Tara King comes to DVD
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The final season of the original Avengers finally comes to DVD & VHS in region one. "The Forget me knot," the debut episode of Ms. Tara King played by Linda Thorson, was released back in 1998, but only now is the entire series seeing the light of day - and it's been well worth the wait. There are many of course who do not rate these last adventures featuring the debonair John Steed as Britain's top government agent as highly as what had gone before, and it's easy to see why. Steed's pairing originally with Mrs Gale (Honor Blackman) and later Mrs Peel (Diana Rigg) had been an excellent match for his skills. With Mrs Peel leaving the show, the producers, Brian Clemens and Albert Fennell followed suit and John Bryce was brought back to the programme, following his stint producing the early Mrs Gale episodes.The first thing Bryce did was to cast his girlfriend, twenty one year old Canadian Linda Thorson as Steed's new assistant, Miss Tara King. In order to complete the delivery of episodes to the US market, production was fairly rushed, and what came out of it was deemed substandard. Bryce was sacked and Fennell and Clemens brought back to rescue the production. Clemens was particularly unhappy about Linda Thorson's role, but it was too late in the day to do anything about it. They set about filming the initial block of 8 episodes (extended to 9), rehashing two of the abandoned Bryce episodes, and bringing back Mrs Peel for the one-off story "The forget me knot" to introduce the new character of Tara (although this "debut" was actually filmed third). Once these episodes were ready, they set about producing the final batch of 24.There is a very significant shift in the character of Tara King between these two production blocks as Thorson began to gain confidence in the part. Also added as a regular into the later stories is Steed & Tara's boss, "Mother," played by Patrick Newell. Thorson's inexperience and the naivety of the character are often cited as the reason the show was cancelled after these episodes were transmitted. Personally, I think the inclusion of the very annoying "Mother" to be a far more valid reason. But it's all a matter of taste.The stories are included on the discs in the order they were first transmitted in the UK. I would strongly recommend viewing them in PRODUCTION ORDER (easy to track on any Avengers website). There are several reasons for this. It's easier to warm to Miss King as you follow her character development. It also makes more sense to understand her constant hair changes and costume. She started as a blonde, moved to a be-wigged brunette, and only in the latter 24 episodes did we see Thorson's own hair. We can also see how the actress started in "slimmed down mode" (on the orders of the TV station) but regained her lost weight as the series moved along. The character also started out as a complete "spy" trainee, but by the second production block, had become one of the most experienced agents in Mother's department. I also enjoyed seeing the rehashed sets from episode to episode too. All these nuances are lost by following the stories strictly in disc order, and indeed the characterisation of the leads is actually confusing if you simply watch the shows in disc order.As for the discs themselves, sadly A&E have once again neglected to include any extras at all. All there is are a few still photos, although it has to be said that the menus are at least very well done. The picture quality is certainly very sharp, but there are definitely flaws due to sparkle and dirt. Sadly, "You'll catch your death" has been transferred incorrectly, and the picture strobes and jumps throughout. Clearly no-one at A&E was paying much attention to the remastering process.Clemens believes this batch of episodes to be the best of the entire run of The Avengers. He has stated that everything came together right in terms of production and scripts. I can't say I agree entirely. They are certainly as enjoyable as anything else, but the total fantasy nature of the stories and the weakness of Tara and Mother characters combine to take the edge away when compared to the earlier Peel episodes. Regardless, it's all camp and wacky fun and I still highly recommend this collection to any fan of the series as there is plenty here to enjoy."