Tara's farewell to her Steed
AS A CARDBOARD NEVER-NEVER LAND CLOSES
BRIAN CLEMENS is pretty well convinced that John Steed and Cathy Gale lived together and equally that Steed and Emma Peel enjoyed a jolly and riotous affair.
He's not so sure about Steed and Tara King. "Will they?' he asks himself sometimes. Or, 'Are they?' Or even, in moments of doubt, 'Have they already?'
Pointless speculation, of course, since none of these characters - except Brian Clemens, naturally - exists in more than one and a half dimensions at the most.
Still, wondering about their relationships with each other has been a national pastime for some eight years and it's rather sad to think that, come the end of March, it will all cease.
For then the Avengers and their motley crew of red-nosed assassins, power-crazed bee-keepers and mother-loving secret agents will pack their death machines, their kinky boots and leather gear and depart - or perhaps I mean decamp - for ever.
The American ratings are largely to blame. At present, despite more success in the U.S. than any other British TV series, the show lingers around the bottom of the charts, opposed both by Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In and a curious idea that The Avengers is too violent.
'Americans simply count the bodies,' says Clemens, co-producer, chief writer and arbiter of the series' style and form. 'They never take into account the manner of the killings. In fact, the stories are about as violent as the average pantomime or Grimm's Fairy Tales.'
True enough. In The Avengers no body ever bleeds or really suffers. Indeed, nothing remotely plausible ever happens.
"We've created a cardboard never-never land,' says Clemens, 'like a good Doris Day comedy, in which everything is beautiful and even the dustmen have manners of dukes.
'Even the sexuality is veiled. Everyone has his own ideas about the relationship between Steed and the women. To me, it's always a kind of Morecambe and Wise, Hope and Crosby relationship - the conner and the conned, with Steed doing the conning.'
It's an up-to-date costume drama, a modern fairy story, a fantasy, and these elements have helped the series earn around £5 million in 90 countries.
Now it will all come to an end unless - which is unlikely - the Americans change their minds and ask for more. Clemens will miss it badly.
'Mostly I shall miss Patrick Macnee. Not having him around will be like waking up and finding Nelson's Column has gone.'
Macnee, as Steed, is the very essence of the series, the sole survivor from the early days. When the show began - co-starring himself and Ian Hendry - he was 38 and 'nobody knew me from a hole in the ground.'
Now he is 46, internationally celebrated and passing affluent.
'I've adored it all,' he says. He is sad, but not heartbroken, that it's over. 'I was going to leave when Diana Rigg left.
'Then I thought, well, if you start with something, you ought to see it through to the end.'
None of those closely connected with the show has failed to benefit from it. Clemens can set up his own series any time he likes; Honor Blackman and Diana Rigg have progressed to well-paid movies; Macnee is off to Hollywood for at least a year.
Only Linda Thorson, as Tara King, is quite uncertain about the future and of her Brian Clemens says: 'By the time the present run ends she'll have been seen in 13 episodes. If she can't establish herself in that time, she never will.'
The chances are she'll do pretty well. Her roles is subtly different from those of the Misses Blackman and Rigg - softer, warmer, more conventionally feminine.
The Avengers won't pass unmourned and certainly shouldn't pass unnoticed. It was a considerable trend-setter in its way - pre-dating the Bond films and actively inspiring such imitators as The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Fortunately, however, the In Memoriam notices won't be needed for some time yet. There are still 15 episodes to be seen in the present run and the whole series may well become a cult all over again when colour comes to ITV.
Even so, it's hard to accept that we shall never see Steed with yet another new dolly, provoking such delicious, if mildly improper thoughts as, 'Have they yet?' or 'Will they soon?'
From The Daily Mail, England, January 24th 1969.
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