Published on December 19th, 2013 | by Nick May0
Two More Avengers Against the Underworld
The first season of The Avengers is a curious beast. With only two-and-a-bit episodes left, and devoid of many of the series’ iconic elements, it is often glossed over in retrospectives of the show to make room for the girls and the champagne. But is this fair? After all, without Ian Hendry’s Dr. David Keel (for whom the show was originally a vehicle), there wouldn’t have been a Cathy Gale or Emma Peel. In January 2014, those enterprising types at Big Finish are issuing the opening season as audio dramas, letting it live again for a new generation.
Re-watching the pilot episode, Hot Snow, reveals how gritty The Avengers was in the beginning. Dr. Keel’s GP partner is involved in smuggling heroin, and to keep him from investigating, Keel’s fiancée is gunned down as they shop for an engagement ring. Steed steps in offering retribution, giving the show its title. Hot Snow has some camp, stagey moments: Murray Melvin as Charlie and Charles Wade’s Johnson are jarringly effete- it’s like gangland ruled by Hinge and Bracket. Fortunately, crime drama regular Godfrey Quigley as Spicer evens things out.
So, where are the audio versions on the realism scale? The supporting cast comes from BF’s usual ‘rep’ (Colin Baker, Terry Molloy), some of whom opt for the ‘gor blimey’ school of gangsterism, but the production has style. Keel remains a mystery through unfamiliarity and Steed a mystery by design. This establishes Julian Wadham’s Steed with an audience used to Patrick Macnee, and allows Anthony Howell to make David Keel his own. The early 60s feel is helped by the jazz score, a possible nod to the musical input of John Dankworth in the early episodes.
This could just be the start. The TV Avengers survived the departure of its original star, so maybe the audio range could go on to tackle more familiar territory. Fans everywhere can start casting their ideal Avengers girls (Misfits’ Natasha O’Keefe for Emma Peel, anyone?). The new medium will allow for original adventures, unfettered by the confines of studios and budgets, letting new writers’ imaginations run riot as the series goes on to brighter, madder things.
And all from those same humble beginnings in a doctor’s surgery…
The first collection of adaptations of The Avengers‘ first series is released by Big Finish in January 2014, with subsequent series in July 2014 and January 2015. Find more details at the Big Finish website.