartorial style. Wyngarde’s character, John Cleverly Cartney, is at … Read more

The Avengers: Series 4, Episode 20 – The Danger Makers

Emma Peel plays a deadly beat the buzzer game

The Danger Makers is the 13th episode of The Avengers written by Roger Marshall, the amazingly prolific writer of scripts for everything from 1959’s William Tell to 1992’s London’s Burning by way of Public Eye, The Sweeney and Lovejoy. And it’s a bizarre and fascinating story, of men doing massively foolish things in an attempt to put the fizz back into an existence made flat by the advance of technology. All this Marshall summarises neatly in an opening sequence about a man trying to commit suicide on a motor bike by engineering a crash. We know it’s a suicide attempt – or looks like it – because when he fails the first time, … Read more

The Avengers: Series 4, Episode 19 – Quick-Quick Slow Death

Mrs Peel listens in as John Steed is spirited away

Lean, arch and fast, Quick-Quick Slow Death is high-church Avengers, with barely a normal person in it. Instead a busload of eccentrics power a plot that starts odd – a full-grown man in evening dress and bearing a “Lucille” tattoo on his arm being disgorged from a baby’s runaway pram after it’s crashed at speed – and keeps getting odder. Steed and Peel are soon on the case of the dead “agent” – the series has also finally decided how to describe the line of work that Steed and his various partners are in – with Peel off to a tattoo parlour to pursue the “Lucille” line of enquiry, while Steed heads to … Read more

The Avengers: Series 4, Episode 18 – The Thirteenth Hole

Patrick Allen and Patrick Macnee

The Thirteenth Hole sees Steed and Peel in action at a golf club where golfers seem to keep dying. Once again, it’s an episode with a needlessly elaborate plot about an international consortium of bad hats getting up to skulduggery. But instead of prosecuting their roguery from an office or a warehouse out on a sensible industrial estate, they choose an idiosyncratic and public location – this time a golf club – which out here in the real world would provide over-easy access for any number of potential thwarters of their enterprise. Or perhaps I’m taking the whole thing a bit too seriously. The plot, when it finally fully reveals itself, is all … Read more

The Avengers: Series 4, Episode 17 – The Girl from Auntie

Liz Fraser, Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg on set

The Girl from Auntie this episode is called, a nod to The Man from Uncle, which had debuted about six months earlier on US TV and become an instant hit with its sexy spies, gadgets, 007 goofery and strong sense of the ridiculous, having clearly drunk from the same well as The Avengers. All that said, sadly this is not a great episode, though it is stuffed with good things. It’s also not particularly heavy on Emma Peel, who was perhaps off talking to the Bond people – Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore having made waves – or just enjoying a bit of a break when the episode was in production. She turns up in … Read more