It’s over three years since I watched every episode in existence of The Avengers. Yet tonight I’ve been able to watch an episode of The Avengers that I’ve never seen before. It turns out there was another episode in existence that no one knew about and 18 month ago Kaleidoscope announced that after 55 years had been found. This is only the third complete episode of the first season of the show which still exists in its entirety, and on Monday it was released on DVD.
By the time this episode was discovered, Big Finish had already completed their dramatic reconstruction. I held off listening to it, wanting to see the TV episode first. All the same it’s strange watching “new” performances from Ian Hendry and Ingrid Hafner in roles that I’ve now heard Anthony Howell and Lucy Briggs-Owen play in many more episodes (I’ve some more “Lost Episodes” reviews in my drafts and some more to come).
Obviously it’s a delight to have a new episode of The Avengers so it doesn’t matter too much that, in comparison two other surviving series 1 stories, it’s a bit of a turkey. It’s a poor plot, driven by a co-incidence with an escaped convict, who just happens to be connected with a case of Steed’s, stumbling into Keel’s surgery. “We certainly pick them, don’t we?” remarks Keel. “They seem to pick us” notes Carol, drily acknowledging the scripting laziness. It’s certainly not the sort of thing that would get by in series 2. Steed is startlingly incompetent at the start of the episode, and doesn’t improve much.
There dialogue is mostly serviceable.
“What do you know about the law of probabilities?”
“Can you be nabbed for breaking it?”
The setting is more interesting – a Southend fairground; the kind of eccentric location that would become distinctive in The Avengers, although this is not yet Avengersland or we’d be somewhere like Little Bazely rather than Southend-on-Sea. It does give Steed the opportunity to go undercover as the MC for an attraction which appears to consistent of scantily dressed young women ambling about on stage; his costume is a hoot, but the show is taken considerably more seriously than it deserves, and there’s not much for Macnee to do with the flimsy act than overplay it.
The fairground is primarily populated by geezers who sound like Trevor Howard, but Anthony Bate is good as the convict; the lovely Miranda Connell is his girl who lives on a boat with a random extra plot element. Don Leaver directs, so it’s paces and visually arresting.
Having now heard several series 1 episodes, I’m perhaps a bit spoiled; in that I know there are better stories than this. I’ve also come to appreciate Carol Wilson (partly due to Lucy Briggs-Owen’s wonderful performance on audio) and she is under-used in this. But to have any TV episode recovered is a joy, and it’s wonderful to see Steed and Keel working together, as there’s only one other such episode extant. We do get a scene with Carol Wilson; and Steed’s dog Puppy makes an appearance. We also get to see an early appearance of Douglas Muir’s One-Ten doing a splendid turn as dog-sitter. The Avengers is wonderful; how delightful that 137 episodes is now 138!