Before we dig into the Tara King-era of The Avengers,
do explain, to the completely uninitiated, the concept of the TV series as
such, and maybe also give us a bit of a historic breakdown as what
happened prior to the Tara King-era?
the series actually began as a variant of Police Surgeon in the
early 1960s, a series with the great actor Ian Hendry as Dr. David Keel.
Associate British Corporation revived the show with changes, kept
Hendry and character actor Patrick Macnee showed up as a mysterious man
named Steed. Keel's wife is
killed when she is mistakenly delivered a serious batch of illegal drugs
and killed to be silenced and not identify the criminal.
Steed joins Keel and that becomes the basis for the series as
serious police drama, a hit shot live for TV which few taped/kinescoped
copies of the show have survived.
films doing so well, Keel left when an actor's strike took place
for a very successful feature film career (though he would return to hit
TV as well) and the makers were left with unused scripts.
Honor Blackman was cast as Ms. Catherine Gale, Steed's new partner,
and his mysterious side emerged more fully as a spy.
Thus, The Avengers continued to be a hit and the Blackman/Gale Era
was so groundbreaking and cutting edge that the tone was set for the show,
still shot live and taped for posterity.
At one point, a 70mm action feature film as proposed, but Blackman
left the show after a few seasons and that film fell through.
All knew the series was moving on to 35mm film.
would remain so for the rest of the series, Julie Stevens' Venus Smith (an
occasional partner during the Gale era when Cathy Gale was not around) did
not continue and Elizabeth Shepherd (Damien: Omen II) was cast as
Mrs. Emma Peel, but after 1.5 episodes shot, she was let go, though she
was great in the short-lived UK spy TV show The Corridor People
and continued her already successful career. Diana
Rigg replaced her, those shows were reshot, the filmed show (black &
white for starters) was an international sensation and the rest is
So what led
to the creation of Tara King, and what were her characteristics
that would set her apart from Emma Peel (as played by Diana Rigg),
who was immensely popular at the time?
the black and white Rigg/Peel shows did so well, Rigg almost left unless
her salary was raised bigtime, but Associate British and ABC-TV in the
U.S. agreed to it and the full color episodes were as big a hit.
To match the spy craze by then, the show became even more creative
and outlandish. Eventually
Rigg left, and co-producers Brian Clemens and Albert Fennel were to leave
at the same time, both moving onto feature films and other projects.
New producers came in and they created young Tara King as Steed's
new partner, but this was not working out either, so Clemens and Fennell
came back and the episodes made were never officially shown in their
entirety, though parts were recycled into a few episodes.
Clemens thought she was too young and any woman of that age would
be too young for Steed, but she was already signed, so Clemens and Fennell
got to work on a new even more eccentric and outlandish version of the
Do talk about
Linda Thorson, who got to play Tara King, for a bit, and how did
she come on board even?
Thorson is Canadian and she beat out a series of actresses for her
physicality and appeal, so she was signed.
After some training and weight loss with a too-strict diet to lose
weight, shooting began and John Bryce was producer.
He was a writer on early episodes of the show, producing on the
Blackman/Gale shows, Associated thought he could make the show different
again, but something did not click. Thus,
he was out.
three episodes produced by John Bryce - how do they hold up to the rest of
the series (if one can tell from their botched up state)?
was at least trying to make it work. I
like the dark look and potential they offered, with Invasion Of The
Earthmen unintentionally funny at times, but (as someone pointed out)
was making a commentary on the side on Star Trek (the uniforms and
optimism can turn to conformity instantly) before the show was the
phenomenon it has become today, has her as very able-bodied and did not
betray the uniqueness of the show. Have
Guns - Will Haggle has some of this too, but the show is uneven, while
Homicide & Old Lace inserts Patrick Newell as Mother, telling
his aunts a Steed/King tale that is a recycling of an unused Bryce show,
again showing a different kind of dark approach, but he was not invented
yet until Forget-Me-Knot. Newell
was a fine actor, but many think the Mother character was a bad idea that
slowed the show down.
You also have to talk about Tara's
introductory (and Emma's farewell) episode, The Forget-Me-Knot?
did something not done for the show before, a transitional episode. The Forget-Me-Knot would be a farewell to Rigg and revised
introduction to King, who Clemens made a spy in the making (Agent 69!) and
knows Steed's reputation as one of the greatest single spies ever.
When bad things start happening (Mrs. Peel disappears, Steed
suddenly has no memory), she gets into action.
With this, Tara was brunette again (she wore a curly blonde wig for
some reason on some of her unseen shows) and the series was on the go
again. It is also a great
episode, but a new darker tone set in since Clemens & Fennell
understood that the Steed/Peel chemistry had concluded.
can you tell us about Tara/Linda Thorson's audience reception and fan
audiences thought two brunettes in a row was too much and thought she was
too much like Rigg, yet she was popular in Canada, the UK, some other
international markets and especially France.
There, the show was a massive success, led to Thorson having a huge
hit record there and remains the favorite season of the show.
Fans who like her like her look, her own kind of practical wit, a
certain sporting edge that makes her different from her predecessors and
Thorson is simply likeable overall.
of your favourite Tara King episodes?
what works about the Bryce-produced shows, the later episode Pandora
shows the growth of the Steed/King relationship and is one of the smartest
King shows, False Witness is a real gem, Game really smart, All
Done With Mirrors very effective and they show the kind of episodes
the makers needed to make more of. Other
shows took risks, but they were often more abstract, had in-jokes many
missed and were a bit too comical too often.
Some have great moments, but the overall episode comes up short.
King's run on The Avengers lasted a mere 33 episodes before the
show was cancelled in 1969 - so what led to the cancellation?
ABC on the US funded the majority of the show an shooting in color was
not cheap, it needed to be a hit there and was not, beat by the surprise
success of the cutting-edge, videotaped, advanced-editing (for the time)
NBC hit political variety comedy series Laugh-In that ABC put it up
against. The King episodes
were already not doing that well, so that was the end of it.
Associated British soon transformed into Thames Television and
still had another tougher spy show hit at the time with Callan
featuring the late, great Edward Woodward (The Equalizer) as the
tough title hit man for British Intelligence who always rightly fought
with his bosses as much as against enemy spies.
if it's not Tara King-related, you just have to talk about the revival
series The New Avengers from 1976/77, and how does it compare to the
it actually is Tara-related because a champagne commercial Macnee and
Thorson did for French TV -
- while the show was still a hit (then continuing
to be so in syndication in many countries, with color shows being seen
belatedly that way as color did not arrive in many countries until the
early 1970s) led to talk of a revival series and a French financier got
the ball rolling on a new show. He
thought they were getting Thorson back, but a different show was formed
with new characters. Macnee
was back as Steed, a then lesser-known Joanna Lumley was cast as Purdey
and the late, underrated Gareth Hunt was cast as Mike Gambit in
Clemens' attempt bring the show in the world of the realistic.
The results were more mixed than he might have realized and the
show ended after only two seasons. It
is good at its best for what it is, now a minor classic, but did not go as
far as the Rigg or Thorson shows, though it could have.
The Gambit character did inspire the leads in the controversial
Clemens/Fennell police action drama The Professionals CI-5, which
was just restored.
What got you interested into The
Avengers in the first place, so much so that you've become an expert
over the years?
remember seeing a bit of the shows when I was too young to remember, then
the late 1970s CBS reruns of the Color Rigg shows got me back on track,
then The New Avengers (like Return Of The Saint) made their
U.S. debuts on the same network at 12:40 AM in the morning EST!
Sad CBS got those shows brand new and just dumped them at a time
when most people could not see them. I
was already a huge Bond
fan, so it logically followed to get back into
them as part of a massive embracing of the genre.
Online as well as offline sources to
learn more about The Avengers and Tara King?
many to note here, but the actors and some of the behind-the-scenes people
have written great books on the show, Dave Rogers wrote some great books
on the show on his own (and a few with Macnee), Marcus Hearn wrote a solid
book for the show's 50th anniversary and Toby Miller's deep
analysis of the show is a must-read. The
fan websites are some of the best of any fan sites ever created, so visit
them all. The show can never
be in print on home video enough and I've reviewed some of the seasons on
the FulvueDrive-in.com website.
Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten
it is a series Lord Lew Grade (whose ITC Productions was a giant U.K. TV
powerhouse) tried to create hits like it and The Saint with Roger
Moore arrived at about the same time as The Avengers.
The Persuaders (with Moore & Tony Curtis), Man In A
Suitcase, Department S, Jason King, The Protectors
(with Robert Vaughn), The Adventurer (with Gene Barry) and Secret
Agent aka Danger Man (with Patrick McGoohan, later leading to The
Prisoner) are among his responses to the show.
Former Associated British head Sidney Newman helped to create The
Avengers, then moved to the BBC and created Doctor Who, so at the
'Beeb' tried his own attempt at another Avengers with Adam
Adamant Lives! with Gerald Harper as the title spy, frozen near dead
in 1901, only to be remarkably unearthed alive in 1967.
Not bad, but Newman could not get it to work and it was cancelled.
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
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The links below
will take you
of the greatest talents in UK film and TV history worked on The
Avengers from costume designers, production designers, actors,
writers, cinematographers, directors and so many others that the show's
credits read like a who's who of the industry.
Other films and TV shows had great talent too, but the convergence
on The Avengers tends to be particularly exceptional and
of this time, the show's filmed episodes have all arrived on Blu-ray in
the UK, but only the color Rigg episodes were issued in the US on
Blu-ray by Lionsgate, a real shame considering how much the Rigg shows
sold through the roof restored on VHS, then DVD (putting A&E Home
Video on the map when they were considered a tiny company).
It is a show that continues to be very influential (so many spy
shows and detective shows want to be The Avengers, but rarely do
they come close), is still too unseen or revived.
The 1998 Uma Thurman/Ralph Fiennes/Sean Connery feature film was a
total disaster to the point it buried the original shows too much and
despite the director's claim his longer version was some kind of art film,
the damage is done. I like
those actors and am glad they overcame that one.
Thanks for the interview!
Thank you for having