Episodes | Cybernauts | The New Avengers
Here we will take a look at the complete list of the episodes from both television series and see what recurring themes occur in the episode titles.
The Avengers was made by British television company ABC (Associated British Corporation). 137½ of the 161 original episodes are still in existence, as are all 26 episodes of The New Avengers.
Remarkably, half of the episodes were written or co-written by one man, Brian Clemens2.
In the first series, made in 1961, the main character was Doctor David Keel, played by Ian Hendry. Patrick Macnee had a supporting role as trenchcoat-wearing John Steed. In fact Macnee had recently left acting and was beginning a career as a producer, before being persuaded to play John Steed with the promise of £150 a week. The Avengers had been created by Sidney Newman3 as a vehicle for Ian Hendry, who had played a similar character in Newman's earlier television series Police Surgeon (1960), alongside Ingrid Hafner who played a nurse in both Police Surgeon and The Avengers. In the first Avengers episode, David Keel's fiancée is murdered. A strange man named John Steed (Patrick Macnee) helps him solve her murder and asks Keel to assist him in avenging other crimes. The series continued with Ian Hendry as the star, although it soon became clear that Steed was the more interesting character. The first series was ended prematurely by the 1961 Actors' Equity Strike, which lasted five months. When the strike had ended, Ian Hendry was not interested in returning as he wished to pursue a film career.
Series 2 and 3
At the start of the second series, the production team had a problem; scripts had been written for John Steed and Doctor Keel, yet Ian Hendry had left. In order to re-enter production quickly and make use of the already-written scripts, Doctor Keel was briefly replaced by Doctor Martin King, played by Jon Rollason4 but after only three episodes this was felt not to be working. Instead the producers decided to pair John Steed with female co-stars who would appear in alternating episodes. Julie Stevens played nightclub singer Venus Smith. However, Venus only appeared in six episodes of the second series and did not return for the third series due to the actress's pregnancy.
Under the supervision of incoming producer John Bryce, John Steed was re-imagined as an impeccably dressed English gentleman. Instead of the former plots against criminal gangs, the series now moved towards a Cold War setting. Yet it was the revolutionary, tough character of Doctor Cathy Gale that helped make the series incredibly popular worldwide. Working from scripts written before the strike, Gale's character was given all of Keel's dialogue and action. Thus was created a female character that not only refused to defer to her male colleague but also fought and defeated the male villains. Her appeal was further enhanced by her choice of wearing black leather, introduced as it was a tough-wearing material that could withstand the rigours of judo.
Series three continued the successful combination of John Steed and Cathy Gale and the idea for Steed to have alternating companions was abandoned. As the series ended, Honor Blackman who played Cathy Gale was approached to star in the James Bond film Goldfinger.
Series 4 and 5
For series four a new production team of writer Brian Clemens and Albert Fennel took over, and they planned to make the series more fantastical. They soon realised that they needed a new female character to replace Cathy Gale but who would remain at least her equal. They introduced Emma Peel, a character designed to have 'M Appeal', in other words, appeal to every man. Every bit as tough, intelligent and capable as her predecessor, she was also more feminine: flirty, not grumpy. Played by Diana Rigg5, she thus became one of the key female characters of all time. New theme music, by composer Laurie Johnson, was also introduced, to great success.
Production moved to using black and white film in series four, rather than videotape as before, which enabled the series to be sold to American television. The Avengers became the first non-American production to be shown there during primetime and its success led to it being made in colour for series five. This was after a short test promotional film was made, entitled 'The Strange Case of the Missing Corpse', as a taster of how a full-colour episode of The Avengers would look. This test film, available as an extra on The Avengers DVDs, was successful. Series five was broadcast in an outstanding 120 countries.
In order to keep up with the pressure of writing The Avengers, three Diana Rigg episodes were based on earlier Cathy Gale scripts. As the principal market was America, which had not seen the first three series, it was felt that some of the earlier highlights, when heavily re-written to become more suitable for Emma Peel's character and to prevent upsetting the British audience, were suitable starting points for creating new episodes.
|Emma Peel Epsiode||Based On:|
|'The Correct Way To Kill'||'The Charmers'|
|'The Joker'||'Don't Look Behind You'|
|'The £50,000 Breakfast'||'Death of a Great Dane'|
One episode of series four, 'A Touch of Brimstone', was banned in America due to Emma Peel dressing as the Queen of Sin. Diana Rigg left after series five, leading to the casting of a new female character and another change of production team.
After ABC merged with Associated-Rediffusion to form Thames Television, the new company chose to replace Brian Clemens and Albert Fennell as The Avengers' producers. Jon Bryce, who had previously produced the Cathy Gale era, was reintroduced. This was an attempt to move away from the fantastical direction that the series had gone in and instead restore it to its Cold War, harder hitting spy series style with a tougher, less gentlemanly Steed. Yet only three episodes were made with Jon Bryce: a 90-minute episode introducing Tara King originally entitled 'Invitation to a Killing'; 'Invasion of the Earthmen'; and 'The Great Great Britain Crime'.
Before long it was realised that Bryce was not able to produce The Avengers, especially as 'The Great Great Britain Crime' was not so much a story with plot holes as it was a hole in a cemetery plot where the story rested in pieces six foot deep at the bottom. Clemens and Fennell were reinstated. Of the three episodes that Bryce had produced only 'Invasion of the Earthmen' was considered to be broadcastable. The 90-minute 'Invitation to a Killing' was severely edited and new scenes were added to it to create the normal-length episode 'Have Guns – Will Haggle'. Scenes from 'The Great Great Britain Crime' became the backbone of episode 'Homicide and Old Lace' - they were sandwiched between random clips of other episodes and newly-filmed inserts of Mother telling his aunts a story on his birthday. This aimed to justify some of the plot holes - for example, the fatal flaw in which Tara, tied up and left behind when the villains left their hideout to commit the robbery, escapes, gets to the vault first and has plenty of time to warn everyone in great detail long, long, long before the villains actually arrive is explained by Mother as the villains wanting to go 'the pretty way'.
Bryce had introduced the new lead female character of Tara King, played by his then-girlfriend Linda Thorson. He wanted a new companion who would be different from Cathy Gale and Emma Peel through being younger and less experienced. Unlike Cathy Gale and Emma Peel, who assisted Steed by choice but were women of independent means, Tara was a fellow agent employed by the Ministry. Clemens and Fennell introduced two new regular characters: Steed's boss Mother (Patrick Newell) and Mother's silent assistant Rhonda (Rhonda Parker). In this series, Steed drives a yellow Rolls Royce rather than the Bentleys he had previously favoured.
A Series of Disagreements
As ITV was run on a federal franchise basis, with numerous local television companies rather than a single, central company, different regions broadcast the episodes at different times and in different orders to the order in which the episodes were filmed. This has resulted in some disagreement over whether a definitive episode order can be made.
Although which series an episode belongs to is straightforward enough for the first four series, from series five onwards there is a degree of disagreement. In series five, 16 episodes were made before a production break. These 16 were classed as production block 5a. The break was caused by the American television company ABC (American Broadcasting Company) delaying ordering episodes of The Avengers as well as ABC (Associated British Corporation), the unrelated British television company behind The Avengers, merging with Associated-Rediffusion to form Thames Television. After the break, the final eight episodes before the introduction of Tara King were made as production block 5b, though some fans consider these eight to constitute a separate series to the 16 made before the break. There was another break the following year after the first seven episodes featuring Tara King. In the UK these seven episodes (Production code 6a) and the remaining 26 (Production code 6b) were shown in an unbroken run of 33 episodes and are usually considered to be a single series.
The descriptions above reflect the most commonly accepted division of series. This is based on the actual production series, but merging blocks a and b together.
The nine episodes in series two featuring Doctor Martin King (1-3) or Venus Smith (8, 10, 18, 20, 22, 24) rather than Cathy Gale are listed initalics.
|Series 1 (1961)||Series 2 (1962-3)||Series 3 (1963-4)|
|David Keel Era||Cathy Gale Era|
|Series 4 (1965-6)||Series 5 (1966-7)||Series 6 (1967-9)|
|Emma Peel Era||Tara King Era|
The New Avengers (1976-1977)
The Avengers was revived in the mid-1970s. Brian Clemens, Albert Fennell and composer Laurie Johnson formed their own independent television company, The Avengers (Film & TV) Enterprises Ltd, after getting finance from French and Canadian television companies. The series starred Patrick Macnee as John Steed, Gareth Hunt as Mike Gambit and Joanna Lumley as Purdey.
After the first series of 13 episodes, the French and Canadian companies began making demands in order to assert more control. They both wanted episodes filmed in their countries and the French company in particular wanted to replace Purdey with a 'sexier' companion, and then failed to provide the promised funds. Only 26 episodes were made.
|Block One||Block Two|
Episode Title Analysis
What patterns exist in the names of episodes of The Avengers? What, if anything, will a close analysis of the episode titles tell us? A quick count tells us that there is a total of 187 episodes of The Avengers and The New Avengers, with their titles totalling 591 words. Titles do not follow a set pattern, ranging from the three-lettered 'Fog' to the 14-words in the title of 'Look (Stop Me If You've Heard This One) But There Were These Two Fellers…'.
The most common word in the titles is 'The', being 79 of the 590 words. The top ten most common words in the titles of The Avengers are:
Despite this, no Avengers episode was titled either 'With the Death of a Dead Man to Kill For' or 'A Man of Death to Kill for with the Dead'.
I Shall Avenge Thee
For a series called The Avengers it is perhaps odd that the only title that includes the word 'Avenger', namely 'The Winged Avenger', is actually referring to the villain. In fact, only one episode mentions any of the main characters: 'They Keep Killing Steed'. 'Kill the King' was made long before the introduction of character Tara King and 'From Venus with Love' was made long after brief companion Venus Smith had left.
Common themes are definitely death and murder, with 'Death' appearing twelve times, not to mention 'Deadly', 'Deaths', and 'De'ath'. 'Dead' features in six titles. 'Kill' has five and there are separate mentions of 'Killer' and 'Killing'. There are three 'murders' as well as a 'murdered' and a 'Murdersville'. With all these 'corpses', it is no surprise that a 'mortuary' is needed. Yet take care; 'Dead Men Are Dangerous', though you might find the reward of a 'Dead Man's Treasure'.
Why not make a night of it? To start off, ensure you are 'Dressed to Kill' and simply 'Dial a Deadly Number' to book a place somewhere in 'The Far-Distant Dead' and then you are 'Dead on Course'. 'Dance with Death', such as the 'Quick-Quick Slow Death', in the 'Dead of Winter'. Have a meal of 'Death A La Carte' with 'Death on the Rocks' to drink. Drunk too much? Take a breath outside in 'The Deadly Air', but don't stay too long or 'You'll Catch Your Death'. And most importantly, relax, for you're enjoying 'Death at Bargain Prices'.
With all this death around you could be forgiven for thinking your days are numbered, but how do you know when your number is up? We can already 'Dial a Deadly Number' but now let us count the number-related Avengers episode titles. The longest-titled episode starts us off by mentioning two numbers, both one and two, thus: 'Look (Stop Me If You've Heard This One) But There Were These Two Fellers…'. Counting upwards we jump straight to 'November Five' and the 'Six Hands Across a Table' presumably belong to 'The Superlative Seven'. We get 'Dirtier by the Dozen' by 'The 13th Hole'. The game of golf is presumably aided by 'Propellant 24' and then we can celebrate with 'The £50,000 Breakfast' although if you prefer something cheaper, why not enjoy 'The Sell-Out' and try 'The Mauritius Penny'?
If the maths are getting too much for you, it is best to avoid 'The Curious Case of the Countless Clues' and leave working out the 'Square Root of Evil' to those with a calculator; the answer is probably that there are 'Too Many Christmas Trees'. There is, of course, 'Double Danger'; for a series whose tagline was Two Against The Underworld the number two is by far the lucky one, further mentioned in both 'Man With Two Shadows' and 'Two's a Crowd', so presumably Steed and his companion both enjoy 'Second Sight'.
Another recurring theme is that of nature, with all creatures great and small mentioned at one point or another. There's a 'Traitor in Zebra', a chance to mourn the 'Death of a Great Dane', a veritable 'Chorus of Frogs'6, and we learn that 'To Catch A Rat' you need to set the 'Cat Amongst The Pigeons'. Yet aquatic animals are represented only by a 'Lobster Quadrille' and the misspelt 'Killerwhale'.
For a television series in which the lead character is called 'Steed', the only horse mentioned is 'The Trojan Horse'. Other references to legendary or mythical animals include 'The Golden Fleece', 'Dragonsfield', 'The Golden Eggs' and half of 'The Lion and the Unicorn'. Mentioning lions brings up 'The White Elephant' in the room, The Avengers' obsession with tigers. This big cat is mentioned thrice; initially it is 'The Hidden Tiger' but then there's trouble when 'The Tiger Awakes' and soon we have the 'Tiger By The Tail'.
Meanwile we must ask where 'The Eagle's Nest' is? Presumably in 'The Gilded Cage', the ideal location for 'The Bird Who Knew Too Much'. Fed up of 'Small Game For Big Hunters'? Perhaps you need 'A Change Of Bait'. Or even 'Mr Teddy Bear'. This leads us to conclude, 'Please Don't Feed the Animals'.
What strange people Steed and friends encounter in their travels! Though most are male there is still a 'Girl on the Trapeze' and 'The Girl From Auntie'. As everyone knows, men are full of contradictions, especially 'The Outside In Man' and 'The Positive Negative Man'. After meeting 'The Radioactive Man', the 'Man in the Mirror', a 'Man With Two Shadows' and of course 'The See-Through Man' you might well ask 'Who Was That Man I Saw You With?' The only way to know is to 'Hunt the Man Down'.
The 'Man-Eater Of Surrey Green' was actually an alien plant, but fortunately mankind gets its own back when they stage the 'Invasion Of The Earthmen'.
We admitted to only one class - and that was the upper. Because we are a fantasy, we have not shown policemen.
- Brian Clemens
Producer Brian Clemens may well have claimed that The Avengers was only about the upper class, but do the job descriptions listed in the episode titles bear that out?
There's no doubt that members of royalty, as mentioned in 'Kill the King' and 'Honey for the Prince', are definitely upper class. Similarly, historically only those of independent means can afford to spend their time visiting other countries and slaughtering wildlife, so 'Small Game for Big Hunters' counts too. Yet is a 'Warlock' a member of the Upper Class, or of the First Estate?
Another job description is leadership, mentioned in 'Take Me to Your Leader', but does that count as middle class, coming under middle management? Napoleon once dismissed the English as a nation of shopkeepers, so that may explain 'The Fear Merchants'. Are you diabolical enough to be one of 'The Master Minds' and wishing to invest? Then you need someone reliable, such as 'The Secrets Broker'. Presumably 'The Medicine Men' are educated and fully qualified?
Definite working class jobs mentioned in episode titles include 'The Removal Men', 'The Gravediggers', and 'What the Butler Saw'. 'The House that Jack Built' implies that Jack is a builder, doubtlessly waiting to wolf-whistle Cathy, Emma and Tara. The 'Girl on the Trapeze' also is engaging in physical labour. 'Death of a Batman' does not refer to a reclusive crime-fighting billionaire who enjoys flying-mammal-themed fancy dress, but instead the 'batman' in question is an army NCO appointed to be an officer's servant.
Of course, not all occupations are strictly class-based. How would you classify 'The Gladiators'? Someone from any background could be the 'Traitor in Zebra', or a 'Killer'. It is of course true that unsavoury characters, such as 'The Interrogators', are generally looked down on, for the villains are definitely 'The Rotters'.
Many of the titles reflect and spoof other popular film and television series enjoyed at the time. So instead of The Man from UNCLE, there's 'The Girl From Auntie' and 'Mission... Highly Improbable' reflects Mission Impossible. Enjoyed Jaws, the 1975 blockbuster? Well why not watch 'Gnaws' instead? Who needs The Dirty Dozen when The New Avengers are 'Dirtier by the Dozen'? One episode was even inspired by camp television superhero series Batman; this was 'The Winged Avenger', not 'Death of a Batman'.
Notably, episode 'The Golden Fleece' reflected how Honor Blackman appeared in classic 1963 film Jason and the Argonauts, a film whose working title was 'Jason and the Golden Fleece'. Similarly, episode 'The Gilded Cage' has much in common with the later James Bond film Goldfinger, also starring Honor Blackman7.