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The Series in Detail

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Series Guide
• Background Notes
• The Series in Detail
• The Programmes
• Personnel File
• Steed Talks

News and Comment
• Episode Recoveries
• Restoration Project
• Features
• Reviews
• Your Views

Resources
• The Avengers Declassified

About this Site
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Avengers on the Radio designed, maintained and Copyright © by Alan and Alys Hayes.

The Avengers is Copyright © CANAL+IMAGE UK Ltd. No attempt to infringe this copyright is intended. 

6. LOST FOREVER? MAYBE NOT...

Initial theories suggested that all master recordings of The Avengers were wiped by Sonovision in the 1970s. There is nothing particularly sinister in this statement - Sonovision were supplied the blank recording media by the series' sponsors, Lever Brothers, and due to the high cost of tape - and the SABC's policy of airing programmes just the once - it was very common that new programmes would be recorded over previous productions. This was a very common practice, and for the most part, preservation of the programmes was not considered.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation Sound (Radio) Archives had been in existence since 1964, after the SABC had identified a need to preserve South African broadcast history. The collection focuses mainly on news and current affairs, sport, drama and music from South Africa, in all South African languages, although some international material is archived. The Avengers unfortunately slipped the net, along with huge swathes of South African radio drama. The Radio Sound Archive is keen to fill in gaps in its collection, and regularly benefits from donations from private collections.

Diane Appleby and Donald Monat, Bulletin cover stars

Cover Stars...
Diane Appleby and Donald Monat became SABC-SAUK Bulletin cover stars in February 1972.

It is also known that EMI denied Sonovision a rights extension permitting release of the serials on tape. It has been suggested that Sonovision then wiped their masters as a result, but due to the recording practices in the production practices, it is unlikely that there would have been many tapes to wipe. It is quite likely that any commercial release would have prompted further recordings, specifically for this purpose. However, and very fortunately, there were other forces at work in South Africa, who were more successful at preserving The Avengers than the official bodies... At least two people were recording the series off-air - John Wright and Barbara Peterson - and you can read about their recordings in detail in the Episode Recoveries section.

OVERSEAS BROADCASTS...

Conducting research for Noon: Doomsday (now relaunched as Deadline), One-Ten found mentions of international runs of the series in a mid-1980s Avengers fanzine, With Umbrella, Charm and Bowler. In an article about the radio show, Thomas Kralik noted that "the radio show achieved success in South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and even in the United States, where it aired on (the New York station,) WBAI 99.5FM. More episodes are expected to be aired in the near future." This fascinating and valuable titbit lead to a new angle in the possible recovery of Avengers serials. It was quite possible that episodes were held either at radio stations outside South Africa.

While the broadcasts in New Zealand and Australia are still shrouded in mystery, much more is known about the American broadcasts. WBAI 99.5FM is a non-commercial, listener-sponsored station in New York, staffed in the main by volunteers. The station has no programming budget to speak of, so specialist producers tend to share their collections over the air. It was a slight disappointment to learn the titles of The Avengers serials broadcast on WBAI - they would sound very familiar to those aware of thirteen of the existing serials! The episodes were transmitted Mondays to Fridays as part of The Daily Serial strand, which ran from 1977 up until the early Nineties, in a variety of timeslots, varying from early evening to 6.00am each morning! The recordings were sourced from old time radio collectors in the States and cleaned up for broadcast by Max Schmid, who often presented the programmes. The recordings that Max worked with were sourced, indirectly, from the home recordings made by avid Springbok Radio fan, John Wright.

Even if further searches draw blanks, Avengers fans are fortunate to have nineteen complete serials existing in private collections. Compared to the survival rate of other often longer-running serials that aired on Springbok Radio, this is frankly an embarrassment of riches, such is the sad state of affairs regarding archiving of South African radio. These serials - A Deadly Gift, Dial A Deadly Number, The Quick-Quick-Slow Death, The Fantasy Game, From Venus with Love, Train of Events, The Joker, The Super Secret Cypher Snatch, Not to Be Sneezed At, Who Shot Poor George / XR40?, All Done By Mirrors, Stop Me If You've Heard This, Too Many Olés, A Case of Interrogation, The Morning After, Love All, Get-A-Way!, Straight From the Shoulder and A Grave Charge - were all recorded off-air in South Africa by John Wright. All of these hail from Dennis Folbigge's tenure as adaptor/director with the exception of The Fantasy Game which appears to be the sole surviving example of Tony Jay's work on the series. In addition to these titles, the first three installments of the second version of Escape in Time (again from the Folbigge era), are also known to exist. The overwhelming majority of these episodes include the original Springbok Radio jingles and commercial breaks! Alan and Alys Hayes, webmasters of this very website, have had the good fortune to be contacted by John Wright, and these recordings are currently being restored in London, following his generous donation of the original reel-to-reel tapes. When the process of cleaning them up is complete, the episodes will be freely distributed online and copies placed with the SABC Radio Sound Archive for preservation.

There is a good chance that there are further Avengers serials waiting to be discovered in the private taped collections of South African radio enthusiasts. If you are a person who recorded any serials off-air in South Africa (or elsewhere), please take a look at our Appeal page, to see if you're sitting on anything exciting! We'd be delighted to hear from anyone who has as much as a clip from a missing episode! Thank you.

by Alan Hayes with One-Ten

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