The Avengers: The Complete Series 4 - Preview
Previe by Jack Foley
AS SERIES 4 of definitive spy-fi The Avengers hit UK audiences in 1965, there were some major changes, the first being the introduction of Diana Rigg as Emma Peel, replacing former sidekick to John Steed (Patrick Macnee), Dr Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman).
The name Emma Peel derived from producers wanting to create a character with ‘man appeal’, and formed part of a new sexier direction.
More than 80 actresses auditioned for the role before Rigg was discovered. Her screen test with Macnee showed the two immediately worked well together, and a new era in Avengers history began.
It was also this series, the last to be filmed in black and white, which was sold to US television for a then un-heard of sum of $2 million. This made it one of the first British series to be aired on prime-time American Television.
A new direction, and a new surge of money meant a new look for the series, moving from studio-bound sets to location shots and a shift to shooting on 35mm film.
This series notably became more light-hearted due to Macnee and Peel’s new relationship. A more jovial script also opened doors for more humour and to poke fun at its American counterparts such as “Mission… Highly Improbable” and “The Winged Avenger”.
The increased popularity of spy-fi meant many episodes were characterised by a futuristic, science fiction bent than in previous series, including mad scientists and their creations leaving havoc in their wake, giant carnivorous plants, and invisible foes.
This enabled a sexy undercurrent, also demonstrated in Emma Peel’s costumes including fashions very avant-garde for the time: bold accents and high-contrast geometric patterns emphasising her youthful contemporary personality, and representing modern sixties England.
Fetishism is even hinted at in some episodes, including A Touch of Brimstone, where Rigg was dressed as a dominatrix to become the ‘Queen of Sin’.
This was one of five episodes from Series 4 that were not initially broadcast in the US by ABC due to censors deeming it too racy for American audiences.
With the release of The Complete Series 4 on DVD on July 5, 2010 by Optimum Home Entertainment, and featuring the first full restoration of all episodes, we can relish the expanded wardrobes, lavish sets, top notch scriptwriting and stories that benefit from the combined input of writers, directors and actors all at their peak.
The longest running espionage series produced for English-language television, The Avengers eventually reached audiences in 120 countries, a record that still stands to this day.
Now you can watch this timeless classic again and again.