It is nigh on impossible to produce an
accurate episode guide to The Avengers radio series. Scant information has been located that could help form a
order. However, it has been possible to date two serials. One is The
Fantasy Game, confirmed due to an announcement on the recording,
publicising a new series, The White Oaks of Jalna. This serial
premiered on Monday 3rd April 1972, so we were able to date The Fantasy
Game based on that information.
The other confirmed broadcast is Escape
in Time, which was the first Avengers 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). To confuse matters some more though, this isn't the version that now partially exists!
Read on, and we'll try to explain!
Avengers in Studio
Diane Appleby and Donald Monat
recording The Avengers at Sonovision Studios
We have documentary evidence that some of the serials made later in the run would have been remakes of
earlier programmes. Escape in Time was clearly one of these serials. There are three episodes
existing from Escape in Time, and these feature Mother, a character that Tony Jay, writer of
the early serials, swore he never used. So we have two versions of the serial. We've referred to
them here as Escape in Time: Version One and Version Two. So in the mix, 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. Confused? We are too!
Springbok Radio had a policy of that they would never repeat programmes. However, reputable sources
cite instances where certain episodes of programmes were 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 in force on The Avengers also.
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).
Of course, Mother's appearance in the surviving episodes of Escape in Time actually helped to
determine that it was not the original version.
Aside from the
two serials mentioned above, which we have been able to work out
transmission dates, we have finally worked out a way to put the surviving
serials into a broadcast order. It's a bit of a jigsaw, using clues in the
existing recordings, such as the regular 'Friday evening cast
announcements' that are not regularly heard on Monday to Thursday evening
episodes, and the recording order across the multiple tracks of John
Wright's 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! Ultimately,
this has meant that although we have been unable to date the episodes, 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 Train of Events. It appears he only missed
recording one serial in this time, Pandora, which is noted in
Who Shot Poor George / XR40 as being the previous assignment. Although
we have been unable to place this block of twenty weeks' worth of episodes
in the broadcast timeline of the Sonovision Avengers, it is still a
great step forward to know the order in which they would have been
transmitted and recorded.
It is believed that there were over sixty serials produced, however we have only been able to find
details for approximately a third of this number. Aside from those listed
in The Programmes section, Sonovision were
also reputed to have received scripts for
The Correct Way To Kill,
The £50,000 Breakfast,
Wish You Were Here,
Killer, A Sense of
History and Whos
Who???. It is highly likely that these were adapted for radio, and were among the serials
which have not survived. For details of the fate of the series' master tapes, please see the
Series in Detail: Lost Forever? page. As you can guess
from the title, it's not all good news...
by Alan Hayes with Frans Erasmus