Rewatching The Avengers Part II

Patrick Mcnee and Diana Rigg in a publicity still for The Avengers

Here are some more selections from the fourth season of The Avengers, which introduced Diana Rigg as Emma Peel and the first season produced on film.

Too Many Christmas Trees: John Steed (Patrick Macnee) is having nightmares involving Christmas trees and someone who has dressed up like Santa Claus. After awakening from one sucsh nightmare, Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) arrives at Steed’s flat and gives him some Christmas cards he has received.

One is from Cathy Gale. Steed is pleased but wonders why Mrs. Gale sent it from Fort Knox. Mrs. Gale, of course, was played by Honor Blackman, who played Pussy Galore in Goldfinger.

The Girl From Auntie: Emma is incapacitated and kidnapped after an “MFU” (Man From U.N.C.L.E.?) all-night costume party. Another woman has been substituted in Emma’s place.

Auntie refers to Mr. Auntie, the villain of the episode. But there are multiple in-jokes. Two dead men (of several) are named Bates and Marshall, presumably a reference to John Bates (costume designer for Diana Rigg) and Marshall (presumably a reference to writer Roger Marshall). Auntie operates out of the offices of Art Incorporated. Steed investigates the office. While checking out a control panel, it starts beeping. The sound is similar to (but not identical to) the communicator sound of the communicator from The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

We also see in Emma’s apartment she has a copy of “Self Defence: No Holds Barred” supposedly written by Ray Austin. Austin was the stunt arranger for the series. He’d become a director and emigrate to the U.S. where he would helm episodes of various productions. One was the 1983 TV movie The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The cast includes David Bauer as a sinister Soviet bloc diplomat. He’d later appear in You Only Live Twice (American diplomat) and Diamonds Are Forever (Mr. Slumber). At one point, certain knitting needles are referred to as “double-ohs.”

A Touch of Brimstone: This episode is perhaps best remembered for Diana Rigg appearing in a skimpy outfit while wearing a spiked collar

When the U.S. ABC network imported the show to the United States, ABC did not broadcast this installment. In 1999, the U.S. cable television channel TV Land had a week of spy-related TV shows as part of a promotion for Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. The night for The Avengers included A Touch of Brimstone and referenced the censorship issue.

A new Hellfire Club is doing no good, bringing Steed and Mrs Peel into the case. The striking visuals cause this to be one of the best-remembered episodes of the series.

The cast included Carol Cleveland, who often appeared with Monty Python, and Alf Joint, the stunt performer who appeared in the pre-titles sequence of Goldfinger.

The House That Jack Built: The audience learns A LOT about the background of Emma Peel. In previous episodes, we’re told how she’d a genius. In this episode, we eventually are told how she took control of the empire of her late father, Sir John Knight. The audience is shown part of a newspaper headline that says, “21-year-old girl to head board.” Once in control, Emma fired an automation expert.

That expert is Professor Keller. He is the one who has lured Emma into the trap. Except it turns out that Keller IS DEAD. He laid out the trap to live beyond him. He has made recordings to test Emma. The point of the exercise is to drive Emma to kill herself

Thankfully, Steed is on the job. Regardless, the episode is a showcase for Diana Rigg and art director Harry Pottle, with his imaginative sets. Pottle would work on the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice, working with production designer Ken Adam

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