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TheAvengers is an espionage Britishtelevision series created in 1961. TheAvengers initially focused on Dr. DavidKeel (Ian Hendry) and his assistant John Steed (Patrick Macnee).Hendry left after the first series and Steed became the maincharacter, partnered with a succession of assistants. Steed\'s mostfamous assistants were intelligent, stylish and assertive women:Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman), Emma Peel (Diana Rigg), and Tara King(Linda Thorson). The Avengersran from 1961 until 1969, screening as one-hour episodes its entirerun. The pilot episode, \"Hot Snow,\" aired on 7 January1961. The final episode, \"Bizarre,\" aired on 21 May 1969.
TheAvengers was produced by AssociatedBritish Corporation, a contractor within the ITV network. After amerger in July 1968 ABC Television became Thames Television, whichcontinued production of the series although it was still broadcastunder the ABC name. By 1969 The Avengerswas shown in more than 90 countries. ITV produced a sequel series TheNew Avengers (1976–1977) with PatrickMacnee returning as John Steed, and two new partners. In 2007 TheAvengers was ranked #20 on TVGuide\'s Top Cult Shows Ever.
1961: WithDr David Keel (Ian Hendry)
TheAssociated British Corporation (ABC Television) produced a singleseries of Police Surgeon,in which Ian Hendry played police surgeon Geoffrey Brent, fromSeptember through December 1960. While PoliceSurgeon did not last long, viewerspraised Hendry, and ABC Television cast him for their new series, TheAvengers, which replaced PoliceSurgeon in January 1961.
TheAvengers began with episode \"HotSnow\", in which medical doctor Dr David Keel (Hendry)investigates the murder of his fiancée and office receptionist Peggyby a drug ring. A stranger named John Steed, who was investigatingthe ring, appeared and together they set out to avenge her death inthe first two episodes. Afterwards, Steed asked Keel to partner himas needed to solve crimes. Hendry was considered the star of the newseries, receiving top billing over Macnee, and Steed did not appearin two episodes.
As thefirst series of The Avengersprogressed, Steed\'s importance increased, and he carried the finalepisode solo. While Steed and Keel used wit while discussing crimesand dangers, the series also depicted the interplay—and oftentension—between Keel\'s idealism and Steed\'s professionalism. Asseen in one of the three surviving episodes from the first series,\"The Frighteners\", Steed also had helpers among thepopulation who provided information, similar to the \"BakerStreet Irregulars\" of Sherlock Holmes.
Theother regular in the first series was Carol Wilson (Ingrid Hafner),the nurse and receptionist who replaced the slain Peggy. Carolassisted Keel and Steed in cases, and in at least one episode (\"Girlon the Trapeze\") being very much in the thick of the action, butwithout being part of Steed\'s inner circle. Hafner had playedopposite Hendry as a nurse in one episode of PoliceSurgeon.
Theseries was shot on 405-line videotape using a multicamera setup.There was little provision for editing and virtually no locationfootage (although the very first shot of the first episode consistedof location footage). As was standard practice at the time,videotapes of early episodes of TheAvengers were reused. At present, onlythree complete Season 1 episodes are known to exist and are held inarchives as 16 mm film telerecordings: \"Girl on the Trapeze\"(which does not feature Steed), \"The Frighteners\" and\"Tunnel of Fear\" Additionally, the first 15 minutes of thefirst episode, \"Hot Snow\", also exist as a telerecording;the extant footage ends at the conclusion of the first act, prior tothe introduction of John Steed.
Themissing television episodes are currently being re-created for audioby Big Finish Productions under the title of TheAvengers - The Lost Episodes and starJulian Wadham as Steed, Anthony Howell as Dr. Keel and LucyBriggs-Owen as Carol Wilson.
1962–64:With Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman), Venus Smith (Julie Stevens) and DrMartin King (Jon Rollason)
Productionof the first series was cut short by a strike. By the time productioncould begin on the second series, Hendry had quit to pursue a filmcareer. Macnee was promoted to star and Steed became the focus of theseries, initially working with a rotation of three differentpartners. Dr Martin King (Jon Rollason), a thinly disguised rewritingof Keel, saw action in only three episodes produced from scriptswritten for the first series. King was intended to be a transitionalcharacter between Keel and Steed\'s two new female partners, but whilethe Dr. King episodes were shot first, they were shown out ofproduction order in the middle of the season. The character wasthereafter quickly and quietly dropped.
Nightclubsinger Venus Smith (Julie Stevens) appeared in six episodes. She wasa complete \"amateur,\" meaning that she did not have anyprofessional crime-fighting skills as did the two doctors. She wasexcited to be participating in a \"spy\" adventure alongsidesecret agent Steed (although some episodes—\"The Removal Men\",\"The Decapod\"—indicate she is not always enthusiastic).Nonetheless, she appears to be attracted to him and theirrelationship is somewhat similar to that later portrayed betweenSteed and Tara King. Her episodes featured musical interludesshowcasing her singing performances. The character of Venus underwentsome revision during her run, adopting more youthful demeanor anddress.
Thefirst episode broadcast in the second series had introduced thepartner who would change the show into the format for which it ismost remembered. Honor Blackman played Dr Cathy Gale, a self-assured,quick-witted anthropologist who was skilled in judo and had a passionfor leather clothes. Widowed during the Mau Mau years in Kenya, shewas the \"talented amateur\" who saw her aid to Steed\'s casesas a service to her nation. She was said to have been born 5 October1930 at midnight and raised in Africa. Gale was early-to-mid 30sduring her tenure, in contrast to female characters in similar serieswho tended to be younger.
Gale wasunlike any female character seen before on British TV and became ahousehold name. Reportedly, part of her charm was because herearliest appearances were episodes in which dialogue written for Keelwas simply transferred to her. Said series script writer DennisSpooner \"there\'s the famous story of how Honor Blackman playedIan Hendry\'s part, which is why they stuck her in leather and such—itwas so much cheaper than changing the lines!\" In \"Conspiracyof Silence\" she holds her own in a vociferous tacticaldisagreement with her partner.
VenusSmith did not return for the third series and Cathy Gale becameSteed\'s only regular partner. The series established a level ofsexual tension between Steed and Gale, but the writers were notallowed to go beyond flirting and innuendo. Despite this therelationship between Steed and Gale was progressive for 1962–63. In\"The Golden Eggs\" it is revealed that Gale lived in Steed\'sflat; her rent according to Steed was to keep the refrigeratorwell-stocked and to cook for him (she appears to do neither).However, this was said to be a temporary arrangement while Galelooked for a new home, and Steed was sleeping at a hotel.
Duringthe first series there were hints Steed worked for a branch ofBritish Intelligence, and this was expanded in the second series.Steed initially received orders from different superiors, includingsomeone referred to as \"Charles,\" and \"One-Ten\"(Douglas Muir). By the third series the delivery of Steed\'s orderswas not depicted on screen or explained. In \"The Nutshell\"the secret organization to which Steed belongs is shown, and it isGale\'s first visit to their HQ.
Smallreferences to Steed\'s background were occasionally made. In seriesthree\'s \"Death of a Batman\" it was said that Steed was withI Corps in World War II, and in Munich in 1945. In series fourepisode \"The Hour That Never Was\" Steed attends a reunionof his RAF regiment. Since the ties he wears are either cavalry orold school, he apparently had attended a number of leading publicschools.
A filmversion of the series was in its initial planning stages by late 1963after series three was completed. An early story proposal pairedSteed and Gale with a male and female duo of American agents, to makethe movie appeal to the American market. Before the project couldgain momentum Blackman was cast opposite Sean Connery in Goldfinger,requiring her to leave the Gale era, Steed was transformed from a rugged trenchcoat-wearingagent into the stereotypical English gentleman, complete with SavileRow suit, bowler hat, and umbrella with clothes later designed byPierre Cardin (Steed had first donned bowler and carried hisdistinctive umbrella part way through the first season as \"TheFrighteners\" depicts). The bowler and umbrella were soon changedto be full of tricks including a sword hidden within the umbrellahandle and a steel plate concealed in the hat. These items werereferred to in the French, German, and Polish titles of the series,Chapeau melon et bottes de cuir(\"Bowler hat and leather boots\"), MitSchirm, Charme und Melone (\"WithUmbrella, Charm and Bowler Hat\") and Rewolweri melonik (\"A Revolver and aBowler Hat\"), respectively. With his impeccable manners, oldworld sophistication, and vintage automobiles, Steed came torepresent the traditional Englishman of an earlier era.
Bycontrast his partners were youthful, forward-looking, and alwaysdressed in the latest mod fashions. Gale\'s innovative leather outfitssuited her many athletic fight scenes. Honor Blackman became a starin Britain with her black leather outfits and boots (nicknamed \"kinkyboots\") and her judo-based fighting style. She also carried apistol in \"Killer Whale\". Macnee and Blackman even releaseda novelty song called \"Kinky Boots.\" Some of the clothesseen in The Avengerswere designed at the studio of John Sutcliffe, who published theAtomAgefetish magazine.
Seriesscript writer Dennis Spooner said that the series would frequentlyfeature Steed visiting busy public places such as the main airport inLondon without anyone else present in the scene. \"\'Can\'t youafford extras?\' they\'d ask. Well, it wasn\'t like that. It\'s just thatSteed had to be alone to be accepted. Put him in a crowd and hesticks out like a sore thumb! Let\'s face it, with normal people he\'sweird. The trick to making him acceptable is never to show himin a normal world, just fighting villains who are odder than he is!\"
1965–68:With Emma Peel (Diana Rigg)
In 1965the show was sold to a United States network, the AmericanBroadcasting Company (ABC). The Avengersbecame one of the first British series to be aired on prime time U.S.television. The ABC network paid the then-unheard-of sum of $2million for the first 26 episodes. The average budget for eachepisode was reportedly £56,000, which was high for the Britishindustry. The fourth series aired in the U.S. from March to December1966.
The U.S.deal meant that the producers could afford to start shooting theseries on 35mm film. The use of film rather than videotape as in theearlier episodes was essential as British 405-line video wastechnically incompatible with the U.S. NTSC videotape format. Filmedproductions were standard on U.S. prime time television at that time.The Avengerscontinued to be produced in black and white.
Thetransfer to film meant that episodes would be shot using the singlecamera setup, giving the production greater flexibility. The use offilm production and the single-camera production style allowed moresophisticated visuals and camera angles and more outdoor locationshots, all of which greatly improved the look of the series. As wasstandard on British television filmed production through the 1960s,all location work on series four was shot mute with the soundtrackcreated in post production. Dialogue scenes were filmed in thestudio, leading to some jumps between location and studio footage.
Newfemale partner Mrs Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) debuted in this series inOctober 1965. The name of the character derived from a comment bywriters, during development, that they wanted a character with \"manappeal.\" In an early attempt to incorporate this concept intothe character\'s name, she was called \"Samantha Peel\"shortened to the awkward \"Mantha Peel\". Eventually thewriters began referring to the idea by the verbal shorthand \"M.Appeal\" which gave rise to the character\'s ultimate name. EmmaPeel, whose husband went missing while flying over the Amazon,retained the self-assuredness of Gale, combined with superiorfighting skills, intelligence, and a contemporary fashion sense.
Aftermore than 60 actresses had been auditioned, the first choice to playthe role was Elizabeth Shepherd. However, after filming one and ahalf episodes (the pilot, \"The Town of No Return\", and partof \"The Murder Market\"), Shepherd was released. Heron-screen personality was deemed less interesting than that ofBlackman\'s Gale and it was decided she was not right for the role.Another 20 actresses were auditioned before the show\'s castingdirector suggested that producers Brian Clemens and Albert Fennellcheck out a televised drama featuring the relatively unknown Rigg(she had earlier guested in an episode of TheSentimental Agent that Clemens hadwritten). Her screen test with Macnee showed that the two immediatelyworked well together.
Aprologue was added to the beginning of all the fourth-series episodesfor the American transmissions. This was to clarify some initialconfusion audiences had regarding the characters and their mission.In the opener, a waiter holding a champagne bottle falls dead onto ahuman-sized chessboard; a dagger protruding from a target on hisback. Steed and Mrs. Peel (dressed in her trademark leather catsuit)walk up to the body as the voice-over explains: \"Extraordinarycrimes against the people, and the state, have to be avenged byagents extraordinary. Two such people are John Steed, topprofessional, and his partner Emma Peel, talented amateur. Otherwiseknown as The Avengers.\" During this voice-over, Steed pours twodrinks from the wine bottle and Mrs Peel replaces her gun in herboot. They clink glasses and depart together. Fade to black and thenthe opening titles proper begin.
Incontrast to the Gale episodes, there is a lighter, comic touch inSteed and Peel\'s interactions with each other and their reactions toother characters and situations. Earlier series had a harder tone,with the Gale era including some quite serious espionage dramas. Thisalmost completely disappeared as Steed and Peel visibly enjoy toppingeach other\'s witticisms. The layer of conflict with Gale—who onoccasion openly resented being used by Steed, often without herpermission—is absent from Steed\'s interaction with Peel. Also thesexual tension between Steed and Gale is quite different from thetension between Steed and Peel. In both cases, the exact relationshipbetween the partners is left ambiguous, although they seemed to havecarte blanche to visit each other\'s homes whenever theyplease, and it is not uncommon for scenes to suggest Steed had spentthe night at Gale\'s or Peel\'s home, or vice versa. Although nothing\"improper\" is displayed, the obviously much closerchemistry between Steed and Peel constantly suggests intimacy betweenthe two.
Sciencefiction and fantasy elements (a style later known as spy-fi) alsobegin to emerge in stories. The duo encounters killer robots (\"TheCybernauts\"), telepaths (\"Too Many Christmas Trees\")and giant alien carnivorous plants (\"The Man-Eater of SurreyGreen\").
In herfourth episode, \"Death at Bargain Prices,\" Mrs Peel takesan undercover job at a department store. Her uniform for promotingspace-age toys is an elaborate leather catsuit plus silver boots,sash and welder\'s gloves. The suit minus the silver accessoriesbecomes her signature outfit which she wore primarily for fightscenes in early episodes and in the titles. Some episodes contain afetishistic undercurrent. In \"A Touch of Brimstone\" MrsPeel dresses in a dominatrix outfit of corset, laced boots and spikedcollar to become the \"Queen of Sin.\"
Peel\'savant-garde fashions, featuring bold accents and high-contrastgeometric patterns, emphasize her youthful, contemporary personality.For the 1965 season, some of her most memorable outfits were designedby John Bates, including graphic black and white Op art mini-coatsand accessories, and a silver ensemble comprising a bra bodice,low-slung trousers, and jacket. She represents the modern England ofthe Sixties– just as Steed, with his vintage style andmannerisms, personifies Edwardian era nostalgia. According to Macneein his book The Avengers and Me,Rigg disliked wearing leather and insisted on a new line of fabricathletic wear for the fifth series. Alun Hughes, who had designedclothing for Diana Rigg\'s personal wardrobe, was suggested by theactress to design Emma Peel\'s \"softer\" new wardrobe. PierreCardin was brought in to design a new wardrobe for Macnee. InAmerica, TV Guideran a four-page photospread on Rigg\'s new \"Emmapeeler\"outfits (10–16 June 1967). Eight tight-fitting jumpsuits in avariety of bright colours were created using the stretch filmed series (of 26 episodes) in black and white, TheAvengers began filming in colour forthe fifth series in 1966. It was three years before Britain\'s ITVnetwork began full colour broadcasting. This series was broadcast inthe U.S. from January to May 1967. The American prologue of theprevious series was rejigged for the colour episodes. It opened withthe caption The Avengers In Color(required by ABC for colour series at that time). This was followedby Steed unwrapping the foil from a champagne bottle and Peelshooting the cork away. (Unlike the \"chessboard\" opening ofthe previous series, this new prologue was also included in UKbroadcasts of the series.)
Thefirst 16 episodes of the fifth series begin with Peel receiving acall-to-duty message from Steed: \"Mrs Peel, we\'re needed.\"Peel was conducting her normal activities when she unexpectedlyreceived a message on a calling card or within a delivered gift, atwhich point Steed suddenly appeared (usually in her apartment). Themessages were delivered by Steed in increasingly bizarre ways as theseries progressed: in a newspaper Peel had just bought, or on trafficlights while she was out driving. On one occasion Steed appeared onher television set, interrupting an old science-fiction movie(actually clips from their Year Four episode \"The Cybernauts\")to call her to work. Another way Steed contacted her was in thebeginning of episode 13, \"A Funny Thing Happened On The Way ToThe Station\" when she enters her flat and sees a Meccano Percythe Small Engine going around a circular track with a note on one ofthe train cars that says \"Mrs. Peel\" in bold letters, shethen walks over to Steed who says, \"You\'re needed.\" At thestart of \"The Hidden Tiger\" Peel is redecorating herapartment (wearing a jumpsuit and drinking champagne); she peels offa strip of wallpaper, revealing the words \"Mrs Peel\"painted on the wall beneath. She turns to see Steed in the apartmentremoving another strip of wallpaper, revealing \"We\'re needed\"painted underneath on another wall. In another instance Emma entersSteed\'s flat to find he has just fallen down the stairs, and hepainfully gasps, \"Mrs Peel, you\'re needed.\" Often theepisode\'s tag scene returned to the situation of the \"Mrs Peel,we\'re needed\" scene. \"The Hidden Tiger\" returns to thepartially redecorated apartment where Steed begins painting a loveheart and arrow and the initials of two people on the wall, butpaints over the initials when Peel sees his graffito. In \"TheSuperlative Seven\" the call to duty and the tag both involve aduck shooting situation where unexpected items fall from the skyafter shots are fired.
Theseries also introduced a comic tag line caption to the episodetitle, using the format of \"Steed [does this], Emma [doesthat].\" For example \"The Joker\" had the openingcaption: \"Steed trumps an ace, Emma plays a lone hand.\"(\"The Joker\" was to a large extent a re-write of \"Don\'tLook Behind You\", a b/w episode with Cathy Gale. A few otherlater colour episodes were re-writes of b/w episodes.)
The \"MrsPeel, we\'re needed\" scenes and the alternate tag lines weredropped after the first 16 episodes, after a break in production, forfinancial reasons. They were deemed by the U.K. networks asdisposable if The Avengers was to return to ITV screens. (DaveRogers\' book The Avengers Anew lists a set for everySteed/Peel episode except \"The Forget-Me-Knot\".)
Storieswere increasingly characterized by a futuristic, science-fictionbent, with mad scientists and their creations wreaking havoc. The duodealt with being shrunk to doll size (\"Mission... HighlyImprobable\"), pet cats being electrically altered into ferociousand lethal \"miniature tigers\" (\"The Hidden Tiger\"),killer automata (\"Return of The Cybernauts\"),mind-transferring machines (\"Who\'s Who???\"), and invisiblefoes (\"The See-Through Man\").
Theseries parodied its American contemporaries with episodes such as\"The Girl From AUNTIE\", \"Mission... Highly Improbable\"and \"The Winged Avenger\" (spoofing TheMan from U.N.C.L.E., Mission:Impossible and Batman,respectively). The show still carried the basic format: Steed and hisassociate were charged with solving the problem in the space of a50-minute episode, thus preserving the safety of 1960s Britain.
Humourwas evident in the names and acronyms of the organizations. Forexample, in \"The Living Dead\", two rival groups examinereported ghost sightings: FOG (Friends Of Ghosts) and SMOG(Scientific Measurement Of Ghosts). \"The Hidden Tiger\"features the Philanthropic Union for Rescue, Relief and Recuperationof Cats—PURRR—led by characters named Cheshire, Manx, and Angora.
Theseries also occasionally adopted a metafictional tone, coming closeto breaking the fourth wall. In the series 5 episode \"SomethingNasty in the Nursery\" Peel directly references the series\'storytelling convention of having potentially helpful sources ofinformation killed off just before she or Steed arrive. This thenoccurs a few minutes later. In the tag scene for the same episode,Steed and Peel tell viewers—indirectly—to tune in next week.
For thisseries Diana Rigg\'s stunt double was stuntwoman Cyd Child, thoughstuntman Peter Elliot doubled for Rigg in a stunt dive in \"TheBird Who Knew Too Much\".
Rigg wasinitially unhappy with the way she was treated by the show\'sproducers. During her first series she learned she was being paidless than the camera man. She demanded a raise, to put her more on apar with her co-star, or she would leave the show. The producers gavein, thanks to the show\'s great popularity in the US. At the end ofthe fifth series in 1967, Rigg left to pursue other projects. Thisincluded following Honor Blackman to play a leading role in a JamesBond film, in this case On Her Majesty\'sSecret Service as James Bond\'s wifeTracy Bond.
Rigg andMacnee remained lifelong friends.
On 25October 2015, to mark 50 years of Emma Peel, the BFI (British FilmInstitute) screened an episode of TheAvengers followed by an onstageinterview with Rigg, during which she discussed her reasons forleaving the show and Patrick Macnee\'s reaction to her departure.
1968–69:With Tara King (Linda Thorson)
WhenDiana Rigg left the series in October 1967, the British networkexecutives decided that the current series formula, despite resultingin popular success, could not be pursued further. Thus they decidedthat a \"return to realism\" was appropriate for the sixthseries (1968–69). Brian Clemens and Albert Fennel were replaced byJohn Bryce, producer of most of the Cathy Gale-era episodes.
Brycehad a difficult situation in hand. He had to find a replacement forDiana Rigg and shoot the first seven episodes of the new series,which were supposed to be shipped to America together with the lasteight Emma Peel colour episodes.
Brycesigned his then-girlfriend, 20-year-old newcomer Linda Thorson, asthe new female co-star and chose the name \"Tara King\" forher character. Thorson played the role with more innocence in mindand at heart; and unlike the previous partnerships with Cathy andEmma, the writers allowed subtle hints of romance to blossom betweenSteed and King. King also differed from Steed\'s previous partners inthat she was a fully fledged (albeit initially inexperienced) agentworking for Steed\'s organisation; his previous partners had all been(in the words of the prologue used for American broadcasts of thefirst Rigg series) talented amateurs. Bryce wanted Tara to be blonde,so Thorson\'s brown hair was bleached. However the process badlydamaged Thorson\'s hair, so she had to wear wigs for the first thirdof her episodes, until her own hair grew back. Her natural brown hairwas not seen until the episode \"All Done with Mirrors\".
Productionof the first seven episodes of the sixth series began. Howeverfinancial problems and internal difficulties undermined Bryce\'seffort. He only managed to complete three episodes: \"Invitationto a Killing\" (a 90-minute episode introducing Tara King), \"TheGreat, Great Britain Crime\" (some of its original footage wasreused in the 1969 episode \"Homicide and Old Lace\") and\"Invasion of the Earthmen\" (which survived relativelyintact except for the scenes in which Tara wears a brown wig.)
After arough cut screening of these episodes to studio executives, Bryce wasfired and Clemens and Fennel were summoned back. At their return, afourth episode called \"The Murderous Connection\" was in itssecond day of production. After revising the script, it was renamedas \"The Curious Case of the Countless Clues\" and productionwas resumed. Production of the episode \"Split!\", a leftoverscript from the Emma Peel colour series, proceeded. Two completelynew episodes were also shot: \"Get-A-Way\", and \"Look(Stop Me If You\'ve Heard This One) But There Were These Two Fellers\".
DennisSpooner said of the event:
Brianleft The Avengers for about three episodes, someone took over,and when Brian came back, it was in a terrible state. He was facedwith doing a rewrite on a film they\'d already shot.\" The episodehad a story error where Steed leaves for a destination. The villainsthen realise this and pursue him– yet arrive there beforeSteed does. It was fixed by having a character ask Steed \'What tookyou so long?\', to which he replies \'I came the pretty way\'. \"Youcan only do that on The Avengers you see. It was just myfavourite show to work on.
Clemensand Fennel decided to film a new episode to introduce Tara King.This, the third episode filmed for the sixth series, was titled \"TheForget-Me-Knot\" and bade farewell to Emma Peel and introducedher successor, a trained but inexperienced agent named Tara King. Itwould be broadcast as the first episode of the sixth series. Taradebuts in dynamic style: when Steed is called to Headquarters, he isattacked and knocked down by trainee agent King who mistakes him forher training partner.
Nofarewell scenes for Emma Peel had been shot when Diana Rigg left theseries. Rigg was recalled for \"The Forget-Me-Knot\", throughwhich Emma acts as Steed\'s partner as usual. Rigg also filmed afarewell scene for Emma which appeared as the tag scene of theepisode. It was explained that Emma\'s husband, Peter Peel, was foundalive and rescued, and she left the British secret service to be withhim. Emma visits Steed to say goodbye, and while leaving she passesTara on the stairway giving the advice that \"He likes his teastirred anti-clockwise.\" Steed looks out the window as adeparting Emma enters the Bentley driven by Peter– who from adistance seems to resemble Steed (and was played by Steed\'s regularstunt-double, with bowler hat and umbrella).
Bryce\'soriginal episode introducing Tara, \"Invitation to a Killing\",was revised as a regular 60-minute episode named \"Have Guns WillHaggle\". These episodes, together with \"Invasion of theEarthmen\" and the last eight Peel colour episodes, were shippedto America in February 1968.
For thisseries the government official who gave Steed his orders was depictedon screen. Mother, introduced in \"The Forget-Me-Knot\", is aman in a wheelchair. The role was taken by Patrick Newell who hadplayed different roles in two earlier episodes, most recently inseries five. Mother\'s headquarters would shift from place to place,including one episode where his complete office was on the top levelof a double-decker bus. (Several James Bond films of the 1970s wouldmake use of a similar gimmick for Bond\'s briefings.)
Addedlater as a regular was Mother\'s mute Amazonian assistant, Rhonda,played by uncredited actress Rhonda Parker. There was one appearanceby an agency official code-named \"Father\", a blind olderwoman played by Iris Russell. (Russell had appeared in the seriesseveral times previously in other roles.) In one episode, \"Killer\",Steed is paired with Lady Diana Forbes Blakeney (Jennifer Croxton)while King is on holiday.
ScriptwriterDennis Spooner later reflected on this series. \"When I wrote\'Look (Stop Me If You\'ve Heard This One) But There Were These TwoFellers\', that was definitely the last series. They were going tomake no more, so in that series we went right over the top; we wentreally weird, because they knew there weren\'t going to be anymore.\"
Spoonersaid the series \"worked because it became a parody on itself,almost. You can only do that so long.\" Overall he attributes thesuccess of the show to its light approach. \"We spoofedeverything, we took Mission: Impossible,Bad Day at Black Rock,High Noon,The Dirty Dozen,The Birds...we took them all. The film buffs used to love it. There were alwayslines in it that people knew what we were talking about.\"
Therevised series continued to be broadcast in America. The episodeswith Linda Thorson as King proved to be highly rated in Europe andthe UK. In the United States however, the ABC network that carriedthe series chose to air it opposite the number one show in thecountry at the time, Rowan and Martin\'sLaugh-In. Steed and King could notcompete, and the show was cancelled in the US. Without this vitalcommercial backing, production could not continue in Britain either,and the series ended in May 1969. The final scene of the finalepisode (\"Bizarre\") has Steed and King, champagne glassesin hand, accidentally launching themselves into orbit aboard arocket, as Mother breaks the fourth wall and says to the audience,\"They\'ll be back!\" before adding in shock, \"They\'reunchaperoned up there!\"
The 1961series featured a jazz-influenced theme by John Dankworth. Librarymusic was used sparsely as a soundtrack, sometimes with variationsbased on the main theme. Dankworth\'s theme music was reworked for thethird series. Dankworth\'s first theme was recorded on the Columbialabel, on a 45rpm single, and a new recording, similar to thereworked television theme was issued on Fontana in 1963. A veryfaithful cover version was released by Johnny Gregory.
WhenRigg joined the series in 1965, new theme music by Laurie Johnson wasintroduced. This was based on a previously released title, on LPcalled \"The Shake\" (which capitalized on \"TheShake\" dance craze of the 60s ). For the colour series (1967), apercussion section was added, to accompany the new teaser sequence atthe start of each episode. Johnson re-scored the theme when LindaThorson joined the series, adding a counter melody on trumpet, basedon the leitmotif for Tara King from the final Rigg episode \"TheForget-Me-Knot\". The new theme debuted in the closing titles ofthe episode \"The Forget-Me-Knot\", which introduced Thorson.It was altogether more dynamic, and included a much more freneticpercussion section, for the revised teaser sequence. Importantly, thefilmed episodes contained specially composed scores by Johnson. Toaccompany Steed\'s request \"Mrs Peel – you\'re needed!\", hecomposed a brief \'sting\', and there was also a special theme for\'Emma\'. For the \'Thorson\' series, a characteristic piece was composedto accompany the tag scene, at the end of each episode. Many of themost memorable cues from the Rigg/Thorson series, including theopening, and closing titles themes, and the \'Tag Scene\' were releasedcommercially on CD in 2009.
Owing toa professional commitment to score for the film HotMillions (starring Peter Ustinov, andMaggie Smith), Johnson requested assistance from his keyboard player,Howard Blake, who scored some of the episodes of the final season, aswell as additional music for other episodes which Johnson did nothave time to complete. These were composed in a style remarkablysimilar to Johnson\'s. In 2011, to mark the 50th anniversary of theseries, these almost complete scores by Blake, including Johnson\'smain, and end titles themes, were issued on a double CD set. Of theoriginal Johnson theme, countless cover versions have been releasedon vinyl and CD, and the opening motif was retained on the series TheNew Avengers.
Johnsonsubsequently collaborated with Clemens on other projects, includingthe theme for The New Avengers.
Theautomobiles used in the series became almost as famous as the actors.From the 4th season on, Steed\'s signature cars were six vintage green1926–1928 Bentley racing or town cars, including Blower Bentleysand Bentley Speed Sixes (although, uniquely, in \"The ThirteenthHole\" he drives a Vauxhall 30-98). In the final season he drovetwo yellow Rolls Royces – a 1923 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost and a1927 Rolls Royce New Phantom. Peel drove Lotus Elan convertibles (awhite 1964 and a powder blue 1966), which, like her clothes,emphasized her independence and vitality. During the first Peelseries (Season 4), each episode ended with a short, humorous scene ofthe duo leaving the scene of their most recent adventure in someunusual vehicle. Mother occasionally appeared in silver Rolls-Royce.Tara King drove an AC 428 and a Lotus Europa. Lady Diana ForbesBlakeney drove an MGC who would later go on to spearhead the creation of DoctorWho for the BBC, never received screencredit as the creator of The Avengers.In his memoir, The Avengers and Me,Patrick Macnee interviewed Newman about this. Newman explained thathe never sought on-screen credit on the series because during hisprevious tenure at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, suchcredits were not given, and he never thought to get one for TheAvengers.
Theproduction team changed during the series\' long run, particularlybetween the third and fourth series, but the influence of BrianClemens was felt throughout. He wrote the second episode and becamethe series\' most prolific scriptwriter. Succeeding producers LeonardWhite and John Bryce, Julian Wintle became the producer of the 4thseries with Brian Clemens credited as Associate Producer and AlbertFennell credited as \"In charge of production\". Series 5,made by A.B.C. Television Films, (which was created during the run upto Associated British Corporation and Associated-Redifussion formingThames TV) Clemens and Fennell became co-producers, with Wintle asExecutive Producer. For series 6, after its first producer John Bryceleft, Clemens and Fennell returned as co-producers, early episodesalso credit Julian Wintle as Consultant to the series and PhilipLevene as Story Consultant.
RayAustin became the fight arranger for series 4 and 5, introducing kungfu to the series. Ray Austin had been training with Chee Soo and theyworked techniques from Feng Shou Kung fu and T\'ai Chi into the fightscenes and credit sequences. Ray Austin, Diana Rigg and Chee Soo werelater awarded a Guinness world record as the first people to showkung fu on television. Later he became a prolific televisiondirector. Joe Dunne took over for series 6.
Receptionin Canada and the United States
Althoughtelerecordings of the second and third series were seen in Canada asearly as 1963, the first two series of TheAvengers were not broadcast ontelevision in the United States. ABC purchased the rights tobroadcast seasons 4 and 5 in the United States in 1965. The sale ofThe Avengersto United States television prompted a change in production stylefrom the 405-line British multi-camera stand to the single camerashooting method, originated on 35 mm film.
Theseries\' stunt man and stunt arranger Ray Austin expressed the opinionthat the show\'s violence ultimately harmed its popular success in theUnited States. There The Avengerswas given a late timeslot due to its violence. \"They did thatwith the first Avengershere [in the U.S.], with Diana Rigg. They put us on at 11:30 pm onCBS [sic],because it was too violent.\" Austin goes on to explain that U.S.television follows a \"different code\". Austin said that onThe Avengers\"we were determined to do the show our way, the English way, andno one was going to stop us! And, indeed, no one did stop us. Wenever, never got to prime time. And it was our own faults, because wewould not comply to the Midwest. That\'s where the money comes from inthis country, nowhere else. Forget Los Angeles, forget New York—youhave to aim for the Midwest. If the Midwest watches your show, you\'vemade it.\" In fact the first and second series of Emma Peelepisodes mainly aired at 10:00 pm on ABC. The final Rigg episodes andall the Linda Thorson episodes mainly ran at 7:30 pm, also on ABC.
Americancensors objected to some content, in particular the episode \"ATouch of Brimstone\" which featured a modern day version of theHellfire Club and climaxed with Emma being dressed in a skimpy corsetcostume with spiked collar and high heel boots to become the Queen ofSin, and being attacked with a whip by guest star Peter Wyngarde. TheAmerican broadcast network refused to air it. In total five episodesfrom the first Emma Peel series were not initially broadcast by ABC.These were: \"A Surfeit of H2O\", \"Silent Dust\"(which featured Emma being attacked with a horsewhip), \"Quick-QuickSlow Death\", \"A Touch of Brimstone\" and \"Honeyfor the Prince\" (in which Emma performed the dance of the sevenveils), although they were seen in later syndicated repeats.
EarlierCathy Gale and Venus Smith episodes had aired in Canada before thearrival of Mrs. Peel. U.S. audiences saw the 1962–1964 Gale andSmith episodes of the series for the first time in the early 1990swhen they were broadcast on the A&E Network. No Keel episode ofthe series was ever repeatedly broadcast outside Britain, and even inthe UK only one episode, \"The Frighteners\", was rebroadcast(as part of a run of classic episodes on Channel 4 in early 1993,otherwise mostly consisting of Gale episodes).
Rerunsof The Avengersnow currently air on the NBCUniversal-owned digital subchannelnetwork Cozi TV.