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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Action > Adventure > TV > The Protectors - Season One

The Protectors – Set One


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



After Sir Lew Grade’s The Persuaders wrapped up sooner than desired, he was not going to just give up and forget about action television.  After all, he had too much success in it.  This time, Gerry and Sylvia Anderson were on board, leaving their groundbreaking SuperMarionettes behind for great shows like U.F.O. and Space: 1999 (both reviewed elsewhere on this site) as well, to do an outright live-action spy show.  With the producers wanting to land another big name, they got Man From U.N.C.L.E. star Robert Vaughn to play Harry Rule, and The Protectors was greenlighted.


A few changes were made, but the most significant change was that each show would be made for a half-hour time slot.  The half-hour lave-action show was becoming more and more popular, staring with the Adam West Batman in the 1960s, extending to many hit shows in the then-golden age of Saturday Morning television.  They also went to less-expensive film stock (see technical notes below) and called in another group of ace crew people behind the scenes.  Like The Persuaders, The Protectors was trying to pick up where The Avengers left off, hoping to cash in on the decline, missed opportunities and wrap-up of the series.  When the show was greenlighted in 1971, the James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever made the Spy genre seem viable again, with Persuaders star Roger Moore the next Bond.  Could the show take advantage of all these changes?


Joined by Tony Anholt as Paul Bouchet and Nyree Dawn Porter as Contessa di Contini (which felt like as much of a reference to Diana Rigg in the 1969 Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as it did to Rigg, Honor Blackman and Linda Thorson on The Avengers) to form the private troubleshooting organization in the show, the series is off to a good start in the pilot.  Porter does not have any extraordinary chemistry with either of her male co-stars, but when the show is not trying to be The Avengers, it has some good ideas going for it.  The episodes for this first season are:



Disc One:


1)     2,000 Ft. To Die

2)     Brother Hood (with guest stars Vladek Sheybal and Patrick Troughton)

3)     See No Evil

4)     Disappearing Trick

5)     Ceremony For The Dead

6)     It Was All Over In Leipzig (silly Eisenstein Potemkin opening)


Disc Two:

7)     The Quick Brown Fox

8)     King Con (with guest star Anton Rodgers)

9)     Thinkback (with guest star Ian Hendry)

10)  A Kind Of Wild Justice

11)  Balance Of Terror (with guest stars Nigel Green & Laurence Naismith)

12)  Triple Cross (with guest star Peter Bowles)


Disc Three:

13)  The Numbers Game

14)  For The Rest of Your Natural…

15)  The Bodyguards (with guest star Freddie Jones)

16)  A Matter Of Life & Death

17)  The Big Hit

18)  One & One Makes One (with guest stars Michael Gough and Neil McCallum)

19)  Talkdown


Disc Four:

20)  Vocal (with guest star Shane Rimmer)

21)  …With A Little Help From My Friends (with guest star Jeremy Brett)

22)  Chase (with guest star Patrick Magee)

23)  Your Witness (with guest star Stephanie Beacham)

24)  It Could Be Practically Anywhere On The Island (with guest star Vernon Dobtcheff)

25)  The First Circle (with guest star Ed Bishop)

26)  A Case For The Right (with guest star Milo O’Shea)



Brian Clemens, who masterminded the best years of The Avengers, wrote shows 4, 9 (with Avengers veteran Ian Hendry), 20 & 22.  They are among the best shows here.  Dennis Spooner wrote show 15, while Roy Ward Baker directed show 17 (another highlight), and famous Rock film director Michael Lindsay-Hogg (Let It Be (1970), plus many concerts and Music Videos even to this day) did the final show for the season.  Despite the limits facing Reg Hill & company, they were being very ambitious and it makes the show more watchable than expected.  Car fans will see a 1960s Mustang and a Maserati & Alfa Romeo in spots, saved for the last episode.  The last few shows were strong and were probably saved until the end because of that.


The problem is obviously that these shows are far too short to develop the characters, but watching them non-stop shows how the various writers were trying to build up the show.  They nearly succeeded, but some of the fight scenes do not work, and none of the shows here were two-parters, something Batman did all the time.  Vaughn did not repeat his Napoleon Solo character, which is a plus, and it could be argued that this arrangement inspired The New Avengers.  That may have been a bit more successful, but this show deserved better than it got.  It is not as remembered as it ought to be; something this DVD set should help correct.


The full frame 1.33 X 1 looks good, but has the distinction of being the first such series to be shot in 16mm, as opposed to 35mm.  You can see this in the varying color quality at times, but like digital High Definition since the late 1990s, the late 1960s was a time when 16mm film was beginning to become an interesting alternative to shooting in 35mm.  Rank did the processing, and it shows in a great way, particularly in the color richness of many shots.  Many of Andy Warhol’s films were shot that way, as well as endless Rockumentaries, so the format and the quality of the stocks of the time were finally coming into their own.  For The Protectors, it was a move to save money by Sir Lew Grade, but also gave the show its own unique look.  Color and detail are still often impressive, even against the best digitally-shot video today.  Having veteran cinematographer Brendan J. Stafford, B.S.C., on board paid off big time here.  Frank Watts, B.S.C., also shot shows towards the end of this season.


The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is a nice boost-up from the original monophonic sound that the shows first were broadcast in.  It offers no surrounds, but is not bad.  The theme song is Avenues & Alleyways, a Tom Jones sound-a-like theme song that is an instrumental in the opening and with vocal by Tony Christie in all the end credits.  Jones did the theme to the biggest of all hit Bond films, Thunderball from 1965.  Jones was still a big mainstream hit artist, so that at least makes sense.   John Cameron did the score, which is not bad, but was not involved with the theme song.  Extras include a stills gallery on DVD 2, 3 & 4 and director John Hough does an audio commentary on the 2,000 Ft. To Die pilot that could have went on for hours.  Though he only returned this season to helm show 14, his insight on the series and the whole British action cycle is mandatory listening.  We can only hope he’ll be back for the next set, which we will get to when we return.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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