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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

The Avengers
The Complete Series 4


Starring: Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg
Distributor: StudioCanal
RRP: £59.99


Certificate: PG
Release Date: 23 February 2015

The Avengers had gone through many changes since its first season, which starred Ian Hendry as Dr David Keel and Patrick MacNee in the secondary role of John Steed. The noir of the first season had given over to the action adventure of the second and Hendry left, at the end of season one, to be temporarily replaced with another Doctor and only with the inclusion of Dr Cathy Gale an adventurous anthropologist did we get a new foil for Steed. Honor Blackman worked out well in the role and would remain on board until the close of season three. With season four the golden age of The Avengers began...

The Avengers: The Complete Season 4 (1965-1966) Blu-ray set is presented across seven discs. The discs are remastered and encoded with MPEG-4 AVC to a resolution of 1080p, with options for an English or German audio track. The original incarnation of the show ran between 1961-1969. This set contains the twenty-six episodes which made up season four.

Honor blackman left, having been offered the role of Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (1964), which left the problem of her replacement. The show had become an increasingly successful endeavour, enough for ITV to commit to recording the fourth season on 35 mm film, in the hope of better sales from the States, now they had sold the show to ABC. A fortuitous decision which allows for some magnificent prints to appear on the Blu-ray set.

The successful pairing of Steed with a strong female lead would continue and the show turned to Diana Rig, at that time predominantly a theatrical actress, to create the role of Mrs Emma Peel, for which gentlemen of my generation will be eternally grateful. She also would eventually leave, enticed away by another James Bond Film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969).

Rigg, in her trademark leather cat suit, was the personification of the swinging sixties, as opposed to Steed's Edwardian persona, and stunning to look at. Rigg, however, could also project strength, wit and an adventurous spirit, something she continues to do so in The Game of Thrones.

The relationship between the two characters also changed. Whilst Steed's working relationship with Dr Gale had been fairly formal, business like, the chemistry between Steed and Mrs Peel would be more light and flirtatious, signalled by the slap on the bottom, with a sword, in the first episode. The show played on this sexual chemistry and whilst nothing was explicitly stated, both parties appear to have access to the others home. Some of the episodes even suggested that one or other had not made it back to their own homes, appearing in the morning.

The stories mined a lighter hearted vein, having fun with many of the current tropes in thriller writing. Being now more colourful and brash in many ways allowed the show to stray into the realms of science fiction and horror and even the occasional fetish wear as in the episode A Touch of Brimstone, where Mrs Peel appears as the personification of ‘Queen of Sin’ resplendent in a spiked collar, boned corset and laced up boots, a costume designed by Rigg herself. So risqué had the show become that some of the episodes were not deemed suitable to show in the States and some like A Touch of Brimstone had to be edited, in the case of Brimstone the whipping had to be toned down.

But this was the sixties a time of great experimentation and barrier pushing, surrealism would creep into both The Avengers and The Prisoner. It was an exciting time in British Television.

The set does well for extras including audio commentaries from directors Roy Ward Baker and writer Brian Clemens (Town of No Return); Robert Banks Stewart (Master Minds); Roger Marshall (Dial A Deadly Number); Gerry O’Hara (House That Never Was); and Don Leaver (House That Jack Built). You also get the episode of Armchair Theatre, The Hothouse, which was the episode which persuaded ITV that Diana Rigg was perfect for the role. The rest of the extras consist of two reconstructions of missing season one episodes, Kill the King and Dead of Winter as well as some test colorized footage and the German and French opening sequences. The discs also include stills galleries.

Which of Steed's companions is your favourite is very much going to be down to personal preference and when you started watching the show - not unlike a similar debate which goes ever on in Doctor Who. But few can deny the shear inventiveness and fun which exudes from every pour of season four.


Charles Packer

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