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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Action > Adventure > TV > New Avengers 1977 Set Two (A&E DVD Set)

The New Avengers – 1977 (Season Two)

 

Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: D     Episodes: B-

 

 

With a very mixed reception its first year out, The New Avengers continued production, including more French locations (as co-funding came from there) and new attempts to try to find a direction for the series that worked.  This included the only two-part show in the history of the series and would be the final season of the series.  It was also the last time Gareth Hunt would play Mike Gambit and Joanna Lumley would play Purdey, but it is especially poignant that this would Patrick Macnee’s last time playing John Steed.  With the old series, that’s ten seasons.

 

Though there was a good marketing push and even some nice memorabilia (books, die-cats version of Purdey’s Triumph TR7, a Purdey action figure, etc.), it did not click with an American audience and did not get the U.S. prime time exposure its predecessor did.  But Americans were not the only ones still long in love with Diana Rigg’s Emma Peel, as the overseas success was choppy, yet it gained die-hard fans as the Honor Blackman/Ms. Catherine Gale and Linda Thorson/Tara King shows before them did.

 

Here are the final 12 adventures/13 episodes, with the highlights getting more cyber-ink than the rest, in order of title/writer/director:

 

Dead Men Are Dangerous (Brian Clemens/Sidney Hayers) – Another old figure form Steed’s past shows up rearing a murderous, jealous rage for him and all he loves, including Purdey.  This storyline has been done too many times and if the intent was to give this season old school credibility, it does not.

 

Angels Of Death (Terence Feely & Brian Clemens/Ernest Day) – Officials keep dying of natural causes, but this seems far more than coincidence, as Steed, Gambit & Purdey find out.  By using a deadly combination of drugs, a giant human trick maze and heavy disco partying, this is one of the most unintentionally funny shows they ever made.  Caroline Munro, who appeared as the reporter in Adam Ant’s classic Goody Two Shoes Music Video and was the pilot of the machine-gun equipped helicopter in the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), is a bad girl again as the nurse Tammy.

 

Medium Rare (Dennis Spooner/Ray Austin) – In one of the worst shows in the series, a phony psychic can suddenly see the means of an assassination attempt on Steed, as the episode tries its take on Alfred Hitchcock’s last film, Family Plot.  Bad idea.

 

The Lion & The Unicorn (John Goldsmith/Ray Austin) – Another assassin is after Steed, which makes us wonder why foreign agents do not see Purdey or Gambit as a threat of equal importance.  Shows like this ended the series earlier than it should have, while this one has aged more due to its Cold War themes.

 

Obsession (Brian Clemens/Ernest Day) – In one of the best shows since the original series, Martin Shaw (Doyle on The Professionals) is Purdey’s ex-love Larry, whose father was killed in an operation in the Middle East back in 1970.  Seven years later, Purdey has traded in ballet for bullets, unbeknownst to Larry, now a major RAF pilot.  He wants to re-attempt the revenge assassination she foiled without knowing it then, but the history that transpires this time will not be easy for anyone involved.

 

Trap (Brian Clemens/Ray Austin) – In a really odd show, very non-Asian looking Terry Wood plays a Chinese drug lord who wants to kill Steed, Gambit & Purdey for destroying a $10 Million shipment in a show that wants to be the Diana Rigg episode The Superlative Seven, which was far superior to this mess.

 

Hostage (Brian Clemens/Sidney Hayers) – Steed alone knows that Purdey has been abducted and will not let Gambit know it, as he sees him as a hot head.  When he steals top-secret documents top get Purdey freed, Gambit is on his trail.  The strange conflict suggested in this show does not exits in any of the other shows and makes this an odd one-off that does not go very far.

 

K Is For Kill (Brian Clemens/Yvon Marie Coulais) – This is a show in two-parts that was never spliced together into an artificial feature film, theatrical or TV.  The Tiger Awakens and Tiger By The Tail are the two parts, but they do not add up as they should, especially considering the ideas.  Steed calls Mrs. Peel (Diana Rigg from footage in 1967 shows, especially noticed by their better color quality) about a case where young soldiers turn into old ones as soon as they are killed.  The Rigg/Peel thing is a tease that is insulting and this should have been the time to invite Rigg back.  It feels second best from there.  Purdey asks Steed if he called Mrs. Peel for reinforcements.  Too bad she was wrong.

 

Complex (Dennis Spooner/Richard Gilbert) – The series moved to Canada at a time when this was far from common in this variation on “the woman alone in the house” theme that had been done with all the female leads in the original series.  In this case, the team is on the hunt for a deadly agent, but run into a deadlier electronic menace.  The show takes elements from great Science Fiction of the time like THX-1138, Demon Seed and even Logan’s Run.  Cecil Linder, who plays Steed’s friend Baker, was Felix Leiter in the James Bond film Goldfinger (1963).  Oh, and dig that lemon-yellow Jaguar XJ-S and red Triumph TR7 as a sort of reverse for Gambit and Purdey, retaining the colors of their opposite makes in England.

 

The Gladiators (Brian Clemens/Claude Fournier) – Lame attempt to do a Soviet/Siberian Superlative Seven, where the ones who can punch the best sound like Cybernauts, turns into a missed opportunity.   One of the most preposterous of the series offers a deadly old enemy agent who has gone missing, even pushing it for all those rumors of genetically engineered Soviet soldiers, which this story is also not about.

 

Emily (Dennis Spooner/Don Thompson) – A car with a name (the title of this show) that is owned by a cleaning lady could be the key to discovering the identity of the double agent known as The Fox, but it has fingerprints and Steed’s bowler gets stuck on it.  This one just gets too silly and pointless for its own good, but some may be amused.  This critic was not.   Who’s Who anyone?

 

Forward Base (Dennis Spooner/Don Thompson) – The team has to help the Canadians stop a Soviet East Bloc plot to infiltrate their missile guidance system, but not before more misguided gallivanting across Canada.  The show begins with a 1969 flashback, but that never pays off.  Note Purdey’s great blue wetsuit/jumpsuit with the lion logo on her T-shirt.  It should also be noted that Gambit is missing in the silly conclusion that does not end the series with any closure.

 

 

The 1.33 X 1, full screen, color picture was again processed in Rank Color and again comes from late PAL analog transfers of the show done a few years ago.  This is passable, but no match for the higher quality restorations on all the color original Avengers DVDs, though those films and more complex color systems used on those shows, so some comparisons are limited.  There is the rare scratch and even a color-timing problem shows up on the second part of K Is For Kill.  Ernest Steward, B.S.C., handled most of this season’s cinematography, while Gilbert Sarthre covered some of the French-shot shows and Henry Fiks lensed most of the Canadian shows.  I am glad the show went on different locations.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo remixes the TV mono, which is not bad, but has some of the slight harshnesses here and there.  Gladiators has some warped sound.  This is above average, but not optimal.  The only extras are a few stills for each show on the four DVDs they appear on here.

 

So The New Avengers was over.  Those who like it more than the original show say they like it better for being more realistic, but closer examination shows it was far from that gritty.  This second season also seemed to try and find its own sort of fantasy niche to some extent.  Now, the entire series is finally out on DVD once and for all.  There was that really horrible, horrible missed opportunity of a theatrical film in 1998 that desecrated these shows, making this series look all that much better.  Lumley went on to an incredible career of her own and Macnee still made his appearances here and there.  As for this franchise, the feature film hurt it greatly, but its memory and folly will be erased as the original shows are rediscovered over and over again.  Whether we will see Steed again is less likely, as even an award-winning actor like Ralph Finnes would not do.  Unlike all the actors who have so far played James Bond, Macnee made too much of an impact as Steed and then you have the long line of his partners.  Most of the creative team of the series are also no longer with us and its particular Britishness and wit have held up against dozens of imitators.  The Avengers will always be an all time classic and like it or not, The New Avengers offers its concluding chapters.  No other Spy show had it so good or was ever so good.  Centuries from now, people will still be watching and talking about The Avengers and it will still be considered ahead of its time.  This show will be part of that legacy.

 

You can read about the first season at the following link:

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/84/New+Avengers+1976+Set+One+(DVD

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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