The Avengers

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the Avengers

"Mrs Peel, we're needed" This show is a great example of classic British Television. Action and humour combined in a stylish mix that captures the 60's. Emma Peel, well, what can you say, a mathematician who can karate chop with the best of them, portrayed by one of the most beautiful women I can think of. This program has no expiry date. If you love all the books, annuals and stuff there is a  place for you. The film starring Urma Thurman as Mrs Peel and Ralph Fiennes as John Steed had a lot to live up to but didn't quite make it. Still, it was good fun.


New Avengers


In the late 1970's the producers of the original series had a an updated version. It was a reasonable success with a style of its own.

tv_weekly_1966-06-06_avengers_dianna_rigg.jpg - 168.6 KBtv_weekly_1966-11-21_diana_rigg.jpg - 58.2 KBMatrick McNee and Diana Rigg from 1968 magazine cover


The following information used to be hosted on The UK Sci-Fi TV Book Guide; our thanks to Kieran Seymour for allowing us to host it here, and to those who contributed to that site.

After reprinting the four Panther Books novels from the UK which had featured Steed and Emma Peel, Berkley Medallion found themselves in the position of having to commission new books themselves if the popular range was to continue, and their first new release was the Afrit Affair. Again this would featuring Emma Peel, but this was to be the final novel to feature the character, as the first episode of Season 7 would see her husband, Peter, being found alive in the Amazon, and would end with Tara King in place as Steed's new assistant.

The first book to feature Tara would be The Drowned Queen, and like The Afrit Affair was written by American novelist Keith Laumer. He would go on to write one further book in the series, The Gold Bomb. The final two titles published were both by Norman Daniels, and with range would end at around the same time as the television series itself.

No further books based on The Avengers would be published until 1977, when Weidenfeld & Nicolson released Tim Heald's Jealous in Honor. This was a fictional biography of Steed and was presumably prompted by the appearance on television of The New Avengers. Despite being titled "Volume One" no further books were forthcoming and things then fell quiet agin until the early 1980s when The Saga of Happy Valley was released in Australia. Needless to say, changing the names of the main characters to "John Steade" and "Emma Peale" was not enough to divert the attention of the genuine copyright holders, although in a highly unusual move the book was allowed to remain on sale.

The next book to be released was the officially-licensed Too Many Targets, published by St Martin's Press in the United States in 1990. Co-written by prolific tie-in author John Peel and Avengers expert Dave Peel, this would see the return of all of Steed's main allies from the 1960s, and saw them pitted once more against the Cybernauts.

One further item of Avengers is fiction is worth mentioning, and that is a short story which appeared in the Television Crimebusters Omnibus in 1994. Edited by Peter Haining, the book featured extracts from tie-in books based on numerous series, with The Avengers being represented by What's a Ghoul Like You Doing in a Place Like This?, a story taken from the third and final Avengers annual from Atlas in the 1960s.

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by Ian Hendry, from a TV Time New Avengers souviner magazine

tv_times_1961_03_12_avengersIt all seems improbable now. The New avengers was born out of The Avengers; whose "Daddy" was a live cops-and-robbers-with-a-difference TV series called Police Surgeon (Not to be confused with a later American series of that title)

The idea was that I, as a police surgeon. became an Avenger against everything evil after my girlfriend was shot down in the street by the biddies

It is one of the ironies of life that the shotdown girl was an actress called Catherine Woodville. Later. she was to become Patrick Macnee’s second wife….

Pat came into the series as my sidekick. For a long while, no one was sure if he was a goodie or a baddie. And, to be quite honest, neither did we.

But, in those first fumbling beginnings, it was Pat and myself as the actors who helped knock some shape into the whole thing. A lot of other people played their part in it — as you will learn in this souvenir

Here. of course, I'm talking as an actor. And from that point of view the series was both funny and furious.

Imagine it. In those early days, television was live. The viewer could watch a terrible fist fight —and 20 seconds Later one of the fighters (who'd been covered in mud and blood) was supposed to walk in nonchalantly, impeccably dressed. That second scene, of course, was supposed to be happening hours, days, or even a few weeks later.

I remember one of those sequences where I was fighting a baddie in a studio mock-up of sewers. The fight ended with me doing an 8h. back-fall into water. They had built an 8 ft. square water tank made, of all things, from whitewood.

It you have ever fallen back-wards from a height of 8 ft. into a water tank only 8 ft. square, you'll know that it is slightly dangerous. I reckon that when I hit the water, the clearance between my head and the tank wall was about a quarter of an inch.

Then came the next problem. A green slime had developed on the bottom of the tank. The baddie had to gimp into the water on top of me, and we were supposed to continue the fight until I delivered my killer punch. I certainly won that particular battle. As I lashed out at him. I slipped on the slime and knocked him cold — for real.

There was no time to do anything about it. I had to jump from the tank, run round the set to where the wardrobe and make-up departments were ready with a towel to dry my hair, and slap on a dry top coat so I could make a casual entrance to a room with Steed by my side. This scene was allegedly happening some many hours later.

Underneath I was sopping wet. but as far as the viewers were concerned, I was as warm as toast in my lovely covercoat. I was having it good. Back in the water tank, an inoffensive, unfortunate stuntman, trying to earn an honourable living as a TV baddie. was graciously drowning.

Happily, the studio crew got him out in time.

Those early days were all hysterical and mad and silly. We loved it. really.

Most of all we loved the companionship and atmosphere. I’ve had a theory throughout my acting career that the first consideration of an actor is to be part of a happy company.

Wc rehearsed in an old building opposite a pub in Hammersmith. After the cast had been given their copies of the script, I would take them over to the pub, act as mine host, tell them not to worry because they were still on the payroll — and we'd get to work. Then Pat and myself. and sometimes a few others, would go to a nearby steak house. After that, it was usually Pat and I who would grab a bottle of scotch or brandy and go to a flat off Kensington High Street to beat out our latest approach to The Avengers characters.

There were some wonderful times. Once, we were supposed to be locked in a wardrobe from which we had to shout, in unison: "Let us out, let us out".

The wardrobe, made of the most fragile plywood, couldn't have withstood an assault by a placid four-year-old girl, much less the combined physical might of two magnificent Avengers.

Eventually, I think it was an old lady who let us out. In reality, if either of us had breathed out too hard the whole wardrobe would have burst apart.

And there were doors that wouldn't open, and handles that fell off when they did. The scenery collapsed once.

Don't forget, all this was going out live, just as you'd see it from your seat in a theatre.

But I do think we managed, in those early days, to develop a new style. I was supposed to be phlegmatic, and when I got too boring Steed was there to send me up and tell me not to be so serious.

And when Steed got too outrageous I was there to say: 'Oh come on. don't overdo it".

The New Avengers cost 4,000,000 pounds to produce. In the beginning. Pat and I felt as though The Avengers cost fourpence. But it did have something special, it did develop into a world beating television series, and it did help a lot of people to stardom. Honor Blackman. Diana Rigg, Linda Thorson. and now, I reckon, Joanna Lumley and Gareth Hunt. Not to mention Pat Macnee himself.

Although I was the first Avenger, Pat will always be the Avenger-in-Chief.

Now he will take you down The Avengers memory lane in the following pages. I'm glad I was one of the first to go down it.