Clicking here will return you to the Welcome page.

About This Site
Site Stuff

Table of Contents

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
• Site Stuff

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. 

AOR WEBSITE ORIGINS

This website was originally launched in October 2000, and joined TheAvengers.TV in April 2001. A completely revised and updated version featuring a total design and navigation makeover was relaunched on Sunday 1st December 2002.

But it all started at One-Ten's excellent Noon: Doomsday site (now relaunched as Dead Duck), where we submitted the essay that is presented below. It is included here to demonstrate just how far we've come since then, in terms of information available to us. What follows is the sum of our knowledge in April 2000. It is this article that was found by Donald Monat, in a websearch, and lead to his contacting us. This contact was the starting point of Avengers on the Radio as a website project.

Once again, please note that this article is included as an amusing snapshot of the genesis of this website. It contains much that is apocryphal and some statements that are wildly inaccurate... The rule for reading it: don't believe a word... (And if you look hard enough, you'll still find some of the material below spread around the site!)

THE AVENGERS: THE SOUTH AFRICAN RADIO SERIES

Guest Essay at Noon: Doomsday by Alan and Alys Hayes

From its success on television, The Avengers has spawned myriad spin-offs - novels, comics, a theatre production and even a Hollywood movie. Of all these, it is perhaps a humble radio series that deserves the greatest plaudits. This forgotten version of The Avengers was made for the South African Broadcasting Company by Sonovision Ltd. at their studios in downtown Johannesburg, South Africa. Stories were presented in serial form, early adventures weighing in at five fifteen-minute installments each, with serials of between five and eight episodes being made later in the run.

The Avengers was first transmitted in South Africa in January 1972 on the commercial station, Springbok Radio, a subsidiary of the South African Broadcasting Corporation. The series lasted for at least eighteen months and around sixty serials, and could be heard at 7.15pm every weeknight during this time.

Sonovision were commissioned to make the series, and received a bundle of scripts from EMI, who were the Avengers copyright holders at the time of production. Neither Brian Clemens, Albert Fennell or Laurie Johnson were aware until some time later that the series had been licensed. Johnson was reported to be particularly aggrieved, as parts of his Synthesis suite were utilised as incidental music, and his theme for the colour Emma Peel series was also used, all without his permission. Clemens and Johnson received no mention, and nor did the writers of the television episodes upon which all the serials were based. In fact, nobody besides the South African producers and central cast were credited on air. The scripts were initially adapted by Tony Jay, who also doubled as director for each production. Some six months into the series run, Tony Jay returned to his native England. Dennis Folbigge was asked by Sonovision to assume Jay's role. The series producer was David Gooden, who was also the owner of Sonovision Ltd.

The New Avengers!

The New Avengers... 
And it's that pose again!

The full series run was sponsored by the Lever Brothers company, makers of detergent and other household products, which lead to the show being announced as coming "from the makers of Cold Water Omo" - not a product one would naturally associate with The Avengers. Each fifteen-minute episode included two forty-five second commercial breaks, and these gave a good picture of the expected audience. These advertisements tended to be for beauty products, deodorants, household detergents and Walls iced lollies with a family audience, and housewives in particular, in mind. No adverts for champagne, brollies or bowlers here! It's interesting to note also that South Africa did not have a national television service until 1976, and at the time of The Avengers broadcasts, radio was still the major player. The Avengers was most definitely a prime-time show.

Although the transmission order of the serials is not known, serials certain to have been broadcast were: A Deadly Gift (based on The Cybernauts), Dial A Deadly Number, The Quick-Quick-Slow Death, The Fantasy Game (based on Honey For The Prince), From Venus with Love, Train of Events (based on A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Station), The Joker, The Super Secret Cypher Snatch, Stop Me If You've Heard This (based on Look - (Stop Me If You've Heard This One) But There Were These Two Fellers...), Too Many Olés (based on They Keep Killing Steed), The Morning After, Love All and Get-A-Way!. The producers are 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 Who's Who???, though clearly, with as many as sixty serials being produced, those that are known to have been made merely represent the tip of the iceberg. All serials featured Emma Peel as Steed's partner, regardless of their source. Tara King does not appear, although Mother does show up 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.

The cast, aside from Donald Monat (John Steed) and Diane Appleby (Emma Peel), were never announced as part of the programme and only the narrator, Hugh Rouse has hitherto been identified of the other participants. Hugh Rouse's contributions, scripted beautifully by Tony Jay, definitely gives the radio series an identity and humour that is entirely its own, delivered at a jaunty pace which keeps the listener interested.

Donald Monat excels as Steed, and is probably the nearest anyone has come to equalling Patrick Macnee's superb portrayal. Monat has a distinctive voice that sounds slightly older than Macnee's, but he certainly makes the role his own and the listener has no trouble accepting him as Steed.

Donald Monat as Steed

Donald Monat... 
South Africa's John Steed.

Diane Appleby's Emma Peel is perfectly acceptable, but pales somewhat when compared to her television equivalent, Diana Rigg. To be fair to Appleby, in the later programmes she is rather compromised by inconsistent scripting, as some serials were by then being adapted from scripts written for a different character entirely, Tara King. Emma's character is particularly weak in these serials, where differences between the characters and how they interact with Steed do not appear to have been addressed.

Generally, adaptations were faithful to their television counterparts, though occasionally, the odd difference slips in. The main divergence from The Avengers television series occurs in the Too Many Olés serial, based upon the Tara King episode, They Keep Killing Steed. The radio version transposes the action to sunny Spain - hence the title - though this is faithful in its own way. They Keep Killing Steed was originally to have been set in Spain, so it is likely that the script that Sonovision received from EMI was an early draft version. A Deadly Gift also features a noticeable change from its television forebear, The Cybernauts, in that the Cybernauts simply aren't Cybernauts! Throughout the story, they are referred to as Pabulum Robots. Whether this alteration has its roots in an early draft of the television version or is merely an evasion of Philip Levene's copyright, we may never know. The Joker sees Mein Leibling, Mein Rose replaced with a completely different song, entitled Mademoiselle, mainly because in this version, Emma and Max Prendergast had their rendezvous in Paris, rather than Berlin. The other major difference in the Sonovision series is that Steed and Emma would occasionally appear to have much more than just a friendship going in the radio series - in serials sourced from Tara King scripts, there is the notable evidence of hanky-panky behind the scenes! This may well upset a few purists!

Diane Appleby as Emma Peel

Diane Appleby 
The English rose on South African radio.

The fate of the master tapes of the series is rather depressing. Due to the high cost of tape stock, all the recordings of The Avengers were wiped by Sonovision once they had been no further commercial value. The tapes would be re-used for the recording of other programmes. It has been reported that Sonovision wished to transfer the serials to audio tape for worldwide public sale. Sadly, EMI were not prepared to extend Sonovision's copyright clearances to allow for this project, and nothing ever came of the idea. The issue here is not whether the episodes exist, more at which point in the 1970s that they were erased. Certainly, these programmes no longer exist in South African archives, though off-air recordings of thirteen serials - all from Dennis Folbigge's tenure - have been preserved by private collectors. Many Old Time Radio websites offer these recordings for sale, though the recording quality can vary enormously. Some episodes are downloadable from FTP sites on the Internet, though once more, sound quality is poor.

Springbok Radio no longer exists, its closure coming shortly after the advent of the South African television service had reduced its audience share greatly, and no production documentation relating to The Avengers appears to have survived, either at the SABC, or at Sonovision's new location at Rivonia, Sandton, South Africa.

Despite being a major success in South Africa, the fact that the great majority of these serials no longer exist, leave the Sonovision series as an oft-forgotten footnote to The Avengers. It could have been so much more.