The (Other) Avengers

Top political figures are attacked by wild animals in their homes. It turns out to be an evil plot to turn house cats into vicious killers. An aging film director decides to make an epic, silent film like those in the peak of his career. However, this one will be a snuff film featuring the death of one Emma Peel.

This was the stuff of THE AVENGERS.

Diana Rigg died recently. The papers and newscasts were filled with tributes. Most, rightly or wrongly, associated her with role as Emma Peel in THE AVENGERS. She deserves every bit of praise and honor she got.

Yet, when I was reading or watching these tributes, I didn’t come across a single one that explained THE AVENGERS in a way that seemed satisfactory. Emma Peel was a unique role in a very unique show. One which has possibly never been replicated in terms of its combination of cool, sexy, silly, innovative and just plain weird.

THE AVENGERS was a British show but was eventually broadcast all over the world. This included the United States from 1965 until 1969.

There is a ton of great writing already out there about the background of THE AVENGERS. So, I won’t get too into it. Basically, it features a male character, Steed, teamed with various partners as he tries to stop evil do-ers from destabilizing the world.

Steed was played by Patrick MacNee the entire eight-year run of the series. The other partners, however, changed considerably over the years.

Among Steeds’ partners was Cathy Gale. A role played by Honor Blackman. The same Honor Blackman who would play Pussy Galore in GOLDFINGER.

Another was a character named Tara King who was played by a twenty-year old Linda Thorson. The poor kid received nothing but criticism for her efforts. The audience wanted Rigg, who had left the show for a role in ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE.

Steed even had a male partner in the very early episodes which never made it to the States. But it was Rigg who, of course, made the biggest splash. Her Emma Peel character, brilliant, stylish, smart, sexy, tough and witty was seared into the brains of audiences everywhere. Particularly male members of the audience.

So, the characters. Steed and whoever, were the basis of the show. The “whoever” greatly effecting the feel of the experience. Yet, even beyond that, THE AVENGERS universe was a weird place.

In THE AVENGERS there was not only witty banter with sexy co-stars, there was the possibility of absolutely anything happening in any given episode. There were stories involving robots, telepathy and man-eating plants. There were stories involving S&M and the aforementioned snuff film. There was even one episode featuring prominent elder statesman being convinced they were babies again and being manipulated by their “nannies.”

On top of all that, THE AVENGERS could look spectacular. Not always. In fact, the early British episodes are very dull looking. However, in later years THE AVENGERS would combine fashion, art direction and experimentation in some astounding ways. Realism went out the window entirely and an Alt-Avengers universe was created.

But enough with the words. I can type until my little fingers go numb and I would never really do as good a job of describing THE AVENGERS as if you just watched it. Which I hope you do. Repeatedly.

In the meantime, I will try to entice you with these. A more visual approach. An introduction, or re-introduction, to that most unique and compelling of TV shows, THE AVENGERS.