“The enemy really do need to recruit a better class of agent.”
“I keep telling them, but they just won’t listen…”
A precious jewel being transported by a cruise ship while seven assassins stalk the corridors. A Highwayman’s Ball, where a traitor lurks, and a phantom highwayman is on the prowl. And a scientist’s country estate that seems to be surrounded by lions, polar bears and dinosaurs?
When national security is at stake, the only people who can help are the Avengers. No, not that group of costumed so-and-so’s, the real Avengers. Namely John Steed and Mrs Emma Peel…
Something a little different today. I’ve reviewed some of Big Finish’s audio plays before, mostly the Sherlock Holmes range, and the truly outstanding The Axeman Cometh by Nev Fountain, still one of my favourite mysteries of all time, but I’ve not touched on their series of Avengers audios.
It’s an odd sort of situation, as it seems their licence only allows them to adapt existing stories, rather than write completely new ones. They started by recreating the mostly-lost first series of the television show, starring Anthony Howell as Dr Keel and Julian Wadham as Steed. These are fairly standard thrillers – the series didn’t evolve into what people think of as The Avengers until a few years later. There then followed a series of adaptations of stories from the later eras of the show that first appeared in comic strip form. Apparently these are looser adaptations, as some of the strips veered away from the style of the show, but that’s the starting point.
There have been six volumes to date. Two feature Wadham as Steed and Emily Woodward as Tara King, his final assistant in the show, and the other four, including this one, feature Wadham alongside Olivia Poulet as Mrs Peel. The performances aren’t impersonations, rather channelling the spirit of the originals, and I must say, I think they are wonderful. I could listen to the pair of them all day.
The other day, I had a couple of long drives and I was scrolling through my audiobooks trying to find something that would cheer me up. These three stories were exactly what I needed. They perfectly capture the spirit of the show, quipping in the face of… I was going to write deadly danger, but the villains were never that useful, were they? Quirky danger. That’s better, quipping in the face of quirky danger.
All three of the stories are a lot of fun. It opens with Seven Deadly… Assassins? where Steed and Peel are lured to a cruise ship with seven assassins, each exemplifying a deadly sin. The assassins all have a grudge against Steed in particular as it seems he’s sent them all to prison when they were working as the henchman for some villain or other. The pace slows a little with Stand and Deliver, with the highwayman motif struggling a little to maintain the running time – there needed to be a bit more plot – but there’s still a lot to like here, with a great villain in particular. The standout story is You Won’t Believe Your Eyes, where a scientist who has invented a Mirage Maker is under attack from foreign powers. There’s a lot of misdirection going and, mystery fans, it even has a fairly clued surprise in it. Any of the Steed and Peel boxsets are well worth your time. I felt the need to share this quality entertainment with you, dear reader because, at a time when things tend to be rather depressing out there, this is the perfect antidote.