The Avengers are back! Great locations and a healthy dash of strangeness giving it a very Avengers feel, right from the opening with an agent being chased by men with fishing rods. Seven years on, though, some things have changed… Steed is still Steed, with the impeccable manners that mean even during a chase he cannot help stopping to be polite to an old lady. But instead of one partner, he has two: Purdey and Gambit. Despite the fact that Brian Clemens (who’s back as producer with Albert Fennel) felt Linda Thorson was too young for Steed, Joanna Lumley is only one year her senior – so there’s a similar age gap (22 years) with Steed (though naturally they’re both older!) Lumley, has all the balletic grace that Linda Thorsen as Tara, for all her other charms, completely lacked. She is cool, witty, and slightly…kooky. Where Mrs Gale and Mrs Peel were the epitome of sophistication, Purdey is the class rebel – just as self-assured as her predecessors – but more of a free spirit. Gareth Hunt as Mike Gambit is closer to Lumley in age, and the three-way relationship brings a whole new dynamic. Gambit, is everything Steed isn’t; juvenile, indecorous and maybe even a little crude. He tips Purdey out of bed: “You were weaned from prep school too early” she tells him. There’s almost a sense that while Steed plays the adult, Purdey and Gambit are the squabbling children; but it’s done with a great deal of charm. There’s also an acknowledgement of something else: we didn’t even see bedrooms in The Avengers. Here we clearly see Gambit’s undisguised lust.
The sense of invulnerability is gone. There’s a sense that their armour of imperturbability is now less than absolute.
Unlike The Avengers, we get a pre-title sequence, with the titles kicking in literally in the middle of an action sequence – a man jumps off a cliff and over the freeze frame, we get the brassy opening chords of The Avengers theme… But rather than going into The Shake we get military drums, a funky bit of base and some wah wah in a new tune from Laurie Johnson, who is also back. Unfortunately, this is over a title sequence that is predominantly mashed together clips, rather than the stylised posing of The Avengers, but it’s a third great theme which is three more than most shows get.
Peter Cushing is back follow his evil turn in the second Cybernaut story and so is Frank Gatliff who appeared in the first series of The Avengers (though the episode is lost) as well as three other original series episodes.
There are good chases, good stunts and really well edited fight scenes. The only flaws in this are some of the dialogue (“when you tried to kill me, you threw away the rule book”) and the outrageous and peculiarly vulgar reveal, which detracts from the carefully constructed atmospheric isolation, which was a little reminiscent of Town of No Return and Castle De’ath. Still, the first half an hour is an extremely promising introduction to The New Avengers.