(I wrote a longer piece about The Avengers on my main blog that you might like to read first. This is a short review of the most recent episode I’ve viewed from the Season 2 DVD boxset.)
The first episode of season 2 of the classic Avengers series, rebooting after the star (Ian Hendry) left and the production team were still getting up to speed with who to replace him with.
While many of the episodes produced around this time rely on hastily repurposed season 1 material and dumping the old star’s dialogue nearly unaltered into the new character’s mouths, this was an early example of a bespoke script carefully laying out the new ‘vision’ for the show as they saw it. Written quite late, it was rushed on air a month after being completed to make sure that viewers trying out the new season got a proper taste of what to expect.
The difference is immense – it’s immediately more like the show that the Avengers would become, with gadgets, a memorable “supervillain”, and quirky humour such as the villain taking meetings via a toy teddy bear with microphone and camera links. It’s also the first show to have Steed and Gale take equal roles in terms of air time, with Steed gloriously cheerful throughout despite being the target of an assassin (and suffering the indignity of having to strip to some very unglamorous white Y-fronts in a really scary scene!) Only the fact that Steed is quite clearly still ‘tutoring’ Cathy (both in judo lessons and talking her through key moments of action) shows that this is still an early episode, otherwise this could almost be a Diana Rigg story. The duo even clearly have a recognisable boss (in recurring character One Ten) that wouldn’t be the case again until the 1969 series with Mother.
And even the production values are better, with almost no technical mishaps at all and only the odd fluffed line, plus a couple of filmed inserts showing more advanced technique in a few minutes than half the rest of the season put together. No wonder this episode – despite being filmed only three weeks earlier – was rushed on air as the opening episode of season 2 to establish the new tone.