Color Her Black-And-Blue

Pow!  Splat!  Crunch!

Two sneering young bullies in leather are beating a young girl with pistols, branding irons, fists and blow guns.  Down she goes.

Five minutes later the sadists play a return engagement... Pow!  Splat!  Crunch!... Despite a few karate blows, the lady falls off again and is hauled off by the neck.

What's this - guerilla warfare on The Planet of the Apes?  Nope.  Just the usual Wednesday night entertainment provided by the American Broadcasting Company at 7.30 p.m. called 'The Avengers', in black-and-blue series in the adventure-crime category - any episode of which would make a fine training film for the Marquis de Sade.

This week's installment was a special occasion.  They're changing lady agents.  Emma went out and Tara came in - and my goodness it took a lot of brawling to make the trade.

With the possible exception of Schweppes Quinine water, Yardley's Soap and The Beatles, this London-made series has been the best known English import for the past two seasons.  It has co-starred Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee as two secret agents working for 'Mother', the pudgy, wet-lipped autocrat who runs a crime-fighting organization from a wheel-chair.  Presumably they're on Our Side.

Miss Rigg plays the departing Emma.  It seems that while she was being tossed around the studio and shoved through plate glass windows, Miss Rigg felt unfulfilled as an actress.  Her karate skill was increasing at a faster rate than her acting technique and there is no one quite so restless as an unfulfilled karate expert.

"If I have to toss one more villain over my shoulder I think I'll scream," she told me in England last year.

I believe her.  But I must admit I have a tendency to believe anyone who is as attractive, intelligent and articulate as Miss Rigg, but I would hate to Indian-wrestle with her.

When Rigg wanted out, the problem arose of how to dispose of her character, Mrs. Emma Peel.  This is an old soap opera problem which 'The Avengers' had faced once before when Honor Blackman decided to pull out as Macnee's original assistant, Cathy Gale.

As this week's episode pulled into the home-stretch I feared they might do-in Emma just before the final commercial, but, instead, her pilot husband returned to life miraculously after being forced down in the Amazon jungle.

Until this episode she had been known as Mrs. Emma Peel, a free-wheeling secret agent, whose relationship with co-agent Steed was always pictured as platonic.  They fought together, had dinner together and occasionally shared a bottle of champagne together, but still she called him 'Mr. Steed' and until this week's show he never called her anything but 'Mrs. Peel'.  However, we all know this doesn't mean anything amongst the English who are very stuffy about their first names.

They spent a lot of time in each other's digs of course, but who has the energy for romance at night after fighting crime all day?

No sooner had Emma motored away to domesticity, than her replacement came up the stairs wearing long black stockings, white drawers and a fur coat.

"Hello, Mr. Steed.  Mother sent me," she said.  "How about a cup of tea?"

Miss Tara King is the new girl's name.  She does not have a missing husband in the Amazon Valley - yet.  She's played by red-haired, blue-eyed Linda Thorson, a 20-year old Canadian who has been studying at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.  She will be more feminine and warm than the indomitable Emma.

Instead of always wrestling with the villains she will occasionally scream for help.

It's the new English way.

From: The San Francisco Examiner, USA, March 19th 1968.

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