Although the series ended up being made at Sonovision Studios under the auspices of the prolific producer, Dave Gooden, it had actually had a false start or two elsewhere. Two pilot programmes had previously been recorded at A.F. Stanley Studios (also known as AFS Studios), another busy production house near the South African Broadcasting Corporation's studios on Commissioner Street. Aside from Sonovision - who had recently moved from their initial location on Kirk Street to a new state-of-the-art facility on Plein Street - and AFS, there were also studios at CRC (Commercial Radio Corporation), AKA (Audio-Kine-Africa) and MvN (Manley van Niekerk), among others. The great bulk of Springbok Radio output and many programmes and commercials for other stations were produced in these production houses.

It was during 1971, several months before the first Sonovision recordings, that the first pilot version of The Avengers was performed and recorded at the AFS Studios. Coincidentally, Donald Monat was also involved in this production, but in a quite different capacity to the one that he would later enjoy. "As far as I can remember, I played the chief villain. Someone else played Steed, and there was a different director. I have a vague memory that we did it twice, with two different Steeds," Monat recalls.

Neither version was deemed satisfactory by the broadcaster or commercial sponsor. For this reason, they never received a broadcast and no tape recordings are known to have survived. Consequently very little is known about them. The three actors that have been linked with playing the character in the unbroadcast pilots are Rex Garner - who was Tony Jay's first choice for the role - John Boulter and Angus Neill (who was strangely credited as Steed in an early SAUK/SABC Bulletin feature). Sadly none of these actors are with us any longer to confirm or deny the suggestions - and production paperwork is long destroyed. The "different director" that Donald Monat refers to is believed to have been Colin Fish, who is believed to have directed at least one of the two pilots. Fish would go on to play the character of Mother on a regular basis in the Dennis Folbigge era Sonovision Avengers episodes.

Donald Monat knuckled down to other work - of which there was always a great deal - but within a short while was in receipt of some unexpected, but very welcome news about The Avengers. The production was to be recorded at Sonovision Studios, under the auspices of its owner David Gooden - and Monat himself was being asked to play John Steed.

by Alan Hayes with thanks to Donald Monat, Frans Erasmus and Tony Jay

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