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The New Avengers is a British secret agent fantasy adventure television series produced during 1976 and 1977. It is a sequel to the 1960s series, The Avengers which was created by Sydney Newman, and the new version was developed by original series producers Brian Clemens and Albert Fennell.
The series was produced by The Avengers (Film and TV) Enterprises Ltd for the ITV Network, cost £125,000 per episode to produce at Pinewood Studios in England and was seen in 120 countries.
A joint UK-France-Canada production, the series picks up the adventures of John Steed (again played by Patrick Macnee) as he and his team of "Avengers" fight evil plots and world domination. Whereas in the original series Steed had almost always been partnered with a woman, in the new series he had two partners: Mike Gambit (Gareth Hunt), a top agent, crack marksman and trained martial artist, and Purdey (Joanna Lumley), a former trainee with The Royal Ballet (to which she ascribed the high-kicking skills she frequently used in the series) who was an amalgam of many of the best talents from Steed's female partners in The Avengers.
Overview[edit | edit source]
As he did for most of the original series, Steed is once again acting without a direct superior - in many ways his character takes on the duties of "Mother" from the Tara King era of the 1960s show. Steed is seen as the mentor to Gambit and Purdey, taking on a paternal role towards them (especially in the episode "Hostage"). Gambit is the athletic action hero, while Purdey incorporates the wit and fighting skills of her predecessors. The verbal interplay between Gambit and Purdey, with her humorously keeping his romantic advances at bay, hearkens back to the Steed/Gale era of the original Avengers.
One reason for the addition of Gambit was the question of whether Macnee, at age 53 when the series began production, could handle the potential stuntwork and action scenes. Macnee was able to increase his role's visibility as the series progressed, losing weight to improve his athleticism and 'keep up' with his new partners.
The first series featured several episodes using science fiction themes similar to those of the classic "Emma Peel" Avengers era. The new trio had to deal with suspended animation ("The Eagle's Nest"), biological warfare ("The Midas Touch"), robotics ("The Last of The Cybernauts?"), mind transfer ("Three-Handed Game") and even a giant rat ("Gnaws", a title patterned after the hit movie Jaws). Second series episodes featured science fiction elements, such as the artificially-intelligent super-computer of "Complex", the Russian soldiers revived from suspended animation in "K is for Kill", the submersible Russian community in "Forward Base" and the Super humans of "The Gladiators". Other episodes of that season dealt with more realistic plots.
The Avengers and The New Avengers scriptwriter Dennis Spooner said that at the end of its run The Avengers had gone as far as it could in terms of parody. For this reason Brian Clemens intentionally aimed for real stories and straight, Len Deighton-type spy stories in The New Avengers. Spooner said "It's no good saying 'I don't like The New Avengers so much, because it wasn't like the old show'-because it never could have been. We did everything-we did the kitchen sink!-and there was no way of going back on it." When reminded of his The New Avengers script "Gnaws" Spooner admitted that "Well, yes, towards the end we relaxed a bit!"  Some of the storylines used in the series were recycled from earlier scripts penned by Clemens or Spooner from other series. Medium Rare was based on the Thriller episode Murder in Mind and Gnaws was based on the Thunderbirds story Attack of the Alligators!
An attempt to get Diana Rigg to appear as Emma Peel in the new series was unsuccessful, although old footage of her on the phone from two 1960s episodes of The Avengers, 'The Winged Avenger' and 'The Hidden Tiger', were used to allow the character to make a cameo appearance in the episode "K Is For Kill Part One: The Tiger Awakes": actress Sue Lloyd provided the voice of Mrs Peel for these sequences. Ian Hendry, who played Steed's original partner, David Keel, also guest-starred in one episode, "To Catch A Rat", playing a different role. "Obsession" features two of the stars of the Brian Clemens/Albert Fennell British crime-fighting action series The Professionals: Martin Shaw and Lewis Collins.
Two series totalling 26 episodes were produced, which were aired on CBS in the United States, CTV in Canada, ITV in Britain, RTÉ in Ireland, TF1 in France and in television syndication|syndication elsewhere.
Laurie Johnson, who had composed the theme for the original Avengers series (starting with the Emma Peel era in 1965, at least), returned to compose a new, updated theme for the revival, although it begins with the same fanfare as the original.
In order to complete the planned 26 episodes, finance was sought from other sources. Production company Nielsen Ferns came on board but was understandably keen to promote its home country, so the final four stories, titled The New Avengers in Canada on the caption card preceding each episode, saw the action move to Toronto, Ontario (with scenes for the episode "Forward Base" shot at Ward's Island). By this time Brian Clemens was heavily committed to another project, The Professionals for LWT and control of the series passed to a largely local crew. The results attracted heavy criticism, from fans and from Clemens himself.
The financial problems continued and plans for a third series were abandoned. Subsequently, however, strong sales to many countries - notably CBS in the United States - saw two attempts to revive the show (in 1979 and 1980), though co-financing arrangements proved impossible to agree upon.
In 1994 Joanna Lumley and Gareth Hunt publicised the launch of the series on domestic videocassette. Sales were stronger than expected, prompting Brian Clemens to consider reuniting the two actors in a "spin-off" series. Although both were keen to participate and a script was written, plans stalled at an early stage for undisclosed reasons.
In 1995/6, the series was picked up by the BBC, and it then received a genuine "network" transmission in the UK for the first time. Joanna Lumley subsequently claimed that this is the only screening for which she received repeat fees. At the time, French company Canal Plus held transmission prints for the series, but upon delivery the BBC considered that those for several early episodes were not of "broadcast quality". As a result, the final four episodes were actually the first to be screened, whilst better prints were made up. Nevertheless notable variations in picture and audio quality across the series remain and it awaits genuine remastering from the original 35 mm negatives/inter positives.
The series began a repeat run on BBC Four on the 13 November 2008. This is the first time the series has been networked since its screening by the BBC in 1995.
Episodes[edit | edit source]
Series 1 (1976–1977)[edit | edit source]
Series 2 (1977)[edit | edit source]
|Episode #||Original air date (UK)||Episode title||Guest cast|
|2-01||9 September 1977||"Dead Men Are Dangerous"||Clive Revill, Gabrielle Drake, Trevor Adams, Roger Avon|
|2-02||16 September 1977||"Angels of Death"||Dinsdale Landen, Terence Alexander, Michael Latimer, Caroline Munro, Pamela Stephenson, Anthony Bailey|
|2-03||23 September 1977||"Medium Rare"||Jeremy Wilkin, Jon Finch, Neil Hallett, Sue Holderness, Maurice O'Connell|
|2-04||30 September 1977||"The Lion and the Unicorn"||Maurice Marsac, Gerald Sim|
|2-05||7 October 1977||"Obsession"||Martin Shaw, Lewis Collins, Tommy Boyle, Roy Purcell|
|2-06||14 October 1977||"Trap"||Terry Wood, Ferdy Mayne, Robert Rietti, Stuart Damon, Larry Lamb, Bruce Boa, Kristopher Kum|
|2-07||21 October 1977||"Hostage"||William Franklyn, Simon Oates, Michael Culver, Anna Palk, Richard Ireson, Barry Stanton, George Lane Cooper|
|2-08||28 October 1977||"K Is for Kill Part One: The Tiger Awakes"||Pierre Vernier, Maurice Marsac, Diana Rigg (archival footage), Kenneth Watson, Tony Then|
|2-09||4 November 1977||"K Is for Kill Part Two: Tiger by the Tail"||Pierre Vernier, Maurice Marsac, Kenneth Watson, Tony Then|
|2-10||11 November 1977||"Complex"||Cec Linder, Harvey Atkin|
|2-11||18 November 1977||"Forward Base"||Jack Creley, Marilyn Lightstone, Maurice Good, David Calderisi|
|2-12||25 November 1977||"The Gladiators"||Louis Zorich|
|2-13||17 December 1977||"Emily"||Jane Mallett|
All prints of the final four episodes of series 2 begin with a sting of the theme tune over a cue card, which reads The New Avengers in Canada.
'K is for Kill' is titled 'The Dragon Awakes' in Germany and 'The Long Sleep' in France.
Spinoffs[edit | edit source]
The New Avengers spawned a series of novels mostly based upon episode teleplays (sometimes more than one per novel). Only three were published in the US:
- House of Cards, Peter Cave, 1976
- The Eagle's Nest, John Carter, 1976
- To Catch a Rat, Walter Harris, 1977
- Fighting Men, Justin Cartwright, 1977
- The Cybernauts, Cave, 1977
- Hostage, Cave, 1977
DVD release[edit | edit source]
The complete series is available on DVD in both the UK and North America, with A&E releasing the Region 1 editions of series 1 in 2003 and series 2 in 2004. As of 2009, the Region 1 releases have been discontinued by A&E and are no longer available.
References[edit | edit source]
- TV Times magazine, page 22, 22nd October, 1977.
- Peel, John. "Dennis Spooner Interview". The Avengers Files: Emma's Last Year. Psi Fi Movie Press, Inc. Canoga Park, CA, 1985, p 47.