Saturday, October 08, 2011

Geek TV #6: The Avengers!

Concept: British Intelligence Agent John Steed and a series of partners battle the (sometimes bizarre) forces of evil in the UK in a stylish, witty manner.

Total Episodes: 161

Original Air Dates: 1961-1969

Original Network: ITV in the UK, ABC in the USA

Geek Factor: 10

Steed and Cathy Gale
John Steed (Patrick MacNee): An agent of MI5 ½, Steed operates more or less autonomously, choosing to work with a series of partners, most of them female. Originally, Steed dressed in traditional secret agent garb (including trenchcoat), but eventually shed that persona, preferring an Edwardian look, including his ever-present bowler (which was steel-lined) and umbrella (which concealed a saber inside). Steed rarely carries or uses a gun, despite being quite adept with them.

Dr. David Keel (Ian Hendry): Dr. Keel was investigating the murder of his wife when he first encountered Steed, who was impressed enough with Keel that he asked Keel to continue solving crimes with him.

Venus Smith (Julie Stevens): Steed's second partner, apparently attracted to Steed. Venus was a singer when she wasn't assisting Steed, which may be why she only assisted Steed six times.

Steed and Mrs. Peel
Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman): Venus' replacement, a self-assured, quick-witted anthropologist who is skilled in judo and fond of wearing leather. Dr. Gale lived in Steed's flat, according to Steed the rent was to keep the fridge well-stocked and to cook for him, although neither appeared to ever happen. Cathy Gale broke off ties with Steed to take up with a different British agent (okay, that's a joke... Honor Blackman left The Avengers to be in “Goldfinger”).

Emma Peel (Diana Rigg): The partner best known to US Avengers fans. Mrs. Peel's husband went missing while flying over the Amazon prior to her teaming up with Steed. Beautiful, self-assured, intelligent, and an accomplished martial artist, Mrs. Peel lasted the longest of Steed's partners.

Tara King (Linda Thorson): Tara teamed up with Steed and Mrs. Peel, fresh out of training in the British Secret Service, and shortly became Steed's new partner (Mrs. Peel's husband had been found alive and rescued – and was apparently Steed's physical double). More innocent and inexperienced (though better trained) than Mrs. Peel or Cathy Gale, Tara seemed to have much more of a crush on Steed than his previous female partners.

Tara King
Geek Guest-Stars: Terence Plummer (who appeared in a few episodes) was a goon in the 1989 “Batman,” and also appeared on Blake's 7 and The Saint. T.P. McKenna appeared in a few Avengers episodes, and was also Captain Cook in the Doctor Who serial “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy,” as well as a few episodes of The Saint. Christopher Lee played Dracula for Hammer Films, Count Dooku in Star Wars: Episode III, played Saruman in the Lord of the Rings, and many other genre films and TV shows. Michael Gough later played Alfred in the Batman movies, and also had roles in Doctor Who, Blake's 7, and The Saint. Brian Blessed, probably better known for playing Prince Vultan in Flash Gordon, also had parts in Space: 1999, Blake's 7, The Black Adder, Doctor Who, “Star Wars: Episode I,” Disney's Tarzan, and is rumored to be appearing in the Hobbit film.

From the "Touch of Brimstone" episode,
Geek Pedigree: Patrick Macnee returned to the role of Steed for The New Avengers, but he also appeared in episodes of Night Gallery, Alias Smith & Jones, Battlestar Galactica, The Return of the Man from UNCLE, Automan, War of the Worlds, and NightMan. Diana Rigg later appeared in “The Great Muppet Caper” and “On Her Majesty's Secret Service.” Honor Blackman, of course, was in “Goldfinger,” but also appeared on Doctor Who. Linda Thorson later appeared in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

DVD Release: Complete box sets.

The New Avengers, a later revival.
Notes: This was probably the first British TV series I ever watched and became a fan of – at least, that I was aware it was British (I'd been a fan of Thunderbirds). Mrs. Peel is my favorite of Steed's companions, although I have to admit liking Tara King, too!

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