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Avengers, The - Series Five

Review by: 
Blackgloves
Release Date: 
1966-1967
Studio: 
Optimum
Genre: 
Spy/Sci-Fi
Format: 
DVD
Region: 
2 PAL
Aspect Ratio: 
1.33:1
Directed by: 
Various
Cast: 
Patrick Macnee
Diana Rigg
Movie: 
5
Extras: 
4
Bottom Line: 
5

This fifth series of “The Avengers” brought forth a collection of twenty-four episodes that has since come to define how the show continues to be perceived in the popular imaginations of audiences all around the world. At its height, the series was a prime time draw on US TV as well as continuing to be one of the UK’s most watched shows; but it also developed a huge following right across Europe, especially in countries such as France and Germany. Several important elements came together simultaneously to produce the unique flavour and tone of this particular set of episodes. The most immediately obvious one was that this was the first Avengers series to be filmed in colour. The switch from multi-camera live video recording to professionally shot black and white film stock had been a massive leap for the show the previous year, and produced a much slicker and polished vehicle that could now be sold all around the world. But in 1966 few British homes possessed a colour television set; indeed, not until 1970 did broadcasting and filming in colour become a common occurrence in the UK, and even then, British viewers would still have predominantly been watching in black and white. However, the ABC Network in the US, who now bankrolled the making of the show, had already made the decision to switch all their production output to colour in 1966 - and “The Avengers” took the chance to follow suit. At the same time, associate producers Brian Clemens and Albert Fennell were promoted, now becoming the series’ lead producers, with Clemens also taking on the role of script editor as well as writer. This came to be the single most important factor in shaping the direction the series was to take for the rest of Diana Rigg’s involvement with the show. Clemens already had a massive role to play in structuring the dynamics of the filmed episodes back in the show’s super-stylish black and white days. Now, he was to take an even firmer grip of the reins, overseeing the commission of each and every script and then tinkering with the results to make sure each of them closely followed his series ground rules, and the list of ‘dos and don’ts’ that he’d drawn up in order to maintain the self-contained fantasy version of England that came to be dubbed ‘Avengerland’.

From now on Clemens also oversaw the casting of each episode and the distinctive, colour-drenched art design of Robert Jones’ frequently amazing sets. Emma Peel got a make-over in the form of a bright new feminine wardrobe designed by Alun Hughes, who replaced the leather fetish gear and Op Art designs of series four with light, stylish dresses in suede, wool, silk or chiffon with lots of primary colours. The most memorable and iconic  element of Rigg’s new wardrobe was her new range of stretch-fabric jumpsuits – or ‘Emmapeelers’ as Hughes dubbed them – which were designed to provide more movement and flexibility in fight scenes, but also helped lend the series more of a superhero comic-book feel. Mrs Peel was now frequently seen driving a sleek Lotus Elan convertible about the Hertfordshire countryside, while Macnee developed his Edwardian gent persona to an even greater extent, always appearing immaculately dressed in a range of Pierre Cardin suits and proudly driving a vintage bottle-green Bentley.

The series under Clemens’ all powerful stewardship now became the delightful, finely tuned vehicle of pure ‘60s escapist pop fantasy most of us remember -- and it was the colour episodes of series five which developed the formula for this memorable phase in the show’s on-going development. The plots could sometimes be frivolous -- as light and as frothy as the airiest of soufflés; sometimes they were knowingly bizarre; but what always mattered most was the zest, the campaign bubble fizz in the on-screen chemistry between Patrick Macnee’s dapper umbrella-twirling gentleman spy, John Steed, and his dazzling super-agent partner -- the stylish, self-assured, charming, witty yet deadly Mrs Emma Peel, as portrayed by the beautiful Diana Rigg. It was a wonderful TV partnership which finally reached its exquisitely honed perfection in these colour episodes. British culture became enormously popular in the US during this period of the sixties of course (which was why Clemens was allowed so much control over the content of “The Avengers” in the first place: ABC made a point of emphasising the show’s thorough Britishness in every area of its production -- behind the scenes as well as on the screen), and nothing represented the contemporary British fashion for youthful Pop Art pizzazz, combined with an increasingly nostalgic appreciation for a quaint English past that never quite existed in reality, than the image presented by the modernity of Emma Peel and the urbane tradition of John Steed. This fine balancing act between tradition and modernity helped the show avoid the trap which many other fantasy shows of the period fell in to when they tried to be too self-consciously ‘swinging’ and ‘with it’.  These shows now look hopelessly quaint and anachronistic, but “the Avengers” created its own timeless little world that sums up the spirit of the mid-sixties without being beholden to its mores. 

Many fans now see the previous black and white filmed series as representing the show at its creative peak: the stories were inventive, often cogent riffs on the traditional espionage formula, but usually with a hint of science fiction thrown in to reflect the fashionable, technocratic modernist trend of the times. A year later though, and series five finds the stark Op Art Look of the black and white years replaced with a bright, super cool primary coloured energy that is now veering more towards reflecting the easy going flower power optimism of the coming Summer of Love. The colour series is playful, frequently self-reflexive, and often strikingly outlandish in story content in a breezy manner that found it quite willing on occasion to break the fourth wall; many episodes featured a new tongue-in-cheek attitude to science fiction that didn’t so much reflect fears about the fast-paced development of technology and automation (as series four had done in episodes such as “The Cybernauts”) as parody the  entire genre with episodes such as “Mission … Highly Improbable”, which featured Steed and Mrs Peel shrunk down to an inch in height by an experimental machine, and “Who’s Who”, which had Steed and Emma become the victims of a mind transference experiment that placed them in the bodies of enemy agents played by Freddie Jones and Patricia Hains. This conceit allowed Macnee and Rigg to have lots of fun undermining the sophistication and coy delicacy that normally underpins their dramatis personae as they play the enemy agents who are now posing in their former bodies.

But in counterpoint to this experimental comic book whimsy, Clemens the story craftsman set about refining a slick, almost mechanical formula for producing an Avengers screenplay that was, in contrast to the zaniness of the series’ content, highly structured and meticulously ordered. It’s easy to pastiche an Avengers script from this period: they almost all follow one of several minor variants on an otherwise predictable pattern: someone is murdered and Steed and Emma investigate. This leads to another killing and Stead and Emma investigate a bit more. Eventually they’re led to the diabolical mastermind behind events. Stead and Emma defeat said mastermind – but usually only after one of them has been captured at some point, so that the other one can rescue them. It should get very tiresome very quickly, and it is probably exactly this shamelessly rigid template, which episode after episode of series five adheres to religiously, that leads some fans to prefer the much more unpredictable storylines of the black and white series four. Certainly some of the writers couldn’t appreciate Brian Clemens having total control over every aspect of the production during this colour period, leading to the famous falling out between Clemens and long-time story contributor Roger Marshall, who had one of his scripts (“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Station”) so comprehensibly overhauled by Clemens in his script editing capacity, that not only did Marshall refuse to have his name associated with it (Clemens reworked the screenplay himself and submitted it under the pseudonym ‘Brian Sheriff’), but, this fine TV writer, who had played such a vital role in developing the wit and character of the show in the latter part of the Cathy Gale era, sadly never wrote for the series again.

In fact very few writers could cope with the highly stylised approach Clemens developed during this series; there were only about three regular writers (including Clemens himself) on the show by this point, leading to a serious difficulty in the attainment of suitable scripts. This problem led to the production team plundering some of the more memorable moments from the black and white Cathy Gale era (since the videotaped series’ were then unknown in the US until much later), remaking several of the best episodes in colour and on film in order to take the pressure off. Ironically, one of the stories they remade was one of Brian Marshall’s best stories from that era, “The Death of a Great Dane”, which now became “The £50,000 Breakfast”.   

It is undoubtedly Brian Clemens’ mindful shaping of the show that has done the most to keep “The Avengers” alive in the minds of audiences in subsequent years though, and it is this block of episodes in particular which gets repeated to this day the most frequently. Their very structural predictability seems to allow Clemens the freedom to make the actual content as absurd and ridiculous and surreal as imagination will allow without the series seeming either pretentious or too obscure for a popular audience.  It is a neat trick to pull off: as long as the sparkling interplay between Steed and Mrs Peel was always there along with the scripts’ witty word play and parody, the formula never seemed to go stale, but provided a secure grounding for the writers’ outlandish conceits and crazy flights of fancy. In the first block of episodes, the verbal repartee between the two lead characters combined so perfectly with the clockwork episode structure that these ‘tag’ scenes, as they became known (usually written by Clemens and added by him to each writer’s final script), actually provided some of the most memorable moments from the series, with Steed each week soliciting the help of Mrs Peel using a series of unusual and unlikely methods to attract her attention with the message: ‘Mrs Peel --We’re Needed!’ Sometimes it might appear unexpectedly under a microscope slide while Mrs Peel is conducting some experiments with a home chemistry set in her flat; or it could appear on a card inside a box of chocolates; or even as the headline on the front page of a newspaper! Each episode would  also end with a similarly whimsical moment between the two. One of the best ones hints at their flirty but chaste relationship when Steed is shown helping Mrs Peel to paint her flat. He daubs a heart on her wall with an arrow through it and their names beneath it while her back is turned, but paints it out before she can see it properly when she turns round – although we sense she knows exactly what he was up to.

The stories sandwiched between these memorable bookends always proceeded from a familiar cluster of basic plot outlines: either there’s been a security leak and important secrets are being stolen by the opposition; prominent businessmen or dignitaries are disappearing or being murdered in unusual ways; or Steed or Mrs Peel (or sometimes both) are being targeted by enemies with a grudge against them. Yet these simple ideas could lead to the most unexpected and wild developments. “Something Nasty in the Nursery” is the perfect example of the first category, taking the concept into some weird surrealist territory when enemy agents plot to get hold of the locations of top secret British missile bases by coating a Childs’ baby bouncer with a hallucinogenic drug that is absorbed through the skin, regressing the victim to infanthood. The episode hinges on the idea that all the targeted generals, governmental officials and chiefs of staff once shared the same Nanny (Nanny Roberts!) when they were babies. This is a nice little dig at the concept of the establishment (the idea that a small elite effectively rule the country and fill all the most important and influential positions in public life) whilst allowing the episode to deal in the most bizarre, sometimes macabre imagery. The plots will invariably involve the villains hiding their operations behind a respectable organisation as a front; In this case it’s GONN (The Guild of Noble Nannies) which is a training ground for nannies who will go on to look after the children of the nobility. A similarly wild scheme lays behind the episode “Death’s Door”, where European negotiations are put at risk when Britain’s top negotiating team fall victim to a series of forbidding predictive dreams that seem to foretell their own deaths. It all turns out to be part of an elaborate plot whereby the villains drug each victim, take them to a giant set in a warehouse where they have arranged for an elaborate hoax dream with outlandish props to be played out in front of their semi-drugged eyes -- so that when, with their connivance, elements of the ‘dream’ appear to come true, the subject will be too scared to enter the conference room for the talks because they’ve seen the dream end with the large chandelier inside it collapsing on top of them. In “The Bird Who Knew Too Much” parrots are trained to repeat secret information by responding to a particular tone on a triangle and pigeons are used to take photographs of secret installations by having them fly with miniature cameras strapped to their legs!

Episodes that involve the duo investigating the disappearance or death of a string of victims make for probably the most commonly occurring type of plot line this series. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not inventive. In fact, they’re frequently some of the best episodes, representing the series at its most imaginative and comically surreal. In “From Venus With Love”, Steed and Emma come into the orbit of the British Venusian Society (led by the wonderful Barbara Shelly – we’ll find Hammer Films veterans are thick on the ground this series) when their members start being knocked off by a mysterious, other-worldly bright light that seems to be emanating from Venus itself and which leaves the victims prematurely aged. Could Venusian UFOs be responsible? “The Hidden Tiger” is a classic episode and features Ronnie Barker as the head of PURRR: the Philanthropic Union for the Rescue, Relief and Recuperation of cats, based at Furry Lodge, Sussex! This is one of the most purely enjoyable episodes that turns out to involve a mad plot to take over the country by scrambling the brainwaves of the nation’s pet cats and turning them against their owners! All the villains are named after breeds of cats, while Barker is one of several characters this series who take on the characteristics of the animals they’re obsessed with. The storyline also allows a sly reference to Diana Rigg’s predecessor, Honor Blackman, when Steed and Emma find themselves surrounded by felines at PURRR headquarters, and Mrs Peel gets to arch an eyebrow and wryly remark ‘pussies galore!’ “The Winged Avenger” features a comic strip artist who takes on the persona of his creation when he obtains a pair of magnetic boots which allow one to walk up the side of buildings. This features Mrs Peel in a crazy upside-down fight on the ceiling at the climax, and a parody of the American “Batman” series, with Steed walloping an assailant with storyboards that have pop art BAAM!s and SPLAT!!s painted on them, as Laurie Johnson mimics the unmistakable Batman theme with his incidental music. Johnson’s Avengers theme continued to provide the required atmosphere of sophistication and romance this series but the composer often provided individual episodes with a fresh score of incidental music, although there are many famous cues which get reused again and again of course, not least the catchy flute piece which is first heard in the tag scenes during the first sixteen episodes, and thereafter gets used for any generally light hearted exchange between Steed and Mrs Peel.

There are quite a few episodes in the colour season which feature predominantly only one of the two lead protagonists, with their partner only turning up in the last act, presumably because either Macnee or Rigg had taken a holiday. Macnee must have got himself a much better deal in that regard, since there are far more Mrs Peel orientated episodes than Steed ones; interestingly enough though, many of the ‘Peelcentric’ episodes have latterly come to be seen as some of the better ones in the series’ history. These episodes tend to fall into the third category of story types, in which either Steed or Emma is targeted by an enemy with a grudge against them. “The Superlative Seven” is the one truly Steed dominated episode here, and it’s another remade Cathy Gale story from the videotaped era, with the action shifted from a train to a plane and then moved on to an island. Written by Brian Clemens, the story is a simple reworking of Agatha Christie’s “Two Little Indians” involving Steed and a collection of other individuals being invited to a fancy dress party via cards that all turn out to have been issued by different acquaintances in order to bring them together. The group is brought to a remote island on an aircraft controlled remotely, and upon arrival they start being killed off one by one. This is a fairly average episode that never attains the atmosphere of its predecessor, although there is a fine futuristic-looking set in the opening segment which features Donald Sutherland as the main villain selecting a kung fu expert to be sent as an assassin for the up-coming island mission.

Another famous episode from the Cathy Gale era provides Mrs Peel with one of her more memorable solo episodes. “The Joker” is a remade “Don’t Look Behind You”; another Clemens scripted episode, consummately directed by Avengers regular Sidney Hayers, this one is styled in the fashion of an old dark house thriller. It’s a foretaste of the kind of Hitchcockian suspense tale Clemens would come to specialise in during the seventies with the Mia Farrow-starring “See No Evil”, the gialloesque “… And Soon the Darkness”, and his popular “Thriller” anthology series.  In it, Mrs Peel is revealed to be a Bridge expert, and having published a scholarly article on the subject for a specialist magazine, has been invited down to the country for a weekend away. Once there she finds the house deserted apart from freaky beatnik girl called Ola (Sally Nesbitt), who claims to be the cousin of her host, and a peculiar man (played by Ronald Lacey, in what turns out to be a dry run for a similar performance in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”), who turns up at the door in the middle of the night. With its evocative setting in a creepy, oak-panelled 17th Century manor house, this has bags of atmosphere and the perfect villain in the shape of Peter Jeffrey as a former adversary called Prendergast. “Murdersville”, yet another Clemens episode, is one of the all-time great episodes of “The Avengers”, with Mrs Peel under constant threat from the entire corrupt population of a sleepy English village that has turned to crime – hiring out Little-Storping-in-the-Swuff, with its rose-lined cottages and quaint centrally placed duck pond, as a venue where anyone can commit murder unimpeded, as long as they’re willing to pay. It’s a great example of Avengers macabre featuring a queasy ‘ducking’ scene in the pond and Mrs Peel held prisoner by being clamped into a chastity belt in the village museum (‘It may surprise you to learn I haven’t had too much experience with this type of garment’ is Steed’s first comment when he finally shows up to rescue her).

Perhaps the best known solo Peel episode was actually conceived as a cost-cutting exercise. Titled “Epic”, it involves Mrs Peel being kidnapped by a crazed trio of film-makers led by  Z.Z. von Schnerk (a bravura performance by Kenneth J Warren), who, along with washed up actors Stewart Kirby (Peter Wyngarde) and Damita Syn (Isa Miranda) seeks to record on film the death of Mrs Peel for posterity in a semi dilapidated film studio. With just a skeleton cast that sees most of the roles being played by Wyngarde and sets consisting of whatever happened to be available at Elstree Studios at the time, as well as the fact that it was mostly shot on the studio back lot at Borehamwood, this turns into one of the most self-reflexive episodes of all. There are other episodes where “The Avengers” refers to its own fictional status (“Never Say Never Die” starts with Mrs Peel watching a series four episode, “The Cybernauts” on television!) and other episodes that have parodied other films or genres (the previously mentioned story also features Christopher Lee playing someone called Dr Frank N. Stone, and has him stomp around in a parody of “The Curse of Frankenstein”, later referencing a famous scene in the original 1931 Universal version of “Frankenstein” when the monster drowns a girl in a lake: this time Lee comes upon an old codger playing with a remotely controlled model boat in a lake, but the controls mess with his programme and cause him to lumber around in circles!), but none display quite the level of knowing parody and self-reference as “Epic”. It has certain similarities to “The Prisoner” in that it starts with Mrs Peel being gassed and waking up in an exact replica of her own flat – in this case on the set of a film studio. (Curiously, Mrs Peel only notices this fact when she opens a door that leads to an undressed piece of set with some unused camera equipment being stored in it, whereupon the camera pans back and reveals what is presumably the real Avengers film set at Elstree with the entire fourth wall missing!) The episode largely foregoes any kind of plot development and becomes a witty series of film parodies encapsulating everything from “Sunset Boulevard” to “Gone with the Wind” and ending with a sublime sequence that fuses “The Perils of Pauline” with “Peeping Tom”, as Schnerk’s surreal snuff movie comes to its climax with Mrs Peel about to be split into two by a buzz saw on the slanted expressionistic set of a silent German horror film. Rigg’s performance is never more knowing and ironic, with Mrs Peel seemingly aware the whole time that she’s a fictional character taking part in a charade. The sumptuous sets, the vivid colour, the excellent wardrobe and the unreal tone all combine to make this one of the most overtly surrealistic and hallucinogenic episodes ever created with director James Hill at the top of his game.

All twenty-four episodes of series 5 have been beautifully re-mastered for this 7-disc box set from Optimum Releasing and look deliciously sharp and colourful, the only drop in image quality coming for a few brief seconds at the end of each reel. The mono sound is full-bodied and loud throughout. The disc extras consist of bits and pieces of achieve material spread around the set, and four newly recorded commentary tracks.

The audio commentary for “The Winged Avenger” features Jaz Wiseman in conversation with script writer Richard Harris. After a brief résumé, detailing the circumstances of his coming to work on the first series of “The Avengers”, Harris relates how this particular episode had its roots in his love of comic books, and particularly his appreciation of the US-made TV series “Batman”, starring Adam West. Renowned comic Strip artist Frank Bellamy produced some wonderful panel work for this episode’s Winged Avenger comic strip – the work of the story’s fictional ‘Winged Avenger Enterprises’ -- and Harris’s comic book vision is perfectly realised in the wardrobe design and production design of the episode, which represents season 5 at its most playful, ridiculous and colourful. The commentary suffers from the usual complaint that the memory of an elderly former jobbing writer, who probably knocked this script out to a deadline without too much thought about whether or not it would still be remembered and talked about forty-five years later, simply isn’t up to the job of providing much in the way of detail or even vague anecdote about the show, or specifically about the production of the episode. Harris even seems a little prickly at times as Wiseman attempts, cautiously, to elicit opinion or tease out a few facts. We do learn that, like many writers drafted in to work on the show in its later years, Harris sees the dominance of Brian Clemens behind the scenes as a double edged sword. This was a complaint of many of the more traditional writers on the show who were used to the old style of the Cathy Gale era. As we have noted, this colour series in particular was forging into new areas of self-referential comic book playfulness and whimsy, and this episode is a perfect example of it.

Don’t expect to learn an awful lot about the show from Peter Wyngarde’s audio commentary for the episode “Epic” either, but do expect to be entertained by what must be the most offbeat audio commentary ever recorded. Moderator Henry Holland soon gives up asking about Wyngarde’s role as washed up, drunkard actor Stewart Kirby and his eleven roles in this ‘Emma-in-danger’ surrealist masterpiece, around about the time Wyngarde delivers unbidden a ten minute monologue he wrote himself, intending for it to be performed in the movie version of the episode which, according to him, was at one time planned by the producers of the show. In the fruitiest of actorly tones, Wyngarde then launches into a series of anecdotes and showbiz stories involving the greats of British thespianism, from Sir Ralph Richardson to Lawrence Olivier. Holland eventually goes with the flow and simply elicits more of Wyngarde’s endless supply of wacky tales and theatrical tall stories. Amusing stuff, but we do get a few tantalising titbits of information from Wyngarde’s distinguished film & TV career along the way: the other classic Avengers episode the actor appeared in, “A Touch of Brimstone”, is briefly discussed, and Wyngarde also has a few words to say about “The Innocents”, “Night of the Eagle” and his role as Jason King.

On “Return of the Cybernauts” Jaz Wiseman questions stunt double Cyd Child who appeared in almost every episode of the colour season doubling for Diana Rigg (previously Rigg had had a male stunt double in series 4!). Child turns out to be full of anecdotes and information and seems to have perfect recall of her experiences on the show arranging her scenes with stunt coordinator Ray Austin (who went on to direct episodes during the Tara King era). There are lots of tales about life on set: getting mistaken for Diana by the actress’s own dog; accidently driving Mrs Peel’s Lotus Elan up a one-way street whilst fully kitted out in one of her replica Emma Peel costumes; and how she scared director Robert Asher during the ducking scene in “Murdersville”. This is an enjoyable trip down memory lane and a fascinating glimpse into the madness that surrounded the popularity of the series at the time, from someone who got a privileged glimpse of it from the inside by proxy.

Brian Clemens provides a commentary on “Murdersville”, moderated by Henry Holland. Naturally, the producer, script editor and writer of this series has a great deal to say about his vision of the show during this ground breaking era, although his memory does seem to fail him upon occasion. For instance, he appears shocked to be reminded that the tag scenes, which were a stylised aspect of the first two thirds of the series, were dropped for the last few episodes, and is unable to provide the reason for this. Clemens is happy to pay tribute to the talents of the team who made the unique flavour of this series possible though, despite the emphasis on his own contribution which historians of the show are apt to mention without always noting the immense professionalism and talent of the crew who produced what is still one of the greatest British television shows of all time.

Aside from these four commentaries there are a number of little bits and pieces of interest which crop up all across the set. Brian Clemens provides a filmed introduction to every episode he was involved in the writing of, giving a short appreciation of each story and a few facts about the cast. There are episode trims for the episodes “The Fear Merchants”, “Escape in Time”, “From Venus with Love” and “The See-Through Man” that afford us a tiny glimpse behind the scenes of the show. The Granada + Points are included for every episode, which feature text facts about the cast of each episode and brief snippets of Macnee, Cyd Child, Brian Clemens and composer Laurie Johnson talking about each one. There is a rather lovely archive interview from Germany where the series, under the title Mit Schirm, Charme und Melone, attained huge popularity in the mid-sixties on the back of the James Bond craze. Macnee and Diana Rigg are interviewed by German actor Joachim Fuchsberger, who has to keep breaking off or interrupting his guests every few minutes so he can translate their comments into German for the viewing audience! Interestingly, Fuchsberger was the star of many of Rialto Films’ cycle of Krimi flicks from the early-sixties onwards. They were a distinctly German take on the Edgar Wallace mysteries which incorporated elements of the crime, spy, murder mystery and horror genres and became particularly obsessed with a stylised idea of Avengers-like, Bowler-hated English civility before eventually giving way to more of an emphasis on the elements that would eventually take root in the Italian giallo. Elsewhere there is also a brief black and white piece of footage from an ATV newsreel featuring Diana Rigg receiving an Emmy nomination and then doing a bit of sixties style bopping on the dance floor while a gauche interviewer tries to ask her lame questions.

There is another round of episode reconstructions from series one on this set, made up of telesnaps and production stills from each of the episodes concerned, coupled with a newly recorded voice over describing the action. One of the episodes features Steed in an early solo outing (Ian Hendry presumably taking a week off) and stars Barbara Shelley as a guest artist (who would later turn up again in “From Venus with Love”). The episodes are: “One For the Mortuary”, “Death on a Slipway”, ”Tunnel of Fear” and “Dragonsfield”. Also included is a one-hour documentary called “The Avengers – A Retrospective” which turns out to be merely a promotional piece from 1993, made to advertise the then forthcoming release of the series on video cassette. It features Patrick Macnee introducing a series of lengthy clips from the Diana Rigg and Linda Thorson eras, and little else. It serves to give one a taster of series six though (although the clips are not in a restored condition), with Steed now dressed in an awful patterned shirt and cravat during his ‘tag’ scenes with Tara (it was the late sixties by now, and a great deal of the coolness seems to deserted the programme during this more Americanised era).

Finally, each episode gets its own extensive photo gallery of stills along with a publicity shots gallery featuring among others, a Terry O’Neill photo shoot with Patrick Macnee and sixties supermodel Twiggy! Each disc also contains PDF files of scripts and various publicity materials from the era.

This is a wonderful blast of sixties TV nostalgia, with all the episodes feeling as fresh and as exciting as ever with their glossy new re-mastered transfers. Needless to say, another top recommendation.

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