There are four remakes in what is, perhaps, the least creative series of The Avengers made, and this is the first. It’s a remake of The Charmers, which I didn’t rate that highly first time round, and this doesn’t really improve on it. Why did they do it? I can think of two reasons… Firstly, they presumably thought the Americans would like it because it’s been stuffed with ‘Britishness’ on a wholesale scale – umbrellas instead of The Charmers’ bowlers, but like Steed’s they are accessorised (with miniature radios, and sword-sticks to match the one he wields in the new titles) and charm school to teach ‘British manners’ etc. etc.
“What’s the matter with him? Is he dumb or something?”
“No he’s British. He wouldn’t dream of discussing business with you until he’s been formally introduced.”
Secondly, it must’ve been cheap. Studio set, with crudely painted flats because that’s what they are actually supposed to be – at SNOB (Sociability, Nobility, Omnipotence, Breeding, Inc.)
Continuity-wise it’s slightly puzzling what Steed must make of all the same things happening to him that happened before, albeit with Mrs Gale rather than Mrs Peel. But I guess we must accept that this was before the era of the DVD and recorders. And also, perhaps, that The Avengers in colour is (sadly) just a different show from the series that starred Ian Hendry and Honor Blackman.
The changing partners gambit feels even more forced this time round – and although the Russians don’t try the ridiculous ploy of hiring an actress, the fun that provided via Fenella Fielding is entirely missing in the horrible caricature we get instead.
Otherwise we do get some good guest cast, but they are sadly wasted. It’s been a while since Philip Madoc did an Avengers (Death of a Batman was the last one, with two previous to that, and one more to come). He’s barely in this, killed of early. Michael Gough’s back after last season’s The Cybernauts (is it a reference to the wheelchair-bound villain he plays in that episode when Mrs Peel sits in a wheelchair?) He’s playing the Warren Mitchell comedy part – it’s not a good fit. He gets one good line: “Steed! What a delightful surprise? What a pleasure to see you again?” (To Ivan) “I told you to kill him.”
Most of all it’s a waste of Lavender Hill Mob/Fish Called Wanda/Death at Bargain Prices director Charles Crichton.
I do like the inscriptions on the back of the photos of Steed and Emma the latter finds in the Russians’ safe: Steed’s reads “Dangerous. Handle with care”; Emma’s “Very dangerous. Do not handle at all.”
And the episode has one good eccentric: the umbrella salesman who really cares about his umbrellas.
Subtitle: Steed changes partners. Emma joins the enemy.