There was one last, brief hurrah for Donald Monat and Diane Appleby as Steed and Peel in a decidedly tongue-in-cheek reprise for the characters in 1975. Monat and his wife, June Dixon, were commissioned to write a celebratory programme to mark Springbok Radio's Silver Jubilee. This programme eventually aired live in prime-time on Wednesday 30th April 1975, directed by Monat himself and entitled The Great Gong Robbery. Donald Monat later recalled that it was quite a tough assignment. "The Great Gong Robbery was performed live in front of a studio audience at the SABC Variety Theatre, Broadcast House, Johannesburg at the time of transmission. This was quite a challenge, as none of us had done a drama or comedy programme literally live on the air for decades!"

The accent was on comedy and the plot was straightforward someone had stolen the famous Springbok Gong (a distinctive xylophone-style instrument upon which station announcers would play call signs at regular times on Springbok Radio), and it was down to a succession of Springbok characters, past and present, to recover it. Two bumbling South African policemen (lifted from Sonovision's legendary Squad Cars and played by Michael Mayer and Hal Orlandini) were assigned to the case and formed the linking device, whereby they would call on characters from other Springbok successes, such as The Mind of Tracy Dark (which was by this time well established in the timeslot relinquished by The Avengers), Taxi, Jet Jungle (starring Diane Appleby) and many others. The spoofery was not restricted to radio drama sources, taking in variety and quiz shows, such as Pick-A-Box (a development of British TV's Take Your Pick from the 1950s) and Going for a Song along the way. Since there was such a large cast, it was possible to include characters from two or three series that were no longer on the air. The Avengers was one of these instances, made possible as both Donald Monat and Diane Appleby would be appearing in the broadcast in any case. When we meet Steed and Mrs Peel in the show, the crime-fighting pair state that they are retired (obviously referencing their absence from the airwaves) and, perish the thought, are living together.

The Great Gong Robbery proved immensely popular, as did the whole two-hour commemorative programme. So much so, in fact, that the whole two hours, including The Great Gong Robbery, were issued on SABC Records (Catalogue No. UKBC 1) some months later, distributed by Trutone (who still exist today as part of Gallo Africa Limited). By all accounts, the record - a double album - sold in great numbers and contains the only material from the South African Avengers to have been released commercially.

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

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