REVIEW: THE AVENGERS – THE LOST EPISODES – VOLUME TWO / AUTHOR: VARIOUS / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / STARRING: ANTHONY HOWELL, JULIAN WADHAM, LUCY BRIGGS-OWEN, TERRY MOLLOY, RACHEL ATKINS, PHIL MULRYNE, BETH CHALMERS, DAN STARKEY, JOHN BANKS / RELEASE DATE: JULY 31ST
This is the second set of four stories from the original 1960s TV series of The Avengers released on audio by Big Finish. The Lost Episodes label applies as only two of the 26 broadcast episodes still exist. Big Finish writer John Dorney has adapted the original scripts for audio, making minimal changes, and Big Finish has produced them very much in their original style. If this is your first encounter with the stories all you need to know is that the first series actually revolved around Dr Keel (Howell) and John Steed (Wadham) was originally a sidekick.
In Ashes of Roses, Carol Wilson (Briggs-Owen) – who is Doctor Keel’s assistant – is used by Steed to spy on a hairdressing salon. Steed is investigating a series of suspicious arsons and it isn’t long before Carol finds herself in danger. Keel does little in this story which explores the playboy side to Steed’s character
Please Don’t Feed the Animals takes Keel and Steed into the seedy underbelly of London as they investigate a Soho club which is the centre of a blackmail ring. This is more familiar ground and this was the prolific Dennis Spooner’s first Avengers story. Dennis was also involved in numerous Gerry Anderson titles, The Champions, Randall and Hopkirk and much else
The Radioactive Man is a simple story of an immigrant worker who accidentally takes a piece of radioactive material as a souvenir not knowing that it could poison him and anyone he spends time with. This is the most fascinating of the set, the immigrant worker device feels completely contemporary fifty years later and we get to see both sides of life for an immigrant in London.
Dance With Death centres on a dance school as Dr Keel is framed for a murder. This is the least audio friendly of the four stories – dancing is harder to describe without visuals. That is a minor point; the acting is top notch, the drama is tight and this balances Steed and Keel well.
Throughout, the soundscape is as strong as in the first set, with plenty of rich incidental music and atmospheric recreation of 1960s London. Although this series is half a century old, this new set of releases brings them back to life for a new audience and Big Finish has kept the bar high. The quality of this series remains astounding, and all the cast and crew should be applauded.