For a show that became seen as ‘quintessentially’ English it’s a surprise to find The Avengers in France. When it went on location, it was all pretty Buckinghamshire villages, churches, manors and estates but in these early studio-bound days France is achieved with fuselage and airport sets and some gendarme hats – even if no one at all speaks any French.
This is a farce but it’s played absolutely seriously. There’s a sizeable ensemble cast, quickly sketched but memorable characters with engaging relationships; it’s more like a country house mystery than a Steed-and-Cathy-investigate story in some ways.
Steed and Cathy are far more prickly with one another in this story than in Mr Teddy Bear – but oh, what a wonderful and exciting pairing they make. The presence of Geoffrey Palmer increases the already considerable charm quotient and there’s also an appearance by Nicholas Courtney (Doctor Who’s Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart) a year before Doctor Who reached the airwaves.
Happily, in view of my previous disappointment, Cathy gets to knock a man unconscious in this one; and both she and Steed are quipping about fruit juice and lingerie the instant they have defeated the baddies. So while the staginess, setting and elements of melodrama owe more to the first season, the central relationship has established the casual camaraderie that runs right through into the Emma Peel era.