Retro Review: The Avengers – Epic


steedoEpisode 5-11
Written by Brian Clemens Directed by James Hill
Transmitted 1 April 1967

A pair of former matinee idols join forces with a deranged film director to make an unparalleled epic. After searching for the ideal star, they find that Emma Peel fits the bill to perfection. Filmmaker Z.Z. von Schnerk goes to great pains to capture Emma Peel’s image through various hidden cameras before abducting her and placing the capable woman in a mind-bending scenario.

Peel awakens in a strange film studio and stumbles through her own wedding, then her own funeral. Fallen actor Stewart Kirby, played by Peter ‘Jason King’ Wyngarde, dons one costume after another as the trio attempt to break Mrs. Peel’s psyche and capture it on celluloid. At one point, von Schnerk has an epiphany and declares that Mrs. Peel’s death will be a masterpiece, envisioning alogo not dissimilar to MGM’s banner circling her face.

Of course Emma dutifully roars like an iconic lion.

There is a lovely dream-like quality to the Avengers that makes it both comforting and surreal at the same time. The threats are real, psychotics seem bent on world domination or worse… or weirder… and through it all John Steed and Mrs. Peel are never deterred or unsettled. I came to the Avengers late in my teens, having missed it on syndication. I struggled for years to find an ‘in’ to the program, to understand the narrative, the continuity and such, as I had Doctor Who. It took me a long while to understand that these qualities were slim at best in The Avengers and that it functioned on a very different level.

Primarily a story focused on Emma Peel, she actually says very little throughout the adventure. In fact, there is little dialog overall. The result is a head-trip of television nightmarish visions. There are so many wonderful episodes of the Avengers, but I really dig this one. Full of bizarre visuals, strange characters and a superb guest cast, Epic stands out as one of the best.


6 thoughts on “Retro Review: The Avengers – Epic

  1. One of the best and most fantastically preposterous colour Avengers episodes. The notion that the scenarios at the studio are basically from silent-era type movies in the sixties is such a typically eccentric Avengers-ish conceit as is the unflappability of Mrs Peel (Emma Peel – M Appeal – Man Appeal!) in the face of murderous lunacy and reality-shifting weirdness. Peter Wyngarde is, of course, winningly camp and menacing, more over the top here than in his previous role in the classic Touch of Brimstone episode (Emma Peel in a basque and boots? Yes please!).
    I must admit that although the best episodes are in the Diana Rigg era and Honor Blackman is the other iconic Avengers Woman, I have a soft spot for Linda Thorson and very much like the better episodes from her troubled era.
    Good choice of episode, Jameson. More please!


    • Thanks for visiting again, Hal! I have vague memories of the Linda Thorson era, so I will need to revisit those but man oh man was she a honey! I am happy to see that this post is getting such a positive response since The Avengers is such a great program.


  2. Good work, Jameson! Regarding Ms Thorson, man, you are absolutely right! She was adorable. 🙂
    The Tara King era has major problems but episodes such as Fog, Look – Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One (But There Were These Two Fellers), They Keep Killing Steed (title later ripped off for a Torchwood episode), and The Morning After are well worth watching.


  3. I recently acquired the Tara King season on DVD (not an easy task to accomplish affordably!) and revised my totally negative opinion of her tenure. She’s good – the season as a whole, not so much.


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