Sunday, 6 April 2014

The Avengers, 1965, British style

Having enjoyed the graphic novel featuring Steed and Mrs Peel, I had a look at some old episodes of the series from 1965. This was, in fact, the year that Emma Peel replaced Cathy Gale, and the very first episode starring Diana Rigg was The Town of No Return, followed by The Gravediggers and the Cybernauts.
Emma Peel is introduced to the programme when Steed goes round to her flat and finds her practicing her fencing. They obviously know each other well at this point, and later in the episode Emma is in bed in her room at the pub where they are staying, with Steed in the same room, fully clothed. Later, we find that Emma can let herself into Steed's flat and make herself coffee - and she remarks that he doesn't eat breakfast, which presumably means that she's been around at breakfast time at some point to find out.
It's interesting to see Emma Peel go undercover, first as a primary school teacher and then as a nurse, because in each case she is accepted instantly because she has a letter "from the Ministry" - who apparently allocated teachers and nurses willy-nilly across the country, even to private hospitals for Ailing Railwaymen. A far cry from present day cuts.
Because Emma is there to fight bad guys, in each case there has to be a bad woman (an icy blonde in each episode) for her to fight while Steed fights the men - though she does defeat one baddie by getting him to fall down an open trapdoor. She also gets tied up twice, though the second time is very funny, where she's tied to a model railway line to the accompaniment of silent movie piano music.
It was also interesting to note that solar power was mentioned in two episodes, and one character predicts tiny TVs and radios because of new transistor technology! This at a time when the most advanced computers relied on punch cards (which Steed reproduces with a pair of scissors to get into the Cybernaut HQ).
They're a little slower paced than we're used to now (they certainly got their money's worth out of the model train layout!) but the scripts are witty and just slightly bonkers, and still a lot of fun.

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