The Avengers

Season 6 Episode 2


Aired Saturday 10:00 PM Oct 02, 1968 on ITV

Episode Fan Reviews (2)

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  • The Butler Did It

    An ex-soldier has his Butler invite those responsible for his court martial. The Butler uses chloroform so he doesn't have to take no for an answer. The ex-soldier plays games with his victims, with the loser dying. Steed is the last target, and the Butler chloroform Tara and puts her in a giant hour glass. Can Steed win the game before it's too late? Since this was the second episode of the season, Yes.
  • Tara King gets established as Steed's new partner. Though she has less to do than her predecessors, the show maintains its style.

    <p> * Some spoilers * </p>

    <p> The first true Tara King episode to air, 'Game' is otherwise no departure for 'The Avengers.' It's stylish, clever and a bit silly. The only real downside, alas, is the new leading lady. That's not Linda Thorson's fault, because the script gives her relatively little to do except need to be rescued.</p>

    <p> First the background. In not quite two seasons partnering Patrick Macnee's John Steed, Diana Rigg had achieved artistic success, with the show marketed to 70 countries around the world. Off-screen, though, long hours and her initially very low pay had left Rigg increasingly unhappy. When Rigg would not agree to another contract extension, executives of Associated British Production Corp./Thames Television essentially told her not to let the door hit her on the way out.</p>

    <p> With Rigg thus going even before her existing contract was up, studio head Howard Thomas had a second bad idea. Thomas, who had originally commissioned the show as a light-hearted but noirish action series, became concerned that Steed looked 'weak' when partnered with an equal like Honor Blackman's Cathy Gale or Rigg's Emma Peel. So he fired the producers at the time, Albert Fennell and Brian Clemens.</p>

    <p> Thomas' decision to elevate John Bryce in their place seemed reasonable. Bryce previously served as story editor and then producer for an earlier sequence of episodes, when Steed was a more rough-and-tumble character. But Bryce also has someone he wanted to bring along, his pretty and voluptuous girlfriend, Linda Thorson. A young Canadian and new graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, Thorson went right from school to starring in one of the UK's top series.</p>

    <p> Thorson would turn out to be a perfectly decent actress, particularly adept at comedy and good enough when given a chance to do action scenes. Even Brian Clemens joined the general drooling over her physique, reported at 38D-24-36. Clemens would later cobble together the script for 'The Forget-Me-Knot,' the episode that would introduce Thorson to viewers.</p>

    <p>But in production terms, first there was the brief John Bryce era to get through, beginning with this script by Richard Harris, who had written the visually strong 'The Winged Avenger.' He has another idea for the art department to run with: a series of table-top games with real-life consequences. A man playing a game of Snakes and Ladders must climb a real, if theatrical ladder, and suffers a very bad fall indeed. Another, playing with a racing set, has a real car accident.</p>

    <p> Not only are these set-ups inventive, they contain unqiuely Avengers touches. The unfortunate racer is found with goggles still on, but they're filled with pieces of a puzzle. As the victims pile up _ they usually do _ they come complete with more pieces. While Tara literally puts them together, Steed reaches a larger conclusion: the victims are all fellow Army veterans, who served with him on post-war tribunals.</p>

    <p> The games continue, and eventually mark the appearance of the always reliable Peter Jeffrey as the villainous mastermind. As usual, some details don't bear close scrutiny, such as Steed and Tara waiting patiently at his flat for the next killing and the next clue. But the games themselves are mischievously staged. There's the occasional trip to a playground to collect the bodies, but most of the work is done on colorful soundstages, exuberant and practically psychedelic.</p>

    <p> Of course, this is the Sixties, and Tara's wardrobe of lemon yellow and lime green miniskrits and jackets, plus a glowing fuschia blouse, is true to its epoch. It seems to invite viewers to turn on their black lights and just turn on. Steed's clothes, for which Macnee claimed credit, also are beautiful. There's a subtle blue-gray suit, almost lavender, with a matching tie, and a brown glen-plaid coat complemented by yellow and brown tones in the rest of his ensemble. Increasing the mod touches, Macnee also features period sideburns. </p>

    <p> Looking at her in some of these outfits, it's easy to see why Linda Thorson was cast. Honor Blackman and Diana Rigg had nice legs, but they're no match for Thorson's stupendous stems: the shorter her skirt, the better. And when she wears a soft and clingy blue dress that hugs that magnificent bosom, Linda Thorson obliterates any thought of poor under-developed Diana Rigg.</p>

    <p> At least for a moment. While Tara King would win a wet T-shirt contest in a walkover over Emma Peel, it takes a lot more than T&A to spell characterization. In earlier years, Blackman introduced the tough-minded, leather-clad Cathy Gale as television's first kick-butt heroine. In her trademark catsuits, Rigg took a more comic, but still capable and oh-so-cool, version of the woman warrior to a worldwide audience. Her on-screen rapport with Macnee represented a peak of casting success.</p>

    <p> So Thomas' demand for a stronger Steed, assisted by a weaker young female apprentice, missed the secret of the show's appeal. In addition to the personal charm of Macnee and Rigg, viewers responded to the adult respect that existed between Steed and Mrs. Peel. They had each others' backs, and Steed was in no way diminished by relying on Emma: he could depend on her, the same way she depended on him. Formidable apart, they made an unbeatable team. And after saving each other, as well, as the world, they could enjoy a nice bottle of bubbly.</p>

    <p> In contrast, the tag scene for this episode is a game of "Steedopoly," where every move Steed makes succeeds and every move Tara makes is wrong. That accurately represents the thinking of the production executives, but it's fuzzy thinking.</p>