Ah! ‘The Avengers: The Lost Episodes’. It’s a bit of a conundrum knowing what to say about these new audio adventures. These four episodes in the boxed set or download actually come from the original ‘Avengers’ series 1, which has regrettably been lost to time. That sounds oh so familiar, doesn’t it?
There are at least two types of listener groups to grab hold of here. Some really old people like me will remember ‘The Avengers’. Some will remember ‘The New Avengers’ and many who will be wondering where on earth Iron Man and the Hulk have got to. Rest assured these guys are no super-heroes but there still plenty of scenery scrunching, huffing and puffing violence to be going along with. Ker-pow!
‘The Avengers’ here is quite a different show to the one I remember and probably a lot of others. I came in just before it went off the air I think when there was a bowler-hatted debonair Steed and various female leads that I might have got confused with Catwoman off the 60s Batman. In fact, I was probably not allowed to watch much if any of this series. I was the correct age for ‘The New Avengers’ and it was right up my street as having been brought up with ‘The Champions’, it rung all the right bells and, yes, we all wanted Joanna Lumley’s Purdey hair cut, even the boys!
This first series first and only broadcast in 1961 saw Ian Hendry take the lead so the audience was really focused on how this everyman, just an ordinary person, took on extraordinary tasks to get justice. The show ran from 1961-69 it became quite a different series over that time, possibly because Hendry who was the bigger star left after the first series and Patrick Macnee got promoted and his wink-wink style epitomised the sleazy 60s. He had several glamorous women assistants who rightly became stars in their own right, all power to women’s lib.
The four episodes have been skilfully adapted by John Dorney and very little is lost by them being in audio, other than the desire to see all those 60s fashions again. I occasionally got a couple of the voices mixed up and got a bit over-excited by having ‘The Archers’ actors in it. The musical inserts were very insistent but I got used to them, they are in the style of the original but newly composed and nicely louche in the style of the times.
The dialogue which is mostly the original is fantastic and I couldn’t hear the Dorney joins. It actually feels modern and is often witty without being overly smartass and without the hectic pace we are used to.
1. Hot Snow written by Ray Rigby and adapted by John Dorney
Showing how TV series can grow and change with the audience this original ‘Avengers’ is quite a different affair. The lead here is Dr. Keel played by Anthony Howell and the mysterious Steed played by the Minister of Chance himself, Julian Wadham, makes a late appearance. There is time to enjoy the period setting, too, before the eruption of violence and a new path is taken by the good doctor. When his fiancée is murdered in the street, Keel must make an ally of the mysterious Steed to track her killer. Here he is aided by the sweet, unquestioning Dr. Tredding, who covers his surgeries seemingly at the drop of a hat. The wonders of the NHS are portrayed by the affable Colin Baker. (Do they know he’s not a real doctor?)
2. Brought To Book written by Brian Clemens adapted by John Dorney
This episode follows directly on from the last and we are introduced to even more of the seedy underworld that Dr Keel must get to know before he can find his fiancée’s killer.
He stumbles across the partly named Pretty Boy (played by George Rainsford), who we all know actually is quite a pretty boy! The police are represented by Superintendent Wilson who lurches in and out of episodes one and two but the actor Tim Bentinck turns up as the scary villain, The Cardinal, in episode 3.
3. Square Root Of Evil written by Richard Harris adapted by John Dorney
Commencing with a disposal, this is the third episode of the TV series but develops a new plot as our intrepid investigators encounter the world of forgery. Steed goes in deep cover as an Irish forger but the stakes are high and The Cardinal, Jimmy Bishop (Tim Bentinck), is a highly suspicious boss. Amateur Keel may have to be the cavalry on this one.
This seems to be the first episode where Steed gets to say ‘Oh…hello’ to a comely young woman.
4. One For The Mortuary written by Brian Clemens adapted by John Dorney
This episode comes later in the series and finally it gets itself out of the streets of London and away to Geneva. As Keel is going to a conference, its perfect cover for some international spy-spotting. The series has shifted away from crime and into the more interesting world of spies and conspiracy. This is ultimately where the show will end up but that is, of course, another story.
Overall, this is an enjoyable re-introduction to the classic show and not only a worthy project but great fun to listen to. It’s interesting to ponder which direction the show might have headed with Hendry staying on but apparently a long-winded technicians strike made him head for the Hollywood hills.
There are some titbits of interviews with the current cast and adapter John Dorney at the end of each disc and they are worth listening to.
I’m looking forward to Volume 2 already. Oh, hello, Mr. Steed…
(pub: Big Finish. 4 CDs 240 minute 4 * 60 minute stories. Price: CD: £25.00 (UK), Download: £20.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78178-264-4)
stars: Anthony Howell, Julian Wadham and Lucy Briggs-Owen
check out website: www.bigfinish.com