From 1971-1973, The Avengers radio series was produced by Sonovision Studios for the South African Broadcasting Corporation. It starred Donald Monat as John Steed and Diane Appleby as Emma Peel and aired on Springbok Radio.

 SERIALS KNOWN TO HAVE BEEN PRODUCED

The Correct Way to Kill (*), The £50,000 Breakfast (*), Wish You Were Here (*) and Killer (*)
are also believed to have been produced.

 

Recordings are not believed to be in existence for serials denoted (*).

Escape in Time (Remake) only partially exists.

NOTES ON THE RADIO SERIES GUIDE

An Avengers Jigsaw

Out of necessity, this is more a guide to the surviving serials, with a number of exceptions, than to the series as a whole. This is due to the overwhelming scarcity of surviving production information and a lack of sufficient detail in listings magazines of the time. The bottom line is that we can only make educated guesses at what was actually broadcast, but for the sake of argument, it is fairly safe to say that the vast majority – if not all – of the 83 television episodes of The Avengers from 1965-1969 would have had a radio equivalent.

Using clues found in the existing recordings, such as the regular 'Friday evening cast announcements' that are not regularly heard on Monday to Thursday evening episodes, we attempted to construct a transmission order following the recording order across the multiple tracks of John Wright's reel-to-reel tapes. We struck on the idea of seeing if episodes of different serials that were recorded on the same tracks would coincide with the 'Friday announcement' pattern, and for the most part, they do.

We know that The Fantasy Game is the earliest surviving serial, and that John Wright's recordings comprise a near unbroken run from The Quick-Quick-Slow-Death to From Venus with Love. It appears he only missed recording one serial in this time, Pandora, which is noted by the characters in Who Shot Poor George / XR40 as having been the duo's previous assignment. After this run of episodes, Wright recorded three further serials after an indeterminate break: A Case of Interrogation, Too Many Olés and Train of Events, which appear to have been transmitted consecutively.

All serials featured Emma Peel as Steed's partner, regardless of their source. Tara King does not appear, although Mother does feature now and then, and is even referred to in several episodes that are sourced from the television Emma Peel episodes (in which the character did not originally appear).

Remakes and Repeats

Many serials would have been made and broadcast on more than one occasion, with subtle changes to the scripts. Escape in Time was clearly one of these serials. There are three episodes existing from this serial, and these feature Mother, a character that Tony Jay, writer of the early serials, swore that he never used. Consequently, it seems almost certain that two versions of this serial were produced. We've referred to them here as Escape in Time and Escape in Time (Remake). So in the full run, there were probably several remounts. No episodes were actually repeats, per se. They would always be recorded afresh, often with character or plot changes, and often a change of title. It is quite possible that some of the Folbigge serials that exist are in fact remakes of Jay serials.

Springbok Radio had a policy that they would never repeat programmes. However, reputable sources cite instances where certain episodes of programmes were indeed rebroadcast, but this was very much the exception to the rule. Due to the quite horrific speeds at which serials had to be made, it was inevitable that once in a while the writing schedule would fall behind to the extent that a new performance of an existing script was not just desirable, it was essential. This happened frequently in programmes such as Squad Cars (also from Sonovision) and Consider Your Verdict - places and character names could well be changed, but essentially the plot and dialogue would be much the same. Clearly this recycling of scripts was also in force on The Avengers.

The listing here at The Avengers Declassified comprises confirmed broadcasts and those serials that are evidenced by their survival, until such a time as further information comes to light.

The serials are listed in broadcast order, but the list above does not constitute a consecutive run:

  • Escape in Time was the first Avengers radio serial to be broadcast, starting Monday 6th December 1971 and running for five episodes (this has been confirmed via the broadcast listings magazine SAUK-SABC Bulletin). However, this isn't the version that now exists, which is a remake from much later in the run.

  • There is a three and a half month gap between Escape In Time and The Fantasy Game. The latter has been dated due to an announcement on the serial publicising a new series, The White Oaks of Jalna. This programme premiered on Monday 3rd April 1972, so we were able to date The Fantasy Game based on that information. The Fantasy Game is the earliest serial known to survive.

  • Our best guess is that there was a six-week gap between The Fantasy Game and The Quick-Quick-Slow Death.

  • The run between The Quick-Quick-Slow Death and Take Me to Your Leader is consecutive and hails from 1972. Based upon a confirmed August broadcast date of August 1972 for The Morning After and the confirmed dates for Take Me To Your Leader (given in an annotated television script), we have been able to track back and give 'best guess' transmission dates for this consecutive run, although this is not claimed as definitive or entirely accurate. Transmission nights (the days of the week that the programmes started and finished) are however at least 99% accurate and confirmed.

  • There is an indeterminate gap between Take Me To Your Leader and the remake of Escape in Time. There is quite likely to be anything as much as a year or more between these productions, not least because the series had begun recycling scripts by the time of the latter.

  • Dave Rogers' book The Complete Avengers (Boxtree, 1989) devoted a brief section to the radio series and confirmed that A Sense of History and Who's Who??? were among the episodes adapted and that scripts for The Correct Way to Kill, The £50,000 Breakfast, Wish You Were Here and Killer were among those sent to Sonovision, implying that these were also likely to have been adapted for radio.

  • Several missing serials have also been confirmed as having been made and transmitted thanks to annotations made to original television scripts. If you have recordings of these serials or any other not listed above, please do get in touch.

by Alan Hayes with Frans Erasmus

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