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